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Discussion 4 to Meditation 810
Beware of Exploding Arguments

by: DEI

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At the end of his otherwise mostly perceptive commentary regarding the agnostic-atheist exchange between our Patriarch and Professor Massimo Pigliucci, Will Petillo offers an argument evidently intended to show that Professor Pigliucci’s line of argumentation would somehow imply that he himself, Professor Pigliucci, is thinking “contrary to reason.”  However and unfortunately, Mr. Petillo’s argument is fallacious -- and therefore itself contrary to reason --  and although that fact alone does not establish Professor Pigliucci’s claim that agnostics who deny that they are also atheists think contrary to reason, it doesn’t exactly hurt it either. [1]

By logical substitution (mutatis mutandis), the form of Mr. Petillo’s argument that  “if ‘agnostics are also atheists’, and agnosticism is ‘contrary to reason,’ then atheism--including adherent Massimo Pigliucci--is also contrary to reason” would amount to claiming that if  Catholics are also Christians and Catholicism is contrary to Protestantism then  Christianity -- including adherent  Billy Graham -- is also contrary to Protestantism. [2]  Simply put, it simply does NOT follow that if As are also Bs and A is C that all --  let alone any particular -- Bs are C.[3]

Just as it is a good idea to check for gas leaks before lighting a stove, it is also a good idea to check the validity of one’s own arguments before criticizing those of another, -- or else -- in both cases -- the whole thing might blow up in your face. [4]


  1. Even if Mr. Petillo where someone who typically thought contrary to reason (and I don’t believe he is) it would only establish a single-incident piece of accidental empirical evidence for a possible inductive hypothesis that “agnostics who deny that they are also atheists think contrary to reason” and not a deductive proof of their essentially doing so by virtue of claiming that they are agnostics but not atheists -- and would also constitute some rather gross examples of various fallacies of relevance and hasty generalization.  Moreover,  Mr. Petillo is absolutely correct in his general observation that Professor Pigliucci’s position that “agnostics are also atheists” is untenable nonsense -- but for reasons other than this particular argument -- and therefore does NOT think contrary to reason in rejecting Professor Pigliucci’s claim that to be an agnostic is also to be an atheist.

  2. Our Patriarch has recently argued that at least some of Reverend Graham’s sermons may very well be “contrary” to certain points of a particular sect of classical Protestantism  but if even if they are, that would have nothing to do with the fact that Catholics are also Christians or that Catholicism is contrary to Protestantism or that Reverend Graham is considered and considers himself to be an adherent of Protestantism and NOT contrary to it. 

  3. The fallacy involved here is a formal one as can be demonstrated by principles of classical Aristotelian logic (Fallacy of Illicit Minor, see: _), Venn Diagram, or any number of techniques of the Predicate Calculus in addition to that of reductio ad absurdum by illustrative analogy as employed here. 

  4. Actually, the moral of this lesson was originally taught to me as a child by GOD (Grandfather of DEI) in the advice that:  “It is better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt” or in the parlance of my country neighbors: “Just as you should always be careful about where your gun is pointing before you pull the trigger, you should also always take care about what you are going to say before shooting off your mouth” or, if you prefer: Matthew 7:3-5.   Perhaps I too have now violated that principal but at least if I have, I have lots of company and will evidently never need to fear being alone.  “Silence is golden!” -- no doubt because, like gold, it is so rare.