Denialists’ Deck of Cards: The 3 of Spades, “Dolittle and DeLay”


At this point, the denalist engages in delay. The problem that doesn’t exist, and the harms that do not occur will continue not occur in the future, if we just wait.

A great “wait and see” tactic is to “shift the goal posts.” The denialist does by stating, “we don’t know that there is a problem until X is demonstrated.” The denialist will set unrealistic expectations for X, and if X is shown, it can easily be changed to Y. In the climate change debate, denialists claimed that we did not have enough historical information to make determinations about global temperatures. In 1998, Michael Mann’s research allowed scientists to view 1,000 years of temperature data. That wasn’t enough for the denialists. New advances enable a far deeper knowledge of global temperature, but with each new advance, denialists say it does not go far enough.

Another is to delay by calling for a study of the non-existent problem. I call this the Mustapha Mond option. In the California RFID debate, industry lobbyists argued against setting security and privacy standards, and instead suggested that a “study committee” be formed. This committee would produce a non-binding report with recommendations, some time in the future. The buys the industry time, and then allows a completely new debate over whether the study was proper.

Logical Fallacies

Almost everybody knows about the fallacies of logic, formal and informal, that are routinely used in arguments with denialists. While these fallacies aren’t perfect examples of logic that show when an argument is always wrong, they are good rules of thumb to tell when you’re listening to bunk, and if you listen to denialists you’ll hear plenty. I wish they’d teach these to high school students as a required part of their curriculum, but it probably would decrease the efficacy of advertisement on future consumers.

The problem comes when the denialists get a hold of the fallacies then accuse you, usually, of ad hominem! It goes like this.
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Denialists’ Deck of Cards: The 3 of Hearts, “No Harm”

Okay, my industry lobbyists in training. You’ve said “no problem” over and over. You’ve dismissed problems as attributable to bad apples, or diminished the problem as a “mere inconvenience.” But people still seem to think that the problem that doesn’t exist still exists. You’re getting more and more press calls on the non-existent problem. What next?

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Impossible expectations (and moving goalposts)

I’m sorry for mixing terminologies. But moving goalposts isn’t adequate to describe the full hilarity of the kinds of arguments denialists make. For instance, the goalposts never have to be moved when they require evidence that places them somewhere in the land before time. What I mean is the use, by denialists, of the absence of complete and absolute knowledge of a subject to prevent implementation of sound policies, or acceptance of an idea or a theory.

So while moving goalposts describes a way of continuing to avoid acceptance of a theory after scientists have obligingly provided additional evidence that was a stated requirement for belief, impossible expectations describes a way to make it impossible for scientists to ever prove anything to the satisfaction of the denialist. They’re related though so we’ll group both together.

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Ed Brayton Exposes Sal Cordova’s Cherry Picking

It was pointed out in a comment in our FRC post how much cherry picking resembles rank dishonesty.

That’s because it is. Deception is inherent in denialist arguments, and there are few better examples than Sal Cordova’s selective quotation as demonstrated by Ed Brayton in Dispatches from the Culture Wars.
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Denialists’ Deck of Cards: The 2 of Spades, “Mere Inconvenience”

Are you practicing the “no problem” hand? You know how it goes–“there’s no problem” (damn persnickety do gooders)! And even if people sometimes think that there is a problem, the problem that isn’t a problem is caused by bad apples. But it really isn’t even a problem.

i-73e8da0bce0cebef8eca34b7b2dc4657-2s.jpg It’s just a mere inconvenience! Therefore, there’s no problem! Remember this argument from the do-not-call debate on telemarketing? i-6c50acac1780b0bca2ca26938b76a298-3c.jpg

Epstein: FDA Deprives “Informed Patients” Choice in Care, But So Does the Market

Okay, I’m going to open a can of worms, and I’ll need the commentors to help me with this one.

Last week, Professor Richard Epstein of the University of Chicago School of Law published an oped in the Wall Street Journal. Epstein’s a charming fellow, and I like him, but I wouldn’t want to live in a world where he is in charge of things! Most of the article discusses pharmaceutical regulation and the changing winds in Congress. But he ends with this whopper, which isn’t really even related to his main argument, and exposes the Journal’s editorial excess:
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Fake Experts

You know who they are – those organizations that have words like “freedom” and “rights” “choice” and “consumer” in their names but always shill for corporate interests…those occasional MDs or engineers creationists find that will say evolution has nothing to do with science. They are the fake experts.

But how do we tell which experts are fake and which are real?
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