Cothran fluffs up his illogic

Martin Cothran, defender of Holocaust deniers and sometime friend to the eugenicists at the Disco. ‘Tute, unleashes his inner Freudian psychoanalyst to determine that I have “logic envy.” He seems to think his perverted logic is so big and beautiful that everyone else must want the same thing.

The nubbin of his argument is that he was not, when last we met, advancing a tu quoque argument about climate change. He does this by focusing on a line of argument I ignored as irrelevant, meanwhile admitting that he was using a tu quoque where I said he was. The relevant line is:

I simply pointed out that if it [weather] wasn’t [climate] for me, then it shouldn’t be for them.

In other words, other people mistake weather for climate in defending the science of global warming, so he’s entitled to mistake them when attacking it. My point was that he was making exactly this sort of tu quoque argument, and I thank him for the confirmation.

There are deeper problems with Cothran’s argument. Even if this line of argument were not rooted in a logical fallacy, he never actually showed that I or his commenter had ever confused weather and climate. He never even tried, and has not shown that style of argument to be widespread among other defenders of well-documented science. So the tu quoque argument fails even if it isn’t a logical fallacy, and leaving Cothran still with a back-assward “I know I am but what are you” retort.

More relevant to his day job as a logic teacher, he deepens his obvious lack of training in logic by offering as the first line of a syllogism: “If individual warm weather events are confirming evidence for Global Warming, then individual cool weather events are disconfirming evidence for Global Warming.”

This, to those who’ve studied logic, is known as the formal logical fallacy of denying the antecedent. The only way Cothran can save himself here would be to argue that this wasn’t offered as a logical necessity, but as a simple statement of agreed-upon fact. This would require finding climate scientists arguing that if global warming were true, there would never be cold weather. Good luck with that.

Cothran has yet to demonstrate that I (or anyone, strictly speaking) ever used individual warm weather events as evidence for global warming, so this is all academic anyway. In my own writing, I’m confident that I’ve been consistent about using only long-term trends in temperature (or other phenomena dependent on long-term trends) to explain why climate scientists find it incontrovertible that the world has warmed in recent years, and that it continues to do so. Which, to be absolutely clear, means that he can’t claim I consider it OK to use warm weather events as evidence of global warming, making the logically fallacious first line of his syllogism also factually fallacious.

If he thinks I envy this sort of logic, he doesn’t understand me any better than he does logic or the English language.

For what it’s worth, my previous post in question states (accurately) that he is an “enabler of … Holocaust deniers,” which his lack of facility with the English language transforms into a claim that my post “begins … by calling me a Holocaust denier.” (I’ve never done so in that or any other post). He also breaks grammatical parallelism and claims that I begin my post:

that I’m a bigot (because I think marriage means, well, marriage–among other things [tautology!, he means that he prefers a restrictive definition of marriage -Josh]), that I write for the “Disco’ [sic] Institute (they occasionally run pieces from this blog with my permission), and work for the “Kentucky affiliate of Focus on the Family (which is false, not that that seems to matter much to him) [surely he meant to close that quotation mark].

The post in question does not say anything about his manifest bigotry, his work with Disco., nor his affiliation with the sort of statewide group that (in other states) calls itselfinformally associated with,” or “associatesof Focus on the Family, or asofficially associated,” “partner[ed] with,” or “reinforced by a working relationship with” the group. I can’t fathom what I said in that post which would have made him so thoroughly incapable of reading English, but it’s ironic that he would then claim that I don’t “seem to understand English too well.”

Cothran proceeds to claim that this list of statements (none of which I actually made!) constitute an argumentum ad hominem. The problem with this claim is that I didn’t deploy his defense of Holocaust deniers and bigots as proof that he’s wrong. I did it to remind people who Cothran is and why I don’t like him. An argumentum ad hominem would have to be of this form:

  1. Person X says Y.
  2. I don’t like Person X.
  3. Therefore ~Y.

This was not my argument. My argument was that Cothran’s argument hung on a tu quoque claim, that tu quoque is a logical fallacy, and therefore his argument was invalid. In the words of Wikipedia, prefatory comments such as those I made on his allegiances to racists and Holocaust deniers may be “gratuitously abusive but … not a fallacy because X’s argument is actually addressed directly in the opening statement.” For a good example of argumentum ad hominem, consider Cothran’s argument that California Attorney General Jerry Brown was wrong about marriage equality because someone called him “Governor Moonbeam” twenty years ago.


  1. #1 Marion Delgado
    February 17, 2010

    This is like a Western koan:

    “How could Darwin have caused the holocaust when it never happened?”

  2. #2 nunyer
    February 18, 2010

    Just more evidence that the Disco Tuters can’t go the distance, leaving erstwhile partners like the Templeton Foundation unsatisfied. True to form the DI boasts loudly about how far it got, not realizing that everyone else recognizes the impotence of their arguments.