Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Deceptive Arguments And Specious Reasoning - Political Debate Gone Wrong

There are a lot of ways to win an argument and a lot of ways to deceive others into thinking you’ve won an argument. There is one set of rules to follow when you have facts on your side and a different set of rules when the facts are not with you. The first rule is to never use any of these rules in arguing with your wife. If you do, it should be under controlled circumstances and only when there is professional supervision.

There are situations of absolute fact. For example, OJ Simpson either killed two people or he didn’t. People may disagree as to what evidence shows but there is a Yes/No answer to the question of whether OJ did it or not. No matter what anyone believes, the event did happen in a particular way and was caused by specific actions.

Other situations are more theoretical. Global warming is a theory based on models and evidence. Whether it exists, is caused by human activity, the extent of damage (if any), what might or might not happen in the future, all has to be based on honest scientific inquiry. In the first situation with OJ, you are dealing with a known fact (two people were murdered) while in the second, you are dealing with a future event (some say an event that has started already), but in any case, one that is not as specific as a Yes/No answer can provide.

The last situation is one of morality and spirituality. Issues such as abortion or the death penalty fall into this third category. There is much passion in these debates. A belief in God is a matter of faith. The ongoing evolution vs. creationism debate also falls under this last category.

While there may be some issues that cross the line between these three categories, in most situations they will fall in one of these three groups and not more. When propaganda is used, it is usually done by blurring the distinction between these categories.

A good example of this is to look at how Al Gore argues the inevitability of global warming. First, backing up a step, if you are going to debate an issue, one of the best ways to do it is “Search and Destroy”. You find your opponent’s arguments, you list them one by one, and then you point out why they are specious or why their reasoning is faulty. When people have truth on their side, they are eager to display why the arguments of their opponents are wrong.

Getting back to Al Gore, when he is faced with a question challenging his belief in global warming, he never answers it. He simply labels people who don’t agree with him as “deniers” or “flat earthers”. Some people may not disagree, per se. They just may not be sure, not being as scientifically trained as Al Gore, they just want more of a debate before committing so much money, resources, and lifestyle changes to a theory that they don’t know enough about.

If Mr. Gore had the facts on his side, he would bring out all these challenges to then tear them down (“Search and Destroy”). Some arguments against global warming (there are many more):
- The ice in Antarctica has been growing since 1979.
- Temperature measurements during the 90s (the supposed warmest decade) did not use weather stations in some of the coldest climates which artificially increased the average.
- There is evidence of warming on other planets indicating that sun spot activity may be a cause of temporary warming.
- Ice core samples show the middle ages to be warmer than the present.
- The earth has been cooling in the last 15 years.
- Many of the same people who are now warning about global warming were warning about the coming ice age as recently as 1975!
- There is evidence, also from ice core samples, that the cause and effect of global warming is backwards. In other words, increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere didn’t cause global warming in the past but, in fact, periods of warming caused increased levels of CO2.
These are just some of many arguments against the theory of global warming. Not being a scientist, I would welcome hearing the other side to these points but all I hear is crickets. That no one does a “Search and Destroy” on these points leads me to believe they are true. Al Gore smears people who don’t believe global warming to be “settled science” and with that, hopes to stifle debate on the issue.

Stifling debate, by the way, is not the same thing as winning the debate. Unfortunately, the Democratic Party has become a party that can’t debate on facts and therefore, they debate by character assassination. Whether it is global warming or the Tea Party movement, the left is constantly trying to impugn the integrity and motives of whoever has a different point of view. Personally, I would never want to stifle the opinions or speech of people on the left. Every time they speak, they tell you who they are and what they want to do. The fact that they don’t extend the same courtesy to people on the right is a great indicator of who is telling the truth and who is lying.

Uh-Oh, I think someone just fainted while reading this article. If anyone knows the address of the person that just fainted would you please get him or her some water? Maybe have him or her lie down and prop some pillows up so he or she can breathe. Please give him or her plenty of room….

The final straw in this Global Warming/Climate Change/Greenhouse Effect thing is when Mr. Gore labels people who want more evidence into global warming as equal to Holocaust deniers. Global warming is a theory. The Holocaust is a historical fact backed up by evidence including hundreds of thousands of witnesses, physical evidence, film archive and even admissions by some who committed the horrific acts. To compare this to a subjective theory such as global warming is an insult to the memories of the people who died in the Holocaust, as well as to the survivors and their children.

Barack Obama’s way of dealing with a challenge (not that he faces many from the main stream media) is different than Al Gore’s. Obama’s preferred method is to ramble meaningless phrases as if by the magic of his oratory skills, people will forget what the question was. Asked what his favorite Whitesox player was on opening day of the baseball season, he couldn’t just say he didn’t know or remember any. He talked about being an Oakland A’s fan while living in Hawaii, blathered a few other meaningless things about liking the Cubs as well but never answered the simple question! You’d expect that from a kid in third grade, not the President.

What is amazing about this is that Obama made a specific point of showing the world that he was a Whitesox fan. He pulled out a Whitesox cap to display in front of 40,000+ Washington Nationals fans and millions watching on TV. You’d think he’d be prepared to answer, just as a matter of common sense, some questions about the team since he made such an unnecessary spectacle of bringing it up. It makes you wonder, if he is that unprepared for a question that is the logical result of an action he has taken, then how is he to be trusted negotiating with Russia or China? Who knows, maybe he put on the Whitesox cap to give fans an excuse to boo. That way, he could say they were booing the cap, not him or his actions, but he couldn’t be that narcissistic, could he?

If he can’t answer a simple question about his favorite player, how is he to answer questions about health care or taxes? The answer to that is a 17 minute incoherent response to a question about whether or not the US is already too highly taxed to shoulder the additional burdens to pay for health care. If Obama had truth on his side, he wouldn’t need to spend 17 minutes on a disjointed dissertation while still not answering the question! Obama mixes in all tactics. He confuses fact with theory, and throws in a hefty dose of moralizing and somewhere in between all the meaningless words you are almost tempted to say “Stop already! I give up -- just stop talking!

The old joke says “How can you tell if a politician is lying?” Answer: “If his mouth is moving”. Some, however, lie more than others. Propaganda involves turning facts into subjective concepts while turning subjective concepts into facts. It involves taking bad policy and packaging it as an absolute moral good so that no one dare oppose it.

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