“Terrible Arguments for Climate Change Legislation” is an impressive genre. I am aware of how hard it is to isolate one particular argument as the worst of all. But Michael Bloomberg, glorious Mayor of the NYC, really did all the work for me this past Sunday. The setting: Bloomberg’s interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Read it for yourself now, but wear goggles, because the illogic it burns.
[host John] KING: There are some here in our political debate at home who don’t believe it is as severe as a crisis as you both say, and there are some who even question the science and question whether this is because of manmade behavior. Address the politics here at home — Mr. Mayor, to you first on this one — to those who say the science isn’t settled and…
KING: … and that government regulation is not the answer.
BLOOMBERG: OK. I mean, number one, the science is clear. But let’s just make a simple argument that will convince you to go ahead and do something about the environment.
There’s four possibilities, the combinations of we’re damaging the planet or we’re not damaging the planet and we do something or we don’t do something about it.
One of those four combinations is deadly. And if we run the risk that, in fact, there is — we say there’s nothing wrong and it turns out that there was something wrong but we didn’t do anything about it, it may very well be so irreversible and have such terrible consequences for people all over this globe, it’s not an intelligent risk to run.
Now, vapid comparisons to Pascal aside (though, in fairness, Pascal’s argument for the rationality of dedicating oneself to God is more nuanced and much better than this chaff offered up by Mr. Bloomberg), this really is a transparently stupid argument. Consider this parallel reasoning, and then wince on behalf of Mr. Bloomberg (who likely cannot wince on his own behalf):
We have four possibilities from the combinations of the following either/ors: either invisible dinosaurs are going to start killing people, or they aren’t; and either we do something about it, or we don’t. One of these would be utterly disastrous compared to the others (if the invisible dinosaurs really are going to start killing tomorrow, and we do nothing to try to prevent it). Therefore, we MUST start running around like chickens with our heads cut off, RIGHT NOW, voluntarily forfeiting massive portions of our own wealth and forcing others who are slower to see the danger to do the same, so that we can try to avert this disaster. It is simply not reasonable to risk being wrong about this.
There is no logical difference, none whatsoever, between this dinosaur argument and Bloomberg’s climate change argument. If Bloomberg’s argument works for his conclusion, then the same form of reasoning works just as well for freaking out about invisible dinosaurs. You can literally create this kind of argument for any conclusion you want to draw.
I’ll leave a pedantic explanation of the logical mechanics behind this disaster of argumentation for another time, but anyone at all acquainted with the climate change discussion already knows that bad arguments for climate change legislation are the rule rather than the exception. But even so they are not usually this bad. But please, people of a lost nation, begin to see: the Michael Bloombergs of the world do not care about the consequences of the plans they want to foist upon everyone; they do not even care enough to try to build plausible arguments for those plans. They just want us to agree to forfeit massive amounts of our wealth (and our children’s wealth) because they tell us it is for our own good. The politically-connected (along with some well-meaning useful idiots in the cheap seats) are willing to lead the economies of western nations into an abyss (though the politically-connected like Bloomberg will all make out okay, of course). This is precisely why they lie and say that “the science is clear.” They are trying to provide some sort of backing for their transparent power grab. But people who say things like “the science is clear” are usually only making one thing clear: that they know very little about how scientific inquiry and advancement actually work (or, more sinisterly, they are making clear that they simply don’t care how such things actually work).
It is time we start using rhetorical judo back against these self-important knaves. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.
There are four possibilities: 1. Michael Bloomberg is secretly a serial killer, and we do nothing to stop him. 2. Michael Bloomberg is secretly a serial killer, and we invest large resources into trying to stop him. 3. Michael Bloomberg is not secretly a serial killer, and we do nothing. 4. Michael Bloomberg is not secretly a serial killer, and we invest large resources into trying to stop him from killing people. One of these is unbearably horrible. Therefore… we can all do the math.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bloomberg is going to be on “Meet the Press” this Sunday morning. It will be interesting if he uses the same horrible argument again, and, if he does, whether David Gregory will have the perception or interest to call him on it (highly unlikely). We should at least build a compendium of these terrible arguments that statists use for their various evil causes, so that a future generation will be able to read for themselves just what lazy thinkers the “elites” were. It would also testify that at least not all of us went along so gently with such naked wickedness couched in bad reason.