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← Open letter and video re threat to GM Research

Axulus's Avatar Jump to comment 67 by Axulus

Comment 19 by rationalmind :

There is one argument in that video that sounds more typical of the sort of thing you would have heard from Cardinal Pell, during his debate with Richard Dawkins. "We believe that you are in the minority." Well so what? This is really really irrational argument and it really does undermine my credibility in the whole organisation that they let such poor thinking be put out in a public statment like this.

This is a well known logical fallacy called "argument from numbers". It is really annoying to hear scientists making an argument like this. There is a very very simple refutation and if someone doesn't realise this, it undermines my confidence in their ability to think rationally. It seems to me that it is symptomatic of a lack of a degree of critical thinking skills, especially when you would hope the statement as a whole would have been checked.

The simple refutation is this. You cannot argue that something is right or wrong because of the number of people who believe it. It is the evidence that needs to be considered not the number who believe. At one time everyone thought the earth was flat. They were all wrong. If you want another example the consider this one. Atheists are in the minority in America. Does this mean they are wrong?

This is really a very basic error.

(Incidentally, I am aware that even in medieval times people did know the world was round. There were however,times before knowledge and literacy was widespread when the notion of the earth being flat would have seemed correct to most people. The Bible for example contains numerous examples where ideas are expressed from a flat earth perspective.)

The error appears to be all yours. If you actually went to the website that the video is responding to, they are essentially claiming that they are implementing the will of the people by destroying the research:

"Anyone who feels compelled to take this step with us will be in good company. Across the channel farmers, families, and local mayors have taken part in similar daytime decontaminations, and as a result France is currently in the process of banning its only commercially grown GM variety. In Belgium last year a mass public decontamination removed the GM potato trial in question, and is likely to have been instrumental in biotech giant BASF deciding to pull out of Europe"

By claiming that "we believe you are in the minority", they are in fact arguing that the destruction is not some sort of fulfillment of the "will of the people".

Fri, 04 May 2012 06:19:13 UTC | #939561