Monday, June 18, 2007

Two kinds of arguments

Ladies and gentlemen, presenting to you, the Argument by Assertion. (Emphasis mine)

I used to tell them that the inherent “inconclusiveness property” of science doesn’t apply to my theory because free market fundamentalists are not so complicated like nature. I used to tell them that free market fundamentalists are “trivially simple” and there is only one property that defines them (unlike nature where you need to consider several parameters). This property is their stupidity. So, as I used to tell them, the essential “inconclusiveness property” of science need not apply to my theory about them. Today I came across an article by Czech Republic President, Vaclav Klaus, on Financial Times

The dictates of political correctness are strict and only one permitted truth, not for the first time in human history, is imposed on us. Everything else is denounced.
The scientists should help us and take into consideration the political effects of their scientific opinions. They have an obligation to declare their political and value assumptions and how much they have affected their selection and interpretation of scientific evidence.

Here you go guys and gals, reading this blog, this is (yet)^(infinity)th proof of the inherent stupidity of free market fundamentalists.

Decoded, this paragraph reads as follows.

I used to tell them I was right. So, as I used to tell them I was right. Today, I came across a POV that disagrees with mine. This is clear proof that I am right. I am right. Because I am right. So, I am right. You are wrong. Hence, I am right.

Also, presenting, the Argument from Ignorance. (Emphasis original)

I don’t know much about economics but even I know that you cannot make cross border comparisons of GDP because it doesn’t account for the local differences in the quality of food and other stuff (Update: lemme add here that it is true even with PPP considerations). Also, it is a known fact that India’s overpopulation is a big reason for the poor economic growth (refer to Thomas Malthus on this topic).

Yes, and hence we cannot conclude that the US is more prosperous than India because you know, cross border comparisons of GDP are not possible, because of differences in quality of food and stuff. I had heard of the phrase that every living man is the slave of some dead economist. I never knew that dead doomsday economists would however be invoked to assert that 1+1 is actually 2.

I have now re-decided. No more fisking, even. Unless it's on a matter of science, where this man presumably knows something at least.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Of Free Speech & Bloggers

A very lazy vacation has meant some heavy philosophical theorising, and some blog-debates tht can only be considered splitting dead hairs (Don't tell me that I'm mixing metaphors, I know what I'm writing). For the benefit of the uninitiated, a short recap, in the order of chronology.

It began in all seriousness, with blogger no.1 calling the events in Baroda fascism, using the Wikipedia description of the term.

Sandeep naturally took offence, and took the fight to him. He replied with a post questioning Amit's choice of terms, and also the basic logic behind his(Amit's) criticism of the Baroda events. A lively discussion ensued in the comments section.

As that discussion was getting a little overlong, Sandeep continued that debate on another post of his blog. Here, crash- bang- drumroll, yours truly made an entry. Proving that we're all argumentative Indians, that debate reached 144 comments. Yessir, a dozen dozens. And it had already acquired philosophical nuances, with people questioning the basic notions of free speech and of freedom itself.

Gaurav then riled about how people should stop mangling quotes from his fave comic book. (Dude, Spidey? Seriously? ) He also did a little pattern finding, and found similiarities between Sandeep and D-cube.

D-cube then joined the fray, using the crutches of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes who had once declared that freedom of speech did not include the right to scream fire in a crowded theatre. There was some action in the comments section.

Our man Amit then posted a rejoinder describing how the above formulation was flawed and how every human right must be seen as a property right. True to a phenomenon that I can only call libertarian link-o-mania, he invoked Murray Rothbard.

Blogger no.1 was not done yet. He then expanded on his views further, and claimed that all rights should derive from self-ownership, which at its heart is itself a property right.

And then, it happened. Nilu puked. Not that he hasn't puked on Amit before, but this time his puke just added clarified butter to the fire (Yes I translate from Hindi. Yes I am a vernie. Yes the specific 'clarified butter' is a billion times cooler than the genric, unimaginative 'fuel'. Yes Nilu pukes clarified butter.) Much to Nilu's chagrin, this fire was not in a crowded theatre that Amit sat in, but spread to his own comments section.

And then the unthinkable happened. After having chastised Amit for taking himself too seriously, Nilu, for a change, took himself seriously. This resulted. An excellent mix of oblique abstractions, pseud-effect and deep philosophy, Nilu even ended his post with a QED. I love QED.

Amit came back, armed with latin phrases of his own. And then much fun was had in the comments section. Avatram's venerable grandfather was discussed, as was Ronald Coase.

Neha Vishwanathan stumbled upon the entire episode and found it "incredibly amusing and interesting". Desipundit link was duly established. She mentioned Amit Varma, Recursive Hypocrisy, 54 comments and even Avatram's grandfather, but failed to take cognizance of the man who had in no small measure helped in taking that discussion to 54 comments. Rookie bloggers get no respect. Blogging superstardom thus still eludes me.

theothernilu, however, was suitably impressed. She made it a point to compliment my absolute mastery of propositional logic, though in a backhanded manner. I say I like backhands. (Much to Gasquetfan's chagrin, Federer easily has the best backhand.) A weekly Brahmeboodha Suryanarayana Iyer memorial coloumn was also established over at Recursive Hyposcrisy.

Last heard, Gaurav and Amit were furiously discussing over e-mail how best to cover up for Rothbard's theoretical holes when they next present the 'free speech as a property right' angle to the rest of us. D-cube had managed to find examples of speech that could be considered 'criminal intent to intimidate', reminding us of another boundary of 'free'.

The rest of the world, in the meanwhile, found time to do the usual things. Like getting laid. Bleh. I say discussing the philosophical origin of human rights is much more fun.