In debates on any subject where the behavior of individuals stands in for the behavior of the groups – the person arguing for the goodness of the group, will generally resort to the “No True Scotsman” fallacy when faced with behaviours that they do not wish to be associated or representative of the group.
So, no true Christian would shoot an abortion doctor, for example – even though, true Christians could see where such an act might be viewed as having some positive outcomes – at the very least, that doctor won’t be performing abortions.
In this way, Christians try to have it both ways – denying that the shooter is part of their group, while providing a sheen of goodness, respectability, understanding even of the shooter and their actions with the desired outcome of reducing the number of abortion doctors and intimidating those who continue to provide services in the fact of such “deplorable”, well, at least unfortunate, violence.
I have always understood this fallacy from the point of view of the person it’s presented to as an arguement – and it’s easy to strike it down.
There’s over 35,000 sects of Christianity, and it’s long past the time to pretend that they are uniform – they are unique, distinct and all Christian. It’s truer to say that Christianity includes a wide range of people, beliefs and behavioral norms – and that allows for a wide range of behaviours to operate under cover of the diversity of the larger Christian community.
I never appreciated that fallacy from the other side – that is, to feel associated with a group and one member undertakes a horrific and largely incomprehensible action.
In 1989. I turned on the radio and learned of a shooting at a university – a man had killed 14 women who were engineering students. I remember thinking “where in the US did that happen” and when the story repeated and it was in Montreal, Canada – I had to pull my car over and stop driving. I was in total shock that this type of event could happen in Canada.
Then Columbine happened and it seemed that workplace and school shootings were some kind of fashionable event – and not limited to North America.
But, the recent shootings in Norway, continue to hold my attention. That a Scandinavian person could have so betrayed the trust as to dress like a police officer and target children and teens….
I find myself – half Icelandic – groping for comprehension.
If I could only eat what I procured, I’d be a vegetarian overnight – so this premeditated, cold blooded, intellectual exercise of murder, killing, children for ideas – is just so beyond my comprehension that I cannot beleive that a Scandinavian person would do such a thing.
As much as a policy wonk as I am, policy and ideas, do not come before people’s lives. The greater good is not ever served with the blood of innocents.
I do not want to admit that Scandinavians, bastions of socialist and not particularly religious societies, could still bring forth individuals who would seek to impose their particular worldview upon the world through violence – rather than through example and influence – such as creative arts, non-fiction writing, being part of the political system…
But then, perhaps violence is the last means available to people who’s worldview simply has no merit, nothing to recommend it for consideration.
Which, xenophobic isolationism, really has no place in a global world, where no one group is any better or different than any other.
Perhaps that’s the realization that the “no true scotsman” fallacy should trigger – the moment we intellectually reach for it, we need to see if for the shallow self-indulgence that it is – that any group is better or different than any other is false on the face of it.