In the interest of keeping the NSS forum friendly and open to all involved, I'd like to point out a few things that creep into posts from time to time that should be avoided.
First, don't point out other people's spelling errors. Many people on Internet forums don't use spell check. Spelling errors (or typos) occasionally happen because some posts are made quickly. It's the nature of the beast. It is considered rude netiquette to point out other people's misspellings and detracts from the overall conversation. By pointing out a spelling error you may not be showing you are smarter than the other poster but that you are rude.
There are two types of arguments that can result in less-than-friendly feelings among posters on this forum that should be avoided: Ad Hominem and Strawman. Perhaps you've seen moderator references to these in previous posts. These arguments will be removed from the NSS forum when moderators spot them or are alerted to them by users who use the "Report This Post" feature (the exclamation mark icon). Those who continue to violate these rules and may find their posting privileges suspended.
Our goal is to allow the exchange of opinions and ideas without allowing the discussion to sink to personal insults. If you have a complaint about the forum, send a private message to one of the moderators for discussion (the moderators have their own private section to discuss complaints and other issues affecting the NSS forum).
Description of Ad Hominem
Translated from Latin to English, "Ad Hominem" means "against the man" or "against the person."
An Ad Hominem is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author of or the person presenting the claim or argument. Typically, this fallacy involves two steps. First, an attack against the character of person making the claim, her circumstances, or her actions is made (or the character, circumstances, or actions of the person reporting the claim). Second, this attack is taken to be evidence against the claim or argument the person in question is making (or presenting). This type of "argument" has the following form:
Person A makes claim X.
Person B makes an attack on person A.
Therefore A's claim is false.
The reason why an Ad Hominem (of any kind) is a fallacy is that the character, circumstances, or actions of a person do not (in most cases) have a bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim being made (or the quality of the argument being made).
Example of Ad Hominem
Bill: "I believe that abortion is morally wrong."
Dave: "Of course you would say that, you're a priest."
Bill: "What about the arguments I gave to support my position?"
Dave: "Those don't count. Like I said, you're a priest, so you have to say that abortion is wrong. Further, you are just a lackey to the Pope, so I can't believe what you say."
Description of Straw Man
The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person's actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position. This sort of "reasoning" has the following pattern:
Person A has position X.
Person B presents position Y (which is a distorted version of X).
Person B attacks position Y.
Therefore X is false/incorrect/flawed.
This sort of "reasoning" is fallacious because attacking a distorted version of a position simply does not constitute an attack on the position itself. One might as well expect an attack on a poor drawing of a person to hurt the person.
Examples of Straw Man
Prof. Jones: "The university just cut our yearly budget by $10,000."
Prof. Smith: "What are we going to do?"
Prof. Brown: "I think we should eliminate one of the teaching assistant positions. That would take care of it."
Prof. Jones: "We could reduce our scheduled raises instead."
Prof. Brown: " I can't understand why you want to bleed us dry like that, Jones."
"Senator Jones says that we should not fund the attack submarine program. I disagree entirely. I can't understand why he wants to leave us defenseless like that."
Bill and Jill are arguing about cleaning out their closets:
Jill: "We should clean out the closets. They are getting a bit messy."
Bill: "Why, we just went through those closets last year. Do we have to clean them out everyday?"
Jill: "I never said anything about cleaning them out every day. You just want too keep all your junk forever, which is just ridiculous."