Sane man !

Monday, August 15, 2005

The tagging fallacy

Tentative def: basing your evaluation on something good/bad tagged to the end of an (abstract) object, and more or less separated from its main body. As opposed to doing a complete evaluation, in context.

This is based on a logical fallacy, ie B in A does not mean A in B. Do a lot of math and you learn to spot these...

For ex: Prince Charles and the biodynamics...

It starts pretty reasonably:

Biodynamic farming was founded early last century by Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher, scientist and social reformer. Steiner is best known for his schools, founded on the philosophy that the “whole child” should be nurtured.

A holistic view of the garden? That seems like a pretty good idea, owrthy of consideration! The problem for Steiner is that holistic thinking is pretty tough, and to find good rules governing the way a garden works as a whole would take a lot of work and time. The solution? Make some shit up with

[...]the sowing of crops should be timed to fit in with the cycles of the moon, planets and signs of the zodiac. Steiner’s Biodynamic Agricultural Association draws up a day-by-day timetable for planting. This is sent out annually to the 140 biodynamic farmers registered in Britain.
Under the Steiner system each crop type is linked to one of the four traditional elements: earth, water, wind and fire. Root crops such as carrots are seen as earth plants while fruits such as apples are linked with fire. Leaf crops, including lettuce, are associated with water.

This is utter rubbish of course. But only seeing the tag above, you might be drawn into it (like poor Charles).

Other example: some liberal descriptions of religions... "The Bible says you should help the poor and the needy, and that you should turn the other cheek. Surely you can't disagree with this?" But it's a big book, and the admittedly good ethics are only a sideshow to the main tenets of theism: the revelation, salvation, and the mystical caracter of the immanent God.
There is of course the reverse: those who lead a bigoted life of selfishness, hate, treachery etc, and who still feel good about themselves because they are "good christians", ie they've done the right prayers and been to church (or even less than that). They've put the Jaysus tag on their unethical life, so all is peachy.

Or of course the hawkish Iraq War arguments (as opposed to the passive ones): "Surely you'd agree that Saddam is a bad man? You'd like him gone? Then you must subscribe to the US/UK plan..."


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