Tuesday, June 16, 2009

'Arry Stottle's got a lotta bottle but Buffy takes the Biscuit

Buffy, apparentrly the alter ego of Steve Welton the Phantom Biographer reckons he can find examples of all thirteen of “Aristotle’s fallacies” in my writing, specifically on my blog. So he’s found a “filosofy fer dummies” webpage, and is successively copy and pasting bits of it onto his blog as though he’d written it and then added some examples of these logical fallacies that he claims he has found on my blog. ("Paul Barford is often found stumbling over his own arguments and conclusions drawn thus, yet he uses the smokescreen of erudition to provide the defensive cover to the paucity of his arguments.") Well, lets have a look at them. So far he’s only got as far as two of these posts, and seems to have run out of stamina.

The first was, appropriately enough, posted the day after April Fools’ Day – this was devoted to ‘Affirming the Consequent’. "Anyone reading this and Mr Barfords Blog will instantly spot that Affirming the Consequent is a favoured tactic of Mr Paul Barfords to foster his pre-agenda (sic) arguments". Examples of this which Buffy claims he has found on my blog are:
" A bad thing was done by someone using a metal Detector. People using metal detectors do bad things"
"An unethically sourced item passed through the PAS.
Items passing through the PAS are unethical".
Now, actually it would be helpful to the reader for Mr Buffy to put a little hyperlink so that the reader can see where I said these things he is using as his “examples” from my blog. Logic would demand that wouldn’t it? But oddly enough this logic does not apply to Mr Buffy’s black propaganda. The reason for this is perfectly logical in fact.

The reason is that nowhere on my blog do I say "A bad thing was done by someone using a metal Detector. People using metal detectors do bad things". What I say may be paraphrased is the opposite, just because some metal detectorists co-operate with archaeology and such things bring benefit to archaeology, not all metal detectorists can be seen as beneficial to archaeology, in assessing the phenomenon we need to differentiate the one from the other and not say that “metal detecting is good for archaeology”. Some of it quite clearly is not.

Equally Buffy is deceiving his readers when he asserts that I said "An unethically sourced item passed through the PAS. Items passing through the PAS are unethical". What I say is that the items recorded by PAS cannot be assumed to all be of licit origin and from the provenance stated, since PAS cannot carry out any independent checks. This means that potentially an unknown quantity of items in the PAS database are of no use as archaeological data and we have no way of knowing which ones. The example illustrates this fact. It is not so much an example of affirming the consequent as raising an issue which calls into question the total (rather than overall) reliability of a dataset.

It took him another three weeks to think up the next post in the series. This is devoted to the "false cause" fallacy. Allegedly “The Assertion of the false Cause if [sic] a favoured tactic of Barfordisation in action. How many times do we see Mr Paul M Barford squirming his way through various topics, presenting his one sided views of a situation, to further his own false cause without giving the reader the true picture.” [I think that is a question but metal detectorists cannot “do punctuation” ]. Well, he has found three examples of what he says is the “Use of False Cause by Paul Barford”:
" Finding and removing metal artifacts destroys the archaeological record"
"YOUR heritage is being destroyed by metal detecting"
" The PAS sanctions the the sale of metal artifacts"
Well, here he’s lost me. I certainly do say that “finding and removing metal artifacts [from the archaeological record] destroys the archaeological record”. Finding and cutting out all the letter ‘b’s from a medieval manuscript Bible would destroy the Bible as it would yesterday’s Times. That is not an example of false cause.

Number two: “YOUR heritage is being destroyed by metal detecting" – Again, this does not seem to be a quote from my blog. Neither is it an example of false cause. Metal detecting and artefact collecting, by removing evidence from the archaeological record without record, is indeed destroying the archaeological heritage, which belongs to everyone, not just a few selfish collectors.

Maybe Buffy has more luck with his third example, also no link sourcing it to a specific point in my blog… " The PAS sanctions the sale of metal artifacts". Where do I say that? [The word sanctions” on my blog is entirely associated with imposition of UN sanctions in Iraq which began the looting there]. I presume that Buffy means the reader to believe that somewhere on my blog it says that artifacts are bought and sold BECAUSE the PAS sanctions such sales. That would indeed be an example of “false cause”, but Buffy if asked would not be able to say where I say such a (stupid) thing. Because I do not.

I find it really puzzling that somebody would set out to prove the existence of logical fallacies in what somebody writes without actually having a single clear example in mind where there actually is such a thing. It’s a bit like somebody setting out to write a biography of a person in an encyclopedia having no idea at all about who that person is or what they have done.

Despite these deficiencies, Buffy soldiers on. Where he can produce no quotes to back up his claim of logical fallacies, he makes them up. He makes up quotes which do not exist, and therefore does not provide hyperlinks to them, safe in the knowledge that the metal detecting populace of Great Britain is not at all interested in checking the facts for themselves. But metal detectorists are a small minority.

All Mr Buffy's insults and innuendos will not change that. Instead of making up quotes in order to say they are nonsense (as they are, they are also fictional), let the pro-collecting lobby take up real arguments, and produce real arguments against them.

I look forward to the third post on the "fallacies" - let us see if Mr Buffy can make an improvement on his first two wholly unimpressive performances in this field.

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