On being kind and ad hominem attacks

For whatever reason I have seen the word gullible describing people in disagreement multiple times this week. Mostly it has been people with whom I agree on the point, but I want to grab them and tell them they are not helping their cause.

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There has been an indiegogo campaign to build and test solar roadways. I am all for solar (in conjunction with wind and hydro and nuclear power), but I doubt roads as the best application. I was happy that after about a week of seeing ‘this is the best thing evar’ to see some videos and articles critically analyzing the solar roadways plan. Then I was sad to see this sentence in the first one I read:
“They have raised over $1.8 million from people who are too gullible and decide to ignore simple physics and economics in favor of nice dreams of green energy. ”

Then there was an article I saw posted about chicken pox parties, where a child is exposed to chicken pox in order to catch it instead of getting the vaccine. The anti vax movement both angers and scares me more than most things I rant about. This comment on that post still upsets me:
“Now lets be fair here. These people a obviously both stupid and gullible.”

Besides using the word gullible the thing these have in common is that they are ad hominem attacks. Ad hominem has a Latin base meaning ‘to the man’. The basic gist is it is attacking the person instead of the argument. There are two major problems with it. First, even if one presumes that the subject is gullible that does not mean that they are wrong on any particular point. Second, why alienate people? If I want solar power why would I say nasty things to and about people excited about and supporting it? If I want education and understanding of vaccines why would I guarantee the people I want to have understanding will not listen to me because I insulted them? It is just counterproductive all around. Please avoid the ad hominem logical fallacy, give me less things to rant about.

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