Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Why not take the money from NASA?

This is based on an old post from just after the horrific geological event that was the boxing day tsunami. Guest contributor Alan R.M. Jones in the post Genuine Global Threat on Tim Blair’s blog pulled out the old false dilemma trick:

Yesterday, more than 14,000 people died due to the results of a regular - if infrequent - seismological event. Most of them could have been saved if the governments of the countries, where those people lost their lives and property, had spent a paltry sum of money to install a tsunami warning system such as exists among the Pacific Rim countries. Instead, Australians and Americans are lectured ad nauseam by the likes of [Bob] Carr about the consequences of a global warming. Millions of dollars is spent on research. Politicians travel to far-off places to gas on at UN conferences - spending millions more.

Why did he choose to pick on global warming? Why not NASA, or the Military? They tend to be favoured the most by other people who employ the false dilemma fallacy - the error of portraying one choice as necessarily excluding another, even though there is no necessary connection. Why can't governments have warning systems and research global warming? Where is the connection between the lecturing of Australians and Americans on the consequences of global warming and a tsunami warning system?

Another example: "They should solve world poverty before they try to put humans on Mars." While this may sound superficially plausible, the unstated and bizarre implication is that the advocate believes if money were not expended on a Mars expedition, it would be diverted to the alleviation of poverty. Okay…?

Jones implies that global warming is rubbish; ergo no money should be spent on researching it. Ironically, that attitude is one the governments of the countries affected by the tsunami had when it came to spending money on a warning system. The chance of a tsunami in the Indian Ocean was so small as to not warrant a warning system...