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.

Author: iamcurmudgeon

When I began this blog, I was a 70 year old man, with a young mind and a body trying to recover from a stroke, and my purpose for this whole blog thing is to provoke thinking, to ridicule reflex reaction, and provide a legacy to my children.

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