My problem with poorly researched assertions

10 05 2007

Yesterday I posted about issues I had with bio-ethanol, namely that it was wasting space that could be used to crop food crops to grow crops to fuel cars (if we’re at such a point of luxury then we should at least be giving some of our surplus to those in need) as well as the ecological destruction that comes along with harvesting raw materials for biofuels (forests in Borneo are suffering because of this, oranguatans being especially threatened). TheBrummell wisely pointed out that I used a “Won’t somebody think of the children?”-type argument that resulted from an incomplete thought process, correctly explaining that world hunger is mostly a matter of distribution and not gross crop production. What I meant to say was that before we start parceling out land for the raw materials for bio-fuels to be grown on (in my view, a luxury) we should reevaluate what we’re doing with our current food production so that more people benefit off the land. I have to admit, however, that the particular post was pretty crappy and I wrote it just because I felt like writing something and I should have researched it/thought about it further. In any event, many thanks to TheBrummell for correcting my error and hopefully I won’t mentally crap-out again for a while…


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2 responses

11 05 2007
TheBrummell

You keep giving me too much credit for being snarky at you. Re-reading my earlier comment after I hit “Say It!” I thought I was a little too aggressive. Why does WordPress not have a preview function? Oh well.

This post is a little funny / ironic to me, given that my grand claim of “distribution not production” was completely unsupported and unreferenced. I still believe it to be true, but the fact is nobody else should just take my word for it.

Also, the part about “won’t somebody think of the children?” is almost an inverse-strawman. I did not mean to compare you to Mrs. Lovejoy! When faced with the observation that many humans have calorie- and nutrient-poor diets from insufficient food intake, positing insufficient global production is a good first-guess hypothesis. The fact that global food production can be demonstrated to be higher than global food demand disproves that first-try hypothesis, but again I’m not going to actually demonstrate this, just say it and hope that sufficiently interested readers will be able to look up the relevant data for themselves.

What I meant to say was that before we start parceling out land for the raw materials for bio-fuels to be grown on (in my view, a luxury) we should reevaluate what we’re doing with our current food production so that more people benefit off the land.

Yeah, I got that from your post, and I think that’s a good point. I just felt like being snarky before I went home last night.

11 05 2007
laelaps

Nah, I try to give credit where credit is due. I made an assertion that I didn’t research and you called me on it (and I didn’t think you were too snarky, just direct). If I was right all the time I wouldn’t be me, and I actually probably learn more from people pointing out what I’ve done wrong than anything else. You have given me fodder for another post, however; what is actually going on with global production and distribution? Would things really be better if everyone had food, but most of their diet ended up being corn?

And I know you weren’t trying to compare me to Mrs. Lovejoy, but looking back on my own argument I realized that what I essentially did. It’s easy to talk about “the greater good” and bring up the issue of starving children, but unless the details are filled in then it’s mostly an appeal to emotion, the same kind of reasoning behind the “You wouldn’t hit a guy with glasses, would you?” kind of argument.

Anyway, I really do value critical appraisals and I don’t think you were being too snarky at all; someone needs to keep me in check, after all. Even though I get a lot of hits from regular readers (and thank you again for being one) a lot of people come here by way of search terms and I don’t want to be shoveling out misinformation or making assertions that I can’t back up with actual observations & data; if anything you’ve helped me by making me think twice before I write.

Perhaps all the cetacean woo got to my brain…

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