Friday, December 04, 2015

So-Called Anything

In an article about the doping scandals exploding in the world of track and field I saw this choice quote:
Coe dismissed world authorities on blood-doping as “so-called experts". link
It reminded me of the church and its apologists' frequent prefixing of so-called onto the front of any group they want to marginalize or discredit: so-called intellectuals, so-called scholars, etc. The clear implication is that they are not what they claim to be. They pose as experts or scholars or intellectuals, but they really aren't, so you shouldn't believe them. Instead believe me. I am the real deal. Trust me.I will tell you soothing platitudes so you feel comfortable ignoring the uncomfortable things those people are saying.

Boyd Packer seems to be particularly fond of this tactic. I guess it is understandable given how weak his arguments were. Here are a few examples from Mormon Think.
In the early 1930s, there grew up in some of the institutes a so-called superior scholarship.
If you feel drawn to others who regard intellectual achievement to be more important than the fundamental doctrines, or who expose their students to the so-called realities of life, back away.
He uses it twice in the following quote about homosexuality to try to deny the scientific truth that the church now accepts and also manages to imply that homosexuals can't be trusted about homosexuality.
Some so-called experts, and many of those who have yielded to the practice, teach that it is congenital and incurable and that one just has to learn to live with it. They can point to a history of very little success in trying to put whatever mechanism that causes this back into proper adjustment. They have, to support them, some very convincing evidence. Much of the so-called scientific literature concludes that there really is not much that can be done about it.
The common theme in the above quotes is clear. Experts on blood doping can't be trusted. Superior scholarship is really not superior if I disagree with it. The realities of life aren't real. Experts on homosexuality really aren't. The scientific literature, although it has convincing evidence, isn't really scientific because it contradicts his beliefs.

Time and time again, this kind of ad hominem tactic is used by people who can't defend an issue on its merits. Rather than directly address the topic they instead focus on the messenger, not the message. They simply dismiss the opposing evidence with that little epithet.

Next time you hear or read "so-called" then you should immediately be on guard about the credibility of the person using the term. Honest people don't need say that.