Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tu Quoque or John Quiggin Does the Dozens

Over at Crooked Timber (and on his own blog for the Southerners out there) John Quiggin disposes of the argument that left and right pick the science they like, an argument that the right tosses out like used preservatives

But, far more often their response takes the form of a tu quoque or, in the language of the schoolyard, “you’re another”. That is, they seek to argue that the left is just as tribalist and anti-science as the right. Favored examples of alleged left tribalism included any rhetoric directed at rightwing billionaires ( Murdoch, the Kochs and so on). The standard examples of alleged left anti-science are GMOs, nuclear power and anti-vaxerism, but it is also sometimes claimed that US Democrats are just as likely as Republicans to be creationists.
Allow Eli to restate his position on GMOs, he eats the shit, as does about everyone on God's green Earth.  More details about the position of the blog on GMO's can be found here, and might be summed up as go forward but be observant, which is also our position on nuclear.  As to the anti-vaxers, well, Eli will leave that to Respectful Insolence.

There is, in fact, rather useful research that shows that opposition to GMOs is spread across the political spectrum, and if anything, best correlates to sex (nononono ... not the absence thereof, but the fact that guys will shove any piece of pizza they can find into their mouths, women, not so much).

Quiggin points out that tu quoque, or as your mom put it, because your buddy does it, doesn't mean you have to be stupid.
 I’ll argue over the fold that these examples don’t work. What’s more important, though, is what the tu quoque argument says about those who deploy it, and their view of politics. The implied claim is that politics is inherently a matter of tribalism and emotion, and that there is no point in complaining about this. The only thing to do is to pick a side and stick to it. What passes for political argument is simply a matter of scoring debating points for your side and demolishing those of the others. So, anyone who uses tu quoque as a defence, rather than seeking to dissuade their own side from tribalist and anti-science rhetoric, deserves no more respect than the tribalists and science deniers themselves, who at least have the defence of ignorance.
Go read.


Hank Roberts said...

> go forward but be observant

Yup. That would be a welcome attitude if industry could maintain it too.

“Biologically rational decisions may not be politically possible once investment has occurred.”

Science 5 January 2007: Vol. 315 no. 5808 p. 45, DOI: 10.1126/science.1135767 Policy Forum SUSTAINABILITY
Anchovy Fishery Threat to Patagonian Ecosystem

Anonymous said...

Interested in this blogs position on GMO mossies - two sides:



Choose your poison...


Dan said...

This is only for Greece and the authors note that, but I thought their focus on political attitudes to globalisation was a good idea. They find a correlation between political view and GM attitude. Which I don't find surprising, having hung around anti-globalisation types a lot. Opposition to GM is a proxy for opposition to capitalism in these groups - though they don't see it that way. (This demographic also tends to be young and university educated).

So that's within a pretty small subset of the population, but so's the group who `oppose' climate change. Which is where I find the comparison useful and interesting. Not so much for what these two groups oppose but what they accept without necessarily thinking through.

For politics more broadly, I see Quiggin's point, but I don't think he's right to claim that believing "politics and ideology influence how we filter science" is synonymous with "politics is inherently a matter of tribalism and emotion, and that there is no point in complaining about this; the only thing to do is to pick a side and stick to it."


" there is no point in complaining about this; the only thing to do is to pick a side and stick to it."

Really? One can always pick up a stick and defend the proposition that the political neutrality of scientific institutuions must first exist in order to be respected.

Turboblocke said...

Allow Eli to restate his position on GMOs, he eats the shit, as does about everyone on God's green Earth. Really? Not in Europe.

Hank Roberts said...

Dan has misunderstood the excerpt from Quiggin posted above, thinking the "implied claim" Quiggin describes in order to criticize is what Quiggin said.

The "implied claim" that Quiggin is criticizing -- that one must join some political group -- is the mistake, as Russell has pointed out.

Quiggin's right: the people to (provisionally) trust are those -- of any political persuasion -- who are "seeking to dissuade their own side from tribalist and anti-science rhetoric" -- and do that first.

It's damned rare behavior, and rarely rewarding personally. So it goes.

This is why I have respect for a diverse and often mutually incompatible group of people I'd like to consider friends -- people who struggle with themselves, and with their compatriots, before going out to improve everyone else's thinking.

And ya know what? Feedback from those folks -- whose politics are all over the map -- is worth serious attention, because they make the effort so when they come to correct me, I can (provisionally) think they've probably thought the point through before bringing it up.

Hank Roberts said...

PS, an example from a while back of an old friend, a crop scientist, making a valiant effort to educate the "environmentalists" --

Anonymous said...

Well, the difference between the sexes when it comes to GMO pizza is easily pseudo-explained by appealing to our evolutionary heritage and the usual division of labor.

When you're running around the forest hunting wooly cave deer and dire sloths, you can't really afford to be picky about the provenance of those pizza slices you find along the way. Hunters need pepperoni for crucial calories, and they need it NOW!

Your gatherers, on the other hand, they spend all day in the pizzaria patches foraging. They can take their sweet time and exercise a little discrimination. In fact, to ensure that only the best gathering is done, they really need to get choosy about taking the best slices and leaving the rest to mature on the vine for a little longer. When you aren't chasing around those wily and voluminously-girthed sabre-toothed mastodons, quality over quantity is the metric to go for. Your clan is depending on those gathered pizzas for the bulk of their nutrients, so it pays dividends when you dare to compare.

(tongue firmly in cheek, next to a bite of warmed over frozen pizza)

Para a Posteridade e mais Além said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
old farths with silly ideas said...

are a common feature in all the scientific fields since the greek's and babilonians made scientific remarks

remark's or repound's or swiss francs

Quoque est veritas quod simplex in vino said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jeffrey Davis said...

My reading of Quiggin's remarks is that if you make tu quoque arguments then you've not only made an invalid argument you've also given the game away. You are essentially saying (in this instance) that yes, we disregard science but you do too. Now, even before you get to the point of proving the "you do too" by providing instance, verification, and relevance you've conceded the point. Tu Quoque, in this instance, is a political argument that boils down to: "So what? What are you going to do about it?"

What is to be done, indeed.

EliRabett said...

Can the fucking free association verse bunnies.

Hank Roberts said...


Semisovereign People at Large said...

you all have the defence of ignorance

or the fence of?

to fence with.....