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Arguments From My Opponent Believes Something

1. Argument From My Opponent Believes Something, Which Is Kinda Like Believing It On Faith, Which Is Kinda Like Them Being A Religion:
“The high priests of the economic orthodoxy take it on faith that anyone who doubts the market is a heretic who must be punished.”

2. Argument From My Opponent Believes Something, Which Means They Believe It Is The Answer To One Question, Which Is Kinda Like Believing It Is The Answer To All Questions, But It Isn’t: “Statists believe government can solve all our problems. They need to understand the world doesn’t work that way.”

3. Argument From My Opponent Believes Something, Which Is Kinda Like Believing It Really Strongly, Which Is Kinda Like Being A Fanatic: “Environmentalist extremists are fanatically obsessed over saving the planet, refusing to even consider any contradictory ideas.”

4. Argument From My Opponent Believes Something, Which Is Kinda Like Believing It Blindly With 100% Certainty:
“Some people blindly trust science to always be correct about everything, but we need to remember that even scientists can make mistakes.”

5. Argument From My Opponent Believes Something, Which Is Kinda Like Having An Ideology, Which Means They Are Ideologues: “Ideologies are false idols, attempts to replace thought with mindless obedience. And one such ideology is the dogma of feminism. Therefore, we need to start being much more critical about feminism.”

6. Argument From My Opponent Believes Something, Which Is Kinda Like Hating The People Who Don’t Believe In It, And Hatred Is Wrong: “People need to get over their frothing hatred for euthanasia.”

7. Argument From My Opponent Believes Something, Which Is Kinda Like Saying That That One Belief Should Be The Sole Determinant Of Our Entire Aesthetic Sensibility: “Sure, we could legalize contraception. But do we really want to enshrine the value that human fertility is evil, and that new human life is a ‘failure’ to be avoided?”

8. Argument From My Opponent Believes Something, Which Might Suggest A Course Of Action, But A Suggestion Is Kinda Like An Obligation, And She Has No Right To Order Me Around: “Some people want to liberalize immigration laws, but our country is under no obligation to let in any foreigner who asks.”

9. Argument From My Opponent Believes Something, Which Might Suggest A Course Of Action, Which Could In Theory Be Implemented Through Violence, And Violence Is Wrong: “Transhumanists think AI may be dangerous, but this could encourage people to kill AI researchers, so holding this belief is irresponsible.” Or, “Environmentalist condemnations of the oil industry encourage eco-terrorist attacks on oil workers.”

10. Argument From My Opponent Believes Something, Which Might Suggest A Course Of Action, And Suggestions Could In Theory Stigmatize People Who Don’t Do Them: “People say smoking is dangerous and unhealthy, but this just serves to stigmatize smokers and make them feel unwelcome in society.”

For best effect, combine all ten as densely as possible:

It is an unchallengeable orthodoxy that you should wear a coat if it is cold out. Day after day we hear shrill warnings from the high priests of this new religion practically seething with hatred for anyone who might possibly dare to go out without a winter coat on. But these ideologues don’t realize that just wearing more jackets can’t solve all of our society’s problems. Here’s a reality check – no one is under any obligation to put on any clothing they don’t want to, and North Face and REI are not entitled to your hard-earned money. All that these increasingly strident claims about jackets do is shame underprivileged people who can’t afford jackets, suggesting them as legitimate targets for violence. In conclusion, do we really want to say that people should be judged by the clothes they wear? Or can we accept the unjacketed human body to be potentially just as beautiful as someone bundled beneath ten layers of coats?

EDIT: I’m not claiming these aren’t real problems, I’m claiming they’re things that they are fully general arguments – you can accuse anyone of them and no one can ever prove you’re wrong. For example, some things really are religions (Christianity, for example), but you can accuse any position of being “a religion” merely by virtue of it being a belief that people hold. Therefore, we should be extremely skeptical of arguments where “X is a religion” is doing the work.

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43 Responses to Arguments From My Opponent Believes Something

  1. Nick Barrowman says:

    Are these real quotes? They seem overblown, but sometimes they may have a point. People sometimes do treat markets as the solution to pretty much every problem, demonstrate hatred for other viewpoints, etc.

  2. JRM says:

    The anti-coat brigade strikes again. Even with people freezing to death, they care not enough to impose a sensible scheme mandating coats to prevent massive death.

    You know what they call letting people die because of negligence? Involuntary manslaughter. The anti-coaters are committing involuntary manslaughter every winter day. Who does this? Malicious anti-society bastards, thoroughly willing to fund the Cheney-Obama military-industrial complex, just as they let the coatless die on the street.

    They also commonly engage in false arguments, like “The coat Nazis believe in supplying coats, and the same people who believe in that are wrong about other things, so they’re obviously terrible people,” or “The coat Nazis believe in supplying coats, and you know who else provided based on need? Communists.” They use cheap, terrible arguments to make their point, while we try to operate with only logic and reason.

    • oogenhand says:

      But Nazis and Communists themselves use guilt by association: “X is Jewish!” and “Y is racist!”. Of course, good laws for euthanasia on request would make supplying coats unnecessary and hence the need to destroy Libertarianism. The Libertarians/Classical Liberals sure did a number on the common people by herding them into Nazism and Communists, and letting them destroy each other.

      • JBay says:

        What both Fascists and Soviet-style communists have in common is a fascination with greatcoats. These coats are the timeless essential hallmark of repressive regimes across the world, and can be witnessed to this day in the official uniforms of despotic nations such as North Korea. I cannot imagine any more ironclad justification that all those who wear and advocate the donning of coats are, at heart, despots opposed to peace and personal liberty.

        I hereby suggest that coats, jackets, and all similar manner of cold-weather dress be banned as surely as any other expression of hatred.

  3. Douglas Knight says:

    Most of these quotes do not seem to me to make the arguments you ascribe to them, though really assessing this requires checking the context. I suppose you could say that the metaphors that they use sneak in the claimed argument, but if you want to complain about metaphors, I think it would be better to be explicit about it.

    The few I’ve looked at do try to justify their metaphors, which is not to say that they do a good job, but is to say that they have an explicit argument and it is not simply from belief.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      by “better to be explicit about it” I mean as an extension of this post, not in place of it.

  4. Alyssa Vance says:

    I object – these are generally not charitable interpretations. Eg. a more charitable view of 1 would be:

    “The particular group of high-status people X believes thing Y and uses it to signal in-group identification, meaning that anyone who believes ~Y will immediately get attacked as a low-status outsider for believing ~Y, regardless of how good their reasoning for ~Y actually is.”

    which people so totally do all the time.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Maybe I was too opaque. I’m not claiming that all of these aren’t real problems that people do. I’m claiming that they are all equally easy to accuse people of whether they’re doing them or not. Some things really are religions (Christianity, for example), but you can trivially call anything a religion just by exaggerating the degree to which they are closely knit, hold beliefs, are influenced by leaders, etc. Therefore we should be skeptical of “X is a religion” type arguments.

    • Watercressed says:

      Sure, but this still isn’t a very good argument against X.

  5. BenSix says:

    Argument From My Opponent Believes Something, Which Is Kinda Like Hating The People Who Don’t Believe In It, And Hatred Is Wrong…

    This is often smuggled into the depression of the manner with which objects of disagreement express themselves. Someone that a rhetorician agrees with might “say” or “write” an argument but someone that they disagree with is liable to “spew”, “froth”, “sneer”, “rant”, “huff” or “whine”. The trouble is, of course, that without such mild polemical disingenuousness, arguments could be very dull to observe.

  6. Patrick says:

    I think that in a few instances you are mistaking pejoratives (sometimes well deserved pejoratives) for arguments. “That guy is an ass” may not be an argument, but sometimes the guy you’re talking about is an ass, and people should know.

    • someone says:

      I think Scott desires a world (or an internet) in which there are more arguments and fewer pejoratives than the current distribution.

  7. Sue Donym says:

    5 and 7 strike me as valid arguments. It is a lot harder to see flaws in ideas when they’re packaged as a single worldview, some parts of which are obviously sensible. And many people do think in terms of worldviews/ideologies/aesthetics, with paradigm shifts, rather than modular models that can be easily updated.

  8. Emily says:

    You can argue that anything is a religion, but some things are more-a-religion-than-others. If you just call something a religion, that’s not particularly compelling, but if it’s the beginning of an argument where you then proceed to show that people who hold that belief do so in spite of what you believe to be compelling evidence to the contrary – as in, we tested your hypotheses and they were found wanting – then we have something to discuss.

    • MugaSofer says:

      If people are using “religion” to mean “continues to disagree with me despite my brilliant arguments” then that certainly explains a lot.

    • Emily says:

      “Continues to disagree with me” is a reductive and uncharitable description.

      In science, we test our hypotheses. A theory is a bad theory if it is consistent with anything that could possibly happen – we want theories that are incompatible with certain states of the world, certain types of evidence appearing, and then we want to hold them up to rigorous testing. If they fail, we should revise our views. Religion does not try for that. That’s what makes it religion. That’s ok. When something that purports to be making scientific claims does not act like science, this should be commented upon.

      • MugaSofer says:


        Creationists talk about how evolutionists have blind faith in their discredited theory, which has been disproved by mounds of evidence.

        (This is the revised edition of a much longer comment, before I remembered how handy “proving too much” is.) Thanks, Scott!

  9. Deiseach says:

    I’d be more inclined to No. 1, except that the example quoted is about economics, and I’ve have tilts with people about capitalism where, instead of discussing it in terms of a system for buying and selling things invented by humans, they spoke of it in all the ardour of a believer proclaiming divine revelation which is not to be questioned at all (and I’m Catholic, so I know what a devotee sounds like when he or she is speaking).

    • von Kalifornen says:

      You actually see that on both sides, with both deconstructionist, socialist views of capitalism and with Rand types.

  10. HonoreDB says:

    Argument From My Opponent Believes Something, Which Means They Think They’re Right and Other People are Wrong, Which is Kinda Like Being Elitist, And Elitism is Terrible:
    “Doctors refuse to consider the merits of homeopathy, because if they did they might have to admit that their prestigious degrees don’t grant them a monopoly on truth.”

    Argument From My Opponent Believes Something, Which Means They Think They’re Right and Other People are Wrong, Which is Kinda Like Saying They’re Part of an Elite Group, Which They’re Not:
    “It’s hilarious that a commenter on an Internet Blog, of all people, would think he’s somehow got a better handle on this issue than mainstream academia.”

  11. Alex says:

    The combined argument is one of the funniest things I’ve read all week. (And sad because it isn’t too dissimilar from arguments that I’ve read before such as the entirety of “The Trouble with Normal”).

  12. I particularly enjoy it when tactic 1 is deployed by adherents of a religion to attack something that’s not a religion, e.g. in the headline “The Atheist Orthodoxy that Drove Me to Faith”.

    At best, the claim that “Atheism is just another religion” can only establish that Team Boyfuck is on exactly the same shaky ground as atheists.

    • MugaSofer says:

      “Team Boyfuck”? Seriously?

      • That’s the Argument From My Opponent Systemically Raped Thousands Of Boys In Irish Care Homes.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Please don’t make me break my record of never having banned anyone from this blog. It’s a pretty cool boast to be able to make.

        • yli says:

          Argument From My Opponent Believes Something, Which Is Kinda Like Supporting Things That People Who Believe In It Do, Which Is Kinda Like Supporting Everything Anyone Has Ever Done Who Believes In It, And Some Of Them Did A Bad Thing, So My Opponent Supports Doing Bad Things

        • Well, I think Catholic sexual ethics inherently sets up those kind of abusive situations. You tell a load of gay children that their desires are disordered and it’s wrong to act on them. Then you offer them entry into a celibate priest class, which superficially seems an attractive way out. But then their repressed sexuality drives them to find a release, and because they have no healthy outlet, abuse is likely.

          I mean, look at Cardinal Keith O’Brien, both a notorious homophobe and a sexual harasser of men, or the Vatileaks revelation that there’s a gay “network” in the Vatican, or the embezzlement scandal in Florida where it turned out many of the priests involved were gay. Obviously there’s no easy way to tell, but I hear from people who would know that maybe half of Catholic priests are gay, at least in the West.

          So I’m not just saying “some priests did a bad thing therefore Catholicism is bad.” I’m saying that the combination of Catholic sexual ethics and organizational structure leads to abuse.

        • yli says:

          (I don’t disagree with any of that. I guess I ignored that interpretation of your position for the sake of humor and because I was annoyed at your rudeness.)

        • I guess that “Team BF” implies that Catholics are all in favour of abuse, rather than in denial about the nature of their priest class (who are victims themselves, in a way), so it was a bit rude.

  13. MugaSofer says:

    To all those criticising this post: take a moment to apply these “arguments” to your own comment.

    That is all.

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  16. MugaSofer says:

    Scott, are you ever going to explain your Deep Insights into this sort of thing? You’ve been talking about the plight of us low-social-skills-people a lot recently.

    Any chance you’ll ever share these advanced social skills you learned during your Five Thousand Years? Obviously, some of these techniques may be evil. But you have unparalleled access to the rationalist community, so I’m guessing the instrumental value could be high.

    Oh, and I’m crazy curious, of course. Hmm, I think I’ll ask this on a few posts in the hope it’ll be seen.

  17. John Sabitta says:

    I couldn’t help noticing that one of the voice if reason above felt it necessary to deliver itself of this nugget of confirmed fact.

    “Obviously there’s no easy way to tell, but I hear from people who would know that maybe half of Catholic priests are gay, at least in the West.”

    Well, that settled that, then. Surely a member of the “rationalist community” must know the people who must know such things. Still, you should consider adding more rationality to your assertion by using the phrase “as is well known” when you deliver such wisdom, as in “as is well known, all Trotskyites are in the pay of Hitler.” (Reason is not always the sole weapon against Trotskyites, s

  18. John Sabitta says:

    The iPhone sucks as a posting instrument. I think I’ve made myself clear enough though. As is well known, Mencius Moldbug is in the pay of Zombie Trotsky: I heard this from someone who should know. (The nerdletariat’s lust for power has both reactionary and progressive wings, but I am pleased to see that generally they are united, if on nothing else, by their hatred of the Catholic Church and/or Christianity in general. No, being hated by awful people is no reason to think you’re not awful yourself, but it’s a hopeful sign, perhaps. It’s important in life to have the right enemies, ones you can be proud of. The slow drift of the “neo-reactionary” wing of the nerdletariat towards vile anti-Semitism is also worthy of notice, although probably a separate issue. That’s being charitable, though.)

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