William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

The I-Must-Be-Right-Because-I-Can’t-Think-Of-Another-Reason Fallacy

14781880354_552bec393f_b

The I-Must-Be-Right-Because-I-Can’t-Think-Of-Another-Reason—or IMBRBICTOAR, pronounced, in Latin, im-bri-bictor—has always been with us, but its use has latterly accelerated because of our culture’s fascination with self-esteem.

Schools and universities in the West are turning out self-assured ignorant sniveling over-rewarded-and-awarded twits at rates heretofore thought impossible. The consequence, besides our inevitable doom and destruction, is that an accelerating proportion of the population is surer of themselves than ever while knowing less.

The im-bri-bictor is found everywhere. It is heard whenever somebody says, “What else could explain it?” or “I can’t think of any other reason than X” or “There can’t be any other possible explanation but this one” and the like. This (informal) fallacy is what allows convictions based on scanty circumstantial evidence. It is how the self-credentialed and deluded rabble (journalists and academics, mostly) convince themselves they are in possession of the truth.

Before I give a practical example, don’t confuse the IMBRBICTOAR with the Who-The-Hell-Are-You-To-Question-Me? fallacy, which is routinely invoked by arrogant SOBs who have reached the top of their fields, men who either don’t want to be pestered or who have for too long believed their own press.

So, this person, who has proudly given himself the idiotic label “SninkyPoo”, writes in the radical Daily Kos:

What I don’t understand about Willie Soon and any other “scientist” who sets aside his or her intellectual integrity for cash…

What completely baffles me is how that [oil money] influences his research – if he is really a scientist. If he is really a scientist, and the evidence clearly shows that climate change is being caused (or influenced, or goosed, or forced) by human activities including massive use of fossil fuels, then how can he reach the opposite conclusion?

Now SnikyPoo is, by his own admission, baffled. But given he offers his own solution to his own imaginary predicament, this bafflement is only pretended intellectual humility, a form of “humble bragging”, a rhetorical trick that (if you can believe is) actually works, but only in minds that have no natural resistance to bad ideas.

Anyway, Mr Poo asks this conditional: if it is true that climate change is caused by man, how can a scientist claim climate change is not caused by man? There is nothing wrong with this conditional question. The fallacy enters when Mr Poo says (in effect): I can think of no other reasons than corruption or (he says later) reliance on “ideological filters” which insist man cannot cause climate change, therefore there are no other reasons.

It is a fallacy because there are many other ways for a scientist to conclude that man does not have climatological influence, even if it is true man does cause climate change. It could be that the scientist is ignorant of the basics of his field, which certainly isn’t true in Soon’s case (he is a pal of mine, as regular readers know). The scientist may have been misinformed (again not true in Soon’s case). Or it could be that evidence has not been sufficient to conclude mankind’s influence is certain.

Even the last is not true; indeed the opposite is. There has been plentiful and sufficient evidence to conclude that mankind’s influence, while certainly present, is not as large or as dangerous as Mr Poo implies (hopes?). Yet that Mr Poo argues fallaciously and in ignorance cannot be much of a surprise.

Mr Poo also attempts to taint Soon with racism:

In Stephen Jay Gould’s excellent book “The Mismeasure of Man” he discusses the 19th century “science” on race that led to incorrect – and horrifying – conclusions about differences in intelligence among the human races. Mismeasuring – misrepresenting – confirmation bias – the book is full of fascinating examples of scientists who massaged their data to “prove” what they already believed.

And I get that. But at the time that work was being done, pretty much everyone believed that there were differences among races that included differences in intelligence and aptitude. Those beliefs were WRONG. Stark, staring, ravingly MADLY wrong. But that was majority opinion. So confirmation bias and massaging of data makes more sense at that time and in that context.

So, as admitted by Mr Poo, sometimes confirmation bias is excusable, or at least understandable. (And he really should have picked a better example than Gould’s failed, ideologically driven book.) This is why Mr Poo dismisses confirmation bias as an account for Soon’s science and instead concludes Soon, and other scientists who do not agree with Mr Poo’s own preconceived notions, are “absolutely disgusting and wicked.”

I remind you that SnikyPoo and his readers are voters in this great democracy of ours.

Update Apropos:

43 Comments

  1. Mr. Poo could well be a Ms. Poo.

  2. Sninky or Stinky? Was that name half the reason for this post? 😉

    Kahneman attributes IMBRBICTOAR to the human mind 1) needing to make a decision, 2) being too lazy to engage System II’s rational but arduous labor, and 3) being ready, willing, and able to let emotional and quick System I come up with an answer. The answer may be wrong, but that usually doesn’t matter. If the answer is right, System I gets you outta there fast before the tiger eats you. Overall, a winning strategy. So it becomes a habit and in the intellectual games IMBRBICTOAR is reinforced by vanity and group affinity factors. So yes, it’s always been with us and if not greater than before, at least more observable.

  3. Briggs

    June 1, 2015 at 9:46 am

    Katie,

    The mind boggles.

  4. Ye Olde Statistician

    June 1, 2015 at 9:48 am

    Or, if using a nom de internet, a sham poo.

  5. IMBRBICTOAR sounds like a form of confirmation bias of which Ms Poo is clearly a victim (more likely guilty of).

  6. “But that was majority opinion. So confirmation bias and massaging of data makes more sense at that time and in that context.”

    How was then any different from now? I’m not seeing how this can possibly be helpful to Mr/Ms Poo’s case. The only way it could is the “We’re so much smarter now” claim, which is obviously fallacious also.

  7. Ye Olde Statistician

    June 1, 2015 at 10:29 am

    “But that was majority opinion. So confirmation bias and massaging of data makes more sense at that time and in that context.”

    Perhaps he is a crypto-denialist. If he claims that majority opinion favors AGW, then he concludes that “confirmation bias and massaging of data makes more sense” for the AGWers. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot meter!

  8. A related fallacy is “I must be right because scientific associations say so”, IMBRSASS, which can also be read “I’m a bad rude sad ass”. When will people learn that science isn’t determined by majority vote? (rhetorical question to which the answer is: when education in science is based on the history and philosophy of science, not solving billiard ball or ideal gas problems.)

  9. Bob, it won’t work, otherwise historians would be the most rational people around rather than the socialist useful idiots that most are. The following is what they will learn from history.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-fossil-fuel-industrys-campaign-to-mislead-the-american-people/2015/05/29/04a2c448-0574-11e5-8bda-c7b4e9a8f7ac_story.html

    Let’s hope Briggs that this is not the next stage.

  10. Scotian:

    You can’t get to the article

    It must really be tearing up the WWW

    No matter how I try to access, I get “The page isn’t redirecting properly”
    or
    “This page can’t be displayed”

    I even tried from the “POST” itself – couldn’t get there.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-fossil-fuel-industrys-campaign-to-mislead-the-american-people/2015/05/29/04a2c448-0574-11e5-8bda-c7b4e9a8f7ac_story.html

  11. @J.B.

    The link works for me, as does your link. Try this summary:

    http://overlawyered.com/2015/05/sen-whitehouse-urges-rico-suit-against-climate-wrongthink/

  12. “But at the time that work was being done, pretty much everyone believed that there were differences among races that included differences in intelligence and aptitude. Those beliefs were WRONG. Stark, staring, ravingly MADLY wrong.”

    http://web.archive.org/web/20150404205305/https://occidentalascent.wordpress.com/2012/06/10/the-facts-that-need-to-be-explained/

  13. Does anyone ever realize that claiming the tobacco industry or the fossil fuel industry is running a well-funded campaign that is damaging the government version of science “facts” is admitting the government is basically weak and powerless? Really, if oil companies are more persuasive than Obama and Kerry, that would mean these two are losers who can’t convince people of their ideas. I am amazed at the constant admissions of incompetence and weakness that comes out of this administration. Daily.

  14. I just don’t see the downsides to changing our energy infrastructure. You guys are just sycophants (or essentially employees, in Sheri’s case) of the fossil fuel companies.

    JMJ

  15. Sheri,
    No, nobody realizes the obvious.

  16. Gary—Yeah…..unfortunately.

    JMJ: So if I was employed by the state government (which I was) then I would okay? What about when I was a nanny? Or maybe when I worked for an insurance company? Or when I worked in social work? Did my beliefs just cycle through whatever employer I had? Seriously, I’m not a liberal so that’s not the case. I can see where liberals would find that confusing, however, since their beliefs do seem to cycle through their employment or government handouts, whatever the case may be.

  17. JMJ,
    I’m thinking that most of the people that frequent this blog would welcome more nuclear energy. Does that apply to you too?

  18. What amazes me about leftist arguments–those in the cited post and comments from, for example, JMJ–is that they seem to want to score debating points rather than find the truth… I don’t understand that. I’ve changed my viewpoint from a liberal Democrat, thinking there might be something to AGW, to a conservative (no party), finding the scientific arguments of Seitz, Lindzen, and Briggs (bow to the OP) convincing. There doesn’t seem to be a willingness on the part of leftist/liberals to examine evidence and logical arguments with an open mind.
    It reminds of the response my wife made to a plea from my daughter for funding for her community action organization (which followed Alinskyite principals): “When I (my wife) married your father he was Jewish, a liberal and a democrat; he is now Catholic, a conservative and a Republican–don’t ask again.”
    (And no, I didn’t change my views to please my wife.)

  19. Bob—Love your wife’s answer!

  20. It is easy to see that this fallacy is used by both side depending on the subject.

    Anti-gay and anti-abortion are using this fallacy on the conservative side.

  21. Diane Taylor (Mrs) (M.Phil)

    June 1, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    ,” but its use has latterly accelerated because of our culture’s fascination with self-esteem. ”
    May I suggest William that your statement above hits the nail on the head as to irrational statements. Harmful education started in USA & spread worldwide has led to inability for many (but not all of course) to reason properly. Method known as Values Clarification – psychotherapy in the classroom – as been most successful since the 1970s.

  22. Bob,

    It is very rare that people will change their mind.

    Reagan was extremely conservative in 1980s at an advanced age, and now he would be a moderate republican, who would be despised by the party’s conservative.

    While you were probably a centrist, but since everything in the USA as moved to the right you are now a conservatives.

    On another note, I hope that by now you have realized that the Sephardic Jews were expelled from Spain in th 1400s and settled in Arabic countries. If not you understand very little of your people history.

  23. IMBRBICTOAR – corollary: ICTOARSYMBW, i.e. I can’t think of any reason so you must be wrong.

  24. So now you can stop with your Aquinas series, which is a very severe case of IMBRBICTOAR

  25. Interesting comments. What does this say about the fallacy and those commenting on it? Just saying…..

  26. Sylvain, when I think of Sephardic, I think of Cardozo, de Silva, Levy, Spinoza, Ricardo, Disraeli, Seixas de Pool, Montefiore, Judah P. Benjamin, Modigliani, Picciotto (an Itallan Sephardim I knew at Caltech), Coppens (a Dutch Sephardim, a colleague at SUNY) and all the Western Sephardim… see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sephardi_Jews
    You can do your classification of Sephardim for your ideological purpose and I’ll do mine.

  27. Bob,

    From your own link:

    “Following the 1492 edict of expulsion from Spain, Sephardic Jews settled mainly in the Ottoman Empire (primarily in the provinces of Balkans Anatolia and Ottoman North Africa), Morocco and Algeria, and other areas of Middle East, like Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran.”

    It’s funny that I’m the only one with an ideology and not you too.

  28. “I just don’t see the downsides to changing our energy infrastructure.”

    JMJ has switched out the internal combustion engine in his car for hamsters running on exercise wheels. The reason why he is unaware of a downside is that he hasn’t had to drive anywhere yet.

  29. As a point of historical reference, the reason why every uneducated activist repeats the argument from ignorance fallacy is that this is the actual argument propounded by Gavin Schmidt. (Irrespective of whether a claim is true or false, using fallacious arguments in presenting the claim is unhelpful.)

  30. “I just don’t see the downsides to changing our energy infrastructure.”

    Nuclear is the only possible option that could keep our lives going without extreme hardship, probable internal wars, famine, starvation, etc. I see a huge downside to any option other than nuclear. In fact, I see the exact same result the alleged global warming advocates claim to want to avoid.

  31. I don’t see a downside to me helping to fly the Airbus A380 on my next holiday. The reason why I don’t see a downside is because I’m a complete ignoramus about what’s involved in flying large commercial passenger jets.

  32. Sylvain, Holland, Italy, the U.S. are Arabic countries?

  33. Or maybe that’s your wishful thinking for the future.

  34. And North Africa Morocco, Algeria, Middle East, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Iraq, are western countries.

    At the moment of expulsion they went to North African county and had large community. Some people from these communities moved some centuries later to Netherland, and America among others. Well after the end of the inquisition, who’s convert Jewish to Christianity were amongst the target.

    Their as not been any exodus from the U.S. And Western Europe Jews toward Israel. While Sephardic Jews that were expelled from Iberia and settled in Arabic countries. They were then expelled again with a certain help from Israel to Israel.

  35. “Or maybe that’s your wishful thinking for the future.”

    What would be you reaction if Chinese people bought large parcel of land about 8.000 square miles in the USA and suddenly decided that this land was not part of the USA but instead it was a new country named China west?

    This is exactly what happened in Palestine.

  36. That’s why American Indians are constantly firing rockets from their reservations into the continental united states.

    My reaction would be not to care. Because I’m an individual, and an adult, not a state. Any country with a reasonably robust democratic system is as good as any other country with a reasonably robust democratic system, and vastly superior to a country composed of a particular religious or racial composition. This is why as an old school liberal I am so contemptuous of the modern left. They pander to every racial, religious and nationalist prejudice that the original liberals rejected on rational and humanist grounds.

  37. Katie, bless her heart, is wrong this time. S. Poo is definitely a male. Indeed, by careful deconstruction of his essay, with attention to vocabulary, idiom, phrasing, emotional content, etc., we can surmise a number of his characteristics.

    S. Poo is an American male, age 17 to 23, unmarried, possibly gay, with some college (could be a student now) or perhaps with a BA in socialism or other liberal art, no real job, no useful training for any job unless you count video gaming, probably living at one or the other of his parents’ (they’re divorced) houses or garages, or in a crappy apartment he shares with others of his ilk and predicament.

    S. Poo is a coprophile, a monkey in a cage throwing his faeces at onlookers. No wonder he hides his real identity. Also he is a “recreational” drug user and has “good” reasons to remain anonymous.

    S. Poo is an avowed atheist, but deep in his heart he fears God. He also fears his fellow man, and roots his core beliefs in dysanthropy: the hatred of humanity in general, which is what he has been endlessly taught in crappy public schools, (all humanity is to blame for his troubles, excepting his erstwhile “friends” whom he loves today, a local tribe of Marxist true believers like himself, though his cadre is already disaggregating as real life intrudes).

    But he’ll grow up someday. God willing.

    My advice to the young man is to give up the anonymous commentary non-job and instead do something with his hands, something physical and outdoors, like yard maintenance, fruit picking, or tree planting, and maybe work up to masonry, carpentry, logging, or salmon fishing if he has the grit.

    Put your body into it, S. Your mind is weak; let your back be strong.

  38. @Uncle Mike

    Not bad, but a little too much projection there, I fear.

  39. davideisenstadt

    June 2, 2015 at 6:16 am

    syvain:
    there have been jews living in what you call (and the brits of all people named palestine) for thousands of years, long before muhamed was even but a nightmare.
    Thousands of years sylvain.
    Jews lived in yemen, what is now Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Egypt, along with coptic christians, catholics and other non muslims for thousands of years before islam, these people BTW, are just now seeing what its like to be driven from one’s homeland by a group pf religiously motivated interlopers, islamic people.

  40. People need to grow out of this “homeland” nonsense. Humans no longer live as hunter gathers. People immigrate all the time to places where they can obtain a decent standard of living. Or move from one state or country to pursue employment opportunities and lifestyle choices. When Westerners talk about the “rights” of [primitive peoples] to “homelands” they are indulging in the worst kinds of patronizing condescension.

  41. JMJ ST….
    I am syco of your phantom-asm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*

© 2016 William M. Briggs

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑