House of CardsThere are arguments from reason. There are arguments from authority. There are arguments from emotion and there is a type of arguing which amounts to shouting the loudest. I call this last political, but that's just my name for it. I want to talk about arguments that are essentially a house of cards. These span the gamut of argument types from authority to political. They sound like arguments from reason until you start checking the facts. And then.... Well, unfortunately they don't just collapse. People believe them, people act on them, people build on them. The three pigs built houses, one of straw, one of sticks and one of bricks. It wasn't until the wolf came along that they discovered that the only one that would stand the breeze was the one made of bricks. These arguments show up most in the political arena. I'm not talking about those arguments where a reasonable person can find differences. I won't cite global warming as an example, because, althouth I think it is pretty much proved, there are still a few reasoned arguments against and what is less certain is what we can do about it. In some cases the passage of time shows the arguments wrong: neither the Malthusian nor the Club of Rome forecasts of overpopulation and starvation have proved out. You can find far left and far right advocates who will argue for all kinds of failed political systems, but they are forced to claim that previous trials were flawed. Sometimes the argument is made logically but it really has an emotional basis. Although I argue strongly for democracy, that's one case I have such a bias and have to watch myself. Sometimes the arguer isn't quite so honest and forthcoming even with themselves and then you have a problem. Where I have the most problem is with science deniers and pseudo science purveyors. And one of their arguments is that science is continually changing, tomorrow everything could be overturned. There's a fundamental misunderstanding of scientific progress; we say the Einstein overturned Newton and that is true, except in ordinary life you can't tell the difference. I did some calculations and the correction is about one billonth of a percent when you're flying in the space shuttle. I'm pretty sure there's no way you could tell that difference. Well, there is a way. GPS systems have to apply Einstein's corrections to get the last few feet of resolution; that's one of the more mundane ways we know Einstein is correct. As far as arguments go, I try to stick with bricks, not straw, sticks or cards. And it's hard to find a more solid brick than science.
14 Jul 2009
Copyright © 2009 Truck Smith