I used to sit on the 21st floor. Now I am retired

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Two stories, then?

Story 1:
My batch in B-school comprised of 180-odd students. At the end of the year, 5 people had to go on a slow-track (they will complete the MBA in 3 years instead of 2 years). We were joined by 3 students from the previous batch (those who were in slow track the previous year). Then came the time for placements. It was a tough year (not the bumper crops which are reaped these days). At the end of Day 3 (the last day of placements) and 80 companies, our batch was left with 7 people who were not placed. We tried our best, but couldn't make it happen, no. It was that tough.

Story 2:
I was part of a college, which had unduly high reservations (22% I think). Fair enough. I somehow managed to get the cut-off. This other boy, M, also almost didn't make it (through his interviews) and made it through waiting list. The 'reserved', by the way, had a lower cut-off (a full 5 or 10 per cent as far as I remember).
At the end of 3 years, in the top 8 (that's how far I remember) there were no one from the 'reserved' category. M was tops. Then S, S, N, V, me, S and S. All from the general category.

I can tell many such stories, but that's not the point of this. For those on the side of common sense have as many stories as the other side (pun unintended).

The stories are here, just to express my disappointment. Disappointment that blogs known for clarity of thought have gone down the path of anecdotes and fallacies to make their case. For examples, see here (which gives the example of the same college, I think, where the author is not perhaps studying as hard as we did) and here (which I will talk about hereforth). These sometimes become so popular that even Desipundit will plug them. Let me make an attempt to bring to light some of these fallacies.

The 'pro-reservation in higher education' bloggers who I have read till now, basically try to argue using ad hominen and other fallacious arguments,
"Lastly, all those opposing “Mandal II” should tell us whether they are non-OBC. Upper castes are no doubt meritocratic (which is why sons inherit fathers’ businesses), and they are no doubt oblivious to caste (just see the matrimonial pages), but there is the hint of vested interest here. And if you are opposing reservations because admissions will become tougher for you, you won’t get the point of affirmative action anyway."
It is like saying, "All those who oppose drug trafficking should tell us whether they have ever had a friend who used to do drugs. For then you obviously have vested interests and are..." In fact not only is it a clear ad hominen argument, it also is ambiguous.

Secondly, they assume that just because some bloggers are opposing the reservations in higher education, they also must be against affirmative action. For what I feel about the distinction, please read Falstaff's discourse here. This is clearly another fallacy of composition. This is in fact the most common fallacy in these blogs. Just because I am against a part of something, I must be against the whole.
"You are against reservations, then you must be against the the increase in opportunities to the poor". How very logical? Like saying, "You don't like eating beef, so you must be from RSS."

Thirdly, as I have stated before, they only offer anecdotal evidence.
"In my college 22 or so per sent seats are reserved for Christian students. Fair enough: the college was established by Christian missionaries and wishes to preserve its Christian character. As a result I have Christian classmates who got much less marks in their Class 12 exams than I did. But many of them are performing much better in their academics than I am. Quotas and the issue of merit is much more complicated than what it is being made out to be. Quota doesn’t mean that an absolute nutcase is going to sit in an engineering class. It means that a student with 65% marks could be studying in a class with a student who got 95%. To say that the two can’t co-exist is absurd."
Yes, and "in my college, a monkey used to destory the windows in our bathrooms. As a result, we had to shave without mirrors. Monkeys and mirrors are a much more complicated issue that what it is being made to be. Unshaved doesn't mean that I am careless about my bearing. It means that I might not have shaved well, because a monkey destroyed my mirror. To say that the it can't be generally true is absurd." By the way, the monkey story is true.

Fourthly, they appeal to the gallery and exhibit a special case of arguing from ignorance.
"I wish we lived in a world where there was no need for reservations. This wish informs the way I react to them. But of course, I know we don't live in such a world, nor do I think we will get to such a world any time soon. (I honestly wish, too, that I am wrong there). Therefore, all things considered, I think reservations are the best answer -- or the least bad answer -- to a thorny problem."
This is like saying, "I wish we live in a world where India will win every cricket match. But of course, we don't live in such a world, nor do I think we will get to such a world anytime soon. (I honestly wish, too that I am wrong there). (Loud applause at this moment) Therefore, all things considered, I think playing all matches against Zimbabwe is the best answer -- or the least bad answer -- to a thorny problem." If I don't have any other solution, refuse to think, then this must be the correct answer. All that is left is shifting the burden of proof.

Fifthly, the blogs introduce red herrings in the argument to confuse us. Two examples:
"...How long should we carry on with reservations? This is a prickly issue, and I don't have a good answer. My feeling is -- maybe this is wishful thinking -- that when reservations have benefited some critical mass of people, they will themselves call for an end to them..."
"Lastly, as an aside, will you believe me that I have met Mandal? No, not Justice BP Mandal but Ashok Mandal. He is a rickshaw puller in Delhi University and hails from Murho in Madhepura. Just where Justice Mandal came from."
Largely irrelevant, just as irrelevant if I was to tell you suddenly (in between why reservations in higher education is not needed) that my mother tutored two kids of my maid-servant and she's paying for one of them's education. They are poor, but not a SC/ ST or OBC.

Sixthly (!), these blogs are guilty of the straw man fallacy. They will misrepresent someone else's position so that it can be attacked more easily, knock down that misrepresented position, then conclude that the original position has been demolished.
"Merit is left to rot. Maybe so, but for one thing, how much have we truly valued merit anyway? Why should we assume that those who benefit from quota admissions, say, will all automatically be poor students?... There's rampant abuse. But any system will be abused. But that some people take advantage of a scheme is not, by itself, reason to throw out that scheme...."
Yes, as also, if I assume that two wrongs will not make a right, then your entire argument fails. "Two wrongs never make a right. Hitler's holocaust to protest against centuries of alleged oppression by Jews and the Babri Masjid demolition to protest against alleged temple demolition being cases in point. Hence, no two wrongs will make a right. Hence, there is no reason to introduce another wrong (reservation) to set the wrong of Dalit oppression right." Makes sense, no?

I can point out various other fallacies in what some of these reputed blogs are saying. But I have work to do (alas!). In case you would like to demolish their (for that matter, my) arguments, go read this.
In the end let me point out the supreme statement made by a blogger, in the heat of the moment. "If Aditya Sarma does immolate himself, all those of you igniting this unwarranted frenzy - all the bloggers and editors and the chai-shop gossipers - you will be responsible for it." Huh? How did that happen? Make your own conclusions.

Update: Apologise to Dibyo, Maverick, Mama, Bobo, PJ and others. The monkey's name is Mojo.
Update 2: In case you want to get some sense of the logical fallacies I have commited, do go here. I don't agree with some of the examples the author writes about (which also means that I agree with some), but seriously, I have moved on, for now. However, if the point was that "You don't add value to the debate by resorting to 'logical fallacies', you don't inform it with further questions and facts, you don't enlighten the subject at hand" then I have to disagree.

70 Comments:

Blogger neha vish said...

Thanks for putting it all together. If you appeal to reason over some misplaced guilt - then your identity comes under direct attack.

I have an issue with the notion of reservations - given that we try and squeeze three lakh aspirants into a paltry 3000 - 5000 seats.

Then are the fencesitters - who routinely practice "fade into sunlight" arguments. No end.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 12:29:00 AM

 
Blogger Mr. D said...

Don't mean to deviate from a serious issue here, but 'a monkey'???? he has a name, you know.....

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 12:34:00 AM

 
Blogger dhoomketu said...

Neha, Thanks. Yes, incidentally my father was born a Brahmin. But he had given up on religion and such fancies Hence, I was born an atheist. Wonder how much is reserved for me.

Fencesitters, yes. Ignore them?

Dibyo, Apologies.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 12:53:00 AM

 
Anonymous Mowgli said...

Great point by point rebuttals and great VAing (specially the ad hominem one) :-)

I too have work to do (alas alas!!) and so this will be my last but one comment on your blog for today (stretch aspiration)!!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 1:07:00 AM

 
Blogger Gaurav said...

My dear Dhoomketu!!!

You have now gone ahead and commited the ultimate sin. You have pointed to logical fallacies in something people are saying!!!

You are comparitively new to the Indian blogosphere, so let me tell you the norms here.

YOU DO NOT POINT TO PEOPLE'S LOGICAL FALLACIES!!!!!!!

Do you understand that? repeat after me.

YOU DO NOT POINT TO PEOPLE'S LOGICAL FALLACIES!!!!!!!

I know which world you come from. I too inhabit that world. In that world, when someone makes logical fallacies, someone else points them out saying "You made this fallacy here, because of this this this reason". In that world, the speaker takes a step back, and tries to offer a defense saying how he has in fact not commited the fallacy, and gives a reasoning in support. Or, he admits to the fallacy and tries to rectify his argument.

But let me explain to you the ways of certain parts of the Indian blogosphere. There, if someone commits a logical fallacy and you point it out, you are ignored. There is no refutation explaining why it is not a logical fallacy. You mention a few more, and they get irritated saying "fallacies fallacies fallacies. i am sick of fallacies. is that all you can think of?"

And don't even dream of responding with "Ermmm.....if you didn't commit those fallacies, I wouldn't have to bring them up..".

This is a place where emotion holds sway, not logic. A world where intentions hold sway, not coherence. A world where conscience massages and guilt trips are relished more than good old fashioned reason.

Better learn the ways of this world if you want to be counted as a "Normal Human Being" here.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 2:52:00 AM

 
Blogger dhoomketu said...

Mowgli, Thanks.

Gaurav, Have heard from a friendly fellow blogger about the incident with the strawman. I will convert it into a comic book one day, with Fallacyman taking on the logicians, fact-lovers and various other pests. And I guess, I can plead the ignorance of youth. By the way, are you still being counted as a normal human being? Or not?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 3:22:00 AM

 
Blogger Gaurav said...

I was one of the first to be expelled from the human race. An F-word is now used to describe me and my tribe.

Saket met a slightly less harsh fate. He was merely stripped of his Indian citizenship for saying that the constitution may have some things wrong, for instance the ban on homosexuality.

Love the idea for the comic book.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 4:09:00 AM

 
Blogger Falstaff said...

dhoomk2: Nice. Couldn't agree more. It's not just that people don't get logic, it's also that they don't understand statistics. So you get all these people saying they knew someone from a BC who got in on reservation and did well. As though the argument was seriously that all BC candidates would unambigiously do badly. Obviously there's a distribution to the outcomes of candidates who get in on quotas - so you're always going to have some folks out on the right tail who will end up doing well. That's just noise. You could pick 50% of the batch by running random numbers in the telephone directory and you'd still get some people among them who'd do really well. The point is not whether we end up with one or two people from the quotas at the top, the point is how much the mean of that distribution shifts because you put in quotas.

Plus the people who argue for inequality don't seem to be thinking about the direction / nature of the error and how reservations will correct it. In general, errors compound, they don't cancel out (the variance of the difference between two random variables is it's sum, not it's difference). So any coherent policy on affirmative action needs to show how it will reverse the direction of the bias. Just saying there's bias so we should do something is not good enough.

Finally, I think there's one last tactic you're missing. Which is the follow-up "all I was saying was" argument. person makes 5 points. You point out to him why all 5 make no sense. He comes back and 'defends' one of them by saying that what he was actually trying to say was something else (apparently it doesn't matter what you write - only what you were trying to say). Then claims you misunderstood him.

I think we should require bloggers to do then and now posts - here's what I was saying on these issues then. Here's what I'm saying now. For most of these bloggers, once you've got rid of all the crap they can't find a defense for, the 'now' post would be really, really short.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 5:17:00 AM

 
Blogger Ranjan said...

I read the links given in your blog and currently am in the state of nausea. Wanted to the reply this guy called 'shivam' at theotherindia.org but could not find a place.
So I put a reply at my blog:
http://confused-observer.blogspot.com/2006/04/rethe-alarmists-anti-mandalites-middle.html

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 7:25:00 AM

 
Blogger dhoomketu said...

Gaurav, let's discuss comic books soon.

Falstaff, yes, the then and now post will be welcome. By the way, I thought basic maths, statistics and economics will be easy to understand, especially after multiple lucid attempts. However, it is not so. Instead, both of us have been branded baby adam smiths somewhere in the blogosphere!! :-)

Ranjan, did you try mailing Shivam? They have a mailing id on the site. I guess with the heated emotions this issue is generating, they had no option but to close comments.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 7:48:00 AM

 
Anonymous Just Mohit said...

Dk2, most of the people you have linked to are A-list bloggers. They can't all be wrong about this thing (whatever it is!) It must be your IIT-IIM-elitist mindset that's causing you to point out their logical fallacies! ;-)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 9:24:00 AM

 
Blogger dhoomketu said...

Mohit, Uneasy lies the head... Yes, must be that. :-)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 9:31:00 AM

 
Blogger Dilip D'Souza said...

I would challenge the dude who thinks CAPITALS and EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!!!!! are cool to show you, or anyone, precisely where he, or anyone, got the reaction: "fallacies fallacies fallacies. i am sick of fallacies. is that all you can think of?"

But that's a dude who, as he knows well, is fond of making accusations that he will not back up. So let's leave it there.

But to you others here, I say just this much, speaking for myself: please please come engage in the debate on this issue. I will not shy away, I don't believe in evading arguments, I believe I came to my positions via a process of reasoning that was every bit as logical and reasoned as you think yours was. I respect your views, I truly understand how strongly people feel about this and why -- so please do me the favour of respecting my views and trying to understand where they come from. They don't come from idle thumb-twiddling. I too believe I have some common sense.

I am trying to cope with all the responses and posts about this debate, and will try to either post my own response and/or come back to comment here (and elsewhere).

But for now, I want to say, you observe: Thirdly, as I have stated before, they only offer anecdotal evidence.

Well, do tell me, what are your "Story 1" and "Story 2", if not anecdotes (not that I object to anecdotes)?

What should I call all the stories I'm told about how someone topped their school but could not get into college because of reservations? What are those but anecdotes?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 9:34:00 AM

 
Blogger dhoomketu said...

Dilip, I'd be happy to engage on any debate that you want. But you must promise to read my blog:

"I can tell many such stories, but that's not the point of this. For those on the side of common sense have as many stories as the other side (pun unintended).

The stories are here, just to express my disappointment. Disappointment that blogs known for clarity of thought have gone down the path of anecdotes and fallacies to make their case."

I clarify again, for your benefit. I am not using stories or offering anecdotes. I'd want to see a factbase behind the kind of students who benefit from reservations. As I have said before, I am willing to support/ fund research on the socio-economic backgrounds of people who enter IIT/ IIM on reserved quotas. Since, I don't have facts now, I won't rely on your stories, nor on mine. Hence, your argument stays fallacious, according to me.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 9:45:00 AM

 
Blogger Gaurav said...

I would challenge the dude who thinks CAPITALS and EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!!!!! are cool to show you, or anyone, precisely where he, or anyone, got the reaction: "fallacies fallacies fallacies. i am sick of fallacies. is that all you can think of?"

On a certain blog called shivamvij.com which has now been deleted. Even now, if you google "fallacies" for shivamvij.com you will see a line that goes "I’m sick of the logical fallacies business". If someone can dig up a google cache of Shivam's blog, it would be great.

You Dilip, have never said so explicitly. But then have you ever said anything explicitly in your life. If this post - http://dcubed.blogspot.com/2005/12/of-fms-and-nhb.html were to be paraphrased, it would be paraphrased as what I said. In that post you dismiss pointing out logical fallacies as "empty argumentative tricks".

Even here, there are three fallacies Dhoomk2 has pointed out that you have commited. In your response, I see no reference to those fallacies.

But that's a dude who, as he knows well, is fond of making accusations that he will not back up. So let's leave it there.

This is hilarious. When I do back up my accusations with a proof like a screenshot, you have no answers or responses. And you have the gall to say this?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 10:25:00 AM

 
Blogger Falstaff said...

dilip: Looking forward to hearing what you have to say on this. While we're waiting, though, let's be clear that the fact that you 'respect' our views or that you've spent hours thinking about these issues or believe what you're saying cuts no ice. I'm perfectly willing to respect your views if, and only if, you come up with something that's logical(which is to say it's clear of the kind of sloppy reasoning that dhoomk2 points to here, and I commented on on your blog).

Think about it this way. Keeping an open mind on this (i.e. believing that you might have a point, even though I don't see it) is equivalent to 'providing you access' (to use your terms). Respecting what you're saying just because you believe it, even if it makes no sense by any objective standards of logic would be equivalent to reservations. And I don't do that.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 10:58:00 AM

 
Anonymous Kya Yaar Main Bhi said...

Yes, Google cache of Shivam Vij saying he's sick of the logical fallacy business (do a search on page) is over here

Oh, there's also another post by Shivam poking fun at Amit Varma for disabling comments on his blog, and now HE is the one to shut off comments on all his posts on The Other India (TOI). Ha haa ha!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 11:15:00 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dilip: Not all ideas can demand equal respect and airtime. You cannot expect me to respect your view if you go around claiming that the earth is flat.

Similarly your ideas must be derived through logical reasoning. Please demonstrate how you arrived at your rather remarkable worldview without "idle thumb-twiddling".

jethro

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 11:29:00 AM

 
Blogger Abi said...

Godwin's Law: "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one."

Except that in this post, the probability reached one even before the discussion began.

Nice going!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 11:34:00 AM

 
Blogger dhoomketu said...

Gaurav, Falstaff, Jethro: The ball has been firmly hit back to the other side, now. I am hopeful and not cynical, yet.

Kya yaar: Thanks for the link. And yes, the posts have been closed but I think that's purely a personal prerogative. Personal prerogatives can change over time.

Abi: Thanks, So? :-)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 11:53:00 AM

 
Blogger Dilip D'Souza said...

Ah I see the avid spectators gathering, just like always ...

dhoomK, why the presumption, right off the bat, that I didn't read your blog? It is because I read your post that I said what I did: you start by using anecdotes.

My arguments stay fallacious: show me. Whose position did I misrepresent by saying "Merit is left to rot... [etc]" as you claim I did? How have I appealed to the gallery by saying I think, all things considered, reservations are the best solution, as you claim I did? Where's the red herring in "How long should we carry on with reservations?"

I've asked this before, and I don't get an answer: what do you think, I should simply roll over and say you're right? I don't expect it from you, so why do you expect it from me? Do the hard work of trying to persuade me of your arguments against reservations. (After all, I'm trying to do the hard work of explaining why I think, on balance, reservations are the best solution). All I see is a long post picking holes. That doesn't persuade me.

Falstaff: I don't see the sloppy reasoning. Show me the "objective standards of reasoning" you're talking about.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 12:04:00 PM

 
Blogger Falstaff said...

dilip: Sigh.

First, read my comments on your blog: Merit is left to rot, etc. - the fact that there are currently parts of the system that are not meritocratic is not argument for making other parts less meritocratic. That's like saying because some criminals get away with their crimes we should let all criminals go free. If you don't see the fallacy in that then I can't help (or respect) you.

Second, the red herring is that no one's debating affirmative action / access or any of that stuff at all - we're debating reservations in IITs / IIMs. Try starting your next comment with the following line: I believe that reservations in the IITs / IIMs are the best solution to end social inequality because. Not reservations in general. Not 'providing access' or some such meaningless term. This specific proposal. Anything else is a red herring.

Third, ask yourself the following question: analytically, how is providing access different from reservations. If that proves difficult (as I suspect it will). Try the following thought experiment. Imagine two teams are playing a game of cricket. In the first game, they both get the same quality of equipment, the same umpires, and they compete. Got it? That's providing access. In the second game, one team gets 40 overs to bat and the other team gets 50. That's reservation. Do you see the difference. Think hard.

Next, go back to your own blog and look at your ridiculous cricket analogy again. You admit yourself that the cricket situation doesn't really parallel the reservation issue, that you just used the analogy to make people 'think' in some abstruse way. Then come back here and to my post and think about how dhoomk2 uses analogies. Try and see why your analogies are sloppy and ours are not.

Next, go read my posts on the issue (dhoomk2 has linked to them) - then come back and tell me that we've not taken the trouble to define our position while you have.

Finally, if you're still think reservations in IIT / IIMs are the best option, do the following exercise. Take a piece of paper. Write down "reservations in IIT / IIMs" on one side. Write down "better quality of primary schooling for the economically backward" on the other. Put all the reason why you think one is better than the other in the column underneath it. Compare. Write all these points down in a post, carefully explaining why you think IIT / IIM reservations are the superior options. Post. Then come back and let us know so we know you're capable of intelligent, logical debate.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 2:28:00 PM

 
Blogger Dilip D'Souza said...

Falstaff, is it taunts? Or is it an attempt to understand each other so we can move towards some resolution?

Because if it is the taunts, do let me know and I will either indulge it them myself, or I'll excuse myself from the ring (my prerogative at the time) and leave you to sigh some more, and assume all you want about my capability to indulge in intelligent logical debate.

Here you are one more time: I have stated my position (in that post you commented on). I believe it was carefully thought through. I believe you have misunderstood it.

But I jump through no hoops for men who begin with "sigh". So like I said, tell me which it is to be, and if the taunts, I shall than exercise that prerogative as I see fit.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 5:40:00 PM

 
Blogger dhoomketu said...

Dilip, I thought that you were trying to make some progress when you said your responses are carefully thought through. However, reading your latest post and your comments almost makes me want to blow holes through them again.

For I can't still understand where you come from. Will you please answer one simple question? Why is reservations in higher education (IIT/ IIM/ AIIMS et al) the right solution after weighing the costs and benefits to the economy and society?

Trying to negate some arguments by using either your own anecdotes (hilarious, though they are!) or making unconnected statements (red herrings) that neither support nor destroy your argument "Well, it saddens me too, such cases. There will be people who will abuse the system, there will be casualties like Mumbai Monsoon".

And by your own admission, if "once you put reservations in place, where you draw lines becomes politically hard to set in stone", then please let's think through hard about whether to put more reservations in place in the first place.

Hope to see your arguments now.

By the way, before you accuse me of evading, Falstaff has answered some of your questions in his post. Do read to find out where you have used fallacies? By the way, the presumption that you haven't read my post (apologies, maybe I should have used comprehended), was there because I had answered in the post itself as to why I was using stories. Hence, I couldn't see how your question was warranted.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 8:34:00 PM

 
Blogger Falstaff said...

Dilip: No taunts. you said you wanted the chance to prove that your views were worthy of respect. I gave you that chance. You simply repeated yourself and asked me where the sloppy reasoning was (when I'd already told you - on your blog - where you still haven't responded to my points). I told you again. If all you were going to say was "I think I've made my point and you've misunderstood me" why bother to even pretend that you wanted to have the debate? And after this you wonder why we don't respect you.

Meanwhile, it's convenient being offended isn't it? This whole 'I could explain to you why you're wrong, but I won't because it's beneath my dignity'. Wonderful. The true scientific approach. I live for the day when all logic operates on that principle. If I could write papers and then refuse to prove them on the grounds that I wouldn't jump through hoops for any man, I'd have a thesis by now.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 9:07:00 PM

 
Blogger Gaurav said...

The DDDude lays down a challenge to show where logical fallacies have been sneered at. Two links are provided, one of his blog, another of Shivam's.

No response

The DDDude says I make accusations with "backing them up". I point out to 2 separate incidents where I backed up my accusation with evidence such as screenshots proving my comment had been deleted, and later re-posted by DDDude.

Again no response.

This is not the first time this has happened too. Faced with the "backing up" evidence that nails him comprehensively, he always takes escape routes such as "Oh it is no use talking to you" or "oh i do not respond to men i dont respect" or "i jump through no hoops for men who -----(fill in the blanks with suitable words that the person might have said which are utterly devoid of malice but can be used as a tenuous excuse to 'exit gracefully' by "exercising prerogative)"

Looks to me like the DDDude has fallen back on his trusted trick of selectively addressed bitchy emails to tell the world how I am vicious and all. Convenient for him, since I won't be in the loop to defend the wild allegations made.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 11:04:00 PM

 
Anonymous HFC said...

Another day, another blog battle. Until now my comments have been restricted to congratulatory or laudatory ones, but this is the first time that I will actually make a lengthy comment.

Since this is the first time I am actually making a lengthy comment, I hope that the owner of this blog will pardon the bulky length.

I was introduced to blogs by my daughter, who herself is a blogger of some repute. My journey in this world was initially restricted to just her blog, and those of her friends. But after my wife passed away and I took premature retirment, I found myself with a lot of free time on my hands. Now I read perhaps in excess of 125 blogs every day, mostly Indian. I often see these little blog battles, and usually smile wanly. They are all a part of the game, as the cliche goes. They display passion and zeal. Mostly they display fiery idealism of youth, but at times one also sees the rigidity of age which is forged by a greater exposure to the real world.

Coming to this blog post. Falstaff, Dhoomk2, I see in your efforts a certain cockiness which shows you are willing to engage only a person whom you think capable of logical reasoning. You think little of dilip's logic and want to corner him. It won't work. Dilip is not going to admit he is wrong, because he has age on his side. He has lived in this real world long enough to know that pure impeccable logic is but 1 of the many components that rule the world.

Asking Dilip to defend logic and admit that he is committing fallacies is like asking Einstein to stick to Newtonian Physics. I know this analogy itself might sound fallacious, but it is the closest I could come to.

Pure logic does not work in the real world. Dilip, who I guess is a few years away from 50, has learnt this from experience. I am sure the Dilip in his 20s and early 30s would venerate logic and play by its rules like you do. But with age comes a perspective. this is not a mild ad hominem attack on you two, saying that you wont get the perspective because you are young. This is just an effort to show this mismatch in the ways of thinking of you two and Dilip DSouza. I am taking no sides. think of me as an arbitrator between two sides debating the effectiveness of the metric system and the FPS system.

Falstaff, if the world worked solely on logic, 95% of humans would not be believers. You will admit that atheism readily follows from logic. Of all things, i.e, free markets, communism, socialism, etc, atheism is the easiest to prove using logic. Yet a miniscule portion of even the educated thinking world is atheist. Why?

If the world ran on logic, Aristotle would be reverred much more than Jesus. But it isn't so.

I was once 28 too. I can see how you think. At that age, most parts of your life work on logic. There is a clear cut logical cause-effect relationship in almost everything. Your academics, your friendships, your career and even your love life. At the age of 28, logic seems dear because 90% of things personally associated with you run on logic. So the 10% logicless things seem like an aberration.

But as life moves on, and as you touch 50, like Dilip, or 60, like me, more and more things start moving into the realm of the illogical. Your work-life will be the biggest component. Usually you will feel plain and simple logic should dictate everything. As you move up the corporate ladder, you see that emotions, personal bonds and 'chemistry' are as much of an influence, if not stronger, than logic and objectivity. Illogical decisions will shape your life and affect you.

And the the world, more often than not, changes you. I have seen scores of my atheist friends turn religious in their 40s and 50s after faced with personal crises, and more importantly, seeing that believers handle crises with more serenity because of their supposedly ignorant beliefs.

Illogic, emotions, prejudice are all deep-rooted inside us.

The debate between you and dilip is a debate between two generations. And it will never end. It will end only when you enter that generation.

Thursday, April 13, 2006 12:09:00 AM

 
Blogger Ranjan said...

Dhoomketu,
Thanks for pointing that out. Will do the first thing I reach home.

Thursday, April 13, 2006 12:33:00 AM

 
Blogger dhoomketu said...

HFC, I have no problems with length of comments. So, thanks for your long comment.
I hope you realise, by the way, that your argument has fallacies, and not only 'sounds fallacious' as you have said somewhere.

As far as "illogic, emotions and prejudice" is concerned, I also know that it is commonplace and used by many people when they fails in logical arguments. Obviously, even logicians are aware of impossibility theorems and such, and at the core are starting from a belief themselves. I would grant you that.

However, please be aware, that I disagree with you when you say that this is a battle between two generations. The other post I refer to is written by someone of the same age as us (if not lower). I am hoping he's not afflicted by rigidity of youth that you suppose, is afflicting Dilip.

Dilip himself, by the way, says, "I will not shy away, I don't believe in evading arguments, I believe I came to my positions via a process of reasoning that was every bit as logical and reasoned as you think yours was." Hence, while you may be giving him the excuse of rigidity of youth, he seeks none. Hence, this debate.

Further, all pro-reservations in higher education posts that I have read till now are being written under the pretence of logic, which we want to demolish. Let them say, like you do, that "We are doing it based on faith. It's illogical, prejudiced faith, but like we believe in religion, we believe in reservations." No, they won't do that. Instead they will use false arguments, anecdotes etc. to 'prove' their case. Now, that won't work, will it?

By the way, I take exception to you finding in me cockiness. Just because you appoint yourself an arbitrator, doesn't give you the right to insinuate that we are cocky and Dilip is illogical. Hope you understand.

Thursday, April 13, 2006 1:01:00 AM

 
Blogger Dilip D'Souza said...

DhoomK, please do blow holes in my arguments again. I believe you failed the last time, so please certainly try again, and I mean this not at all facetiously.

Let's start with this "simple question" you think I'm evading: when was it asked of me before your comment of 9:04:41 today? Quotes from me (that prompted me to respond here) in your post appear in your "Thirdly", "Fourthly", "Fifthly" and "Sixthly" paragraphs. There is not a mention of IIT/IIM/AIIMS in those paragraphs. (There is a sentence in parens that says "in between why reservations in higher education is not needed", was this supposed to be your "simple question"?) I don't see it asked anywhere else on this page by you.

Why am I making a point of this? Partly because of your tone that implies I'm evading the question, to show you that you never asked it in the first place. But more so because to me the issue I'm discussing -- my post you have responded to -- is reservations in general. I realize this current fuss about reservations has been sparked by the recent announcement about introducing them in colleges, but to me, the issue is just the principle of reservations. Because once you either make a case for them or against them, I believe that case essentially remains the same wherever they are applied.

Why do I make a point of your use of anecdotes? Because you seem to think they don't advance any argument (your decrying them in your "Thirdly" para); yet you start this very post with two anecdotes and you even call this post "Two anecdotes, then?" Sorry, "Two stories, then?"

You even tell us you "can tell many such stories".

Sure, you say the stories are there to "express my disappointment", but you use them to express your disappointment, don't you? I am unable to see how the "In my college 22 or so per cent seats ..." story is fundamentally different from either of your stories. But somehow that one being used to make some point is invalid, my anecdote about joining college is hilarious, but your using anecdotes to "express your disappointment" is OK?

As for "unconnected statements" and "red herrings", you cite my "it saddens me" statement about Mumbai Monsoon. But you're the guy who used stories to "express my disappointment". Are those stories "red herrings" too? Do tell me the difference between "it saddens me" and "express my disappointment."

The "where you draw lines" observation is more or less what I said in the third para above (about "reservations in general"), so I won't repeat it. But of course we should think hard about whether to put more reservations in place. What do you think I'm trying to do by writing what I have about this, except think hard and try to get my readers to think hard? Clearly you are thinking hard about it too.

Falstaff, you think you've offended me? Please think so, if you like! I don't believe your comment on my blog showed up any sloppy reasoning. Nor did your hoops such as "take a piece of paper, write on one side" show it. You chose to misunderstand, that's it. Sigh.

HFC, thank you. I don't know about the others here, but I appreciate your efforts at introducing reason between us. Let me say, though, that the way I see your comment is this: I too value logic and reason, and I believe I've been logical in my writing, and I wish more of us here would use logic and reason instead of something else that we think are those things.

Like you, I don't believe this debate has an end. But as dhoomk2 points out, rightly, I ask for no excuses of age or anything else in the debate.

Thursday, April 13, 2006 2:54:00 AM

 
Blogger dhoomketu said...

Dilip, two observations and two questions. I am too tired of this debate to engage on every point that you raise. By the way, for everyone's benefit, I will put the questions in bold and italics and keep them simple.

Point 1: I have said it before: once in the post, which you didn't get, second, in my comment "Since, I don't have facts now, I won't rely on your stories, nor on mine. Hence, your argument stays fallacious, according to me., which again you didn't get.

1) You're in your post using fallacies like the ones I have pointed out in my post. "Merit is left to rot anyway" point is saying two wrongs make a right as well as misrepresentation. It's not what bloggers which I am reading are saying (take Falstaff, for instance). So, can't see how that is not a misrepresentation and a strawman?

2) The red herring I caught still remains a red herring, even though I might have used stories somewhere. More about that later.

3) "I wish we lived in a world where there was no need for reservations." is appealing to the gallery, as again, it neither proves nor disproves your stand.

I thought all this was fallacious, as I pointed out. As I have said before, I am using my stories to express my disappointment that "blogs known for clarity of thought have gone down the path of anecdotes and fallacies to make their case."

It's not OK for either you or for me to use anecdotes to prove cases, though they can be used in blog-posts. You have got my point this time, I hope.

Point 2: There is no difference between your monsoon story and my stories at the beginning of the post. Both are stories. And can't be cited as solid proof for anything.

However, your point on "how long can we carry on" is a red herring as it doesn't make the case for a reservation nor opposes it. It merely sits there, as a distraction.

Btw, it is also a red herring because I can't see the "how long will you have reservation" question as an argument against reservation in the first place (which is what you are suggesting, it is).

Question 1: Are you saying that a person's stand can be either pro-reservation or anti-reservation, and nowhere in between? You said "Because once you either make a case for them or against them, I believe that case essentially remains the same wherever they are applied." Really? Is it that simple?

Question 2: You have evaded this again, but here goes: Why is reservations in higher education (IIT/ IIM/ AIIMS et al) the right solution after weighing the costs and benefits to the economy and society?

When Falstaff tells you to write it down, he means it. Till now, to this question I have heard this:
"BCs are backward and need support. Reservations is one good measure to help them. Once you either make a case for them or against them, the case essentially remains the same wherever they are applied. Therefore, reservations in IIT/ IIMs are least bad solution."
Before I show you how wrong this logic is, please state clearly whether this is what you are saying about the issue of reservation in higher education.


Lastly, at least we agree that you are not looking for an excuse of age or anything else. :-)

Thursday, April 13, 2006 3:37:00 AM

 
Blogger Dilip D'Souza said...

Dhoomk2, re: your "I am too tired of this debate..." sentence, is there a parallel to someone else claiming on this page that I apparently said "I could explain to you why you're wrong, but I won't because it's beneath my dignity"? Is this also "wonderful" and the "true scientific approach"? If so, please ask that someone else to react to you in the same way, won't you?

This debate demands more from us than getting tired easily. It's a tough issue: get up there and make your case as energetically as you can.

How is "Merit is left to rot" a misrepresentation of anything? The most heard argument against reservation is that it ignores merit. i.e., that merit is left to rot (my formulation) as a result of reservations. Have you not heard that? So in my post listing what I called "the arguments against reservations", I started with "Merit is left to rot." Is this not an argument that's made against reservations? Is it a misrepresentation? If so, how?

As for the two wrongs not making a right too, what did I say after that "merit is left to rot"? This: Maybe so, but for one thing, how much have we truly valued merit anyway? Favouritism, nepotism and the like are routine with us, even today. But more important, what of the merit we will uncover by giving a much wider pool of people the opportunity they feel is otherwise denied to them? ...

The first part of that ("for one thing"), meaning: merit is a pretty flimsy stick to beat reservations with, because the people who benefit from reservations only say: "wait a minute, nobody gives a shit for merit the rest of the time, but when we stand to benefit from something, it suddenly is so prized? Give me a break!" (They really do say that). I'm not saying two wrongs make a right, I'm saying a lot of people are not persuaded by the mention of merit like this.

But you will notice my use of "more important": because for me, that angle is the way to consider merit. That by giving people access, we tap into a much larger pool of talent.

Anecdotes: this much. You use them, it makes no sense to me that you scorn others using them. I don't see how anybody's use of them that you have cited -- yours, mine, anyone's -- "proved" any cases. More important, I dont' see where anybody you have cited has claimed that their anecdotes have proved any cases. I have no problem with anecdotes -- yours, mine or anyone else's.

"How long can we carry on", like "Merit is left to rot", is an argument I've heard plenty of people using against reservations. Surely you've heard people saying reservations were supposed to last ten years, but they've gone on for 50+, and how long must they continue? So that paragraph in my post was my attempt to answer this argument. Where's the red herring?

Your Question 1: Of course people can have positions between being pro and anti reservations. For example, somebody might approve of reservations in schools and colleges, but not in jobs. Etc. But what did I write that you kindly cite? Because once you either make a case for them or against them, I believe that case essentially remains the same wherever they are applied.

So yes, to me it is that simple. To me the argument against reservations applies whether it is school, or college, or jobs. Similarly the argument for reservations. To me, if you allow reservations in primary schools, say, there's no compelling reason not to allow them in colleges. Similarly, to me, if you don't allow them in colleges, there's no compelling reason to allow them in primary schools. To me, the arguments for or against apply at either level.

Note my liberal use of "to me".

Your Question 2: I didn't evade it. My answer is my previous para, and the similar para in my previous comment. My feeling is what I said in my post you reacted to: Therefore, all things considered, I think reservations are the best answer -- or the least bad answer -- to a thorny problem. This applies to reservations in general -- IIT, school, wherever.

So now that I've answered your questions (again), maybe I can repeat mine? Here it is: Do the hard work of trying to persuade me of your arguments against reservations. (After all, I'm trying to do the hard work of explaining why I think, on balance, reservations are the best solution). All I see is a long post picking holes. That doesn't persuade me.

You've not yet done, on this page, anything but pick holes.

For example, I had an argument on this issue with someone I know last night, and the compromise we reached was the 33% point I make in this post. I hadn't thought of that possibility, and this person's arguments made me see it. Why not something similar from you?

We are trying, are we not, to come to a compromise between greatly differing positions? We are not trying, are we, to simply think we've score points?

And oh yes, we are definitely in agreement on the age issue. Like Ronald Reagan (whom I cannot believe I'm actually quoting) once said, I will certainly not hold your youth against you...

Thursday, April 13, 2006 4:37:00 AM

 
Blogger Falstaff said...

hfc: two things

As far as Dilip is concerned, he's the one who claimed he thought his argument were logical and that he couldn't see the sloppy reasoning. That's the premise we started this debate with. If he wants to believe in reservations as an article of faith, that's fine. Let him not pretend that he has reason on his side.

Notice also, btw, that there's a difference between choosing not to use logic and being incapable of using it. Given Dilip's manifest inability to either follow a thread of reasoning or respond rationally to any of the many inconsistencies dhoomk2 and I have shown to exist in his argument, I see no reason to believe that he is capable of logic at all.

Which brings me to my second point. I've been very clear all along that I have no respect for people who don't use logic. The fact that 95% of the world believes in God is, in my view, a very bad thing. That's how we end up with suicide bombers. So just because people don't use logic is not reason to encourage such sloppiness.

Finally, it's not clear to me how Dilip's argument acquires any merit from the fact that he's old and illogical. If we're going to make this about experience (which I've been trying not to) then I'm willing to bet that I, despite my tender years, have a lot more experience dealing with the underpriviliged than Dilip does. Go read his posts and then go read mine and I'll submit that I have a better understanding of the reality of attempts to take affirmative action in the education system than Dilip does. if all that Dilip's bringing to the table is a jaded disdain for rational thought, then that's not wisdom, that's senility.

So. You're probably right about this whole inter-generation thing - at least where Dilip is concerned (though I personally know plenty of 50 year olds who are perfectly capable of being rational when the occassion demands, so I think you damn old people too quickly). But that's what the process of human development, of human change is all about, isn't it? The destruction of the stale prejudices and ridiculous beliefs of the old by the clear light of young reason. I have no doubt now that Dilip will never see that light, that he's incapable of being made to stick with a logical argument. But does that mean we should just quietly go on letting him be wrong? if my grandfather believes that computers are evil things and children should not be let near them, am I to 'respect' his views, because he has moved beyond logic?

Thursday, April 13, 2006 4:54:00 AM

 
Blogger dhoomketu said...

Dilip, I am tired not because this issue is tiring, but because you don't offer logic and you refuse to acknowledge various points that I have made. Let me give you two examples. They will answer your questions as well.

Example 1: You don't offer logic. You said, "To me, if you allow reservations in primary schools, say, there's no compelling reason not to allow them in colleges." However, again, you don't give any compelling logic to this sweeping generallisation. I guess you are waiting for your next comment to offer this.

Reservations in higher education is all we are debating. For getting to know why, please visit this. Falstaff captures it well (btw, do read his earlier post as well). It will tell you the differences between different kinds of affirmative action. If you don't believe us misguided souls, do read the papers he mentions in his comments. That will tell you why different ways of implementing 'affirmative action'have different consequences and why, it is not a 'simple'case at all (even if you use "to me" liberally).

Example 2: You don't read my posts carefully. By saying that nobody ever claimed that anecdotes are proofs, you have left yourself in a false position. Go to Shivam's post on the other side blog and see how he uses the experience with quotas in one college to say that the argument for merit is facetious. Go to your blog and see how you use your personal experience to suggest that "the best indicator of performance is not an exam result, but that motivation", which by the way, is no indicator, as it is extremely difficult to measure. I grant you that you are saying that finally, it taught 'you', and is not a general truth. In which case, we don't need to debate it as it is your personal belief.

Finally, this particular decision (reservation in higher education) is not a matter of compromise nor an experiment that can be carried out, to see if it works. 33% is better than 50% no doubt, but it still ignores the core issue (go to Falstaff's blog for understanding this). On this issue, a compromise is not good enough economically or socially. Politically, however, I grant you, a compromise will most probably be found.

In case you think I am not stating my case, then here's what I believe: There is already no discrimination amongst the IIT/ IIM entrance process, the higher education insitutions are at the right side of the tail and therefore, scarce and important. Hence, they should be allocated efficiently to people irrespective of background.
Truly backward people (and not people from backward classes as defined by their average currently) will not anyway benefit from a quota in IIT/ IIM as they will not be in a position (due to lack of proper primary and secondary education) to access this quota anyway. Hence, on one hand you'll take away a seat from a deserving student and give away, most probably (means there's a chance) to a well-to-do OBC student, who had the same opportunities in the first place anyway. If this happens, then expected value of the move is negative.
As you would have noticed, a lot of my statements are assertions. They don't have empirical data. Which is precisely our case. Please let's have more empirical data on all these points before we implement this policy. Otherwise, it's a shot in the dark which doesn't have sound deductive logic behind it.

Thursday, April 13, 2006 5:37:00 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dhoom, falstaf, gaurav, hfc

you guys can argue till the cows come home with dilip, but you don't realise one thing. let me spell it out for you.

all of you are in different vocations which have nothing to do with writing about these situations to make a living. so what you write and express about reservations, poverty, strikes, labour rights, narmada valley, are actually objective opinions flowing from intellectual honesty and logical reasoning disconnected from any significant personal stake in the conclusions you reach. so you all can reach a conclusion which is identical, follow reasoning which is identical, and yet not lose anything.

dilip is a writer. he makes his living out of writing. and he has positioned himself as a liberal writer, another p sainath of sorts. if you will permit me a pejorative, he is a jholawala. his job is to take a contrarian position and tug at emotions and people's hearts.

falstaff, he is not incapable of logic. he is a very intelligent guy, with a great academic record, and impeccable pedigree, having been born and brought up by the most intelligent, respected, upright and practical bureaucrat Maharashtra(or indeed India) has ever known. he is as capable of seeing the logical point as you guys.

but if he sees the logic and makes the same point as you do, he surrenders his carefully built up "branding" or "positioning" (a couple of you are MBAs right?). he can't afford to do that since it means losing his living. if dilip dsouza starts speaking the same language of capitalists, i.e meritocracy, property rights, free markets, etc, then it will confuse the folks who pay him. he isnt a liberal any more, he is a bloody capitalist, they will say.

it requires great dexterity to embrace logic and whatever results from logic, even if whatever results is the same principle espoused by bloodthirsty and villainous people. so if logic leads you to globalisation and low trade barriers, you should embrace it, irrespective of the fact that the idiot george bush does.

logic leads dilip to the right answers just like all of you. however for him, admitting it puts a lot at stake. though he is intelligent enough, his followers/customers/audience are not. they lack the ability to use and understand logic.

and he must after all, make a living, right? he was born to a top bureaucrat, but a spotlessly honest one and thus does not have crores stashed away like kids of other IAS officers. so he must bite the bullet and continue to take the contrarian point of view.

it is thus extremely futile to argue with him because for the sake of public posturing, he has to stick with the liberals.

tell me, would arundhati roy be able to make as much money if she started espousing property rights instead of weeping for the narmada andolan? would sainath be able to sell as many books if he clearly stated that the poorest in india are plagued by an unwieldy state and thus small government and privatisation along with property rights is the answer?

of course not.

Thursday, April 13, 2006 6:07:00 AM

 
Blogger dhoomketu said...

Anonymous, a ad-hominen attack, if any. And that too cowardly, as you choose to stay anonymous. Neither is my logic tied to the fact that I an MBA (though my B-school did hone it) nor is this the case with others. Similarly, I am assuming that Dilip's way of looking at the world and being open and flexible about it is not restricted by his profession or his 'positioning' (whatever that maybe).

We are having an argument about a specific topic, "reservation in higher education for OBCs in India" and not about capitalism, free market or any other term you use. My economic or political position can't be revealed by this post, and neither will I judge Dilip's or Falstaff's or Gaurav's based on comments here.

Do not attempt to call people names and thus try and explain or close debates. I had half a mind to delete your post, but then let it be. I could have also responded point by point on your comment, but don't think blatant ad hominem attacks needs one.

Thursday, April 13, 2006 6:29:00 AM

 
Blogger seven_times_six said...

dhoomketu, if you think what anon said was wrong; then you disappoint me.

What he touched upon is a very real problem; why is there such a lack of Classical Liberal commentators in Indian MSM? The forces that make Dilip twist logic in favor of emotion and anecdotes are the forces that act on other journalists, other commentators in Indian MSM. A criterion for getting on to the gravy train seems to be that you must espouse nation-debilitating socialist policies. What can one do to stop this?

Hfc too said the same thing as anon, but he said it tongue in cheek, so it seems to have zoomed past most. Hfc, do you have a blog?

Thursday, April 13, 2006 7:16:00 AM

 
Blogger dhoomketu said...

Seven..., Can't see why you'll be disappointed. I'm disappointed that a pertinent issue is being hijacked and put in the economic-schools-of-thought-arena.

What anon was doing was not cricket. It was an ad hominem attack, which is not needed, as what we are debating is an issue and not people and their positions in economics. I am happy to do that, but don't think the spirit of the comment was right for that. I might think Dilip is obtuse or that he is doing it because he is a 'Keynesian', but that doesn't mean that I'd say that I refuse to debate since you are obtuse and 'Keynesian'. Dilip himself, after threatening to do so "But I jump through no hoops for men who begin with "sigh". So like I said, tell me which it is to be, and if the taunts, I shall than exercise that prerogative as I see fit.", has come back and hasn't refused to engage just because I am a MBA or I am let's say, a centrist or a left-liberal or I am young(!).

As far as liberal commentators are concerned, that might be an issue (Btw, I actually keep on seeing many neocon opinions as well as I have referred to in here), however, this particular issue has nothing to do with it. Even if I am 'pro-affirmative action', which many classical liberal commentators are not, I can argue against reservation in higher education. What anon was doing is implying that this is black and white and can be explained by a label.

And yes, HFC did refer to it. Would love to debate with him on his blog as well. Do you have one, HFC?

Thursday, April 13, 2006 7:51:00 AM

 
Blogger pennathur said...

Late as I am I must comment.

Dilip,
Despite all your wordsmithy you haven't engaged with a single argument made by dhoom, gaurav or anyone else on this thread. and sadly that is how you always discuss any issue. you used to do this on rediff.com those days and now seem to have collected a bunch of chamchas at www.theotherindia.org who are acting plain silly. i too am appalled at the ignorance and plain dishonesty of some of the posters on otherindia (p.sainath included) who now seem to be turning vicious as well. Anon, Dilip's Dad isn't the only one - not even in Maharashtra.

please do check out my posts on otherindia.org

Thursday, April 13, 2006 9:08:00 AM

 
Blogger Ashish Gupta said...

Wow! This debate has stretched quite a bit. While I am fully in the camp of Dhoomk2 et al., I think Anon person was right. In fact, in the same statement you blaim him for ad-hominem and say him coward! How him being anonymous related to what he said? In last sentence of first paragraph in reply to Anon, you stated an assumption. Anon simply provided alternative explanation to that assumption. His argument that why Dilip cannot use reason has no insult to anybody but a simple explanation. Why did he introduced free markets? To show why Dilip's stance is contrary to you even in that case, which refers to earlier debates in blogosphere.

To sum it, in your reply to Anon, in one go, you demolish your image of person of pure reasoning, build up from the beginning.

Thursday, April 13, 2006 9:24:00 AM

 
Blogger dhoomketu said...

Ashish, I agree that I was being emotional in my immediate reaction. Apologies to you and whoever felt that the words (cowardice etc.) were harsh. Having said that alleging that someone (even though based on past history) is a jholawala and whatever else, seemed irrelevant at best and malicious, at worst to the point at hand. Here, we have been arguing on an issue, and suddenly, the countours were being changed by calling someone names.

"Similarly, I am assuming that Dilip's way of looking at the world and being open and flexible about it is not restricted by his profession or his 'positioning' (whatever that maybe)." was what my assumption is. Maybe it is wrong. Maybe Anon is right. Facts were not offered in either case. Instead Anon made some allusion (not argument) to Dilip's father's occupation and reputation and Dilip's positioning and thus, Anon concluded "it is thus extremely futile to argue with him because for the sake of public posturing, he has to stick with the liberals." Which is what I was reacting against.

I don't think it's futile to debate, nor do I think an ad-hominem attack is right, even though I am guilty of it myself.

Thursday, April 13, 2006 10:01:00 AM

 
Blogger Patrix said...

All said and done, this comment thread boils down to "mera logic tere anecdote se safed kaisa".

I'll not address the intended dig at DesiPundit here. Your comment on the blog has been addressed there.

Thursday, April 13, 2006 11:16:00 AM

 
Blogger dhoomketu said...

Patrix,
I have posted the same comment on your blog. The issue is whether Dilip made a case 'for' reservation, as you said on Desipundit.

Nobody's doubting your right to link. I think it's also right that you did. It made some people look at a discussion which is happening on that blog, which is interesting.

However, the point which I was making is that there's no 'case' for reservation in Dilip's post, even though he calls it that. Instead, most of the post you have linked to is an attempt to negate the case against reservation. Nothing wrong in that, but that's what it should be called. I didn't mean to offend or take a dig at you or Desipundit per se. Just unhappy that you will plug it saying, 'case for'.

Thursday, April 13, 2006 11:34:00 AM

 
Blogger seven_times_six said...

dhoomketu, I should point out that anon's comment was not an ad-hominem.
Perhaps you took in a wrong light because you thought he was replying to Dilip's arguments. He wasn't; he was replying to your arguments.

An ad-hominem would be to respond to an argument, while in a debate, by imputing motives to the person.

Anon's comment was post-debate; comments by you, gaurav, etc. had already shown the imprecisions and fallacies in Dilip's arguments. Given that, conjecturing the cause of fallacies is not ad-hominem.
Apologies for the pedanticity.

Thursday, April 13, 2006 12:25:00 PM

 
Blogger dhoomketu said...

Seven...,
At that point, I thought Dilip was still debating. Maybe he still is, though we haven't heard for some time now. Hence, I thought that it wasn't a comment post-debate. And even though the comment was directed at us (Gaurav, Falstaff, HFC, me) the comment sounds like it was being directed at him.

Btw, yes, I agree with you on ad-hominem's definition. No need to show me wikipedia!! :-)

By the way, I am off blogging for the next three days.

P.S. In terms of number of comments, this post has given the Bong post a run for it's money. That, only because 'somebody' told me to stick to being funny.

Thursday, April 13, 2006 12:59:00 PM

 
Blogger Dilip D'Souza said...

Do something else, like live, for a while, and there are the comments about how "we haven't heard for some time now".

Dhoomk2, you certainly attract the oddballs, don't you? One guy who has put in an appearance here called, a couple of months ago, for (and I quote): ... a savage witchhunt on the scale of McCarthyism in the US. Make Gandhianism and communism a bad word; a treasonous word; people should quake in their boots at the mere thought of being associated with it. I say this partly in jest; but only partly.

Charmer, through and through.

And you should try to find me some other stuff to read than what you point me to. Because, unfortunately, the sighing man lost out. (Sigh).

Back to anecdotes: I went to Shivam's post as you suggested. He does not use the word "proof", or any synonym, and I cannot see even an implied claim that his anecdote proves anything. His citing of that anecdote, to me, is no different from your citing anecdotes to say you are disappointed. As for my citing an anecdote, sure, it showed me that a man's motivation in college is a better indication of his performance than how he did on a school-leaving exam. (Though it ain't a proof either). I would bet that holds for most students, you included when you were a student. Who cares about measuring it, I can sense it in a person, and I'm sure you can. So where's my false position, apart from your say-so?

Where don't I offer logic? To me, an argument made against reservations in colleges, let's say, also applies to reservations in schools. That simple, that logical. You may disagree, but tell me what's illogical here.

Reservations in higher education may be what you are debating, but it is not the subject of my post that you originally responded to here. I wrote that post trying hard to think of different ways to approach the case for reservations in general. I searched for analogies that would get people thinking on different lines than the usual arguments for reservation (uplift of the oppressed and the like). I specifically did not have reservations for higher education in mind when I wrote it.

Affirmative action is different from reservations all right, but so what?

Reservations are a political issue, let's get used to that. They will have to be dealt with politically. Which has to mean compromise between strong positions. That's what I'm searching for. I think the 33% is a step towards that compromise, given always that it will need to be thought through and fleshed out.

You finally stated your case (and I'm glad you didn't direct me once more to go read someone's sighs). Yes, I would agree that those seats at IITs should be allocated efficiently. In an ideal world, they would be alloted solely according to merit. But this is not an ideal world. I think in this less-than-ideal world, we have to address different and sometimes competing goals: for example, excellence in an institution versus access to that institution. When we try to address such competing goals, we have to make choices and compromises. I think it is possible to maintain excellence at the IITs and allow a certain fraction of the intake to be reserved. I think it is worth exploring that possibility.

Yes, I want empirical data too. Why not team up and try to find some together? This is a serious proposition.

Question: Why so afraid of a Desipundit "plug" of something you don't agree with?

Question: does the number of pilers-on you get here, by itself, "prove" that I'm the one without logic?

Pennathur, I'm engaging the best I can. This is what you get. You want agreement and affirmation of your views, go find someone else. You want the harder stuff, meaning engagement, I'm here.

Finally, I have never been able to understand one thing. Just because I don't agree with you, do you need to assume that's because I am compelled to take certain positions by my circumstances? Are convictions the monopoly of those you agree with? Does it make it easier to dismiss my arguments if you tell yourself I'm just posing?

Thursday, April 13, 2006 6:51:00 PM

 
Blogger Falstaff said...

dhoomk2: See, I TOLD you not encourage the gnome. It only makes him more incoherent. You could try explaining to him what's obvious to everyone else: that the difference between initiatives in primary education and initiatives in higher education is that it's safe to assume that differences between priviliged and less priviliged kids in terms of competence are small or non-existent at the primary level, so that the opportunities for less priviliged kids are real and the efficiency losses are minor, whereas by the time you get to higher education, flaws in primary education have created huge differences in competence, making affirmative action at that late stage costly and / or meaningless. You could try pointing out that affirmative action at the primary level will benefit a wide base of candidates, including those who are truly poor, whereas at the higher education stage it'll only help a miniscule fraction of the population who have already been 'selected' for not being particularly underpriviliged. But why bother? He's clearly a waste of time.

How do you discuss public policy on education with someone who can't see the difference between primary school and an MBA. It's like trying to explain calculus to someone who doesn't see any 'logical' reason why 2 & 2 should be 4.

I would sigh, but like everything else with this guy, it's a waste of breath.

Thursday, April 13, 2006 8:28:00 PM

 
Blogger Gaurav said...

falstaff,

I fully understand your frustration. Now you know what "Man" in this(another link on this page from that superb site infidels.org) felt like.

Thursday, April 13, 2006 9:15:00 PM

 
Anonymous TTG said...

DhoomK2,
welcome to the Blogosphere. I see you've fallen into the biggest trap. Writing a post which is logically thought out and has reason and facts on its side.
I learnt very early on (after my first 3 blog posts approximately), that there's no point. So I switched to roundly cursing the people who disagreed with me instead. Trust me, it's a lot more therapeutic than what you're doing. You've probably over-taxed your brain and your carpal tunnels attempting to get your point across.
I sometimes wonder (after having personally met Shivam, of the Typist cartel) whether they do this purposely just to amuse themselves and see all of the opposing people running around screaming till their face turns blue.
I think we'd all be better off doing Page 3 blogging instead...
Just thought I'd say hi, BTW.

Friday, April 14, 2006 1:01:00 AM

 
Blogger Dilip D'Souza said...

Ah, more guys -- by the minute! -- who think they have the monopoly on logic and reason, instead of purely on abuse. Welcome to the blog-oh-oh-sphere indeed. Plus the guys on the sidelines -- I can see them, those salivating dudes -- who are too afraid of the merely tepid water to try it themselves.

I mean, 22 lines that start with "you could explain...", go into great detail, and then end with "But why bother, it's a waste of time." Logic, I think was the word?

You could explain again, too. But me, I'll take over the sighing. Sigh.

Friday, April 14, 2006 1:36:00 AM

 
Blogger Unknown Indian said...

This debate has been quite interesting. But there is not much point trying to argue with guys like Dcubed - they are usually wrong (consciously or unconsciously) about everything. And will always push for tokenism of the worst kind rather than admitting that the problem we face is that we have lousiest school system in the world - and doing something to fix it - like getting the government to spend on school vouchers for the poor rather than wasting money on employing teachers who are not going to teach anyway. For more on this, see this

Friday, April 14, 2006 7:05:00 AM

 
Blogger Patrix said...

I know you mean no offense to me or DesiPundit but I guess I should clarify that titles on the posts are usually borrowed from the blog author's posts...at least the ones I link to...why? coz I have a lazy ass. Any subjective opinions by contributors are mentioned in the text of the post.

Personally, my opinions on reservations are close to yours than Dilip's. But I am in a grey area right now.

Friday, April 14, 2006 2:10:00 PM

 
Blogger Dilip D'Souza said...

For what it's worth, there's this. If you would like to get in touch, please do.

Friday, April 14, 2006 8:20:00 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ Gaurav - aside from the issue being debated, I agree with Dilip on that one point he made about using CAPITALS and EXCLAMATION MARKS. Boss, you've never used it on your own blog (including your legendary IBM-IIPM post), then why here ? Do you think your POINT is BETTER MADE this way!!!!!!!!!!!

And..um... this "You are comparitively new to the Indian blogosphere, so let me tell you the norms here. " aimed at dhoomketu? Sir, thoda fight hai.... I daresay that you sound a bit patronising (perhaps that was the intent, yes?). Anyways, please do let me know about the other norms. I should at least know them before I start blogging.

It was also thought-provoking to see how you changed "Dilip" to "DDDude". Somehow I didn't see Dilip doing the same with you. Or hang on, was that another norm of blogging ? Change the way you address people if they don't agree with you ?

Also, is there a time limit within which one needs to make a response to arguments raised against him else be labeled a loser ? Ah, another norm.

So I've learnt 3 norms today. Newbies please note - (1) In the Indian blogosphere, you have to learn the norms of blogging from senior citizens (equivalent for people who've been blogging for ages) (2) respond to what someone says about you QUICKLY and if possible with CAPITALS and EXCLAMATION MARKS !!!!!!!!! (3) if you don't agree with aforementioned person, making variations of his name.

@Unknown Indian - Whether I agree or not with what you say, I must say you have your own distinctive style of saying it. Sir, your posts are pretty well-thought out and well-reasoned . You also back it up with numbers, facts, etc. Do you think that taking bold views, titling posts like "Scumbal greens" "sack the B****rds, etc makes your point stronger ? Something tells me I should expect CAPITALS and EXCLAMATION MARKS on your posts soon !!!!!!!

You also seem to revel in random, sweeping statements like "But there is not much point trying to argue with guys like Dcubed - they are usually wrong (consciously or unconsciously) about everything." Indeed, lets generally trash anything and everything that someone has to say. Its freedom of expression after all. Hell, why go into the specifics and merits of arguments at all. Yikes ! Gaurav - was that another norm of blogging ? You agree wtih Unknown Indian on the school voucher issue. Perhaps you agree with random sweeping statements as well ?

Anyways, I just discovered this thing about leaving comments. You can leave it as "Anonymous". Something tells me that cannot be a norm of blogging. Aaila !! Maaf kara Gauravbhau - pls don't come after me now. I'm so scared.

Saturday, April 15, 2006 2:41:00 AM

 
Blogger The Comic Project said...

What are you all fighting about?

Saturday, April 15, 2006 11:53:00 AM

 
Blogger The Comic Project said...

:-)
forgot the smiley

Saturday, April 15, 2006 11:53:00 AM

 
Anonymous hahahahah said...

Like Indo-Pak, the cartellians and the others need each other. they can't live without each other. fight they must, abuse they must. some people need a life. Gaur Sabnis also needs intellectual sobriety in addition.

Sunday, April 16, 2006 10:49:00 AM

 
Anonymous Salil said...

that idiot has made a lot more posts favouring reservations on theotherindia.org. somebody please counter them! buddy gaurav, where are you, we're losing the war.

Sunday, April 16, 2006 11:33:00 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For a couple of reasons that you don't want to be bothered with, I would like to argue the case for reservations. My attempt here will be to only show that Dilip's position is not as unreasonable or as lacking in logic as it is being made out to be and that it merits some thought. In the process I'll also attempt to show some of what you term as fallacies are not really so. Finally, if we do get to that point, I'll make some observations on how inspite of claims of being reasonable, open to the other side's opinion etc. most times things boil down to a condition of hubris, intransigence and one-up-manship and that is muddying what can be a wonderful social forum--the blogsphere.

As for the rules of engagement--I'm going to remain anonymous and I'm going to engage the first person--and only him--who responds with an interest to engage. Throughout the debate I'll address only him and respond to arguments only from him. Because I'm taking Dilip's position, I will defend only the "The Case For" post on Dilip's blog. I might use the content of this post(Dhoomketu's blog post) and comments upto this point, from the anti-camp--primarily Dhoomketu, falstaff, and Gaurav. You--whoever choses to engage me--are agreeing to defend that content, if I do indeed bring it up.

To You-who engages me:

I'll begin by listing my first principles. Since if we don't agree on a basic premise, no matter how logical both of us are we'll still be going around in circles, I'll start by listing out my basic premises. You can list out any objections you have and I'll either make changes or make an argument for them. I can only begin my argument only after you agree to my first principles--there is no point in the exercise otherwise. You don't have to necessarily list yours--I'm doing so because my argument is structured so. Another point of contention could be with what we mean by a certain term--the same word could mean something different to you than what it might mean to me. If so, each of us gets to define the word in our own ways and each of us agree to interpret the word in the sense of whoever is using it. Arbitration of any other rules that we might come in need of, is solely by mutual consent. And finally, I might take 24-48 hrs to respond.

I'll begin when someone responds.

Sunday, April 16, 2006 10:57:00 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me paraphrase Gaurav Sabnis from his comment style above.

I asked Gaurav Sabnis about the norms of blogging.

No response

I asked Gaurav Sabnis if he agrees with random sweeping statements a la Unknown Indian (hey - are you Shaheed Manoj Kumar in reality? Wow!)

Again no response.

I asked Gaurav Sabnis why he used CAPS and "!!!" here, in another blog in a comment and not in his legendary post. (i.e. emphasis supplied elsewhere, but not in own vital posts?..hmm... )

Again no response


Gaurav - Here's my final word (because I know you won't reply and even if you do, it's too late) - for all the rockstar status you achieved for quitting your IBM job over IIPM, you've lost it all with the quality of your comments out here. This is my humble view. And I know I don't matter being an anonymous voice in the Indian blogosphere, but hey - this is freedom of expression.

PS - In norm #3 of blogging in my comment above, read "making" as make.

DK2 - sorry for occupying inordinate space on your blog. I couldn't help it. Subject to Gauravbhau replying, I will not post again. Thanks.

Monday, April 17, 2006 6:00:00 AM

 
Anonymous abracadabra said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Monday, April 17, 2006 1:52:00 PM

 
Anonymous The Truth! said...

I see that my post containg the truth has been deleted! hahahahah!

Monday, April 17, 2006 8:43:00 PM

 
Blogger dhoomketu said...

The comment was irrelevant, and seemed malicious to me. Better stick to the debate on hand, in case you have something to say. Otherwise, post it on your blog, with supporting evidence or otherwise.

I reserve the right to remove any comments that I deem malicious. I will be even more brutal when it comes to anonymous comments.

Monday, April 17, 2006 9:20:00 PM

 
Blogger Illogical Truisms said...

Dear Dhoomketu:

Introduction:

The problem with logical fallacies is that they reduce an argument to something akin a mathematical equation and divert from the issue. If a statement has been proved to be a logical fallacy, it becomes just that, an example of a logical fallacy. The number of entries in the logical fallacies page is so large that I would not be surprised if all arguments are reduced to logical fallacies. I mean, there’s even a logical fallacy called Argumentum ad Google!

You don't add value to the debate by resorting to 'logical fallacies', you don't inform it with further questions and facts, you don't enlighten the subject at hand. You just read a sentence and compute which logical fallacy it is.

You may not believe this, but the best writing in both fiction and non-fiction always has a sense of ambiguity about it, coupled like a tightrope walk with a clear narrative voice. This subconscious sense of ambiguity in expression is important especially when one has to be objective: in a truly honest argument both sides must be ‘objective’ otherwise they will never concede a fair point made by the opponent. An argument is like a negotiation: you concede some, the other person concedes some. The most important thing about a debate is not that someone will win it but that it will end up shedding light on all perspectives of the issue. In a debate about the existence of God/god, who wins? The atheist or the believer? Both positions, in fact, are rationale: may be god exists may be not. But when you bring in logical fallacies, especially the way you are using them here, you do great injustice to the amorphousness and subjectivity of arguments. More importantly, you foreclose the argument now that you have mathematically proven, in a X Is Not Equal to Y manner, that the other person’s argument is false. The word fallacy shares its meaning with ‘fallacious’ and ‘false’: just because you demonstrate that a sentence or two of an argument is one fallacy or another, the argument itself does not become completely untrue. It may still have some merit in it.

See this: "You have to be careful with fallacies. The reason things are fallacies is because they're an invalid form of what's usually a valid argument. So it's not always clear whether something is a fallacy or not. In addition, some fallacies are only fallacies given certain other assumptions ."


*1

Jokes apart, let’s begin. Let’s begin with anecdotes. Shivam quotes an anecdote to make a point and Dhoomketu proves it to be logically fallacious. Now, does that mean that Shivam's anecdote is not true? Or that Dhoomketu's is not true? Instead of reducing it to a 'logical fallacy', let's analyse both anecdotes and see what conclusion we come to. Shivam says that some quota students in his college are doing better than he is, despite him being a general category student. Dhoomketu says that in the same college some years ago, all the "toppers" were general category students. The conclusion we come to is that while quota students may not be toppers, they may sometimes excel general category students. What can this prove? That the issue of merit is fluid and more complex than saying that it is facetious (as Shivam does) or that it is going to 'destroy' the IITs and IIMs as many have been saying.

See, by doing this much thought analysis we have added some value to the argument. You can still say that these are anecdotes and we probably need a scientific survey to establish such generalisations.

*2

By the way, in your story #1, are you saying that all those slow-trackers and those who didn't get placement were SC/ST quota students? If not all, how many were? The answer may shed some factual light in the absence of scientific studies. But when you say it's anecdotal evidence, you have 'won' the 'argument' on the basis of that branch of the subject of Logic, 'logical fallacies'. It does show that you may have studied Philosophy well in college.

*3

As for the Desipundit plug, they on their part may simply be willing to bring some objectivity in their coverage, which is a good idea for a site like that. Desipundit is after all not a cartel member and does not have the burden of propagating libertarianism. You have to see the way Desipundit links to Gaurav Sabnis' ordinary posts every now and then, calling them excellent each time until someone embarrassed them by pointing out the back scratching bias that Gaurav Sabnis' friend Saket was indulging in.

*4

The 'pro-reservation in higher education' bloggers who I have read till now, basically try to argue using ad hominen [sic] and other fallacious arguments

I am not sure about this, but are you using the logical fallacy of generalisation here?


*5

"Lastly, all those opposing “Mandal II” should tell us whether they are non-OBC. Upper castes are no doubt meritocratic (which is why sons inherit fathers’ businesses), and they are no doubt oblivious to caste (just see the matrimonial pages), but there is the hint of vested interest here. And if you are opposing reservations because admissions will become tougher for you, you won’t get the point of affirmative action anyway."
It is like saying, "All those who oppose drug trafficking should tell us whether they have ever had a friend who used to do drugs. For then you obviously have vested interests and are..." In fact not only is it a clear ad hominen argument, it also is ambiguous.

It is no doubt ad hominem. And thus a logical fallacy. But which type of ad hominem is it? It is “ad hominem circumstantial”. Now the following excerpt in Italics is from the Wikipedia page on ad hominem.

Ad hominem circumstantial
Ad hominem circumstantial involves pointing out that someone is in circumstances such that he is disposed to take a particular position. Essentially, circumstantial ad hominem constitutes an attack on the bias of a person. The reason that this is fallacious is that it simply does not make one's opponent's arguments, from a logical point of view, any less credible to point out that one's opponent is disposed to argue that way. Such arguments are not necessarily irrational, but are not correct in strict logic. This illustrates one of the differences between rationality and logic.
Examples:
"Tobacco company representatives are wrong when they say smoking doesn't seriously affect your health, because they're just defending their own multi-million-dollar financial interests."
"He's physically addicted to nicotine. Of course he defends smoking!”

In the following example Jennifer's comment is ad hominem circumstantial attack against Chris's statement:
Chris: "Women should be able to be topless everywhere men can be."
Jennifer: "You're just saying that because you want to see women's breasts."

The bit that compares logic with rationality is particularly important, unless Gaurav Sabnis can prove that Dilip D’Souza edited the Wikipedia page and edited it! (Now which fallacy am I committing to further my baseless argument? Does it matter? I am just joking yaar!)

But now that you have labelled it ad hominem, I suppoose you've won the argument and there's no more room for debate?

Wait, it could be another fallacy: the logical fallacy of appealing to motives!

I have heard so many people say, "Reservations se saari seat yeh log le jaatey hain, hamara kya hoga?" (These people take away all our seats; what will happen to us?) That is a civil-service-aspirant friend's chief argument against reservations. Then again there was a photograph in the papers of a girl standing in an anti-Mandal II protest in Delhi, saying "Disowned by my own country". She is merely expressing what she feels. Could Shivam be responding to such widespread reactions by saying, "And if you are opposing reservations because admissions will become tougher for you, you won’t get the point of affirmative action anyway"? If Shivam were to say this to that girl or that civils aspirant, wouldn't it make a lot of sense?

Or would you rather have Shivam read up Wikipedia and identify a logical fallacy in the girl's statement?


*6


Secondly, they assume that just because some bloggers are opposing the reservations in higher education, they also must be against affirmative action.

I don't see Dilip or Shivam having said this in so many words. Quote them. If your argument does not bear the burden of proof, you are putting words into their mouths. Now which logical fallacy would this be? You are probably building a strawman here but more importantly it is intellectually dishonest to attribute things to your opponent that your opponent never said.

As for Falstaff's post on affirmative action, Dilip and Shivam don't seem to have said anything about it in the posts that you link to. If your intention (see, appeal to motive! ) was not malafide, you were probably committing the fallacy of hasty generalization.


*7

This is clearly another fallacy of composition. This is in fact the most common fallacy in these blogs. Just because I am against a part of something, I must be against the whole.
"You are against reservations, then you must be against the the increase in opportunities to the poor".


Again, prove this with links, quotes. Where have Dilip and Shivam made an with-us-or-with-them statement? Quote it. Where have they said, ""You are against reservations, then you must be against the increase in opportunities to the poor""? By putting quotation marks on a statement made up by you, you are only furthering Strawman. Those who don't care about logical fallacies call it intellectual dishonesty or such like.

*8

Thirdly, as I have stated before, they only offer anecdotal evidence.

You've made the point in the beginning of the post. Repetition may not be a logical fallacy but it is Bad Writing. Wait, it may be a logical fallacy as well! “This logical fallacy is commonly used as a form of rhetoric by politicians, and it is one of the mechanisms of reinforcing urban legends. In its extreme form, it can also be a form of brainwashing.”

*9

"In my college 22 or so per sent seats are reserved for Christian students. Fair enough: the college was established by Christian missionaries and wishes to preserve its Christian character. As a result I have Christian classmates who got much less marks in their Class 12 exams than I did. But many of them are performing much better in their academics than I am. Quotas and the issue of merit is much more complicated than what it is being made out to be. Quota doesn’t mean that an absolute nutcase is going to sit in an engineering class. It means that a student with 65% marks could be studying in a class with a student who got 95%. To say that the two can’t co-exist is absurd."
Yes, and "in my college, a monkey used to destroy the windows in our bathrooms. As a result, we had to shave without mirrors. Monkeys and mirrors are a much more complicated issue that what it is being made to be. Unshaved doesn't mean that I am careless about my bearing. It means that I might not have shaved well, because a monkey destroyed my mirror. To say that the it can't be generally true is absurd." By the way, the monkey story is true.


You could also be committing the fallacy of juxtaposition over here.

Once again, all you do is cite the fallacy and give an analogy. By this time your post has begun to degenerate into a mudslinging match. By bringing this monkey business you are also making a mockery of Shivam's argument - not the best way to engage in an argument or conversation even if it produces humour or amuses bystanders. In this case and other sentences in your post, could you be committing the informal logical fallacy of appealing to ridicule? But look at Shivam's argument: he's saying that quotas don't mean that a 'nutcase' will be given the seat but someone with lesser marks. In some of the anti-reservation coverage in the media it has indeed been made out that a quota student will be as good as illiterate: haven't you heard the clichéd anti-reservations question, "Will you go to a doctor who got his seat through quota?" (Incidentally, Shivam and others answer it here.)

Now you could say this does not prove that merit is not compromised by reservations; it just proves that quota students do not necessarily fail; or that they are not necessarily unemployable; but it does not prove that merit is not compromised, or that the guy with 95% would not have performed better. To this Shivam would have typically responded that some compromise with merit is okay for the larger social good. To which you could have responded: how much compromise? 50%? Is there such a thing as larger social good? Isn't the compromise with merit a value loss and is it adequately made up by the value addition in quota students?

And so we could have seen a broader discussion on the ideas of India. But for you it all ended at logical fallacies and anecdotal evidence and ad hominems and monkey business.

And what do you mean when you say he's probably not working as hard as you did in college? Assumption? Ad hominem?

*10

Fourthly, they appeal to the gallery and exhibit a special case of arguing from ignorance.
"I wish we lived in a world where there was no need for reservations. This wish informs the way I react to them. But of course, I know we don't live in such a world, nor do I think we will get to such a world any time soon. (I honestly wish, too, that I am wrong there). Therefore, all things considered, I think reservations are the best answer -- or the least bad answer -- to a thorny problem."
This is like saying, "I wish we live in a world where India will win every cricket match. But of course, we don't live in such a world, nor do I think we will get to such a world anytime soon. (I honestly wish, too that I am wrong there). (Loud applause at this moment) Therefore, all things considered, I think playing all matches against Zimbabwe is the best answer -- or the least bad answer -- to a thorny problem." If I don't have any other solution, refuse to think, then this must be the correct answer. All that is left is shifting the burden of proof.

Which gallery, by the way?
Now again, you are committing the fallacy of juxtaposition.

But also, a fundamental problem in your analogy, regardless of which fallacy it is. ‘Playing all matches against Zimbabwe’ (that is, not playing with any other country) is an absolute. The analogy would have held if Dilip were saying that all seats at the IIMs and IITs should be given to SCs, STs and OBCs. He’s not arguing something irrational as that. He is just saying that reservations are bad in an ideal situation but that we are not in an ideal situation.
This is like saying that despite all its faults, democracy is the best system of running a country. Or that despite all their demerits, unregulated free markets are the best possible mechanism for an economy. Now, to these two statements, try saying, “If I don't have any other solution, refuse to think, then this must be the correct answer.”

(As for the burden of proof, where is the burden of proof when people claim that reservations have not helped? Not that the lack of evidence on this side justifies Dilip’s lack of evidence – I am committing here the fallcy of Tu quoque, by the way. In simple English, non-cartellians refer to it as saying two wrongs don’t make a right. )

*11

On Red Herrings:

Fifthly, the blogs introduce red herrings in the argument to confuse us. Two examples:
"...How long should we carry on with reservations? This is a prickly issue, and I don't have a good answer. My feeling is -- maybe this is wishful thinking -- that when reservations have benefited some critical mass of people, they will themselves call for an end to them..."
"Lastly, as an aside, will you believe me that I have met Mandal? No, not Justice BP Mandal but Ashok Mandal. He is a rickshaw puller in Delhi University and hails from Murho in Madhepura. Just where Justice Mandal came from."
Largely irrelevant, just as irrelevant if I was to tell you suddenly (in between why reservations in higher education is not needed) that my mother tutored two kids of my maid-servant and she's paying for one of them's education. They are poor, but not a SC/ ST or OBC.

Red Herrings are irrelevant points in a debate that seek to distract from the central issue. In the first one where you quote Dilip, he is merely responding to the popular criticism against reservations: for how many years will we see reservations? This criticism is often accompanied by the reminder that the Constitution intended SC/ST reservations for only ten years. Now if Dilip didn’t reply this point, he would be accused of evading it. Now that he does, you call it red herring.

In the second one, Shivam himself says it’s an “aside”, but that’s not important for you. He’s just telling an anecdote about the serendipity of meeting someone from Mandal’s village with the same surname. But you must subject it to the logical fallacies tst, thereby proving that his case for reservations is bogus.

*12

Sixthly (!), these blogs are guilty of the straw man fallacy. They will misrepresent someone else's position so that it can be attacked more easily, knock down that misrepresented position, then conclude that the original position has been demolished.
"Merit is left to rot. Maybe so, but for one thing, how much have we truly valued merit anyway? Why should we assume that those who benefit from quota admissions, say, will all automatically be poor students?... There's rampant abuse. But any system will be abused. But that some people take advantage of a scheme is not, by itself, reason to throw out that scheme...."
Yes, as also, if I assume that two wrongs will not make a right, then your entire argument fails. "Two wrongs never make a right. Hitler's holocaust to protest against centuries of alleged oppression by Jews and the Babri Masjid demolition to protest against alleged temple demolition being cases in point. Hence, no two wrongs will make a right. Hence, there is no reason to introduce another wrong (reservation) to set the wrong of Dalit oppression right." Makes sense, no?

Firstly, what do you mean by that bracketed exclamation mark after Sixthly in the opening sentence?

Secondly, see points 6 and 7 of this comment as far as Strawman is concerned: you are yourself indulging in it. But just because Dilip commits strawman doesn’t mean you will do it as well, or the other way round, because two wrongs don’t make a right. (Reminds me of a famous statement about racist discrimination against Chinese in UK: "Two Wongs don't make a white". This is not a red herring, just a joke yaar!)

Thirdly, Dilip’s argument that “that some people take advantage of a scheme is not, by itself, reason to throw out that scheme...." makes perfect sense to me. He’s just saying that you don’t cut off your head if you have a headache. His question about merit is an important one even if it is ‘logically fallacious’. For instance, why is there no merit-based outcry when students are able to buy medical seats by paying huge capitation fees or by paying huge fees under NRI quotas?

Your analogy with Hindutva is again incorrect and misleading. It would have held if Dilip had argued something like: Dalits should be allowed to murder and rape and loot upper castes because for all these years upper castes have done that to Dalits. Then you could have said: do two wrongs make a right? Where has Dilip argued that reservations are dalits’ way of oppressing upper castes? Now, I’m sure you are committing some logical fallacy or another over here but I won’t bother finding it on Wikipedia. But at the very least you are again committing the fallacy of juxtaposition and also the fallacy of appealing to ridicule.


*13

I can point out various other fallacies in what some of these reputed blogs are saying. But I have work to do (alas!). In case you would like to demolish their (for that matter, my) arguments, go read this.
Alas, you end abruptly without finding fallacies in all their statements. Like the jobless cartellians, you have also started giving angle about how busy you are. Worse, you haven’t pointed out the fallacies in the dozen or so pro-reservation posts they have made since you wrote this post: you must counter them all for their unreason is going to persuade the govt in the favour of a socialist policy in hallowed B-Schools that train you for the free markets!
I allege that in your illogic-demolishing post you have ignored some points even within those two posts. At least three important points which I quote below, and a fourth one by Dilip on the issue of “access”. But first the three points:

a) "There are more than enough seats for all higher education students in the country. Be it engineering or medicine or management or plain old BA courses, there are more than enough seats in this country. Why then are the anti-reservation alarmists painting a picture that some general category people will go without an education?"

b) "I wonder if Mr Sarma is planning to contest Delhi University Students' Union elections next year. That's what Rajiv Goswami had done after attempting to immolate himself in 1990. Goswami finally succumbed to health problems in 2004. Do you see the irony here: by the time his immolation killed him, Shining India had arrived. The picture they had painted in Mandal I - that 'we' will be left unemployed, uneducated - is the last thing you see today."

c) Why not a purely economic basis for reservations, instead of caste? Actually, the truth about Mandal that should be better known is that it had very little to do with caste, and much to do with various other factors. The economic well-being of a community was one, but other social and educational factors also figured. So on the one hand, it is not true that reservations don't have an economic basis. On the other hand, I think Mandal had it right -- you have to look at more than just economic factors, more than just caste.

Now ignoring points like these amongst your tales of monkeys and fallacious juxtapositions – ignoring important points of the other side’s arguments amounts to a logical fallacy by itself. The fallacy of cherry picking, committed all too often by those who go about winning arguments with the help of logical fallacies.

*14

In the end let me point out the supreme statement made by a blogger, in the heat of the moment. "If Aditya Sarma does immolate himself, all those of you igniting this unwarranted frenzy - all the bloggers and editors and the chai-shop gossipers - you will be responsible for it." Huh? How did that happen? Make your own conclusions.

You haven’t quoted the paragraph about Rajiv Goswami above this. To me it seems that Shivam is suggesting that mass hysteria can lead to violence. Is that logically fallacious?

*15

I have responded to your post, Dhoomketu, but it seems I will take another few thousand words to respond to the 60-odd comments here. Boy, I’m loving it!

But before I sign off, some more points.

Everybody, see a post Dhoomketu made just one day before this one.

Gaurav Sabnis asserts that "The OBCs, over the years, have had similar access to a livelihood as an average brahmin. They are miles and miles better than the Dalits who led a sub-human existence." If only he would have done some fact-checking first.

[...]

In fact, OBCs are closer to Dalits than forward castes, unlike what Gaurav argues. For an informed point of view on this, please read the Economic & Political Weekly article. OBCs and SC/STs are clearly much poorer than forward castes (this does not include only Brahmins, by the way) in the three states surveyed*.

So, Gaurav Sabnis was factually incorrect, right? Now, does Gaurav accept his mistake? No. He first discusses another issue (red herring! red herring!), that of reservations at the PG level versus the UG level. Then he goes on to say, “As I said, I drew from my anecdotal evidence”. I don’t know what he means by “As I said” because he’s never said this before, not in his original post. As-I-said is his old defence line, he thinks everyone’s a fool and he’s god’s gift to Logic.

If Shivam can’t use anecdotal evidence why is it fine for Gaurav Sabnis to use anecdotal evidence to make a generalisation as sweeping as, “"The OBCs, over the years, have had similar access to a livelihood as an average Brahmin”? And why is the language of that post and the comments there so sober as compared to this post and its comments?

At least Shivam’s anecdotal evidence can be identified as such! In his clarification here, Gaurav Sabnis says:
“As I said, I drew from my anecdotal evidence which shows that most OBCs in my class were folks with economic backgrounds similar to mine, and frankly, with academic aptitude not much different from mine. Which is why i dont think OBC reservations will lead to a "massive drop in academic levels" or anything, at least at the UG level.”

In fact even after Dhoomketu’s posts he has not made the correction/update there. Why? I see, so OBCs are as well off as Brahmins without any clarification that the Godfather of logical arguments is resorting to the logical fallacy of anecdotal evidence without saying as much. Who will know that the second sentence in this quote (from this post) comes from ‘anecdotal evidence’:

“Dalits are very different from OBCs. According to the Hindu caste system, hindus were divided into a caste system. It was based on professions and one's profession was determined by his birth. These 4 castes were brahmins, who did schoalrly work, kshatriya, the warrior caste, vaishyas, the traders, and shudras, the manual labourers.”

So then Gaurav Sabnis made this clarification on his blog:

Update: Dhoomketu has a slightly dissenting viewpoint here.
My clarification - I admit that what I have stated about the opportunities for OBCs is largely anecdotal, and based on the experiences I had. There will certainly be a vast number of OBCs who will be very poor economically. What I am saying is that the level of oppression of these was nowhere as close to Dalits whose poverty can be almost exclusively blamed on the caste system. Many OBCs would be poor too, due to various circumstances. But a large number of OBCs are not poor. And the number is large enough to soak up all the benefits of reservations.

So you see the facts that Dhoomketu were quoting was just his viewpoint, and there is no 'burden of proof' but an outright declaration that "the number (of non-poor OBCs) is large enough to soak up all the benefits of reservations" without any evidence whatsoever. But since the comments on his blog are closed, we can't question him there, leave alone make below-the-belt postings about how such stupidity and hypocrisy of his deserves to be satirised in a comic book. I mean, does he realise he is making a sweeping assumption - admittedly based on anecdotal evidence! - about as large a number as 52% of India's population or more than 50 crore people? (50 crore - sounds like a great market size. Sec A or B?)

Then, in his clarification, a red/blu/green/purple herring in the form of anecdotal evidence: "I went through the 'creamy layer' criteria. When I was applying for engineering, or for IIM, I did not fit in a single of those criteria. i.e if I was born an OBC caste, then with the resources I had, I would be considered a non-creamy-layer candidate. Yet, growing up, I had access to everything needed to place me on equal footing with any other kid vying for an engineering or management seat." Wha?! The one thing that both sides match punch for punch, apart from their obsession with each other, is their lack of humility. They can never get themselves to say these three words: I Was Wrong.

By the way, also compare Gaurav Sabnis’ understanding of the caste system with these links I got from Youthcurry and then try finding the fallacies in his post. Then also match his post, sentence by sentence, with Logical Fallacies.
Or perhaps, in asking these questions, I am committing the logical fallacy of trivial objections?
*16


Some more stuff on logical fallacies, even if it does not have to do with Dhoomketu (I love the name, btw, is it your real name? Now, this is not a red herring, just curious you know!)

There have been times when I have seen libertarians pointing out, in the course of an argument in a comment box here or there, grammatical errors. In doing so they could well be committing the logical fallacy of style over substance.


*17

This long comment here was just to express my disappointment. Disappointment that a blog like yours, known for its clarity of thought*** has gone down the path of cartellians and their childish obsession with logical fallacies to make your case. Posts like this one sometimes become so popular that even Amit Varma of India Uncut (“India’s Instapundit”) plugs you – and not once but twice, the second time bringing people’s attention to even the comments here, some of which are in bad taste.

(If you don’t get it, I am trying to take a dig at your dig on Desipundit, and I don’t know if taking digs are logically fallacious. Dig-diga-dig! )


*18

In the end, to demonstrate for the one last time why it is downright stupid to base arguments only on the basis of logical fallacies, see the Wikipedia definition of the fallacy of doublespeak.

Now, try comparing it with the fallacy of appealing to motives. Are the two contradictory?

:)

*

In the end I have made enough logical fallacies here to give many of you some work to do. Please point out how my arguments in this rather long post are illogical. I'll be happy to acknowledge them: and I know I have made many even apart from the ones I admit. Amongst other things I am trying to show you that the excess reliance of Logical Fallacies in unsustainable, undesirable and reductive. This is not to say that you cannot use logical fallacies, just that to use them alone to counter an argument is to be unfair not just to your opponents but also to Logical Fallacies.

Arguments, debates, views are many-faceted - so much so, as I have shown, even you guys commit logical fallacies. Just that you should have the humility to accept your own mistakes before embarking on a witch-hunt against those whose views you do not agree with. The prblem with uni-dimensional logical fallacies-based style of arguing is not only that you end up coming across as arrogant, immoderate and smug, but also that you restrict your worldview, as Chetan Kulkarni had writen in his famously long comment:

I had a hearty laugh when Amit linked to the New Yorker book review of Expert Political Judgment by Louis Menand. I just kept laughing at the irony of him linking to that review. I couldn’t think of anyone but the chest thumping Libertarians of the blogosphere and the neocons while reading that review. It was a damning indictment of all theory extenders, who are called the hedgehogs who have one large concept and try to apply it to all areas of life. They are contrasted to Foxes who know a lot of theories and are fine with their incompatible goals and choose their loyalties carefully rather than following any ideological doctrine. According to the book the hedgehogs score the lowest when it comes to predicting where the future is going. They score even lower than rats! And in case you are wondering, libertarian pundits were part of the study too.

______

*** Beware, I may just have used the logical fallacy of appealing to flattery!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006 8:35:00 AM

 
Blogger Bombay Addict said...

Illogical Truisms - I bow to thee. Totally awesome.

Your profile is dated April-2006, but surely you don't seem to be new to the blogosphere at all.

Hats off. You rocked dude (girl?).

Tuesday, April 18, 2006 8:07:00 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Illogical Truisms,
Brilliant indeed! My intent in inviting a debate 6-7 comments above was to make these exact points. Only I intended to do it by arguing Dilip's case with not as much focus on fallacies...'two wongs don't make a white' and all ;)

If only everybody stopped believing in the absoluteness of their belief systems!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006 8:30:00 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Illogical Truisms, it was such a relief to read your comment. I wonder why libertarians just refuse to use good old common sense. Is it out of fashion these days.

PS: I may liberally used the fallacy of generalization and fallacy of ridicule here. But personally I think it was just statement of facts.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006 12:15:00 AM

 
Anonymous Darkstorm said...

Hey guys, Dilip is just beating around the bush, not much point trying to convince him the horrors of reservations.

Friday, April 21, 2006 7:02:00 AM

 
Anonymous nikhil1234@hotmail.com said...

Every application should be given a number and the Name,Surname of applicant should not be mentioned at all in the applications. This I think should be manadated not only for school/bschool admissions but also govt jobs.
We dont need reservations... we just need to ensure that the process is not biased towards any particular cast/creed.

Sunday, May 07, 2006 9:57:00 PM

 
Blogger Doctor Bruno said...

Society is like a bullock cart with two bulls.......

Now if the cart has to run fast, BOTH BULLS are to be good....

WHat is the use of a cart where one bull is very strong and another bull is weak........ The MAXIMUM speed of the cart CAN BE ONLY THE SPEED of the weakest bull....... So we improve the nutrition of the weak bull even if it leads to starving the STRONG BULL.....

This is what reservation is exactly.... You give the seats WHICH A STUDENT FROM FORWARD COMMUNITY WOULD HAVE GOT to a student from the weaker community, because ONLY if the weaker community gets a little stronger, the cart can move.............

Now what criteria to follow who is strong and who is weak.....

1. Economics........... It is a well known fact that THIS is the easiest factor to cheat.......... If we give reservations based on economics, the students of employeed sector will suffer....... WE very well know that you and me pay more income tax than the leading textile owner in your town who earns 2 to 3 lakhs per month............ Except for salaried class of people, how can you check the TRUE income of other sectors . Another factor is that wealth is not stationery.......... Many persons who had a comfortable life were rendered homeless after Tsunami or earth quake.. A rich person can become poor over night......... Many people earn well by their hard work and a poor person can become rich in few years (if he enters cinema or other art field for example)..... So MONEY is subject to change and can be hidden

2. Religion... Easy to change....... If you say that there is 20 % of reservation for those following Din-e-Ilahi, every one will embrace that .....And more over I can show you atleast 100 people who do not believe in god........... What religion will you fix to them.......And then there are people who believe that there is ONE God......... What religion can you give them............ and there are few who follow more than one religion (when both their parents are of different religion, for example)...... Other than the fact that Religion can be changed with regard to time, it can be hidden.........

3. Caste..... Because this system is routed deeply in our culture, WE CANNOT CHANGE our caste..... hence this was based as the criteria for reservation........ because of the various criteria we can consider this DOES NOT CHANGE WITH TIME

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 8:17:00 AM

 

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