Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Time to take on the guntards....

A recent post in the Volokh Conspiracy by David Kopel caught my eye. While Americans are getting slaughtered at a phenomenal rate across the US gun-owners keep their eye on the ball; making sure that it continues unabated. After all, what better way to keep the women in line? The subject of debate here is Kellerman's New England Journal of Medicine article...

The response I got from posts on Volokh's website were immediate and had one vein running through them; the appeal to authority fallacy.

Although it isn't a substitue for a substantive argument, it is often persuasive because people can conclude, without thinking it through, that the source and therefore the information are suspect. The problem is that you can turn it around pretty easily on the gun violence debate.

For example, a physician makes the same amount of money no matter how many people come in with gunshot wounds. The gun industry makes more money when people buy guns. Whose motivations are more suspect? A Professor can make a name for himself either way, although the gun lobby is far more powerful and well-financed than the gun control lobby. Let's have a look....John Lott

That may be happening. Earlier this year, Lott found himself facing serious criticism of his professional ethics. Pressed by critics, he failed to produce evidence of the existence of a survey -- which supposedly found that "98 percent of the time that people use guns defensively, they merely have to brandish a weapon to break off an attack" -- that he claimed to have conducted in the second edition of "More Guns, Less Crime". Lott then made matters even worse by posing as a former student, "Mary Rosh," and using the alias to attack his critics and defend his work online. When an Internet blogger exposed the ruse, the scientific community was outraged. Lott had created a "false identity for a scholar," charged Science editor-in-chief Donald Kennedy. "In most circles, this goes down as fraud."

Lott's recent baggage makes him an impeachable witness in the push to pass state-level right to carry laws, and raises questions about his broader body of work. Kennedy and others have even likened Lott to Michael Bellesiles, the Emory University historian who could not produce the data at the heart of his award-winning 2000 book "Arming America", which had seemed to undermine the notion that there was widespread gun ownership and usage in colonial America. But while Bellesiles resigned after a university panel challenged his credibility, thus far Lott has escaped a similar fate. An academic rolling stone, Lott has held research positions at the University of Chicago and Yale law schools, but currently works at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a Washington think tank much smiled upon by the Bush administration. AEI will not say whether it will investigate its in-house guns expert; by e-mail, AEI president Christopher DeMuth declined to comment on the possibility.

but the most important thing about Lott is that he represents an entire spectrum of debating style:
Lott had an answer to Black and Nagin -- as he has for each subsequent critic. They tend to be mind-bogglingly complicated, involving things like ordinary least squares and Poisson distributions. In calling Lott's overall thesis junk science, Skeptical Inquirer magazine noted his tendency to make "arguments so complex that only other highly trained regression analysts can understand, let alone refute, them." This was not meant as praise.

And now we understand the fundamental characteristic of the debate; while must guntards don't understand the arguments, they can use Lott's obfuscation to avoid a substantive debate, and even pretend they understand it. It's a common tactic and one that has served guntards well...


Blogger Politically Lost said...

uh hu

one idiot an argument does not make

11:46 PM  

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