Williams errs about climate conclusions

Mr. Walter Williams’s column, “Our fragile planet?” in the December 14 & 15 edition of The Citizen was mostly factual — with one glaring inaccuracy. It was, as usual, well expressed. It was logical — until he drew an illogical conclusion and presented it with multiple logical fallacies.

First, I challenge his assertion that the 1815 eruption of the Tambora volcano “holds the record as the largest known volcanic eruption.” He left off a critical phrase: “in recent history.”

An eruption in what is now Yellowstone Park, some 620,000 years ago, was at least five times greater than the Tambora eruption. The eruptions that created the Deccan Traps (India) during the Cretaceous (some 60—68 million years ago) and those which created the Siberian Traps (northern Russia) some 250—251 million years ago) spread considerably larger amounts of lava than Tambora, although perhaps they were not as violent. There are other examples.

I agree with Mr. Williams that the human race has not yet created any event with the power of some that have occurred naturally.

However, Mr. Williams concludes, “It is the height of arrogance to think that mankind can make significant parametric changes in the earth or can match nature’s destructive forces.”

A “significant parametric change” can be anything Mr. Williams desires. It is an undefined term, and hence cannot be addressed in a fair discussion. It is an example of a logical fallacy, “argument by equivocation”: adding an innocent-seeming modifier to make a statement unassailable.

In the second place, by saying that humankind cannot “match nature’s destructive forces,” he commits the logical fallacy of “argument against the future”: because something has not happened, it never will happen. That humankind hasn’t created destruction on the scale of a major volcanic eruption, doesn’t mean we can’t or won’t, someday.

Finally, he unfairly combines two thoughts into one sentence, asking us to believe that because he has (sort of) demonstrated one, the other must be true.

He says that humankind cannot “match nature’s destructive forces” and implies but does not prove that therefore humankind cannot “make significant ... changes in the earth.” This is also a logical fallacy. I consider it a non-sequitur: reaching a conclusion on the basis of information that is entirely unrelated.

The matter of global climate change — which I believe to be the underlying subject of Mr. Williams’s column — has created division among us. There are facts that are unassailable; there are data, methods, and models that are difficult (but not impossible) to understand; there are conclusions that are debatable.

If we are to reach understanding, that debate needs to be honest. Debate that depends on logical fallacies is, in my opinion, not honest.

Paul Lentz
Peachtree City, Ga.

conditon55
conditon55's picture
Offline
Joined: 03/12/2010
Williams comments are devoid of value

Remember the iconic NASA photograph of the planet earth rising over the horizon of the moon. The earth is finite and bounded.

In 1492 when Columbus landed at Plymouth rock, Old growth forest stretched from the high water mark of the Atlantic ocean, unbroken to the great plains where millions of buffalo roamed at will and the passenger pigeon filled the skies of the American Midwest in flocks so great it would take them an hour to pass overhead.

The bison were driven to the brink of extinction, and the last known passenger pigeon died in a Cincinnati zoo in 1914 three years before the start of WWI. The old growth forest is gone, likely forever, as the land was cleared for short term profits and the forest that replaces it in places like GSMNP is a cheap substitute of the grandeur that was once there.

In 1770 when the industrial revolution there were 700 million people on Earth. Now there are 7 Billion. The is a order of magnitude of growth in just over 300 years.

Global warming is real. It is caused by injection of carbon dioxide and over greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by man, faster than nature can extract it.

If the current trends do not change drastically in short order, scenarios like the one called out in the 1960s Charelton Heston Movie, Solyent Green will become reality.

Remember the photo of the rising Earth, it is finite and bounded.

Is it the manifest destiny of mankind to leave it spent and barren antiseptic and sterile ? Because as goes the fate of mother Earth, so goes the fate of mankind.

The earth does not care about Walter Williams. he earth does not care about the politics or man. The Earth does not care about profits and loses. It is a natural system and for sure the fate of man is bound by that system.

If the idea is I trash the planet then figure out a way to move on so I do not need to worry about the clean up on this one is the wisdom of fools and baboons.I certainly do not want my fate and the fate of my planet decided by fools and buffoons drive by the profit motive. Because when the profits are spent, and the hangover sets in, the destruction remains, in perpetuity.

If I adopt the position that Climate change is bogus and I am wrong, then by the time I figure out the truth, Likely it is too late to save the planet as we know it and the cost to mankind in terms of economic and human suffering is beyond our current ability to comprehend it. The overall results can be potentially catastrophic.

If I adopt the position the climate change is real, and I act judiciously to address it, then I have some shot at preserving quality of life on the planet. If I am effective in my approach, then it is a matter of degrees in terms of the cost. The beauty of this approach, regardless of my politics, it is likely that everyone on Earth will benefit in terms of quality of life. For sure Coal and oil companies will be big economic losers. And that is a telling statement in terms of understanding columns like that of Walter Williams.

The question is, does the community of mankind have the wherewithal to advocate for the planet and the people and contrary to the short term economic interests of the oil and coal business ?

Can never happen? At one time , steam rail dominated the USA economy. Where is the stream rail road today ? It is a quaint excursion trip. But it is not a factor in the economies of the world, and so it need to go for oil and coal.

stranger than f...
stranger than fiction's picture
Offline
Joined: 06/27/2012
Columbus Never approached Plymouth Rock!

Condition 55 - Your knowledge of the history of Western civilization is devoid of accuracy. Italian explorer Christopher Columbus sailed to the Caribbean with financial backing of the Spanish in 1492. He never approached the Massachusetts coast.

When one begins a rebuttal with fiction, it renders subsequent comments suspect. If you wish to gain an audience, please employ some actual facts when you file a rebuttal. Otherwise, you'll be confused with Fox "news."

Spyglass
Spyglass's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/28/2008
This fellow has posted this before

He is clueless.

Recent Comments