Bulverism Revisited

Posted on Posted in Reply to Skeptics

In reasoning about the possibility of one or more species of extant pterosaurs, we still may encounter pure bulverism. Let’s take a closer look at this: Avoiding reasoning by making ones opponent appear so silly that further discussion is unnecessary.

I began my investigation of living-pterosaur eyewitness reports when I was a forensic videographer, an independent specialist for various attorney firms in Southern California. Perhaps more relevant, over many years I have sat on a number of juries, in both civil and criminal cases. I am aware that a trial attorney will sometimes try to make an opposing witness appear to have poor judgment or be unqualified in some way. I think this is not what C. S. Lewis meant when he invented the word “bulverism,” for the overall atmosphere in a courtroom is reasoning.

When someone publishes a web site with a URL that includes the words “stupid” and “lies,” and the point of the site is to ridicule those who promote the idea of living dinosaurs or living pterosaurs, “bulverism” probably fits (I will not link to that URL). Of course “libel” also fits, but the point is this: Individuals are attacked, real persons, me and my associates. Quotations of what we say can be hard to find on that site; the attacker’s portrayal of our motivations, easy to find. An average reader who gets very far on that site is unlikely to search out the actual words and deeds of living-pterosaur investigators. Why search for the writings of people who are both stupid and liars? But what if the critical mistake is in the one making accusations?

Let’s look at the various ideas offered and compare conflicting ideas through reasoning. Most writers have something useful to say, even when error is mixed with truth, so let’s concentrate on the merits, or lack thereof, of ideas and not the weaknesses, real or not, of those who write.

“Finding him credible supports your agenda.”

Last December, I wrote “More Critics, Less Reasoning.” If only more persons would think carefully before criticising! I still marvel that someone would be so dismissive of the possibility of a species of extant pterosaur somewhere on earth, so dismissive of any eyewitness account that contradicted their belief, so dismissive of the person who suggested an eyewitness is credible. Is it reasonable that everyone who disagrees with us, on any subject, must have unworthy motivations? Why should the subject of living pterosaurs be different, with only believers having an “agenda?”

I don’t know why Karl, in a comment on cryptozoology.com, said “Finding him credible supports your agenda.” Perhaps I have made that same kind of mistake in my life, but I feel that this approach, this bulverism, is a poor choice. I now recognize more clearly the value of open reasoning in communications. If Karl continues to believe I have questionable motivations, that is his choice; I hope he will someday choose better.

I once heard a Sunday school teacher say something like this: “A person who is damned is like a river that is dammed. When someone is spiritually hindered, that person has allowed a blockage to form, a blockage to progress.” I think we need to keep communications open, without fear. Bulverism blocks communication; that blockage needs to be cleared away.

For more information: Bulverism explained by Oloryn.

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3 comments on “Bulverism Revisited

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