False Dichotomies and Red Herrings

Definition of a ‘Fallacy’: A misconception resulting from flawed reasoning, or a trick or illusion in thinking that often obfuscates facts/truth, usually from poor habits of language and logic.

From logicalfallacies.org: A formal fallacy is an error that can be seen within the argument’s form. Every formal fallacy is a non sequitur (or, an argument where the conclusion does not follow from the premise.) An informal fallacy refers to an argument whose proposed conclusion is not supported by the premises. There are four formal, and 46 informal fallacies listed on the website. Sharply biased and partisan websites and publications are rife with logical fallacies. We see and hear the same ones repeatedly, until we are practically numb to the piss poor arguments. I have selected as an example a website, WEForum.org, that attempts to be objective, non-partisan, and rational, yet is awash in (probably) unconscious logical fallacies. The following logical fallacies are in bold print.

From the report of The World Economic Forum: “At the same time, the main addressee of these messages, the political arena, is split between those who continue to deny man-made climate change and those who present ambitious plans like the EU’s new ‘Green Deal’ to make Europe the first ever climate-neutral continent.” The main fallacy in this sentence is an informal one called the false dichotomy, fallacy of bifurcation, or black-or-white fallacy. It presents two alternative states—climate change denial vs. ambitious plans—as the only possibilities when many more possibilities and gradations exist. The same sentence also contains two other logical fallacies: The fallacy of composition and division assumes that one part of something will apply to the whole, or that the whole must apply to all the parts, in lumping the spectrum of climate change objections into “those who continue to deny man-made climate change.” The fallacy of the Burden of Proof occurs when someone who is making a claim, puts the burden of proof on another party to disprove what they are claiming. In this sentence the fallacy is implicit, because the ambitious climate change planners and fear mongers make dramatic announcements and then challenge their opponents to disprove their claims.

“Cynics speak of a dead-end situation and might dismiss such initiatives (European Green Deal) as utopia.” The ad hominem attack is a logical fallacy trying to undermine the opponent’s arguments by personal attacks, through attacking their character or skill level, despite the lack of causal connection between the two parts of the argument. In this case, those who object to what they perceive as dead-end plans are dismissed as “cynics”. Cynics they might also be, but if so, there is no causal connection between their cynicism and their objections to the sweeping E.G.D. type proposals. The fallacy of appeal to authority makes the argument that if a credible source believes something, that it must be true. Also known as ‘appealing to the people‘, this fallacy presumes that a proposition is true because most/many believe it to be true. In this case, using the label “cynics” implies that non-cynics—the majority of people—believe in such initiatives. Similarly, I could say The fallacy of the bandwagon also applies. This fallacy says, ‘But everyone is doing it’, and appeals to the popularity of something as a means of validating it. For instance, if a large number of schoolchildren, politicians, celebrities and educators are “protesting” global warming, they must be right. If they believe the world will end in 12 years, shouldn’t the rest of us be convinced?

While I acknowledge that human-caused “greenhouse gases” pose the danger of an increasingly warming atmosphere, I firmly believe that human ingenuity and capitalism are capable of sharply reducing the danger, and constitute a much more practical solution than the hysteria, demonstrations and apocalyptic prognostications of the “climate change fear mongers.” The true question is, “how can we best deal with human-caused greenhouse gases to protect our planet’s atmosphere?” I don’t read or hear that question being asked. Instead, we are bombarded with dire predictions (“we have only 12 years left”), blame-shifting (“Trump is to blame”. “Capitalism is to blame”), and ineffectual “agreements” (Paris Accords), all of which are red herrings, or attempting to redirect the argument to another issue to which the person doing the redirecting can better respond. While it is similar to the avoiding the issue fallacy, the red herring is a deliberate diversion of attention with the intention of trying to abandon the original argument.

I mentioned ingenuity and capitalism as providing better solutions: 1- What if we did something with CO2, instead of continuing to try and contain it on a massive scale? One promising pathway is using this climate destroyer as a useful raw material, to provide the valuable carbon that the chemical industry so heavily relies on.

2-Created by tech company Watergen, the water-from-air system taps into atmospheric water using patented heat-exchange technology, producing up to 30 liters of potable water for a home or office every day – significantly reducing plastic usage and disposal by eliminating the waste caused by drinking bottled water.

3-Scientists have invented a new method for turning carbon dioxide into a liquid fuel that can efficiently store energy in fuel cells. The fuel could one day be the future of green transport, cramming more energy into the tank than the same volume of hydrogen while also serving as a building block for a whole chemical production industry.

Capitalism harnesses a “crisis” to stimulate creative solutions. Alarmism confuses, frightens and stampedes people into unproductive and counter productive behavior. Capitalism produces innovation, alarmism produces logical fallacies.

Never let a crisis go to waste. Australian brushfires and big lies.

Fake ABC map makes fake news

We’ve all seen the fire maps and the headlines, “Australia is going up in flames.” ABC-TV in the USA showed a map that made it appear that over 30% of Australia was burning. The map was off a bit, since 1% of Australia is burning, and that’s bad enough without exaggerating. ABC refused to alter the map even when challenged. So where’d the map come from? ABC News editor Matt Zarrell “Appears [to have] used Himawari-8 🛰️ thermal anomalies (‘hotspots’) from Jan 2 … so anything hot (cars in full sun, industry)+ fire used in land mgmt.” In other words, that’s not a map of stuff on fire, but a map of virtually anything in Australia that gets hot enough in direct sunlight to get picked up by a very sensitive Japanese weather satellite.

But the mass media, the global warming (I refuse to say “climate change” since warming is the concern) fanatics and those who profit from the hysteria (automobile battery makers, for example) hate to let any disaster go to waste when they can exaggerate it to drum up sympathy for their cause. In descending order, the actual causes of the Australian brush fires are: too much fuel (dead wood and brush) buildup; the Indian Ocean dipole; arson; lightning and wind, not counting the hot air from media.

These fires are not new. The 1851 Black Thursday bushfires burnt a quarter of Victoria, killed 12 humans and over a million sheep. Blue Mountains (another hard hit area today) facing a tragedy where a million hectares were burnt in 1968. Or the more recent 2009 Black Saturday fires in Victoria which resulted in 173 deaths and more than 2,000 homes destroyed. Many of these and many others occurred before global warming was a thing.

Fires need fuel. Bushfire scientist David Packham warned in this prescient article in 2015 that unless fuel reduction burns were increased, Victoria and New South Wales were facing potential disaster.The Volunteer Fire Fighters Association (VFFA) issued a statement asking people not to blame either the fire crews or climate change, but rather the fuel loads – the amount of dry combustible material that has been allowed to build up.

So why has this happened? The irony is that Greens/environmentalist activism has greatly hindered effective management of the bush. In NSW, fire trails were abandoned in order to keep out campers and four wheel drives. The trouble is that these trails both acted as fire breaks and provided access for fire crews into remote areas. In Gippsland – the area in Victoria most devastated by the latest fires – some of the load reduction burning was stopped because of the ignorance and short-sightedness of the same kind of people who are now crazed by the effects of their “policies”. Like the Democrats in our country, “environmentalist wackos” (thank you Rush Limbaugh for the appellation) all over the world help create the problems that they protest. Talk about job security! Protesters held signs saying “stop burning nesting birds”. The burns were cut back from 370 hectares to nine. Nowa Nowa was evacuated in the latest fires.

The Indian Ocean Dipole is the main reason for both the extreme heat and drought in Australia. This is an effect where the western half of the ocean is warmer than that of the eastern. Added to this is the problem of the winds. Normally the strong southerlies blow several hundred kilometres to the south but for some unknown reason they are much closer to Australia. The combination of heat, drought and wind is devastating. In reality, there is not much that the Australian government can do to control the wind, waves and heat. If Australia were to destroy its own economy (and impoverish many poor people even more) by reducing its emissions from 1.3% to 1% of global emissions, the new power stations being planned in China would make up for that within a year.

Arson – It seems incredible but one of the major causes of the bushfires is arson. As the Sydney Morning Herald stated in this informative report, 13% of bushfires are natural; 87% are human and of these at least 40% are believed to be arson. The situation is so serious that today it was reported that NSW police are to set up a taskforce to investigate how many of the fires were caused deliberately and to seek to bring the culprits to justice. As of this writing, 24 people have been charged with arson, 53 are facing legal action for ignoring fire bans, 47 have been charged with discarding lighted matches on dry tinder (separate from the arsonists, who probably used accelerants).

While we should cut down on carbon emissions (huge progress is being made), we should not feed hysteria or incite the mobs. We should not use tragedy for political ends and we should not deny science for the sake of politics. Then there is the hypocrisy. For example, the Sydney Morning Herald seeks to make political capital out of this by using it to attack the Prime Minister and claiming that climate change is the real reason. Yet in the weekend SMH, there are pages of adverts for wealthy readers to jet off to exotic holidays all over the world. To complain about climate change that you say is caused largely by air travel, and then to take the 30 pieces of silver in order to promote that travel is as hypocritical as those who fly to conferences which seek to discuss how to stop people flying!

Bernie Sanders, as usual, was a fount of hyperbole and exaggeration. “I say to those who are delaying action on climate change: Look at the blood red-sky and unbreathable air in Australia because of raging forest fires.” Nope Bernie, try Dipole, arson, poor fuel management. Liz Warren, “The catastrophic scenes from Australia’s wildfires should alarm all of us. Climate change is driving even more dangerous and destructive fires across the world, from California to New South Wales…” Nope Pocahontas, the biggest cause of these destructive fires is fuel buildup. The cause of fuel buildup? Policies restricting brush-thinning controlled burns. Whose dumb ideas are those? Liberals and environmentalists. Hmm, maybe some are arsonists.