“Individuals or groups who reject propositions on which a scientific or scholarly consensus exists can engage in denialism when they use rhetorical tactics to give the appearance of argument or legitimate debate, when in actuality there is none…
Then there are those who engage in denialist tactics because they are protecting some ‘overvalued idea’ which is critical to their identity. Since legitimate dialogue is not a valid option for those who are interested in protecting bigoted or unreasonable ideas from scientific facts, their only recourse is to use these types of rhetorical tactics.
“For denialists, the facts are unacceptable. They engage in radical controversion, for ideological purposes, of facts that, by and large, are accepted by almost all experts and lay persons as having been established on the basis of overwhelming evidence”. To do this they employ “distortions, half-truths, misrepresentation of their opponents’ positions and expedient shifts of premises and logic.” a common tactic used by denialists is to “make great play of the inescapable indeterminacy of figures and statistics” as scientific studies of many areas rely on probability analysis of sets of data, and in historical studies the precise numbers of victims and other facts may not be available in the primary sources.
The upshot: All we can currently bank on is the fact that we all have blinders in some situations. The question then becomes: What can be done to counteract human nature itself?
Given the power of our prior beliefs to skew how we respond to new information, one thing is becoming clear: If you want someone to accept new evidence, make sure to present it to them in a context that doesn’t trigger a defensive, emotional reaction.”
Then there is always the default first line of attack – abusive ad hominem attacks of personal insults:
Abusive ad hominem
Fallacies of Relevance > Ad Hominem Arguments
The most common and well-known version of the ad hominem fallacy is just a simple insult, and is called the abusive ad hominem. It occurs whenever a person has given up attempting to persuade a person or an audience about the reasonable of a position and is now resorting to mere personal attacks.
Examples and Discussion:
Whenever you see personal attacks and abusive ad hominem arguments being used in a discussion, it is unlikely that anything productive will come out of it in the end. A person who can only make their case by attacking others probably doesn’t have much of a case to begin with. Examples –
1. Who cares what you think about movies? You’re just an ignorant American who doesn’t know anything about real culture.
2. You have claimed that John Edward doesn’t really talk to the dead, but how can we believe what an atheist says?
In both cases, something objectionable is identified about a person: one is an ignorant American, the other is an atheist. The arguer then goes on to conclude that, just because of this objectionable fact, what they say about a particular topic should be ignored.
Instead of showing where the people have made an error in any of their statements, the argument simply attacks them for who they are, and claims that we can dismiss anything said without even considering it. But in neither case is this objectionable fact related to the topic at hand – especially when these “objectionable” facts are just plain insults.
The proper way to evaluate the merits of an argument is by looking at what the argument says, not by distracting people’s attention from the argument by insulting the person and then, unreasonably, concluding that your insult is a good reason to dismiss the argument.
Other common forms of the abusive ad hominem argument don’t usually resort to clear personal insults:
3. John has been proven to be a liar numerous times, so I don’t accept John’s arguments about abortion.
4. Well, we shouldn’t be surprised that Senator Smith supports this new tax – considering how long he has been living in Washington D.C. and working in politics, it would be a shock if he didn’t support it!