ad hominem

Thu, 2012-07-12 06:08Chris Mooney
Chris Mooney's picture

Anthony Watts Is Right Because He’s Older Than Me

Last week, the leading climate skeptic blogger Anthony Watts criticized my writing based upon my age and looks–and other, er, observations:

For the record, it is now official; Chris Mooney is a paid political hack disguising himself as a science writer. I’m going back to calling him a “kid blogger”, because no adult could have thought processes that give conclusions like this.

With this, Watts posted a picture of what I look like. I’m 34. 

I would like to note some reasoning fallacies here. First, there is the obvious ad hominem fallacy—trying to discredit my intellectual arguments by saying negative personal things about me. Relatedly, Watts is also poisoning the well—he throws in these negatives before beginning to evaluate any argument, thus biasing readers against me before they actually assess evidence or claims.

There is also another fallacy here that conservatives, in particular, tend to commit—indeed, it pervades their view of issues like welfare policy. It’s called the fundamental attribution error, and it entails attributing someone’s behavior to something inherent in them (why doesn’t that lazy poor person try harder to get a job), rather than to the situation in which they find themselves (debilitating conditions of poverty). Thus, e.g., I make dumb arguments because I’m young and don’t know any better. 

Why is this argument invalid?

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