The false dichotomy of Islamophobia

Massimo Pigliucci in Scientia Salon:

N_15651_1A false dichotomy is a basic type of informal logical fallacy, consisting in framing an issue as if there were only two choices available, while in fact a range of nuanced positions may be on offer upon more careful reflection. While I have argued together with my colleagues Maarten Boudry and Fabio Paglieri that often so-called logical fallacies turn out to be pretty reasonable heuristic strategies [1], there are nonetheless plenty of instances were they do identify truly bad reasoning. I have recently discussed one such case in reference to so-called trigger warnings in the context of college classes [2], but another one is arguably represented by the never ending “debate” about Islamophobia.

It is easy to find stark examples of people defending what appear to be two irreconcilable positions about how to view Islam in a post-9/11 world. For the sake of discussion, I will bypass pundits and other pseudo-intellectuals, and use instead two comedians as representative of the contrasting positions: Jon Stewart [3] and Bill Maher [4].

Before proceeding I must acknowledge that while I’ve liked Stewart for a long time, and followed with pleasure his evolution from being solely a comedian to a savvy social commentator during his run at the Daily Show [5], my appreciation of Maher has slid further and further. I used to like his brusque style back when he was doing his “Politically Incorrect” show, first on Comedy Central, then on ABC [6]. I was aghast when ABC (allegedly) let him go because he had dared to make the truly politically (but clearly correct) statement that the 9/11 hijackers could properly be labelled with a number of negative epithets, but that cowards wasn’t one of them. But then he made his Religulous movie [7], where he slid into crass new atheism-style “criticism” of religion, and finally came out as an anti-vaxxer all the while chastising some of his guests who were “skeptical” of climate change for being anti-science.

More here.