The I Have Ascended Beyond Fallacy

The I Have Ascended Beyond Fallacy

There is a special kind of argument you hear only from academic Experts. Non-academic non-Experts never use it; or, if they do, I’ve not seen any example (beyond parroting AEs). This academic Expert argument is a fallacy, and a beloved fallacy.

One name for it is the Self-Flattering Fallacy. But the better one is the I Have Ascended Beyond Fallacy.

It runs like this: I have discovered a thing that causes man’s thought to be irrevocably constrained; the thing makes it impossible for him to break free from the constraint; yet I, even I, have ascended beyond the impossible, and have come to deliver this message of hope.

The I Have Ascended Beyond part, spelled out here, is always implicit in real-life examples. You have to be careful not to miss it. It isn’t always easy to see, which is why this fallacy flourishes.

The fallacy is a staple of anti-free will arguments, which, as you’ve heard me say a hundred times, go: If only people knew they could not make any choices, they would make better choices.

Yet if people cannot make free choices, how does the academic Expert know that people can make better choices if the people knew of their constraints? Only one way. He has Ascended Beyond. He has become like a god and can see what the rest of us cannot. The fallacy maker says free will is impossible, but finds a plentiful fund of it within himself.

We will now see why the fallacy is so beloved of academic Experts, with this example is mentioned in the paper “Reasoning about climate change” by Bence Bago (which sounds like an old school Australian rock and roller) and others in PNAS: Nexus. These authors do not use the fallacy, but notice it elsewhere.

Abstract opening:

Why is disbelief in anthropogenic climate change common despite broad scientific consensus to the contrary? A widely held explanation involves politically motivated (system 2) reasoning: Rather than helping uncover the truth, people use their reasoning abilities to protect their partisan identities and reject beliefs that threaten those identities.

Ordinary folk are constrained by their partisanship. They have no ability to think themselves out of the boxes into which they find themselves. They can only protect the beliefs which were (we can guess) assigned to them at birth.

Yet—somehow!—the academic Expert has with a mighty leap freed himself from the trap. He alone can think clearly, unrestrained, as mere mortals are not. He can believe in “climate change.”

We see the fallacy, but what is the reason for it? This: Academic Experts amazed they are doubted on the continuing hersterics of “climate change.” It is unthinkable for the AE that the reason for this doubt is rational weighing of evidence by his skeptics. It is impossible he could be wrong and his critics right.

Since the AE has accorded his critics many opportunities to align his thinking properly—the AE has raised awareness!—yet the critics persist in their skepticism, something besides lack of education, something dark and structural, must instead account for critics’ doubt.

The impetus behind the fallacy does not apply only to doubting academic Experts on “climate change”. We find it when there is doubt on any popular theory.

There are many papers in which AEs cry out to each other in the kind of pained reasoning we see in the title to this paper: “Why People ‘Don’t Trust the Evidence’: Motivated Reasoning and Scientific Beliefs“.

Time for confession. I know so much about academics—and I say this with all contriteness—because I used to be one. Oh, it was long ago, and I wasn’t a good one. But I was one, and I am sorry for it.

The time I spent in that foreign land was not entirely wasted. I got to know the natives. This is why it does not surprise me, though it may you, that academic Experts spend inordinate amounts of time discussing among themselves why more people don’t love them as much as the AEs think they should be loved.

There are endless examples.

Here’s a common one: “Why Don’t People Think Evolution Is True? Implications for Teaching, In and Out of the Classroom“. AEs can’t stand that people don’t hold with their theories of evolution. Disbelief rankles.

It’s not important to us today whether the AEs are right or wrong about evolution. Let them be right. But the pain of their rejection has caused them to write papers like this. The idea is that we cannot discover truth because evolution has caused us to believe comfortable, survival-increasing propositions instead. Quoting myself: ‘”We,’ say the authors, ‘Prove, using truth, that truth cannot be known: Our theory that the truth cannot be known is true: here is a model which we believe is true that shows evolution does not lead to truth.'”

You will recognize the fallacy. And indeed that is your homework. Find other instances. Hint: they are most common AEs lamenting lack of love in “climate change” (see, e.g. sociologist John Cook).

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  1. JerryR

    Lack of belief – it’s called where is the evidence and logic. Especially logic!

  2. Vermont Crank

    Another weird one is found in the context of religion, the “I am the golden mean” one where one “expert” (George Weigel. for example) describes the belief and praxis of a man on “the right” (Traditionalist) and the belief and praxis of “man on the left” (Resourcessment/Antiquarianism fellow) and then lays out the proper way to think about the matter at hand – the N.O way.

    The proper way is his way, his belief and his praxis but he is too humble to say what the entire subtext of his argument is – I am The Way, The Truth and My life should be your example – but because he has a seat at the modernist church table (where religious hacks are developed) – his expertise is both acknowledged while being assumed as normative.

  3. Carlos Julio Casanova Guerra

    Well, I have three great examples for you. 1) Sigmund Feud: according to him, he’s the only one that can know the truth, because, you see, he’s the ANALIST; the rest are prevented by their libido (so, we all have to surrender our lives to him, the analist… our lives and our bank accounts). 2) Karl Marx: he knows that everything humans think and believe is just the product of economic-historical conditions; of course he knows the truth, even this one, notwithstanding he rejects truth as a reality. 3) Historicist thinkers in general, from Schleiermacher and Hegel on through Heidegger and Gadamer, all of them say that culture and knowledge aren’t real, but products of historical periods, in which the humans are totally inmersed, which they know, rising above history… Of course, scientism is like that either (falling into the begging the question fallacy, either).

  4. JH

    Briggs, is it impossible that you could be wrong and those experts of whatever areas are right?

  5. Robin

    Everyone has the free will to choose …. until they don’t.

    Everyone lives within the confines of the prison walls that are defined by the limits of their own world view.

    Especially AEs.

  6. PhilH

    We’re all individuals.

  7. Best immediate example? “The I Have Ascended Beyond Fallacy” by some Briggs guy..

    FYI: Festinger et al answered this in 1956. (the more the person invests in a belief, the more they struggle to find confirmatory evidence (becoming increasingly willing to lower the evidential standard as necessary); the more unrestrained they become in further committing themselves; and, the more violent their rejection of contrary evidence).

    He wanted to understand (and eventually did) why or how millions of decent Germans could cheerfully kill off millions of other decent Germans (or Chinese, or Ukranians, or people with glasses, or hutus, or…) – cf: the woke/die hysteria now.

  8. Chaeremon – ref to assembly theory paper.

    That’s a very cool paper – I have no idea yet whether it makes sense (drifting to Yes) but it does at least provide a clear and systematic framework for the intuitively obvious. Thanks for pointing it out.

    (They don’t mention it, but adding the Ramsay number problem (given M objects each with some subset of N characteristics, how big do M and N have to be to get at least k objects with at least J matching characteristics – the birthday problem is a highly simplified example._)

  9. cdquarles

    Biological evolution, as a theory of origins, has a foundational problem. Something contingent must have something actual to make its potential parts actual. Once the necessary and sufficient conditions exist; mutable things mutate and survival of that which survives becomes a tautology. Adds nothing at all. He That Is must exist and is all actual. Only He can make the rest happen.

  10. @Paul Murphy, from any theory, derive something Y that has never been derived before — then show that Y is observed.
    Otherwise it’s not theory, just sci-fi (if plausible, like e.g. J. Verne and S. Lem did it effortful), or else poetry.

  11. JerryR

    Like most people, I believed in evolution from my education but then found out all the evidence for it was actually just modern day genetics. Or no big deal. When asked to provide evidence, the answer was it was overwhelming. But never any specifics other than genetics.

    The first one to provide evidence has a Nobel prize awaiting and millions of dollars in other prizes and financial opportunities. So I am skeptical when someone says there is proof for evolution that is not genetics. The answer I got was always in deep time, the changes happened. But no actual proof. Just assertions. The combinatorial problems are apparently what is overwhelming.

    Always open to actual science, evidence plus logic. Both are sorely missing in evolution.

  12. mikesixes

    “Why is disbelief in anthropogenic climate change common despite broad scientific consensus to the contrary?”…

    “Rather than helping uncover the truth, people use their reasoning abilities to protect their partisan identities and reject beliefs that threaten those identities.”

    The second quoted sentence explains the “broad scientific consensus” better than it explains the common disbelief. I believe the disbelief can be accounted for mainly by the repeated lying and suppression of contradictory evidence the at which the climatistas have been caught, e.g. Mann’s 1998 Hockey Stick graph, the successful campaign for the firing of a journal editor for his acceptance of a heretical paper, etc.

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