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.
— Patrick Moore (@EcoSenseNow) June 1, 2015