Bad arguments and abuse are a poor way to make your point

Just because you can yell loudest doesn't mean you've won the argument
Just because you can yell loudest doesn’t mean you’ve won the argument

Addendum

I linked this rebuttal to the original article on naturalnews.com yesterday. When I went to check the article today, the following message was there:

Comments have been disabled for this article, but thank you, TROLLS, for making this one of the most popular articles of the year!

It would appear that to the author, trolls are people who called him out on his misinformation.

Arguing is a fine art

I occasionally lurk on Facebook. I tell myself it’s just to keep an eye on things, keep in touch with people. I haven’t posted a comment in almost a month.

Today I broke my moratorium based on a post about TED talks which apparently are aligning themselves with Monsanto.

This failed the taste-test for me. An organisation that seems open to factual, informative talks suddenly saying that, to quote writer Mike Adams:

“now openly rejects any talks about GMOs, food as medicine, or even the subject of how food can help prevent behavioral disorders in children” (Adams, para 1.)

This opinion is based upon a letter to TEDx organisers. TED operates on two levels, the first is effectively professional people talking about specific subject-matter, while TEDx is locally organised by interested people in communities. The letter s from TED (the parent organisation) to TEDx organisers.

Reading on, Adams goes on to say that:

“The letter also advises TEDx organizers to, “reject bad science, pseudoscience and health hoaxes,” meaning anyone who talks about GMOs, “food as medicine” or similar topics.” (Adams, para 4.)

Going to the source material, the letter from TED to TEDx, what’s actually said is this:

These are not “banned” topics by any means — but they are topics that tend to attract pseudo-scientists… (emphasis mine)

Food science, including:

  • GMO food and anti-GMO foodists

  • Food as medicine, especially to treat a specific condition: Autism and ADHD, especially causes of and cures for autism

(TED letter, para. 15)

The core of the complaint Adams is bringing against TED appears to be in paragraph 1 of the TED letter which warns TEDx organisers that

“It is your job, before any speaker is booked, to check them out, and to reject bad science, pseudoscience and health hoaxes.” (TED, para 2.)

However, that Adams has linked this statement and what follows inextricably with TED selling out to GMO organisations such as Monsanto actually proves the points in the TED letter: that claims must be backed-up with research. The entire argument that Adams brings orbits this main assumption: that because TED has asked TEDx organisers to carefully vet speakers on specific subjects, that this is a conspiracy. The letter does no such thing.

What follows in the article further reinforces the main tenets of the TED letter and Adams engages the reader using several outright misrepresentations together with a group of poorly reasoned logical fallacies.

There are several wanton misrepresentations within the article by Adams. The first is that discussion about GMO organisations is forbidden (Adams, para 4) which it is not, it is merely flagged as an area that requires scientific back-up; That those that question GMO and “crops grown in open fields is a hoaxer” (Adams, para 10), again no, the scientific proof method is all that is required to get on-stage; and that TED denies the existence of Placebo (Adams, para 18), which in-fact, is not mentioned anywhere in the TED letter. Adams has with this final point created an argument of circular reasoning: that where an assumption is clear to the writer it must therefore be the result of the existence of this assumption (Almossawi, 2013); to whit: Reiki works because of Placebo. Placebo certainly exists and there are, as Adams points-out, a great many research papers on it, however to say that TED does not believe in Placebo is an assumption not backed-up by the facts, namely the letter upon which Adams bases his arguments.

Adams starts with a straw man argument. Almossawi(2013) states a straw man is where a commentator is made to be a caricature, in this case an ignorant fool, rather than arguing against the points made. In this case, Adams asserts the TED organisation does not believe in the value of food and

“To deny this is to nearly admit you believe the Earth is flat and that the sun and stars revolve around our planet. It is a sure sign of a feeble mind that cannot grasp the very simple and readily evident idea that the human body evolved in an environment full of plants with beneficial physiological effects, including many medicinal effects.” (Adams, para 5.)

TED in-fact stated that they require the organisers of TEDx events to:

“Look carefully at talks on these topics: ask to see published data, and find a second source, unrelated to the speaker and a recognized expert in the field, who can validate the research.”

Indeed, TED has not at any point said that topics are off the menu; they’ve merely said that speakers must back-up claims with scientific analysis. This is not an unreasonable requirement from an organisation whose entire business model relies on accuracy.

Adams then stretches the point, constructing an argument that equates the TED letter to pollution of the atmosphere, thus:

“TED apparently thinks 80 percent of the world population is purely delusional, because obviously, as TED insists, real medicine can only come from pharmacological factories spewing out deadly chemicals, right?” (Adams, para 7.)

The argument Adams brings has two factors.

The first is an appeal to the bandwagon, where if a large number of people believe something then it must therefore be true (Almossawi, 2013). Where exactly Adams draws this percentage is not clearly indicated in his article and is indeed the kind of argument that TED is attempting to make more valuable through the use of verifiable information.

The second factor here is a slippery slope argument, that if TED demands that no discussion can take place on a subject, that the logical conclusion is pollution-spewing pharmacological factories. A slippery slope is the argument that because one thing occurs, several unforseen circumstances can then be allowed to happen (Almossawi, 2013). This is a non-sequitur, that is, it does not follow that the requirement from TED that TEDx organisers take care to verify their speakers, that this will result in carcinogens in the planet’s atmosphere.

From this point in the article, Adams takes a turn into insults, completely unbalancing what points he has already made.

TED is now part of the new Cult of Scientism, a dogmatic circle jerk of intellectual bullies who insist the only “science” that’s true is their own selected brand of corporate-sponsored science (Adams, para 20).

With this argument, Adams has created a personal attack, known as an Ad-Hominem argument which attacks the character rather than the arguments (Almossawi, 2013). Personal attacks, ironically, have no place in scientific reasoning. However, again, Adams misrepresents the content of the TEDx letter.

In short, Adams pulls out all the stops in order to make TED look bad, through the use of illogical arguments and outright misrepresentation. It is precisely this type of individual that the writers of the TED letter, Lara Stein (TEDx director) and Emily McManus (TED.com editor) seek to exclude from TED talks.

One therefore wonders if Adams took the letter to heart, took it personally, and constructed his arguments based upon a wounded ego?

References

Almossawi, A. (2013). An illustrated book of bad arguments. Retrieved from https://bookofbadarguments.com/?view=allpages

Adams, M. (2013, September 18). TED aligns with Monsanto halting any talks about GMOs, ‘food as medicine’ or natural healing. Retrieved from http://www.naturalnews.com/042112_TED_conferences_pseudoscience_GMO.html

Stein. L & McManus, E. (2012). A letter to the TEDx community on TEDx and bad science. Retrieved from http://blog.tedx.com/post/37405280671/a-letter-to-the-tedx-community-on-tedx-and-bad-science

Author: gotheek

Sometime writer, full time human.