Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Schoolboy errors have taken over the world

I have discovered an incredibly sad and worrying situation while getting into discussions online. As a teacher there are a standard list of requirements to write a decent essay, and at all times those standards are applied to marking and gradually eliminated from the students, and in the end only present either due to a lack of ability or motivation. But they are required for O level upwards, and as most people around are educated to at least that level they have proved they are capable of sticking to those simple rules, the same rules which apply to life itself.

But in the last few years only, mainly in the field of climate for me as that is what I discuss a lot, but certainly not exclusively, I constantly come across people who present material which breaks any or all these rules, and then when challenged am usually responded to with personal attacks. The rules of scientific and logical enquiry are very old and universal. Without them people are simply making it up and hoping people will believe them, while the facts remain the same regardless. The greatest sin of all is induction, extending from specific examples, while operating the remainder which all should not even be repeated more than once if pointed out in a sane person:

Irrelevant examples
Appeals to authority
Diverting the subject
Attacking the source while not referring to the material
Making statements without the required facts

Had I thought of it I could have saved every one from the last few years, as an example to all of how it is done, but unfortunately most days more arrive as examples you can extend from, as I already know they do represent a far greater number. But typically they look directly at the relayer of the message before the message itself, whether the organisation or the individual, and if approved then regardless of the material it must be right, and vice versa. This implies a total inability to think for themselves and question what they are told directly. Non-sequiturs are random unrelated replies, which I'm sure most people think at the time are connected in some way, but only indicates the confused ways they are thinking. Providing similar areas but entirely irrelevant is a typical student error, where they think as it's about the same sort of thing it must be right, is the same thing that happens in court when people can throw anything at the examiner regardless of how specific it is to the actual question. For example, the number of times people repeat the fact that tobacco companies spent decades hiding the dangers of smoking when trying to smear the reputation of a totally unconnected report, as if it means any company since who is questioning the status quo can't be trusted, is both irrelevant and using induction. Also it is not comparing like with like as we already know for certain smoking is dangerous, and the companies trying to hide it did as well, while the UN itself admit any major effects from global warming wouldn't happen for decades ahead at the vey minimum, so using every mistake on top of the other to simply try and sweep away a challenge without actually challenging it directly.

Induction can be used in a single example, which has its own term, precedent. This means if something proves it's possible once, like exceeding the speed of light or reaching a new record, then it can be extended. But in no other areas besides that. When the related meme that anyone questioning global warming must be part of the big oil conspiracy they are ignorant of the details, as big oil is a huge sponsor of climate research as it creates artificial shortages and huge extra subsidies. You can look at the funding of various climate PR organisations and the Climate Research Unit itself and they are paid by Shell, BP, Total and the rest, which removes any doubt from the situation.
I do not know either the cause or solution to this very new problem. Unless they really are releasing something into the environment which softens most people's brains I can't understand how people who proved they can deal with these things adequately at school and college have now regressed to babyhood. But the politicians and businesses know it as well, and direct their propaganda to these failings directly, knowing the minority of people immune to their toxins and able to both think for themselves and work things out directly before checking rather than vice versa are not sufficient to beat the masses. As an ex teacher I had to spend years ploughing through essays, and never saw these errors very often, and when picked up the students were only too willing to remedy them, as it was in their own direct interests. Now they have finished their exams and their interests have changed, it seems they have left their brains back at school, and the world will eat them and everyone else alive if they don't collect them soon.

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