Tuesday, April 1, 2008

How Islamo-crazed and Gore-deranged is the Right? Frank Gaffney demonstrates

For an eerie look at just how Islamo-crazed the Right is becoming, how completely out of proportion their concerns are, take a look at this column on Townhall by Frank Gaffney. In it, he pushes the highly dubious (and that's putting it kindly) notion that Islam is more of a threat to humanity than is global warming. It is quite a fallacy smorgasbord, so let's dive right in. Gaffney can't even get one sentence out without going off the logic rails:

"So Al Gore is launching a 3-year, $300 million ad campaign to frighten us all into doing what he says (not what he does) to counter global warming."

So many flaws in so few words. First of all, Al Gore's personal habits are completely irrelevant to a discussion of whether Anthropocentric Global Warming (AGW) is real, and what should be done about it. This conservative obsession with Al Gore as a person, in lieu of the science of the issue, is a basic logical fallacy (ad hominem) and borders on childish. How old are these people that think the retort of "Gore is a big poopyhead!" is relevant in science? AGW is either true or not, regardless of whether Gore is Satan or a saint.

Worse yet, the antigores can't even be bothered to get the facts (I know, and in other news, dog bites man). Al Gore has made significant alterations to his home and the homes of family members, and also makes an effort to buy "Green" energy. If every person in the world put the same effort into their personal lives to combat AGW as he has, the problem would be considerably lessened.

Completing the double fallacy of ignoring both logic and facts, Gaffney can't even see the blatantly obvious: Al Gore is spending $300 million on this issue. Three hundred million dollars. I would think a Republican who is supposed to be a staunch proponent of capitalism would recognize that putting one's money where one's mouth is, is just about the most credibility-inducing thing one can do. Just what does Gaffney want Gore to do that makes a $300M donation insignificant? Does he REALLY think the kind of house Gore lives in means more?

And right out of the chute we get the intellectually dishonest spinning by Gaffney using the verb "frighten" to describe what Al Gore is doing, instead of a more objective term like "persuade". The ad clips I've seen aren't frightening at all. The odd-coupled ads (Al Sharpton and Pat Robertson, Nancy Pelosi and Newt Gingrich, etc. ) seem aimed at dissuading people (like Gaffney) of the notion that this is a political issue to be decided by the usual football-team cheering sides, instead of a scientific issue that needs to be solved in a very unified way. I can see he has a long way to go on that score, and his scientific acumen isn't much better:

"While there remain serious disagreements about the scientific merits of the Gore crusade, one thing is clear: If man-made greenhouse gases actually are affecting climate change, it will be decades – if not a century – before the effects of such changes translate into widespread dangers to mankind."

No sir, there are no serious scientific disagreements about AGW. 100% of the worldwide scientific organizations who have issued public statements on the issue agree that AGW is real. Now they could be wrong, but it is simply a lie to say that they are in disagreement. And sure there are cranks who cherry-pick data on a field outside their own areas of expertise, and constantly move the goalposts (increasing the difficulty of the evidenciary challenge when a previous challenge was passed), like what the anti-evolution crowd does, but so what? Then is a reason such epistemology is rejected by the scientific community: It doesn't work worth a shit. It allows cranks of all sorts to hang onto flawed hypotheses in the face of overwhelming evidence. Gaffney and his crew are Exhibit A.

Gaffney's entire argument here is an example another bad habit of anti-science cranks: the selective use of scientific sources. I call this "The Warren Commission Fallacy", because JFK conspiracy buffs were the first people I noticed doing this consistently. If the facts in evidence lead to a nonconspiratorial conclusion, then they are in error. But any fact that jibes with your conspiracy is beyond dispute. Gaffney is guilty of the same thing, for the scientists that have made estimates of the time when AGW's effects will kill us all are the very same scientists that Gaffney argues aren't correct about AGW in the fist place! So they are right if they agree with you and wrong if they don't? If mankind's best and brightest thought like that througout history we'd all still be living in caves wondering if rocks were edible.

In any case, Gaffney is playing the old "More Important Issue" gambit. This is done by poo-pooing someone's activism of choice as invalid because it deals with an issue that is not THE most important issue. It is an old and silly argument, akin to telling veterinarians that they should all quit and become human doctors until no child suffers again. So what is this threat to humanity that is so huge it makes AGW a nonissue? ISLAMFACISM!

"In the meantime, the world is increasingly at risk from a far more imminent threat, one Mr. Gore and his ilk seem content to ignore. In fact, the caviling about global warming can be seen as a deflection from a menace that is at hand and that risks turning vast human populations into endangered species: the rapidly metastasizing, totalitarian ideology of our time that has come to be known as Islamofascism or, alternatively, Islamism. "

This particular derangement is really starting to get on my nerves. Is Gaffney serious? A political upheaval (granted, an unpleasant one from my decidedly atheistic, scientific, Western POV) is more of a threat to humanity than destroying/altering an entire ecosystem? What sort of Kool Aid are they serving at Republican functions these days that people can spout, nay THINK, such rubbish and not be intellectually shunned, if not laughed at out loud? Has it become the Gullible Old Party?

Even if the Muslims got their wish (about as likely as my wish that Jessica Simpson would show up in my Easter basket) and wiped out or converted all non-Muslims, that would still fall short of the potential damage global warming could do by orders of magnitude. There would still be humanity, and quite a lot of it if current Muslim birthrates hold. And they want to claim this is more of a concern than a 20 foot rise in the ocean?

And let's not forget once again that people use the method of terrorism when they lack the power to use more effective methods of conquest. The Islamic groups we are currently battling lack the ability to take us over the way the Communists and Nazis could have. And they certainly lack the ability to wipe out the rest of us, regardless of how badly their twisted little minds want to. So Gaffney and everyone else out there that considers Islamofascism a threat on a par with global warming, Communism, or the real Fascism, is simply out of touch with reality. Sure Islamofascism, if I may elevate the term for a moment, represents a threat to our way of life. Global warming is a threat to life, period. There can be no comparison.

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