Counterfactuals

What with the Trumpet going on about how if the people who were attacked in Paris had been carrying guns there would have been fewer deaths it would appear it is time for another logic lesson. I realize I have touched on this in a past blog post, but apparently the Republicans aren’t listening — or at least the loudest one.

Here’s the thing: you cannot, logically, verify or falsify a counter-to-fact conditional statement. It simply cannot be done. You can speculate about what would have happened IF something else had not happened — say what would have happened if Hitler had not invaded Poland — but you cannot verify any speculation you might choose to make.

Consider the following simple case. “If it had rained yesterday I would have taken my umbrella to the store with me.” Now we can verify that you actually went to the store and we can even verify whether or not it rained — let’s agree that it did not. But since it didn’t rain there is simply no way we can verify the truth of your statement. It is counter-to-fact. We might speculate that since you are a cautious sort and have a brand new umbrella that you have been dying to show off you might well have taken it to the store with you had it rained. But since it didn’t rain (presumably) we will never know. Never.

Similarly, when the Trumpet says that IF the people at the concert in Paris who were attacked by terrorists had been carrying guns THEN there would have been fewer deaths, we can say with certainty that he doesn’t know what the hell he is talking about — which is not all that unusual. Again, we can speculate and we can appeal to the emotions of an audience of conservatives in Texas, or wherever, who are gun-totin’ folks who tend to think as does the Trumpet. But it’s just that, an appeal to emotion that cannot be proved one way or the other. The fact is that there was a terrorist attack in Paris and many were left dead as a result. It is terrible, but it might have been even worse had the people who died been carrying guns.

One can speculate about either possibility. But one cannot prove it either way. Thus the Trumpet’s claim cannot be said to be true. Or false.

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8 thoughts on “Counterfactuals

  1. Here’s what I don’t get with the “if they had guns there would be fewer deaths.” argument.
    1. Cops and soldiers carry guys, amazing guns, have body armor and intel and yet die in the line of fire. Having a gun does not make you safer.
    2. Who says that running away is better than firing back. If you had an AK-47 and you had a choice of aiming at a person trying to kill you, or a person running away, which would you choose?
    3. They were surprised. You could have 3 guns on you, but if you are at a concert and the guy next to you pulls out a gun and starts blasting away, it might not matter how armed you were.

  2. Then there is the argument which will happen more if more are armed, if someone looks suspicious, he or she would be shot. If someone won’t sit down or be quiet, instead of an argument, someone will get shot. If someone flirts with your girlfriend, someone will get shot. Any event that mixes testosterone with alcohol need not be enflamed with guns. That is a increasingly typical accident waiting to happen. By the way, there was someone armed in the Aurora Theatre, but he did not know who to shoot as it was dark.

    • Might it not be the c as that what you describe is already happening and would simply ramp up if everyone were armed?? I did not know that there was an armed person in the theater. There goes the Trumpet’s argument!

      • What is not discussed by having a weapon in panicked situation is your ability to shoot is highly compromised when someone is shooting back. People are very brave when not in the midst of a point of reckoning.

  3. There you go, Hugh, trying to use logic, common sense and fact in arguing with someone who’s only arguments are based upon emotion and stupidity. I imagine just the opposite of the Trumpets of the world, lots of guns in a dark theater, each holder believing they can be the one to end the carnage, and in the end, significantly more bloodshed of the innocent bystanders.

    Just as Cruz says we need to sacrifice more civilians to pay for the civilian casualties, so does Trumpet bellow out we need more guns to protect us from guns.

    “You can’t fix stupid.”

    • No, you really can’t. Folks seem to think that logic is simply a course taught in college — though taken by fewer and fewer students in my experience. And clearly taken by very few on the political right!

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