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Why you should wash your dirty linen in public

Anthony Watts of the “climate sceptic” blog Watts Up With That republished this list by Roy W. Spencer: Top Ten Skeptical Arguments that Don’t Hold Water.

Not everyone agrees with his list. It seemed reasonable to many commenters, the great majority of whom appear to be fellow members of the anti-warmist camp, but there are apparently well-informed replies from those who disagree with individual entries or with the whole concept.

As propaganda, I thought it was terrific. To strip away the bad arguments put forward by one’s own side is to demonstrate that you think your main argument will survive the process. It shows yet more confidence to anticipate that the quality of debate in the comments will not let the side down.

What bad arguments have you come across for causes or contentions that you believe in?

14 comments to Why you should wash your dirty linen in public

  • David

    We received a UKIP Euro Election leaflet the other day which alleged that the European Court of Human Rights is an EU institution.

  • I believed the Iraq War needed to be fought, but the arguments put forward for it were utterly shambolic. Although to be fair, the reason these arguments were put forward was to try to shoehorn the entire process through the United Nations, so I can see why they were presented like that.

    And similarly, there were actually some very sound and sensible arguments that could have been made against the war. Alas, they were barely heard among the din of bullshit emanating from the anti-war crowd.

    I think that war will be forever remembered for the pathetic arguments presented by both sides.

  • I believed the Iraq War needed to be fought, but the arguments put forward for it were utterly shambolic.

    I totally agree… and so I said back in 2002

  • Lee Moore

    “We received a UKIP Euro Election leaflet the other day which alleged that the European Court of Human Rights is an EU institution.”

    Don’t worry, it will be.

  • Mr Ed

    Participation in and agreed to, judgments of the ECHR is mandatory for EU members, but the EU is not yet subject to the ECHR, how convenient.


  • Tedd

    I’ve never liked consequentialist arguments in favour of liberty. I think it’s quite likely true that more free societies are, in general, more economically prosperous and even (as Smith argued) more morally prosperous. But, for me, liberty is itself an ethical issue, requiring an ethical justification. Of course, if the arguer is him or herself a dedicated consequentialist then, for them, a consequentialist argument is an ethical argument, I suppose. But I’m not, so for me it isn’t.

    Regarding Watts’s article, I think it’s great. There’s little more frustrating that somebody advancing a poor argument in support of something there are good arguments for. I also appreciate the section on CO2 absorption bands, because I had the feeling from the get-go there was something wrong with that argument, but I didn’t know what.

  • I’ve never liked consequentialist arguments in favour of liberty.

    Nor have I but often… usually in fact… that is the only argument that it is possible to have.

    The moment you use the M-world (morality), people’s eyes unfocused and they start thinking about what they were supposed to get at the supermarket on the way home from work, because they are sure that none of this has anything to do with the real world.

    This realisation is probably why (a) I think it is always useful to have a consequentialist argument to make, even if that is not really why you think the things you do… and (b) I also don’t have an unachievably high threshold for when it just makes more sense to be pragmatic and shoot certain people when that is actually likely to improve things, given the realities of this funny old consequentialist world of ours.

  • Read James Allan on the Language of Liberty in Quadrant, for the consequentialist argument for liberty.

    As to arguments for my position that I disagree with, most of what I call the “three S’es Euroscepticism” drives me nuts: superstates, sovereignty and symbolism (ooh, the EU has a flag, and an anthem. So what?)

  • Tedd, Perry, if you’ll forgive a little self-promotion, I have something on this at Libertarian Home Morals and Markets

  • Tedd

    Agreed, Perry. That’s why I don’t find it interesting talking to a lot of people. Might just as well be making small talk about the weather.

    As to being pragmatic, I’ve managed to avoid actually shooting anyone so far. But there have been times…

  • Jason

    The argument that children should not be religiously indoctrinated until they are old enough to make up their own mind is very delicately balanced against the argument that parents must be free to rear their children the best way they see fit. I think people who strongly believe in one side or the other can appeal to a number of quite compelling principles to make their point and I am only very slightly in favour of one over the other.

    But Richard Dawkins’s crass assertion that a religious upbringing is a form of ‘child abuse’ is helpful to nobody; It suggests an intellectual crudity entirely at odds with the rest of his work and is so lacking in sincerity and taste – in that it trivialises a very serious issue – as to render the comment little more than a stupid distraction from the real issues at hand.

  • Lucis Ferre

    Tim wrote,

    “I believed the Iraq War needed to be fought, but the arguments put forward for it were utterly shambolic.”

    I assume you’re differentiating the War with Iraq from the Persian Gulf War. The ironic part is, we needed no additional reason (excuse) to “invade”, as Hussein signed a cease fire agreement during the PGW that acknowledged that we would leave him in power, (that was stupid since he was a dictator of the worst sort and had no legal standing), but only under the conditions that he recognized no fly zones, allowed for inspections of WMD’s, etc. Of course, he violated all these preconditions, which means, of course, that the US and UN et al should have followed up on their threat, to oust the dictator who routinely tortured and killed innocent civilians. Strangely enough, it seems that the def of WMD somehow changed as we had to prove that he had weapons other than those acknowledged he already had. Unfortunately, one can’t force people to be civilized though, as Bush assumed that people would hear about “democracy” (actually, democratic republicanism) and be instantly on board, and leave their tribalist tendencies by the curb. But alas, people have a natural inclination towards tribalism, as we can witness with the popularity of common idiocies like marxism and other forms of collectivism which do not recognize individual rights as their primary value.
    P.S. A brilliant little work on this line of thinking is The Roots of War, by Ayn Rand. ‘Enjoyable even if one is not an admirer of Ms Rand.

  • Lucis Ferre

    Jason, the problem, if we want to call it that, is that children are inculcatable little sponges until they reach the ‘age of reason’. The question then becomes, whose bullshit is the child going to absorb uncritically, their parents, the ‘tribes’, or the gov’s? ‘No easy answer to this one other than the need to default to individual rights and rights of parents to be free from coercion.