Sunday, May 2, 2021

Is This One Of Them Straw Man Arguments? AIER, FT Alphaville, and Bitcoin

So you like dogs huh? You know who else liked dogs?
Okay, that's not exactly a straw man but it is close.*

The author of this piece says he has a Masters Degree from Oxford so I'll have to dumb down the response a bit.

In many ways the straw man fallacy resembles gaslighting in that they are both dishonest and favored by physical, sexual and, emotional abusers.

Here, to counter the Oxford degree, he doesn't specify which College or area of study, is Excelsior College, an online degree-granting institution:

*Straw Man Fallacy

A straw man fallacy occurs when someone takes another person’s argument or point, distorts it or exaggerates it in some kind of extreme way, and then attacks the extreme distortion, as if that is really the claim the first person is making.

Person 1:

I think pollution from humans contributes to climate change.

Person 2:

So, you think humans are directly responsible for extreme weather, like hurricanes, and have caused the droughts in the southwestern U.S.? If that’s the case, maybe we just need to go to the southwest and perform a “rain dance.”

Practitioners of this rhetorical fallacy can often be heard humming (to themselves as they tend to be lonely, unliked and unlikable people) "If I only had a brain."

From ZeroHedge:

Authored by Joakim Book via The American Institute for Economic Research,

In their desperation to find a reason for why bitcoin is terrible-bad-destructive-awful and morally reprehensible, the crypto-obsessed authors of the Financial Times blog Alphaville – Jemima Kelly, Jamie Powell, Izabella Kaminska – are quickly running out of good choices.

Their latest one is the “environmental FUD” – a classic in our world of environmentally obsessed elites, where anything remotely associated with The Climate ensures moral supremacy. If all else fails, guilt-by-association will not. So, complain away about the environmental impact from the energy used by the Bitcoin network’s nodes and miners. 

What’s so strange about this objection is that first, that impact is globally small, and second – who cares? Somebody, somewhere, is using energy in ways that you disapprove of (shocking, I know), to which the only reasonable response must be “Yes, and?” 

Few free(ish) societies run around policing the use of energy, letting woke Establishment journalists decide on what’s permissible use, what’s harmful, and what needs to go. People drive cars, sometimes just because they want to, and sometimes just to compete to see who’s fastest; people go on vacation, mostly because they want to; people buy stuff, ride stuff, build stuff, enjoy stuff, almost all of which use energy and almost never require permission slips from their morally superior overlords. Not yet at least

Throwing bitcoin into the mix somehow changes everything. Somebody, somewhere, is running their specialized hardware to validate the network, when they could have used those components (microprocesses, flash memories, fans, storage facilities) to, I don’t know, run a server hall to host all your incredible Instagram pictures. What is it about Bitcoin’s energy requirement that really triggers these people? If you think Bitcoin is a terrible payment mechanism, a subpar currency, a destabilizing base money, or a grand financial fad, those are arguments on their own merits – what’s energy got to do with it?

On a first-pass observation it’s a perfect “gotcha” argument: if you think Bitcoin’s value-add is zero, or negative – Kelly happily calls it “a destructive asset class” – any amount of energy would be a waste, a climate nightmare, an environmental catastrophe. After all, we often hear that this monetary scam consumes electricity on par with small– or medium-sized countries. When the New York Times uses words like “enormous farms” and “endless racks of computers” we know it must be bad.

As usual when journalists talk about Big Terrible Things, we must dig a little deeper and probe a little more: ask those annoying questions – how much? Is that a lot? Compared to what? ....

..... Remember that we’re still only on electricity use; the sleight-of-hand involved in the Alphavillers’ magical trick is to equate use with “really bad for the environment.” By this same metric, the electricity generation used to power said writers’ computers qualifies – as does definitely the heating of their apartments (fossil fuels?) and the electricity that brightens their dark homes and runs their home appliances. While minuscule in proportion to thousands and thousands of miners upholding a decentralized monetary network, the Alphaville value add is clearly less than zero and so definitely a horrible waste of electricity.....


Referring to the denizens deVille as Alphavillers shows such a lack of intellectual rigour that it raises the question: Joaquin, are you drunk you silly ingrate?

They are Alphavillains, or 'villeins when I'm feeling all medieval.

The fact the writer would make such a schoolboy error really detracts from both his argument - superficial as it is - and from the Oxbridge reputation. 

He is an ingrate because:

1) FTAV has linked to him  and to AIER in the past, and

2) It's obvious he offered no opportunity for rebuttal, even against the fallacious, much less a chance to state their actual position (they don't much care for the energy argument, actually) .

I'm guessing some eight-year-old girl called him icky in third grade and...ah never mind.

Here's Schopenhauer on how to debate: the last chapter of Die Kunst, Recht zu behalten (The Art Of Controversy):

The Ultimate Stratagem (XXXVIII)

A last trick is to become personal, insulting, rude, as soon as you perceive that your opponent has the upper hand, and that you are going to come off worst. It consists in passing from the subject of dispute, as from a lost game, to the disputant himself, and in some way attacking his person. It may be called the argumentum ad personam, to distinguish it from the argumentum ad hominem, which passes from the objective discussion of the subject pure and simple to the statements or admissions which your opponent has made in regard to it. But in becoming personal you leave the subject altogether, and turn your attack to his person, by remarks of an offensive and spiteful character. It is an appeal from the virtues of the intellect to the virtues of the body, or to mere animalism. This is a very popular trick, because every one is able to carry it into effect; and so it is of frequent application. Now the question is, What counter-trick avails for the other party? for if he has recourse to the same rule, there will be blows, or a duel, or an action for slander. 
It would be a great mistake to suppose that it is sufficient not to become personal yourself. For by showing a man quite quietly that he is wrong, and that what he says and thinks is incorrect - a process which occurs in every dialectical victory - you embitter him more than if you used some rude or insulting expression. Why is this? Because, as Hobbes observes,17 all mental pleasure consists in being able to compare oneself with others to one's own advantage. Nothing is of greater moment to a man than the gratification of his vanity, and no wound is more painful than that which is inflicted on it. Hence such phrases as "Death before dishonour," and so on. The gratification of vanity arises mainly by comparison of oneself with others, in every respect, but chiefly in respect of one's intellectual powers; and so the most effective and the strongest gratification of it is to be found in controversy. Hence the embitterment of defeat, apart from any question of injustice; and hence recourse to that last weapon, that last trick, which you cannot evade by mere politeness. A cool demeanour may, however, help you here, if, as soon as your opponent becomes personal, you quietly reply, "That has no bearing on the point in dispute," and immediately bring the conversation back to it, and continue to show him that he is wrong, without taking any notice of his insults. Say, as Themistocles said to Eurybiades - Strike, but hear me. But such demeanour is not given to every one....

He wasn't even winning, unless you can win a fallacious argumentum, I just felt like a little Schopenhauer.

And that, again, children, is why we study philosophy.


On a more serious note, is the Oxford comma in the headline superfluous?