Archive for June 20th, 2011

June 20, 2011

#Tisertosh June 20 – Abbott love and gish gallops

Today is a perfect example of why the Advertiser is such a contemptible and unfunny joke as a newspaper.

Front page non-story “Abbott pushes for carbon referendum.” Which he’s been doing (let’s have an election yadda yadda yadda) for ages. Since when does reprinting Opposition talking points constitute a front page story?? It’s a beat-up. How do the editors sleep? How do they look themselves in the mirror and say “I’m a journalist.” They presumably don’t. They presumably think of the mortgage that wouldn’t get paid if they upheld anything approaching the alleged journalistic values of truth, decency and so on.
What WILL be interesting is in 20 years time, when their children find out what they did during the crucial decade. “Gee, thanks Dad. Epic Fail.” The same goes for the person/people

Then the letters page. Holy Cow, you really need to brace yourself.
They run four long letters all singing from the same delieriously mis-informed hymn sheet.

First up is “Carbon is a tiny factor”
James Harvey starts with a classic strawman argument – show me ANYONE who knows anything about climate who claims the it has always been stable. . But by “conceding” this non-point he create the illusion of being reasonable. And he then cashes those points.
Then the usual stuff about Earth’s orbit, extent of cloud cover, volcanic activity. Yep, all true.
Then “geological evidence shows that levels of carbon dioxide have not seemed to be influential.”
What evidence? He had space to cite some names of researchers so their articles could be tracked down. He didn’t. Also, we are in an unprecedented situation, doubling atmospheric C02 in 250 years, so history is at best an imperfect guide.
Then “many people don’t know the true levels of C02″ meme. Well, there’s lots that people don’t know that still is important.
Then the “only 0.038 percent of the atmosphere argument.” Sigh. A very thin rapier blade might only be about that amount of your weight, still kill you…
Carbon dioxide as a food source for plants. Gibberish and irrelevant.
“If C02 is not the culprit” – you’ve not proven (because you can’t) it. But the point is to be seen to be supporting a research agenda looking at “water and other gases produced in smaller quantities from burning fossil fuels are to blame.”

What we have here (I’ve not bothered to address all the points) is a Gish gallop– a series of illogical points and fallacious arguments, which would take a long long space to rebut, and the mere fact of doing that confers legitimacy on the nonsense that has been spouted.

Oh, and the final touch – putting the word Doctor in brackets – spurious argument from authority.
The thing is, this idiocy works. Even with my mother, who is nobody’s fool said it’s a “long, interesting letter and he’s a doctor.” He can be a doctor of whatever he likes, that’s entirely irrelevant. The ONLY thing that is relevant is has he recently had articles published in peer-reviewed journals that withstand scrutiny.

Footnote 1: The Gish Gallop is an informal name for a debating technique that involves drowning the opponent in such a torrent of half-truths, lies, and straw-man arguments that the opponent cannot possibly answer every falsehood that has been raised. Usually this results in many involuntary twitches in frustration as the opponent struggles just to decide where to start. It is named after creationism activist and professional debater Duane Gish.