Physical Insights

An independent scientist’s observations on society, technology, energy, science and the environment. “Modern science has been a voyage into the unknown, with a lesson in humility waiting at every stop. Many passengers would rather have stayed home.” – Carl Sagan

The argument from appeal to hatred of Howard.

with 5 comments

Here’s a comment I received recently, in the context of talking about nuclear power.

“remember John Howard sold his soul to GW Bush, why would yoy [sic] trust anything he supports ?”

We see this occasionally in discussions about nuclear power. It’s the appeal to hatred of Howard, an argumentative technique, similar to a kind of contemporary derivative of the good old fashioned argumentum ad hominem, that goes something like this:

i) John Howard was actively interested in investigating the use of nuclear power in Australia, and was open to the idea.

ii) Of course, everybody obviously knows that Howard is literally pure immoral evil, and he feasts on babies, or something.

iii) Ergo, nuclear power is bad.

You sometimes have the persuasive appeal to hatred of the GOP or hatred of Bush, or something similar, it works in exactly the same way.

Written by Luke Weston

March 11, 2009 at 12:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

5 Responses

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  1. Why do so many people get their positions on various political issues from their tribal allegiance, rather than by consideration of the issues themselves?

    I still read Depleted Cranium for example because he makes a lot of good points regarding science and energy politics, even though his politics are way too right-wing for my liking…

    George Carty

    March 11, 2009 at 1:24 pm

  2. That’s absolutely right, George. Where politics is concerned, I try not to hold to any particular “tribal allegiance” where politics is concerned.(Well, I suppose you’ve got to choose the least worst option on election day.) There is simply no single political demographic or party who I find myself agreeing with on all issues.

    Luke Weston

    March 11, 2009 at 3:32 pm

  3. This is a form of “poisoning the well” or “guilt by association”. Or both. Very common, and very difficult to counter amongst certain groups.

    Attempted counter by ridicule: John Howard was (and is) in favour of beathing. Is breathing evil?


    April 15, 2009 at 5:34 am

  4. It’s a direct tie in to Bush Derangement Syndrome and Baracknophobia.

    And it’s not strictly argumentum ad hominem, it’s Reductio ad Hitlerum


    June 3, 2009 at 5:24 am

  5. Do not change horses in mid-stream.

    reverse ip

    May 5, 2011 at 10:40 am

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