The Bad Logic of Sir G. William Domhoff
I just came across an article by G. William Domhoff:
He starts his article off with the following:
Jeremy Taylor is seriously misinformed about everything he says
concerning the Temiar and Semai peoples who are collectively called "Senoi"
by us, so I am pleased to have this opportunity to set the record straight.
I say, what arrogance!
Number one is to assume that he, Domhoff, is right on his assertions. Number two to make a personal attack in public on the web and representing an international organization, which I helped found, whose purpose and mission statement makes clear to include many points of view on dreams.
Domhoff goes on to make a list of points to counter what Jeremy Taylor wrote before about the Senoi. Some of these points may have some truth to them but to assert that Domhoff can set the record straight by his logic alone and without a thorough investigation by committee and review board and so on is the height of arrogance as I experience him.
First Domhoff fallacy: Because I assert forcefully something as true it
is true. And to quote him:
"Sixth, it is romantic to talk about Senoi as "ranging freely" in the
highlands of Malaysia ..."
Serious though these errors are, they are not directly relevant to the
issue that concerns dream researchers: did Senoi once use "Senoi dream
theory" and then abandon it or hide it due to cultural disruption? For that
issue the following points are critical:
Domhoff wants to prove that assertions about the Senoi originally made by Kilton Stewart are false. It's all in his little book which he never tires of pushing as the authority on the subject.
The second great Domhoff fallacy is trying to build a case based on false premises. One false premise is that latter observers, which he sometimes quotes, as if they are reliable and Stewart isn't, can tell us factually what the Senoi were like in the 1930's that Stewart Describes.
The third Domhoff fallacy is that his witnesses described are infallible evidence for his position, that they are truly experts, when they are not proven by him to be. Again, the fallacy of truth by assertion, not fact, and not objective evaluation.
Come on. Nothing hinges on this one alleged dream or on why the
captive allegedly heard about it. The weight of the evidence is so
overwhelming against any unique " Senoi dream theory" that an anecdote like
this recalled many years after the event by a frightened man hoping to
escape imprisonment has no standing whatsoever. Taylor is in fact grasping
at straws instead of adopting the scientific attitude that is necessary
Domhoff attacks the man, makes exaggerated assertions, does everything to assert that he is absolutely right here. there are a number of examples in his article like this.
The forth great Domhoff fallacy is that of argumentum ad Hominum, you attack the person because you cannot sustain a convincing argument against the the person's statements.
Notice here how Domhoff again attacks the person:
Everyone's foibles aside, it is a mystery to me why anyone would want
to continue to insist that Senoi practice "Senoi dream theory" if Taylor,
Patricia Garfield, and a few others really can control their dreams through
Yes, says Domhoff, all these people I attack have foibles, with no mention of his own, but again his arrogance to assert that somehow he has the right and knowledge to judge Taylor and Garfield here. Again, the fallacy of asserting truth by assertion, that because he is right they are wrong, as if "proving" them "wrong" makes him "right."
Domhoff loves to attack, it seems. His is an attacking position, not a positive one of giving facts himself for a position, any position. Domhoff does not have a position, like the bitter alcoholic who is angry at everyone but himself for his condition.
The fifth great Domhoff fallacy is that he assumes that he has proven statements false that in this case Jeremy Taylor has made and that then the major Senoi premise that as a tribe, and not just as individuals, they worked with their dreams. If you can eliminate a few of the pieces of a pie you then assume you have eliminated the whole pie. This is fallacious reasoning.
There are two kinds of scientific or Judicial proving. One is that a thing does not exist until proven that it does exist. The second is that something exists until it is proven that it does not exist.
Domhoff twists his logic here. He assumes that the Senoi did group dreamwork is a truth assertion that he has proven false. I point out why his arguments are weak here because of all the thinking fallacies he engages in. He also tries to assert that more proof than Stewart is needed before he will believe the truth of what Stewart asserted. Since he thinks he has proven Stewart false he then states that others have to prove the Stewart and Taylor assertion true.
Something is not true until you convincingly prove it is true. If you cannot prove convincingly that it is true, then it is false.
Let me give an example from American and Dutch law. In America I can be taken to court if someone can prove that I have married two wives without divorce of one of them so that I am a bigamist. In the Netherlands they have also a law against bigamy but because of this law they need proof that you are not a bigamist. To get married in the Netherlands I have to have official, stamped statements from the governments of the countries I have lived in that show I am not listed as being married in any of those countries. They assume that I may be a bigamist and I have to prove in order to marry that I am not a bigamist.
Nice. So Domhoff loves to attack by disproving ancillary statements that then are supposed to disprove the main or core statement. He cannot prove that the Senoi did not do community dreamwork at the time described so he tries to prove that because the Senoi years later did not seem to do community dreamwork that he has won his case, but he can give no evidence that comes from the time the main premise is about.
Ah, Domhoff, if you could only think, what a great Caesar you would have been!
Can you convict someone of murder twenty years ago when the witnesses are dead or now inaccurate? Only if you have inconvertible evidence from the time such as recent DNA findings from the time of the murder.
Domhoff can find no evidence from the 1930's Senoi to counter the Stewart claim that they did community dreamwork.
So he engages in still another Domhoff fallacy. It is the attack on thin air, or straw man fallacy. In this fallacy you set up a bogus issue and try to convince people it is the real issue. So then you attack the bogus issue that makes your arguments sound convincing and unthinking people fall for your bogus arguments.
When Jeremy Taylor holds with Kilton Stewart that the Senoi practiced community dreamwork in the 1930's then how can the Kilton Stewart statement be attacked from evidence in the 1950's or later. It can't but Domhoff acts like it can and asserts that he is attacking the real issue.
Taylor has a right to hold with any observer. If he picks Stewart over later observers then he has a right to do so, unless you have compelling evidence from Stewart's time to contradict Stewart.
Domhoff uses spurious little arguments to try and reinforce his bogus attack, like stating that Stewart was only there a few weeks. I don't care if Stewart sat on the toilet only once, he still has left evidence of his presence. So another example of the fallacy of bogus argument.
The last seventh obvious Domhoff fallacy is the assumption that Domhoff can argue convincingly that ten little arguments or so will add up to one convincing big argument. This is simply not true. You cannot convince me the world is flat because ten, even one hundred people, tell me today they see the world as flat because their eyes tell them so. Yet the whole world seemed to see the world as flat at one time in history, and they were all wrong!
So Domhoff, take a powder. Polish your nose. Get the shine off your logic. Quit fighting windmills. Try and come up with some great positive results about dreams and dreaming that you created yourself.
Use your logic to create and not destroy.
Domhoff article: DO SENOI PRACTICE "SENOI DREAM THEORY?" G. William Domhoff
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