Archive for the ‘Weak Analogy’ Category


Good News Bears

January 17, 2010

Brian Leiter directs our attention — somewhat hyperbolically, I think — to this startling bit of wingnuttery from Charles Rowley, a professor of economics at George Mason University.

Given the closing quote, Leiter suggests that Rowley is calling for the assassination of the president. That’s a terrible thing to call for, of course, and it is maybe even true that Rowley is calling for that, but I’m here to rescue readers of Rowley’s ramblings from any such absurd conclusion.

Namely, Rowley’s logic is so manifestly abominable that even a merely moderately astute reader should ascertain that the concluding remarks are only randomly tacked on, and that the substance of the argument doesn’t affix to the concluding remarks.

Rowley uses this clever device to suggest that the current health care legislation signals a descent into tyranny:

Suppose, dear reader, that, while residing legally in the United States, you choose  not to purchase a daily newspaper.  Perhaps your choice is determined by a concern that all newspapers varnish the truth, perhaps by budgetary constraints.  Suppose that you choose not to outlay your monies on an annual vacation, perhaps because you believe that ‘your nest is always best’, perhaps because of budgetary constraints.  Suppose  that a bigot is elected to the presidency and ‘persuades’ Congress to require you to purchase a newspaper, or  to fine you for not so doing ; to require you to take an annual vacation, or to fine you for not so doing.  Would you not be alarmed, dear reader, by such an invasion of your liberty to engage or not to engage in specific market activities? Would you not view such an intervention as an act of tyranny much more serious than the eighteenth century interventions by King George III merely to tax certain kinds of consumption while yet leaving  his colonists  free to purchase or not to purchase the affected items?

Okay, suppose…

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Gaia’s Fever

December 16, 2009

I can’t figure out whether to post this under false analogies, accident, or anthropomorphism, but it certainly falls under at least one (if not all) of those categories. I suspect it loses its intended effect because it is such a stretch to make the comparison. Nevertheless, here it is, allegedly from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division of Sustainable Development (though I can find no link to it on their official website).

Vodpod videos no longer available.


King of Night Vision

December 15, 2009

Glenn Beck has spectacular optics. His laser eyesight enables him to pierce the most muddled of issues. Here’s a video of him comparing the stonewalling of climate skepticism to the persecution that Galileo experienced. We’ve seen this comparison many times before, of course, but it seems so misplaced to me that I just have to note it again. It is true that Galileo was persecuted for trying to advance a theory that appeared to run at cross-purposes with entrenched power structures, but isn’t that about as far as this comparison goes?

Lots of people have noted the alleged dissimilarities between Galileo and the skeptics, observing that Galileo was a scientist and the people persecuting him were involved primarily in the church. The skeptics, they charge, aren’t really scientists. I suppose that’s a fair criticism, though I suppose the counter-charge is that the scientific establishment isn’t being terribly scientific, that they’re acting more like religious figures, prostrate to the gods of AGW.

Others have noted that persecution is a far cry from being stonewalled or having your research rejected by top journals. That may also be a fair criticism, depending on your views about the extent to which there was underhandedness in the peer-review process, and the extent to which the scientific journals are rigged to yield a particular result.  Maybe it is persecution to continually reject someone’s research.

But it seems to me that the most damning argument against this comparison is that it isn’t clear what criteria would make it apt. Isn’t it true that whenever someone takes on the establishment, she’s always in the position of underdog? That’s the definition of taking on the establishment. And isn’t it also true that whenever someone taking on the establishment tries to get her papers or her research through the establishment, she’s always disregarded for a while? That, too, seems inevitable.

If that’s true, then it’s hard to say what about this particular circumstance would make it just like Galileo’s circumstance. The dude was thrown to the wolves. He was put on trial for heresy, found guilty of heresy, imprisoned and held under house arrest, and his work was banned. That’s not at all like what’s going on in the climate debate.

Just a thought.

Incidentally, I hope nobody mentions to Glenn Beck, student of history, that one of the two plenary rooms at COP15 is the Tyco Brahe Plenary Hall. That’d certainly send the sun spinning recklessly around the earth.