People who feel they are in some way not classifiable simply as human. Be it personality, worldview, mental characteristics, spirituality (the soul or nonphysical essence), or even physically. Often it is a combination of several or all of these things.
Those who would identify themselves as Otherkin or by names that essentially fall within the same description have, very slowly, become increasingly visible. At first, in the ‘safe’ venue of the online world, but increasingly identifiable in general society; if still quiet and private about their beliefs to most people except one another and the occasional individual who is exceptionally open minded.
Otherkin as a general concept or system of belief is often ridiculed as being inherently irrational and counterfactual. Otherkin are frequently on the receiving end of deconstructive arguments – a great many of which contain logical fallacies. Which isn’t to say that, considering where our beliefs lay, Otherkin haven’t perpetrated errors in logic as well, sometimes knowingly, and sometimes out of desperation to respond to attacks both fair and unfair.
Otherkin are people who are more different from the expected norm than even many subcultures that would be considered fringe, and inevitably, open themselves up to hostility and scorn that frequently is baseless and smacks of an agenda of prejudice for the sake of prejudice against “the different”, among other possible agendas. This essay will attempt to highlight typical fallacious arguments leveled against Otherkin, and to provide Kin themselves with a reference of how proper logical reasoning can actually support their beliefs and positions, and not merely be used to deconstruct them. However, it also will highlight fallacies as otherkin can and have used them to support their position, in order to aid those who have been sincere but constructed a poor argument to defend themselves against criticism or attack.
Logic as Applied to Otherkin
The beliefs of Otherkin can appear colorful, fanciful, and even outrageous by the typical standards of what people take as “possible” and “impossible”. Yet at the root, to borrow a thought from the Otherkin FAQ, being Otherkin is not about what seemingly fantastic or unheard of creature or being you may identify with, but how a person thinks and feels; how they interact with the world.
That out of the way, a key point to put forth is that being Otherkin does not equate believing anything you hear, are told, imagine, or dream up. Logic and even skepticism are as applicable to life as Otherkin as to any other identity one could have in this world. Even so, logic and skepticism are often used to “hang” Otherkin with or dismiss them without respect for their beliefs.
Before going further, something needs to be stated up front about logic. Logical reasoning should not be taken as an absolute law that rules the universe. Often, things that are reasoned out as logically impossible are taken to be impossible, period. Yet time and again in history, entirely logical and internally consistent ideas that were thought to be universal were shown to not be so, once greater understanding was available. How does this apply here? Simple. If a logical conclusion that supports a given Otherkin belief is reached, it still may be reevaluated later. And by the same coin, if logic is arrived at which seems to indicate an Otherkin belief – or Otherkin itself – is invalid, it only means that it appears illogical. It cannot be a universal statement, an absolute. A belief is a belief, and logic is not a set of rules that governs human (or if you prefer, sapient) behavior. If instinct or an indefinable feeling prods a person to believe in something that is seemingly implausible or illogical, then they may still choose to believe it. And acknowledging that a belief you hold may appear illogical does not automatically denote insanity or ignorance – especially if you are acknowledging that it is, at this point in time, something outside of logic and empirical evidence. For example, I could make the statement:
I am a dragon. This is what I feel I am, and what my own subjective proofs (and proofs that are objective that I have taken as proof of draconity, even if that connection itself cannot be ’empirically’ proven). Logically, there are many reasons why I might feel I’m a dragon that don’t require a spiritual or mystical component – including the possibility that I might simply be broken in the head. From an extreme skeptical point of view, it might be argued that I -should- take these more provable or likely-seeming reasons first, over a less provable explanation – that dragons exist and all the implications that go along with that. Yet, what if I’m right, and the fact that I’m right is simply something that cannot be “proven” with the evidence at hand? Logic alone isn’t sufficient for me to answer this; which is where belief comes in.
In the end, logic is a tool. While some choose to hold the belief system that it is the ultimate tool, it still is not the only one and like any tool, unlikely to be fit for every application. Fully going into logic is way beyond the scope of this essay, but a starting point for reading can be found here.
A problem is that Otherkin and other similar spiritual beliefs rest on proofs that are elusive and highly subjective to the individual. Often, things must be taken as true and worked from there. And criticism of Otherkin often is inspired by people who are, indeed, very loose with applying judgment to what they choose to believe. The things Otherkin believe in are typically very much set against what consensual reality and culture advises should be considered as acceptable ideas. When an Otherkin assertion is needlessly illogical and perhaps downright wonky by any standards, it can serve as ammunition for various fallacious logic attacks such as theStraw Man Gambit.
Something that I feel should be stated up front is that all examples of fallacious arguments or attacks are taken from real sources. These are not academic conjecture; while they may be phrased in a generic and sometimes slightly humorous way, the essential points in each one are entirely from actual arguments that I personally have heard, read, or been challenged with.
The first and possibly most common attack on Otherkin is an old standby of tilted logical debate: the Straw Man Gambit.
Wellwort Dragosi: “I believe that dragons exist outside of human mythology and legend, and their presence in so many diverse cultures is a sign that something may have been the inspiration for the stories. I myself am a dragon in spirit; perhaps through some mechanic of reincarnation. There are belief systems that support that; and in my personal case, believing that traveling spirit is a dragon, is based largely on personal intuition, though I’ll admit there’s other subjective evidence I’ve collected over the years.”
Wesker T. Skeptic: “You my friend, are suffering a delusion. Dragons are fictional creatures that are made up for things such as fantasy movies. It is obvious a fantasy movie is not real. If you’re claiming to be a character from such a movie, and are serious, you’re insane.”
Something is terribly wrong here. If the play of the debate seems unfair, that is because the Straw Man technique takes a person’s position or premises and greatly oversimplifies them in order to make them seem implausible and very easy to tear down. In this case, while it is possible that Wellwort’s beliefs about dragons outside of fiction may be incorrect, Wesker has refused to acknowledge them as the premises put forth and instead simplified the object of Wellwort’s position – dragons – to the point where Wellwort can be “proven” insane simply by holding the position.
The Straw Man is used against Kin frequently. It’s true that many Kin beliefs involve things that have been used in myth and obviously created fiction. However, rational Kin do not generally claim to be those fictions, but something like them. This crucial difference is often shoved aside by people using the Straw Man style of argument. In addition, the Straw Man argument against Otherkin is often phrased in condescending and insulting terms, often in a way that adds in the additional fallacies of Appeal to Force and Ad Hominem Attack.
I haven’t, to be honest, seen a pure Straw Man attack used against a critic of Otherkin beliefs that often. A possible reason is that critics who are rational and logical enough to have the forethought to assemble some facts on their side have the burden of proof in their favor; it’s easy to say dragons don’t exist because nobody has ever seen one (at least, no accounts that are verified and taken by society in general as credible and factual), though this position if taken too far falls victim to Ad Ignorantiam. Still:
Wesker T. Skeptic: “All I’m saying is that it seems pretty safe to assume dragons don’t exist, as not a shred of acceptable evidence has ever been discovered. It’s not like people are blind. I know you claim to have evidence, but the kind you haven’t isn’t something you can prove objectively. So it can’t be taken into account in establishing facts.”
Wellwort Dragosi: “You just don’t want to accept it, so you say my proof doesn’t matter. I know I’m a dragon! I’ve always felt it. If I wasn’t, why would I? I can remember being a dragon even. I have instincts that don’t even match my body. That’s not proof?”
Wesker is correct that subjective proof such as intuition, feelings of spirituality or spiritual effects and forces, internal dialog and even alleged past life memories don’t offer the kind of proof that he’s talking about. Wellwort’s counter simplifies his position to make it sound as if Wellwort’s personal evidence could only be rejected due to Wesker refusing to acknowledge it.
Argumentum Ad Ignorantiam
This one, Ad Ignorantiam, means in literal translation to argue from ignorance. This fallacy happens when it’s argued that something must be true just because it hasn’t been proven false. Critics often insists that Otherkin reasoning and rationalization functions this way:
Wellwort Dragosi: “Well, you know, this is a subjective belief even if I’ve found it true to my own satisfaction. After all, you can’t declare for sure that dragons don’t exist and never have existed somewhere, somehow. We just don’t know.
Wesker T. Skeptic: “Ah hah! You cannot expect me to swallow this; it’s the oldest trick in the book. You say that dragons can’t be disproved, and so everybody has to accept that you’re a dragon. By that logic, I can say that mountain Gnomes must exist because they can’t be disproved absolutely for sure. You can’t call yourself a dragon with that poor logic.”
Here, Wesker is applying a slight amount of Straw Man in combination with invoking Ad Ignorantiam. Wellwort was inferring the reverse side of Ad Ignorantiam: that you can’t declare something is false just because it hasn’t been proven true. Wesker simplified things though, ignoring this, and attacking Wellwort’s statement in the extreme light of argument from ignorance: that Wellwort has poor logic because his belief in dragons is based solely on the fact that they haven’t been formally proven to not exist. Otherkin themselves should be careful about backing into this trap however. The key concept of Ad Ignorantiam is that you can’t declare something is or isn’t true in the absolute sense just because hasn’t been proven yet either way.
Otherkin, ‘supernatural’, magical, and non-mainstream spiritual beliefs are often written off without much examination or credit given, but they can’t be simply written off by declaring Ad Ignorantiam: that they don’t exist because they haven’t been scientifically proven.
A number of people who are skeptics and even hard Atheists have complained about the portrayal of skeptical thought in TV shows such as The X-Files. Agent Scully, they say, has become a poster girl for skepticism, but is actually frequently guilty, in a strict sense, of many errors, including Ad Ignorantiam: stating that the supernatural -does not- exist, or something to that effect, rather than saying such things haven’t been proven to the point where they could be relied on from a logical perspective to exist. Or even explaining that logical thought -suggests- that ‘supernatural’ forces are not required in the apparent operation of the universe, and so their existence can be doubted rationally.
Wesker T Skeptic: “There are a lot of factors that could contribute to you thinking you’re a dragon that are seemingly more reasonable than invoking the supernatural. A great deal of psychology has been shown to be a reliable guide to why people feel and think as they do; falling back on that before resorting to unproved and maybe unprovable supernatural or metaphysical explanations seems a lot more reasonable.”
Wellwort Dragosi: “Nobody has disproved spiritual and magical forces. They explain my draconity better than anything else.”
While spiritual and magical phenomenon might explain Wellwort’s draconity better than more concrete things, he makes the assumption that because they haven’t been actively disproved they can be taken as objective fact (proven) and put in the same league as the other possible explanations Wesker put forth, and so he can dismiss Wesker’s other possibilities out of hand.
Against Kin and Skeptics both:
Circular Reasoning occurs when an arguement attempts to serve as it’s own proof. An example example of a circular arguement:
Wellwort Dragosi: “I assert that I am a dragon. Because of this, I have traits like feeling phantom wings and wanting piles of stuff to hoard. Of course, since I have draconic traits, that just proves I’m a dragon.”
Wesker T. Skeptic: “You can’t prove those traits are actual dragon traits. In fact, since we know nothing about real dragons, you can’t say any traits are dragon traits.”
Wellwort Dragosi: “But you can’t prove they aren’t dragon traits, either, so nyah.”
And so forth…
Here it could be said that the burden of proof lies with Wellwort for proving that dragons exist. But neither he nor Wesker can go anywhere if they both continue to start and stop with the same line of reasoning over and over. Not to mention that Wesker also can’t disprove dragons due to lack of evidence (Ad Ignorantiam).
There are a lot of people who are considered pretty wacky even within Otherkin circles. Many of these folk are perfectly harmless; the eccentrics among eccentrics. Yet there are those who do make very dicey and possibly insupportable claims, and insist on them in an irrational manner, or who use Otherkin as an excuse for attitudes such as racism against “normal” human beings (also a trend). Hasty Generalization is used to take a few cases and use them as a generalization for a much larger number of cases which may not be accurate.
Wesker T. Skeptic: “You Otherkin are all alike. Just a bunch of powergamers living out a fantasy world to make yourselves feel important. You even try to claim you’re better than “we humans” and should be the rightful rulers of the planet. Nobody is going to buy into that crap.”
Wellwort Dragosi: “Now hang on. There are some dumb sounding kids out there, yeah, but everybody isn’t like that. This isn’t a power gaming excuse to fantasize; a lot of people really feel these things.”
Hasty Generalization at work. Typically, Wesker might follow up by insisting that the minority cases he picked out to generalize with demonstrate the only principles Otherkin has going for it, and once again falling back on making a Straw Man of Dragosi’s position.
Hasty Generalization is also another pitfall Kin themselves should avoid. It is in fact the mechanic by which some convict the entire human race of various “evils”. Otherkin have applied hasty generalization, in conjunction with overuse and abuse of the term “mundane”, as a catchall answer to any criticisms or attacks.
Wesker T. Skeptic: “Humans believe in a lot of crazy things. I haven’t seen any evidence that this isn’t another crazy thing; I mean any of it, be it dragons, magic, the astral plane. At least in that, it’s not personal Wellwort. I’d say this to anyone who insisted this supernatural stuff was real.”
Wellwort Dragosi: “Humans are all alike. You’re all narrow-minded and bland, and don’t have any imagination; just a bunch of mundanes. It’s no wonder you can’t believe in anything and write this stuff off.”
There are certainly some people who – regardless of what they identify with, be it Human, Otherkin, or Interstellar Cheese Being – dismiss everything they cannot instantly explain, poke, prod, or easily categorize with a wave of the hand and a sneer as “nonsense”. Even if they happen to be correct on a given item, their attitude of total dismissal without knowledge or investigation might be wrong – but our Wellwort (as well as a great many Otherkin, and metaphysical people period) seem to apply this as a generalization to all skeptics everywhere is one of baseless disbelief; the “not believing because you have no imagination/ability to conceive of it”. Otherkin would do well to remember that among the ranks of the highly skeptical, are people who were Otherkin at some point. Or people who, if they are honest enough, will admit they would like to believe, but cannot bring themselves to because of lack of evidence to satisfy them personally.
Just because one can understand something entirely, doesn’t mean one believes it or lacks the capacity to believe. Many people at some point had enough proof for themselves to believe in given things; that changed, and they no longer believe them.
Of course, a caveat here. People who once believed and now do not, or who would greatly wish to, but can’t swing it, once in a while become unfair and caustic critics, who themselves commit logical fallacies, or at least apply undue venom to their deconstructions and criticisms. The phrase “You fools! I woke up from the fantasy. You’re just delusional! At least I know what’s real now!” has been heard personally more than one time by someone feeling very bitter.
Ad Hominem Attack
This fallacious argument is a mainstay of political debate. Ad Hominem means literally, to attack the man. Instead of criticizing a position, you attack the character of the person holding it: “Senator Gallump once filed a suspicious tax return seven years ago. Therefore, his tax proposal can’t be taken as sound. Should we trust a man on taxes who is a proven cheater?” Attack on character is a very, very common thing online when relating to Otherkin, Dragons, Weres, and Furries. Often, it is combined with Ad Numerum to paint a “fringe” person as a freak of society. Most people, it gets argued, are not like that, and therefore, the person left out in the cold – Otherkin, say – must just have something wrong with them or else they would be like everybody else.
Wesker T. Skeptic: “Normal people do NOT go around claiming to be fantasy creatures. Whatever your problem is, it obviously has made you an outcast from society. What is healthy is probably what most people agree on – that’s why it is agreed on! – so I doubt any of your “logic” would make any sense. If you were capable of logical deduction, you’d have figured out you’re selling yourself on a load of bull. I pity you dude, I really do.”
Wellwort Dragosi: “Say WHAT?”
Here we have Wesker both attacking Wellwort’s basic mental faculties to prove his premises are invalid, further “proving” that Wellwort is dysfunctional because he is not like most people, invoking Ad Numerum, or “whatever the most people believe must be correct”.
One of the problems of an Ad Hominem attack is that, because it “breaks the rules” in a way that attempts to get personal, it can be very insulting and cause a good deal of offense and anger. Frequently, people (hardly just Otherkin) will fall prey to countering Ad Hominem with Ad Hominem – “an eye for an eye”. While some particularly low-blow attacks may even deserve some kind of response to them, in a strictly rational sense, it isn’t proper. Nobody is perfect however, and most everyone might be said to fall victim to this at one time or another (including myself).
Wesker T. Skeptic: “Yeah right, Wellwort, or whatever your name really is. You’re just a little boy trying to look big on the Internet. Or wait, I bet you’re a 40 year old loser who lives in his parent’s basement! Ha ha, I bet j00 R g@y! So all this stuff you claim is rubbish.”
Wellwort Dragosi: “So? You’re just another idiot who uses l33t speech and probably can’t hit the bowl when he takes a piss. You don’t know anything.”
Some thought goes that resorting to insult (ad hominem) causes the attacker to lose the argument instantly, regardless of how valid their points are. While this has been pointed out by some skeptics as a reason why they don’t give credit to much Otherkin reasoning – due to “attitude” Kin have regarding so-called normal humans -, it doesn’t let skeptics off the hook either. An insult is an insult. Even so, Kin do use Ad Hominem in place of a real defense (even if the defense is as simple as “so what?”) very often.
And here a caveat. Technically, all forms of Ad Hominem are logically invalid, and because of this, some schools of thought denote it as unacceptable to use period. One form though, Genetic Ad Hominem, attacks the background of the argument An example would be saying that Steve argues that Gertrude isn’t a fit candidate for a position as proof reader because Gertrude is German and Steve has a prejudice against that nationality and doesn’t want to work with Gertrude.
While Genetic Ad Hominem is invalid as far as proving or disproving the point at hand, some feel it is useful in exposing bigger and very possibly more important issues. In the case of Otherkin, cases of Genetic Ad Hominem seem to appear from skeptics with assumptions – one being the the assumption that for example, anyone with an extremely strong belief in something outside of rigid, formal logic must be wrong in the head, and so instead of debating points fairly, they will try to tilt everything to insist that Kin are simply crazy (and state as much). My general thought on this issue is that performing Genetic Ad Hominem on an attacker may be acceptable if forced as the only way to get to the -real- issue.
Wesker T. Skeptic: “Your logic doesn’t hold up. You have no proof. You’re a fool; anyone who believes in this stuff is an idiot. I know, I was stupid once too and believed.”
Wellwort Dragosi: “You’re bitter. You’re probably so offended by my beliefs because you wanted to believe in dragons so bad, and convinced yourself you can’t and that their is nothing past the end of your nose. So is that it? Can’t stand for someone to have something you can’t? Or maybe you’re just egotistical and can’t deal with people who think different and figure they must be mentally impaired, so that’s why you refute every point I make?”
This kind of exchange may be considered invalid by many, regardless of if Wellwort is entirely on target about Wesker, especially if Wellwort resorted to far more heated and baited language. Still, “the bitter skeptic” is a person who I have personally met once or thrice, and they can be frustrating to deal with.
Appeal to Force
A nastier take on Wesker’s deconstruction of Wellwort in the previous example, Appeal to Force happens when one tries to use the threat of force and/or greater authority to overrule any arguments the opponent may have.
Wellwort Dragosi: “Despite everything you claim about being Otherkin, my experience has been overwhelmingly positive! I’m rational; I cross check myself and am not gullible. I’ve met many people who are able to appreciate my beliefs and respect that I believe; I’ve felt better about life since coming to understand what I am.”
Wesker T. Skeptic: “That means nothing. You’ve just been in the fantasy online world. Go out on the street and tell somebody you’re a dragon, kid. This whole WORLD will say you’re crazy, and you’ll be shipped off to the funny farm in no time flat. You need to learn which way the bread is buttered, or you’ll regret it.”
Appeal to Force hasn’t really been directed against the skeptic position in my experience; the possible reason being that the position of Otherkin puts a person in the seat of challenging consensual reality; there really isn’t a handy source for a Kin to use and call on to win the debate for them, such as public opinion. At most, in challenging general spirituality, a Kin might be tempted to refer to other, more established spiritual and religious belief systems as circumstantial evidence for the validity of spiritual beliefs.
“Tons of people believe in God, or some other deity, and believe they have souls. If you want to disprove me, you have to disprove all of them as well, good luck!”
The assertion that whatever most people believe must be true, though it also can be applied in reverse quite easily. Ad Numerum is a standby with which to entirely dismiss the argument out of hand.
Wellwort Dragosi: “Well, see, I’m a dragon and I have reasons for believing this, that I’ve thought about for a long time…”
Wesker T. Skeptic: “Eh? What? Go away, nutjob. Everybody knows dragons don’t exist.”
Wesker T. Skeptic: “For the last time, Wellwort, I see no proof you can give me to convince me dragons exist or you could possibly, in any way, be a dragon.”
Wellwort Dragosi: “That’s because you ignore the biggest proof of all, that so many people are Otherkin! We can’t all be wrong!”
No TRUE Scotsman!
Against, well, everybody!
This one, the colorfully named No True Scotsman Fallacy, is simple.
It’s when you define an arbitrary (or unproved or unprovable or very often, stereotypical) characteristic to a definition, and then state that something doesn’t fit that definition by lack of that characteristic. The Scotsman reference comes from this example.
John says that all true Scotsmen drink whiskey, and your friend Agnus doesn’t drink. Therefore, John declares that your friend is not a true Scotsman and cannot be from Scotland.
It is however, something Kin use to unfairly deconstruct each other as much as critics might use it. At first, it might seem that a skeptic might not use this line of attack as it originates “from the inside”. Some critics are clever however, to their credit.
Elena Elfbright: “Wellwort, you’re not a real dragon. A real dragon has two horns and a crests of spines down his back. And a real dragon doesn’t dislike Elves! We’re the traditional allies of all dragons! You need to stop pretending.”
Wellwort Dragosi, muttering: “And she wonders why I’m sick of elves…”
Wesker T. Skeptic, leaning in from one side: “Actually, I’m an open minded guy! I think dragons and elves really MIGHT exist… but I know for sure they’re nothing like what you guys claim to be. You’re ALL fakes!”
Now this one is, on the whole, really very silly. But Otherkin do it to each other all the time. It’s tempting too. There are people who do act very flaky, and behave as if they’re simply ‘along for the ride’, picking up the title of elf, dragon, or what have you to join in the fun. It’s hard to resist deflating them. But once you get started down the path of using the No True Scotsman fallacy, it’s very hard to not go too far and target people who don’t deserve it. In fact, even the original people being criticized this way may in fact be entirely legitimate, but not have an honest understanding of what they are if they see everything as a big game.
Some skeptics have used this argument within a simplified mindset where they take the existence of dragons, say, as hypothetically possible, but only within the closest “facts” available. Such as for example, a dragon even if it did exist, would be a large, armor plated, hell-bent personality of a beast that relentlessly hoarded shiny objects and had a fixation for living underground despite being a flying creature (the cave thing). Then proceed to declare that no dragon Kin could possibly be real because their personality traits were not evocative enough of these criteria. Of course, this skeptical dismissal is also guilty of being a Straw Man argument because it dismisses Otherkin thought on spirituality and the interaction between a human life and personality and a person’s “other” element without even considering the ramifications on it.
Equivocation involves changing the meaning of a word to suit one’s position. Against Kin, this has involved to a great degree, a back and forth interplay of just what it means “to be human”.
Wellwort Dragosi: “I don’t identify wholly with being human because I feel my thoughts, perspective, and feelings are different enough from those (humans) around me to suggest that something is up. I’ve met enough other Kin who just don’t fit within the conventions that go along with being ‘human’.”
Wesker T. Skeptic: “A human being is a bipedal primate; homo sapien. Unless you, or your friends, have grown wings, tails, and snouts, or maybe elf ears, or a coat of fur, you’re all human. It’s entirely insane to say you’re not human. Look in a mirror.”
It should be painfully obvious that Wellwort is using human to describe the mind and personality, and if accepted in the argument, the spirit (because debates with religious folk skeptical of Otherkin do happen). Wesker however, has shifted the focus on to the biological definition of human, which of course, makes Wellwort seem insane if he states “I am not human” while standing clad in an obviously human form. Skeptics should be aware that quite a bit of philosophizing goes on among Kin as to just what “human” means in a sense beyond the body… though regrettably, there seems to be no shortage of skeptics who will state “look in a mirror. If you see a human, you are human,” no matter how much Kin state they’re talking about what begins after biology ends.
Special note: there are, indeed, some Otherkin (largely, in my experience, elven-kin) who believe they do actually have a physical element that is not human. This is something that could be debated in an entire paper by itself – or a series – because it -is- something so hard to prove and so easy to dismiss with available evidence (the fact that such a Kin’s physical biology may not appear overly different from any other person).
By the same token, skeptical folk have rightly complained that Otherkin will attempt to shift the usage of “human” or other terms into their own court in order to answer criticisms.
Wesker T. Skeptic: “Human is as human does. You have a body that’s just like everybody else. That body even dictates things such as your thoughts, emotions, and reactions due to chemistry; how your actual brain is wired up. This even suggests that your personality is probably human – even if a very odd human due to how you see yourself.”
Wellwort Dragosi: “Human is how one thinks and feels, and I don’t feel human.”
This is obviously entirely changing the meaning (and topic, really) from what Wesker is saying. I feel this is an understandable fault, in many cases; a good deal of my sympathy has to go to Kin in general here, no matter how utterly annoying it must be for a skeptical person to deal with this shifting. Kin believe they’re correct, but often have precious little to go on aside from instinct. The statement of “I don’t feel human” is a beginning place for many or most, and that simple assertion may be something that goes beyond any ultimate, logical deduction; no matter if the majority of available proof from a skeptical position is set far against Kin.
Still, this assertion is often used to deny other possibilities, such as biology. I myself do take biology into account; my belief in the spiritual is extremely powerful, yet even I concede that at some level, I may just be “a very wacky human”. I’d argue that if so, it was wackiness in a way that should be respected unto itself, and even then, the identity of “dragon” would not be invalid (from other perspectives), but all the same, it is possible. Otherkin would probably do well (and have better conversations with people who don’t share their beliefs) to keep this in mind, in my view.
Lack of Credibility
Quite simply, Lack of Credibility is making claims of authority without the credentials to back yourself up. This is pretty common among all people, not just Otherkin. Of course, credentials alone will not prove your point; but people simply want to sound smart. Committing this fallacy is going one step too far with that. Ihave seen this come up in criticisms of Kin.
Wellwort Dragosi: “The kind of dragon I is technically quadruped, but can use the forepaws for tools since there’s an opposable thumb on each one, and can walk on two or four legs, though four is more stable. This is the idea about the species I have.”
Wesker T. Skeptic: “That’s impossible. Let me tell you the scientific fact; an animal that can walk or run on four limbs is never going to have anything like opposable thumbs or grasping digits. Your dragon just is impossible.”
Sally T. Skeptic: “Wesker’s right. I’ve got four years of college and I’m studying biology. You can’t have thumbs on something that isn’t built like a human being. Never happen. Impossible.”
Here, Wesker’s fault is making bald statements as if he’s an authority of biology and evolutionary theory. But his absolute denial of the possibility seems suspect when applied to hypothetical biology (such as pondering dragons), and considering that one can look at an animal as humble and common as the raccoon to find a creature that can move on four limbs yet has dexterous grasping forepaws, very close to human-like hands. One would expect an ‘expert’ to be aware of an example as common as this.
On the other hand, Sally’s fault appears to be in resting on her laurels of education to make her point valid, even though it as well goes against readily available empirical evidence. I know personally that I’ve encountered more than one person who has dismissed my beliefs with a statement to the effect that I should educate myself on formal logic, as they are, yet in the very same dismissal has made glaring logical fallacies.
Here, the urge that some Kin feel to provide validation for their beliefs has led them to make statements from the perspective of an ‘expert’ without the credentials, demonstration of equivalent competency, or in direct conflict with the actual knowledge of the field.
Wesker T. Skeptic: “Hmm. Well… I suppose it’s possible that a dragon with grasping forelimbs could arise if the conditions promoted it. So it’s not out of the realm of possibility, lack of proof aside.
Wellwort Dragosi: “All dragons have have grasping forelimbs. They are all allergic to high amounts of sucrose, and can drink salt water without any problem. You have to keep those things in mind as well; plus, dragons can interbreed with almost ANY animal!” (**note** This last item has been inserted by the editor at the request of Ohpleasenotagain, the Goddess of Common Sense, after seeing one too many dragon-amalgamation creatures that would make a quintuple-mix Gryphon blush. **note**)
It’s no wonder skeptics (and many Otherkin!) would be highly annoyed at Wellwort here. Not only is he making definitive statements (“really and for sure”) about a subject on which nobody could, in this life and present reality be a true, objective expert on, but his claims fly in the face of much accepted biology (the last item). Of course, it might be possible a “super breeder” species of creature exists in the universe, but it would redefine a huge amount of knowledge on how reproduction and genetics worked. Wellwort doesn’t say anything to demonstrate an authoritative grasp on just how this would ability would function to back up making such a bold statement.
Non Sequitur occurs when a conclusion doesn’t logically follow from the preceding statements. It means, literally, “Does not follow”. A fallacy of Non Sequitur doesn’t necessarily mean the conclusion is false, but it hasn’t been proven correctly. A personal caveat I have with this is: very technically, an accusation of Non Sequitur seems as if it could be forced onto explanations to treat them as arguments and “disprove” them. Especially since it is honest tricky sometimes to tell the difference between an explanation and a true argument My basic explanation for why I believe I’m a dragon “I believe I’m a dragon because I identify with dragons more than with humans” doesn’t attempt to prove I’m a dragon. But it could be (and has been ) fit into Non Sequitur: “identifying with dragons doesn’t prove you’re not human, therefore, you are mistaken”.
But a true Non Sequitur:
Wellwort Dragosi: “I’m not human. I’m also not a wolf, or a hawk, or an elephant. This is how I concluded I’m a dragon.”
Wesker T. Skeptic, scratching his head: “Umm, well, great, you’re a dragon. I’m not sure how stating you’re not ‘x’ creature proves you’re ‘y’ creature though.”
Wellwort needs to put a tad more thought into this one ^.^
Skeptics have pointed out that Kin are guilty of Non Sequitur often – and in fact I’ve been accused of it, though I feel it may be misinterpretations of explanations, or perhaps poorly phrased explanations on my part. One thing I suspect is that Kin (and people with empirically unprovable beliefs in general) tend to stretch things too far; perhaps out of desperation to get a point across, or perhaps just from a clumsy attempt to explain something that might not be logically provable.
Wesker T. Skeptic: “So there’ve been dragons on Earth in the past, despite lack of evidence to support it outside of myth. What’s the proof of it?”
Wellwort Dragosi: “Well… dragon myths show up everywhere… so a lot of people were talking about dragons… which must mean there had to be dragons around for so many people to see.”
What Wellwort might be trying to get across here, is an explanation for believing dragons existed on earth; that so many legends appear everywhere, in spite of lack of physical evidence, and the possibility that people simply found a common storytelling device, it’s also possible people may have indeed seen something. This in no way proves that they did, and the evidence could be interpreted to still be heavily against the possibility. But Wellwort has made believing in the possibility a Non Sequitur argument, as if trying to prove that dragons have existed due to the copious amounts of myths about them.
Skepticism is Not Proof
There are many more fallacious arguments that have actually been leveled against Otherkin in the past, as well as ones that -could- be brought to bear. However it should be reinforced that the point being illustrated is not that skepticism is flawed and inapplicable to subjective beliefs such as that a person might have the personality or spirit of a gryphon or a coyote. Rather, skepticism can and often is applied in an incorrect manner for the sake of disproving alone, both from outside and within the Kin community. Or alternately, skepticism may be honest and come from a basically healthy source, but lack the respect necessary to actually allow for real discussion; a mistake many skeptics appear to make with a wide variety of topics… not just Otherkin. Skepticism by itself is not proof that a position may be incorrect… it is the belief that could be is.
And something needs to be pointed out about people who are skeptical. While “Wesker” is used as an example of a person using fallacious logic to apply his skepticism, Wesker by his actions in a way invalidates himself as a true skeptic, period. Those who use false logic attacks frequently do so because they have an agenda; that of winning the argument or proving their position is correct regardless of the cost or even what the actual truth may be. A quote is very relevant here, taken from “Why People Believe Weird Things”, by Michael Shermer, who also happens to be publisher of Skeptic magazine.
What, then, you may ask, does it mean to be a skeptic? Some people believe that skepticism is the rejection of new ideas or, worse, they confuse skeptic with cynic and think that skeptics are a bunch of grumpy curmudgeons unwilling to accept any claim that challenges the status quo. This is wrong. Skepticism is a provisional approach to claims. Skepticism is a method, not a position. Ideally, skeptics do not go into an investigation closed to the possibility that a phenomenon might be real or that a claim might be true.
In point of fact, a conversation with one particular dragon Kin brought up the sentiment that he would greatly enjoy a serious, deep discussion on draconity and otherness with someone who truly understood the beliefs and respected them, but did not agree with them. A debate like that could only serve to improve understanding of both perspectives as well as increase mutual respect. Too many would-be critics however, sadly appear only interested in sniping for the sake of pushing their viewpoint without regard to any possible legitimacy of the other or even interest in what it has to say, and that’s where fallacious logic creeps in.
Some closing remarks:
Some Otherkin have expressed unease at applying skepticism and logic to beliefs such as these. A feeling some have is that these matters are so entirely in the realm of faith and pure instinct that trying to apply logic to them is impossible, and even harmful to one’s mindset as an Otherkin. Treating our beliefs this way however, only opens us up to a very valid criticism; that we’re afraid of examining the validity of our own beliefs for fear that we may find we’re mistaken. And we really don’t want to be mistaken. But, skepticism and logical deduction are our friends; we uphold our beliefs and their integrity by being skeptical and logical toward criticism of ideas that we have found to be true for us as well as using skepticism to police ourselves.
In talking on this entire subject, my sympathies are obviously going to be slanted toward the Kin perspective – because I am one, after all. I could, like some Kin, remove myself entirely from speaking on topics like this and place the subject of my draconity beyond logical deduction, treating it as a matter of pure faith. The reason I don’t is because in my beliefs, draconity is not something irrational or beyond logic or even proof – despite present circumstances not presenting an easy way to prove anything. And because I believe I have a duty to my own self to draconity to examine my own beliefs. And a lot of Kin feel the same way I do.
Of course, it’s perhaps amusing that in the very end, it’s to some degree a matter of faith. If a dragon, in the flesh, suddenly steps upon the face of this world, then the paradigm changes. But until then, this is the way of things. I’m a wacky human who believes he’s a dragon; and that’s not something I’m ashamed to be in the slightest… despite some good attempts to make me and mine feel shame for thinking different.