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Friday, June 30, 2006

Stand Up For Your Position!

When people are cowards or unable to offer a reasonable rebuttal to a point made on a topic, they often respond by questioning the motivations of the opponent or their looks or some irrelevant feature. I recently heard such comments when discussing matters such as gasoline prices, the Iraq War or tax cuts.

Recently, economist George Reisman was confronted by this tactic after he posted on the global warming issue. From Reisman's blog:

One of the very first replies to my posting of CO2 Science’s journal review "A 221-Year Temperature History of the Southwest Coast of Greenland" was this: "’CO2 Science’ is funded by Exxon. Come on, you guys are usually such independent thinkers—you can do better than rehash this stuff.” (The response was on the blog at the Mises Institute.)

The author of this statement believes that it is sufficient to name the economic affiliation of an individual or organization to be able to dismiss and ignore anything that comes from them. This was a tactic employed for generations by the Marxists. Instead of refuting the criticisms leveled against their doctrines by economists and others, they were content to identify critics as a member of the capitalist class or as having received financial support from capitalists. The Nazis had their own variant of the practice. They were content to identify their critics as Jewish or as somehow supported by Jews or otherwise affiliated with Jews. The devastating criticisms of socialism made by Mises were dismissed on both grounds.

Now, today, here is Exxon. I don’t even know that it is the source of funds for CO2 Science, or is the major or only source. But I’m willing to assume that it is. How does it follow from that, that whatever comes from CO2 Science, or from Exxon, on the subject of global warming and CO2 emissions is automatically false?

Ignoring the argument and attacking the opponent is the method of the coward. If you care to make a point, be ready to defend it on its merits.

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