Evasive Tactics In Arguments You're Hopelessly Losing Part I

>> Saturday, October 17, 2009

Via Plumer, Stephen Dubner's attempt to preempt the many critics of their global warming arguments contains two classic approaches:

We have a chapter in SuperFreakonomics about global warming and it too will likely produce a lot of shouting, name-calling, and accusations ranging from idiocy to venality. It is curious that the global-warming arena is so rife with shrillness and ridicule. Where does this shrillness come from? Some say that left-leaning activists have merely borrowed their right-leaning competitors from years past.
Note the two key elements:

  • Vagueness. Try to avoid naming specific critics, and certainly avoid citing their actual arguments.
  • Criticize tone, not substance. It's kind of amazing to see the "Paul Krugman is teh shrill!!!!" style of argument at this late date, but here we are, complete with the more-in-sorrow-than-anger decrying of the lack of civility (cf. also Clive Crook.)

When you say that your critics are shrill rather than explaining why they're wrong, it's a pretty clear sign that you've got nothing.


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