Ad Populum Diversion

Dr. Taylor Marshall has an excellent blog post up identifying 7 popular diversion strategies employed in discussions relating to philosophy and theology.

Diversion number 5 particularly caught my attention:

5. Ad Populum Diversion – ad populum means “to the people”. This diversion appeals to the masses or what everybody does.

“Contraception cannot be sinful. Everybody does it. Even Catholics.”

“How can Catholicism be the true religion? There are billions on earth who aren’t Catholic.”

“Abortion isn’t wrong. The UN sanctions it.” (This is also an ad verecundiam diversion)

I suspect this will resonate with many of us.

This got me to thinking. Very often Christians are belittled for being ‘out of date’ or ‘not with the times’ in issues of morality and ethics and what have you.

However, just because the majority of modern society deems something as acceptable, does this mean it is so?

Well, we could appeal to democracy as our gauge and argue that we have a society based on principles that most folk adhere to. But what of the dead?

I mean by this of course, tradition.

If we live in a democracy that is favourable to undermining traditional values, then do we not at the same time deny our forefathers their democratic say? In undermining our ancestors view on morality and ethics, are we not simply casting them aside as in error?

But were they in error, or are we?

I’ll hand over to Chesterton at this point to clarify my meaning.

This is taken from Orthodoxy which I’ve just finished reading and am now moving on to The Everlasting Man. In Chesterton I can finally say I have met my Catholic Spurgeon.

But there is one thing that I have never from my youth up been able to understand. I have never been able to understand where people got the idea that democracy was in some way opposed to tradition. It is obvious that tradition is only democracy extended through time. It is trusting to a consensus of common human voices rather than to some isolated or arbitrary record.

The man who quotes some German historian against the tradition of the Catholic Church, for instance, is strictly appealing to aristocracy. He is appealing to the superiority of one expert against the awful authority of a mob.

It is quite easy to see why a legend is treated, and ought to be treated, more respectfully than a book of history. The legend is generally made by the majority of people in the village, who are sane. The book is generally written by the one man in the village who is mad. Those who urge against tradition that men in the past were ignorant may go and urge it at the Carlton Club, along with the statement that voters in the slums are ignorant. It will not do for us.

If we attach great importance to the opinion of ordinary men in great unanimity when we are dealing with daily matters, there is no reason why we should disregard it when we are dealing with history or fable.

Tradition may be defined as an extension of the franchise. Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death.

Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father. I, at any rate, cannot separate the two ideas of democracy and tradition; it seems evident to me that they are the same idea. We will have the dead at our councils. The ancient Greeks voted by stones; these shall vote by tombstones. It is all quite regular and official, for most tombstones, like most ballot papers, are marked with a cross.

I have first to say, therefore, that if I have had a bias, it was always a bias in favour of democracy, and therefore of tradition. Before we come to any theoretic or logical beginnings I am content to allow for that personal equation; I have always been more inclined to believe the ruck of hard-working people than to believe that special and troublesome literary class to which I belong.

I prefer even the fancies and prejudices of the people who see life from the inside to the clearest demonstrations of the people who see life from the outside. I would always trust the old wives’ fables against the old maids’ facts. As long as wit is mother wit it can be as wild as it pleases.

I think we cast aside traditional thinking on morals and ethics at our peril…..

3 comments on this post.
  1. Roger Pearse:

    The values of the “vast majority” are merely what those in charge of the media agenda in our times say they are. Quite why we should obey the demands of that tiny number of moral cretins I don’t know.

  2. Goy:

    Such a good post webmaster.

    On Roger’s point has the media not corrupted Chesterton’s “ruck of hard-working people” to the point that democracy can no longer have a foundation of legend values. In the resulting chaos a future outcome maybe that British society is forced to appropriate alien values i.e. islam.

  3. webmaster:

    Thanks Goy that means a lot.