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Prominent philosopher commits global warming fallacy

This post was supposed to be titled, “Conference Report: Day 1,” because I intended to give a blow-by-blow of the American Meteorological Society meeting which started yesterday here in New Orleans. But since I spent the day slowing dying in my hotel room, I have nothing I wish to report. I only missed the opening ceremonies, however. This is some loss, but not a big one; these introductory speeches usually have something worth teasing. Anyway, today I find I am still alive, and can go to the actual talks.

This one has been making its way around the net: original post. It is a story about the University of Amsterdam philosopher Marc Davidson who has written a peer-reviewed paper which claims that people who “deny” that global warming is catastrophic are just the same as those people who defended slavery! Yes: the full dull academic title of this pearl of an argument is “Parallels in reactionary argumentation in the US congressional debates on the abolition of slavery and the Kyoto Protocol.”

It seems that some U.S. Congressperson, about 200 years ago, said something stupid along the lines of “if we get rid of slavery, we will lose too much money.” The parallel that Davidson found, to his horror, is that some modern politicians are saying something like, “Punitive laws and tariffs to reduce CO2 may be unnecessarily costly and premature.” To Davidson, this only meant one thing: scientist-hating lynch mobs were just around the corner.

No, he didn’t actually say “lynch mobs”, but his hint is sufficiently strong.

My careful readers will have noticed, however, that Davidson, despite his prestigious academic pedigree, has committed the logical fallacy of the idiotic argument. This has an official Latin name, as all fallacies do–something like fatuus headus argumentum—but I can’t recall the exact phrase. Because, of course, to say that because some nincompoop once incorrectly applied an argument from economics, all future arguments based on economics imply sympathy with slavery.

Think about that the next time you clip coupons: just don’t say you are doing it to save money, because that is an economic argument.

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