How to miss the point

From Think On These Things blog and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

People have valued reasoned, fair disagreements and good listening skills for far too long. It is high time we dispense with those boring and outdated formalities! After all, why respect the laws of logic when you can enjoy the adventure of following your own passions? When you get the point, you can only either agree or disagree. How boring! On the other hand, when you miss the point, you open up a fallacy-filled wonderland where conversation and emotions are set free to frolic! If you wish to dispense with the authoritarian laws of logic (which care nothing about you!) and transcend the boundaries of social courtesy, then here are some suggestions for you to try on your entirely subjective journey. These primarily apply to written arguments, but can also apply to listening to a spoken argument.

1. Foster the conviction that all with whom you disagree are personally attacking you.
Even if the individual doesn’t know you, your ideas are your identity. Never mind the fact that this introduces all sorts of strange problems for understanding personal identity. That stuff is not important. What is important is that your very person, and all you hold dear, are being assaulted.

3. Embrace category confusion.
Here is a time-tested example: If the argument is about economics, you may wish to respond by claiming that the author is just racist. You get bonus points here, as this tactic also functions as an ad hominem and as a red herring fallacy (look them up if you are curious).

12. Remember that no one has the right to criticize things you like.
Decide right now that all criticisms of anything you like are immediately invalid. After all, we know that things and people that we like are perfect.

16. Present your response when maximally angry.
You will be amazed at your own propensity for the creative use of fallacies, misspellings, and overall murky thinking when overcome by emotion. Things can get wild if you take this advice. You may even regret it later, making the fun last as long as possible.

These are a few of my favorites from the list of 17.  Reading it over, I can say it seems like I have dealt with people who must have read the post and did actually miss the point.

I have a couple suggested submissions:

18. Read between the lines.

Rather than taking the author by his own words, try to figure out what they really mean by reading between the lines.  Even if the blogger never references religion, God, the Bible, or church doctrine, make it clear that you know they’re making a religious argument nonetheless. That’s right, make them defend an argument they never made, and make it clear you know what they meant regardless.

19. Comment on the post you believe the blogger should have written.

If a blogger crafts a post on his opinion of why an argument against the existence of God fails, you should instead comment about why he didn’t write a post on why he believes his own religious beliefs are true, or why he believes the Bible is a reliable source for theological information.  Or why he didn’t provide a recipe for delicious blueberry muffins for that matter.  Anything but what the blogger actually wrote about.

(H/T: WK)


  1. How timely.

  2. Face value? You mean when someone is being intentionally deceptive and using absurd terms like “natural marriage” which have nothing to do with science? There’s no such thing. No such term exists in science, it’s a religious attempt at hijacking science to serve its purposes.

    • Science isn’t equipped to address every phenomena. Marriage is a sociological phenomena, not a physical one so of course a description of marriage isn’t scientific. I see you’ve employed the category error fallacy. Good job, you’re already making the conversation more interesting!

      • I didn’t employ it, you did when you linked the words marriage and natural.
        That’s a con job where you pretend to be referring to nature when you’re actually referring to incidence.

        You do it because you know that if you said “minority behaviour” it would not have the same rhetorical effect.

  3. And btw, good job on identifying category error. If you take that into account before you write, you can avoid a whole lot of criticism.

  4. ” Comment on the post you believe the blogger should have written.”

    Ouch! My apologies for side tracking some discussions with my own agenda… It’s sometimes hard to know whether a comment stream should stick to the original blog post topic or should be allowed to eb and flow as normal conversations do. Certainly I’ve err’ed towards the latter recently and ignored your original topic of discussion.

    Sorry John!

    • Tumeyn

      That was definitely not about you. It is something I have accused Z of in the past. Believe me, I genuinely appreciate your tone and the content of your comments. You have the grace and tact I omit from my responses.

  5. I’m with you on keeping commentary to what is said. Commenting on what you wish the post was about isn’t really helpful.
    Reading between the lines is important though. Omitting and misrepresenting facts is the speaker/commenter/journalist/blogger way of making sure readers miss the point. Reading between the lines and more specifically calling out the messaging and agenda is a great way to get to the point.
    “You mean when someone is being intentionally deceptive and using absurd terms like “natural marriage” which have nothing to do with science?”
    This is a good example (if we were talking about marriage) where a pink can stay within the topic but read between the lines to identify some nonsense messaging by JB:
    “Marriage is a sociological phenomena, not a physical one so of course a description of marriage isn’t scientific.”
    First, sociology and anthropology for that matter are branches of science. There is a right and wrong way to develop studies, collect data, and analyze findings in order to learn meaningful things about societies and people, as well as social constructs like marriage.
    Then we can all point out that the “sociology” of marriage has traditionally been to sell women as baby-makers in return for more valuable goods. We can also point out that “natural” marriage is best shown by the life-long pair bonding (same- and opposite-sex) that exists in many species. These loving and committed relationships are something in the natural world that put to shame some of the transient, patriarchal, dependent, and/or commercial transactions that pass for marriage in modern society.

  6. There are legitimate occasions for seeking clarity. If one believes there is meaning between the lines, just ask about it instead of assuming. THAT would clear up your own confusion as well as limit the unnecessary keystrokes.

  7. John,
    Isn’t the whole point of blogging an exchange of ideas? I think it’s natural (yep, I said natural and you’re welcomed to ask me for what I mean by that!)- that there are going to be tangents and variations in interpretations and bias.
    It’s even natural to have an agenda. My only qualms are with transparency. Sometimes we do things, even without realizing it, that are rooted in our subconscious. Everyone can remember a time when someone asked them what time it was and they just blew up.
    Perhaps you didn’t or don’t realize it, but your argumentation is deeply rooted in religious concepts and symbolism. You don’t need to say it for outsiders to see it. Different thought models and argumentation models which are used by large groups are easily recognizable.
    Whenever I see arguments for women covering their heads depending on how they’re made it’s easy to infer (and differentiate) if they’re fundamentalist Muslim, orthodox Jewish or libertarian.
    Your anti-gay arguments aren’t a “new phenomena”, I’ve seen them in exactly the same form before many times. Your use of the word natural to refer to social phenomena is also not new. It was started by Catholics 1500 years (or so) ago. Early Catholic ideology was all about bridging their ideology with “nature”. To do it they re-defined the word, ignored everything that was actually part of nature and said that everything in their ideology was natural. By doing that, for centuries, Catholics abused the concept of natural and labelled non-catholics heretics and unnatural.
    Religious groups that followed simply emulated that practise, although the bridges ended up in different places. So when you use that Catholic reasoning model, it’s easy for me to recognize it and pin-point where it came from and how it works.

  8. I find it interesting that Pink can say, Perhaps you didn’t or don’t realize it, but your argumentation is deeply rooted in religious concepts and symbolism.

    Atheism is a religion, and all Pink’s arguments are “deeply rooted in religious concepts and symbolism” of atheism.

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