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Argumentum ad consequentum

December 24, 2010

It’s funny how the mind works, or doesn’t work, or ricochets off in some weird direction.  Here’s what I thought of today when MrsDoF read the newspaper weather section (which she reads from a glowing rectangle, not a printed page):

“Revised forecast,” said MrsDoF, “Clear today, three to five inches of snow tomorrow.”

Originally the snow was supposed to hit today, with clear traveling weather tomorrow.  “Could be bad travel weather right before Christmas,” I answered, and that was pretty much it for weather conversation.  But then my mind got to wandering;  I imagined two friends, Alfred and Clark, discussing the weather:

Clark: “Oh, they should revise the forecast. It can’t snow tomorrow; people will be on the road for Christmas and there will be accidents.”

Alfred: “Changing the forecast wouldn’t alter the real weather tomorrow.”

Clark: “You don’t know that. If enough people sincerely believe the weather will be clear, maybe it will be. And maybe people would at least take comfort from the belief that the weather will be clear tomorrow!”

Alfred: “The mistaken belief that tomorrow will be clear traveling weather will cause them to waste an opportunity to do their traveling today.”

Clark: “You have no proof it will snow tomorrow.”

Alfred: “True, just a reasonable expectation based on analysis of data. If new data becomes available, we’ll change our expectations.”

Clark: “So your story changes all the time, does it? I got my weather forecast straight from the Farmer’s Almanac. It was good enough for generations of farmers before us.”

Alfred: “The scientifically-driven forecast adjusts to reality, yes. So it has a much better chance of being close to the truth at any given time.”

Clark: “The Almanac has a great track record! My uncle checked the Farmer’s Almanac once before beginning a trip. It said clear weather, and that’s exactly what happened! And just last week the Weather Service predicted rain, and it only rained 20 miles North of here.”

Alfred: “um… ”

Clark: “What do you have against traditional sources of knowledge? Do you want people to live in despair?”

Alfred: (speaking softly) “You’re right, of course not. Go ahead and wait until tomorrow to start your trip.”

Clark: “Thank you! Finally a voice of reason. Wait, where are you going?”

Alfred: “To put a blanket and some road flares in the trunk of your car, and charge up your cell phone.”

See, this is why I sometimes don’t share my thoughts during conversations.  And the “Appeal to consequences” isn’t Clark’s only fallacy.

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  1. December 25, 2010 at 18:35 | #1

    That is a very clever bit George.

  2. December 25, 2010 at 20:23 | #2

    Hee! Loves the way your mind works!

    Merry Christmas, Solstice, and all those other bits and pieces we celebrate! Love, hugs, and happiness to you and yours!

  3. December 26, 2010 at 07:08 | #3

    Hmm, argumentum ad populum, cherry picking, plus a second argumentum ad consequentum. Quite a little menagerie of fallacies you have there.

    If you celebrate Christmas, hope it was a good one. Happy New Year, too.

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