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Friday, August 14, 2009

Empty arguments

I followed a link from junkfoodscience to an interesting old piece on The Five 'A's of Empty Argument. The piece was written from a medical perspective, but I was struck by how well these are used by AGW alarmists. These are the the five 'A's, along with how I've seen them used.

1. Argument from Authority

In AGW, this is the consensus argument. It's the "most scientists agree", "the IPCC says," and "over 2000 climate scientists agree," statement (even if 30,000 scientists disagree). That fact that there is no consensus, and never was one, is irrelevant. That the IPCC is a political, not a scientific, organization is ignored. That the "2000 climate scientist" were not all climate scientists (not that that makes their contributions any less valuable), nor did they all agree with IPCC conclusions is also ignored.

It's also the "[scientist who disagrees with AGW] isn't a climate scientist, so we shouldn't listen to him/her" statement. Never mind that the major players pushing AGW alarmist include Hansen (and astronomer), Gore (a failed politician) and Suzuki (a geneticist turned television personality). In this incarnation, appeal to authority rejects any authority that does not agree with the AGW position, but accepts those that do.

2. Argument from Anecdote

One of the more recent examples is this one from Senator Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.)

"Climate change is very real," she confessed as she embraced cap and trade's massive tax increase on Michigan industry - at the same time claiming, against all the evidence, that it would not lead to an increase in manufacturing costs or energy prices. "Global warming creates volatility. I feel it when I'm flying. The storms are more volatile. We are paying the price in more hurricanes and tornadoes."

Never mind that we've had fewer hurricanes in the last few years, and no change in tornadoes. The argument from anecdote used to show itself with every hot spell a few years back, though these have dropped significantly in the last couple of years of record cold around the world. To the alarmist, as long as they feel that global warming is real, it must be real, no matter how much evidence to the contrary is presented.

3. Argument from Appeal to Emotion

This one is used an awful lot. This is how polar bears became listed as endangered species, even though their total population has increased 500% in thirty years. This is the "for our children's children" argument. Whenever someone tries to tell you that driving your car, charging your cell phone or watching tv is killing polar bears or drowning people in Bangladesh, they're appealing to emotion.

4. Argument from Alternative

This one gets trotted out when all else fails. The precautionary principle falls into this category. This is where we are given a long list of how much worse things will get if we don't "do something" to stop climate change. If you point out that climate has changed before, you'll be told that it's never changed this quickly. If you point out that it has changed more quickly and more severely than now, you'll be given some other reason why this time, humans are making it worse. Argument from alternative is often tied in with appeal to emotion, because if we really cared about our children, we'd be willing to do anything to prevent even the possibility of AGW alarmist scenarios being real.

and finally 5. Argument from Ad Hominem

This one is quite popular. Any one who disagrees with AGW alarmism must be in the pay of Big Oil or Big Industry. Proof isn't necessary, since it's inconceivable that anyone would disagree with the alarmist position, unless they were somehow bought off. This is using the term "denier," to equate people who question the alarmist line with Holocaust denial (including those who actually agree with AGW, but not with the alarmist scenarios). This is equating skeptics with flat earthers.

Of course, AGW and the medical fields aren't the only ones that use the five 'A's of empty argument. Now that you've seen them listed, you'll probably start seeing them used all over the place!

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