maxcowan

Posts Tagged ‘fallacies’

What can a pile of rice lead you to think about?

In General Mish-Mash, Mixed Up Mish-Mash (Confusion) on April 24, 2012 at 1:40 am

The other day I received a link to this:

While I found it interesting, my interest was not really about the issue being addressed.

Come to think of it, it did not warm me up much one way or the other.

Why not?

I am not sure. But maybe its purpose seems confused: It probably won’t cause anyone to change their view on the issue.

  • There is not enough science (and too much polemic) to be scientifically enlightening.
  • There is not enough political or economic polemic to convince anyone to change their mind about the  imposition of a carbon tax on the Australian economy.

Or maybe it is that he starts with a fallacy – will come to this later – that made the rest of it underwhelming at best.

What I do find interesting is the reference Malcolm Roberts makes in the naming of his movement:

The Galileo Movement

It naturally conjures thoughts of scientific process & breakthrough.

It also raises the spectre of the political persecution of science and scientists. And it causes me to reflect on a fascinating moment in history  – a moment when the quests for truth, power, & faith engaged in an almighty wrestling match.

Galileo & Scientific Method versus Pope Urban VIII & Faith

Who would be the main players of such a wrestlemania if it were on the agenda today in Australia? Has Malcom Roberts has already started the casting of combatants.

The advocate for scientific truth played by … himself, of course. Hence his Galileo Movement.

And in the gold corner …  those holding the reins of power, not wanting to let go and who will do anything, even creating myth to help keep those reins securely in hand. Who could play Pope Urban VIII.

Bob Brown? Julia Gillard?

On appearances and demeanour, Bob Brown would make a great pope. I think gold would really suit him. But he has some attributes that the Vatican would find confronting.

(Aside: Tony Abbott would be a great candidate – looks, beliefs – my God!, even his name is in his favour. But, alas, the dramatis personae is being constructed through the eyes of Malcolm Roberts and Tony is on the wrong side of the political spectrum to be cast as the inquisitor of truth.)

That  leaves Julia. For Pope? Mmmm. Rome shudders – after all she is a “she” and thus not good enough for this hulkingly masculine role.

More about Pope Urban VIII:

In his pre-papal days he was Cardinal Barberini and he was a friend and supporter of Galileo. Even after he discarded the red robes of a Cardinal for the papal gold vestments, Galileo’s works received his official endorsement.

But the back-room boys were at work …

It wasn’t too long before the papal endorsement of Galileo’s works became an inquisition into Galileo’s heresy.

An earth shattering turn-around! Yes, at face value. Almost as earth shattering as suggesting the earth moves.

Earth shattering but not uncommon.

Pope Urban VIII (aka Cardinal Barberini) donned the robes of power and simultaneously adopted beliefs representing a full 180 degrees shift in thinking. The robe’s the thing to turn the conscience of a king.

Encouraging, urging, cajoling that shift were (I think) the senior Jesuits – it matters not who. They became the papal puppeteers, the faceless men, if you like.

The trappings of high office, can widen the flaws of a strong man and demolish the principles of the weak. We have seen it so often.

This excerpt from Joseph Losey’s marvellous film of Bertholt Brecht’s even more marvellous 1943 play Life of Galileo is a wonderful metaphor for such a transformation. Start this excerpt from about the 1m 20s mark – ah! what the hell, hire the film and watch the whole thing.

The resolve of the man sans regalia, is broken down as every layer of the Papal vestments is placed upon him. He starts with an emphatic “No, no, no!” He will not battle against science (Galileo). As the final layer is completed (the triregnum placed on the Popes head), the Inquisitor’s request to threaten Galileo has the Pope nodding his approval.

***

Back to Malcolm Roberts’ casting of the drama.

Julia has shown an affinity to Pope Urban VIII – a penchant for the 180 degree shift in belief, a sublime ability to satisfy controllers who shuffle in the shadows. Maybe the shuffling men in the smoke filled rooms of power were the creators of the now (in)famous Julia Jackets … and maybe they have the same impact as the triregnum. (That’s the Pope’s hat.)

So, in this modern battle, Julia gets the part of the infallible, but highly flexible even backflipping, protagonist.

Malcolm as Galileo?

mmm.

Galileo was no less prone than the Pope to alter his standing on the issues of his times. He backflipped as well – albeit under a different type of threat.

There are all sorts of drivers leveraging the behaviour of people (scientists – even Galielo – are people) and all sorts of reasons and reasoning underpinning their  beliefs. You cannot discount many influences at all.

Galileo recanted because the prevailing political paradigm was powerful enough to smother his potentially revolutionary – politically revolutionary – theses about what, in the heavens, moves and what doesn’t.

Is Malcolm Roberts movement driven by a political paradigm that gives direction to scientific discovery?

Probably … few of us would be immune.  And all too often, like a frog in water slowly being boiled, we are unaware of those paradigms until it is too late.

Knowing that both sides are prone to espouse beliefs coloured by paradigms, flaws, vulnerabilities, or threats, who should we trust? How can we trust any of them? Though trust we must.

When taking a retrospective look at the 17th Century combatants we have hindsight that says “Galileo was right and the Church was wrong” – I think the Church has recently admitted they were wrong!!!

The dilemma of the contemporaneous is that we have no real idea how to identify or recognise the truth – or, indeed, if truth even exits. Had there been modern communications channels back in the days when the dispute was about the Earth’s movements, I suspect the debate would have been just as divisive and polarising as the dispute about the Earth warming.

My personal position is that I don’t trust governments of any persuasion … but I must submit that they have access to more information than I. So they SHOULD be able to make more informed judgements than I. It is a tragedy that all to often their judgements seem … aaahh ! you know, I don’t need to continue.

With Malcolm Roberts – I have no concern about him suggesting the carbon tax is crap and unnecessary, I have no concern with him asserting the global warming is a myth, or that he ridicules people who believe warming is happening. he is perfectly right to make these claims … and make them passionately.

To the fallacy of the pile of rice …

But I do have a problem kicking his video off with a complete fallacy. He uses the weight of numbers of rice kernels to assert that man’s production of CO2 represents no worries.

In short, man’s CO2 contribution to Earth’s atmosphere is 1 in 85,800 units of air. He laughs – and it is quite a snide laugh – that anyone could think this could possibly be serious.

Well, Mr Malcolm “Galileo” Roberts … does that mean that something in the ration of 1 unit in 1,900,000 billion units is nothing to worry about … or something to sneer at. In other words it is in a ratio 20 BILLION times less than the man made CO2.

In still other words you need to have 20 billion similar piles of rice to make this picture and still just 1 single piece of rice is what is cited as a problem.

Could something so miniscule, so massively dominated, be a problem? Should we check it out … or just forget about it.

When BP screwed up the drill in the Gulf of Mexico it is estimated that some 780,ooo cubic metres of oil spewed into the sea. The total volume of the Earth’s oceans/seas is estimated at 1,500 billion cubic kilometres. (A cubic km equals a billion cubic metres – the estimate volume of seas on the Earth in cubic metres is therefore 1,500,000,000,000 billion.)

Would you sneer at BP’s mess? I don’t think you would, somehow.

So why sneer at something that has a presence 20 billion times greater? That is right man-made CO2 is 20 Billion times more prevalent than the oil spewed from BP’s Gulf of Mexico disaster.

Your use of rice piles doesn’t really support anything at all. If you want to be Galileo, you need to pick up your game … perhaps use feathers and cannonballs next time.

Nup … you can’t trust anyone these days. He should give up the science and “dook it out” in the politic ring with Julia and the faceless shufflers.

The lessons for me are:

1. Beware those who claim a mortgage on truth.
2. Snakes are not the only things that can change directions at lightning speed.
3. Snakes don’t engage in debate, discussion, or dialogue … nor do those who know the truth.
4. Puppets dance, while puppeteers remain hidden.
5. The weak, when they hold power are weakened further – but cause deeper, more serious problems.