Racism and The Genetic Fallacy

Let me first clarify that the word genetic in genetic fallacy does not refer to DNA. It refers to genesis, to the time-ordered chain of causality which leads to an idea. I was first introduced to this fallacy by one of Yudowsky’s posts, which you can read for more information.

The genetic fallacy refers to the act of confusing the historical origins with the justifications for an idea. Yudowsky uses the example of the Kekule formula for benzene – just because Kekule first saw the structure in a dream does not mean it isn’t scientific, because that structure has been subsequently justified by experimental observables.

It is unfashionable to be openly racist. Those who are racist must hide their motivations and find other reasons to justify their discriminatory behavior. Others, when they see through these ploys, accuse these people of racism.

Personally, I do not much care for making such accusations, because to do so would be to commit the genetic fallacy. If the openly declared reasons are weak, then the argument is weak – to assert that the idea is weak because it was motivated by racism is to appeal to the genetic fallacy, which is dishonest. Ideally, one should stick to attacking the reasons declared, and not be too easily drawn to speculation on intentions.

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