Monday, July 12, 2010

Find a better lexicon

During my various internet skirmishes, I have had the great fortune of finding some very talented and rigorous writers. But they are rare, as I have also come across more writers that really need to sharpen their debating skills. Or, more specifically, there ability to use the right words in the proper context. Consider the following statement by a Nobel Prize winner, Paul Krugman:
First, Hayek was as bad on the Depression as I thought. The claim that “many of the troubles of the world at the present time are due to imprudent borrowing and spending on the part of the public authorities” — in 1932! — is bizarre.

Mr. Krugman, you desperately need to find a better word than *bad*. There are two possible explanations for why he is unable to come up with a better term.
1. His vocabulary just doesn't stretch that far. He uses the word *bad* because there is no other word contained in his cranium. Kind of like that 4th grader that I ran into yesterday.
2. Krugman uses the word *bad* because he wants to convey the weakness of Hayek's theory about the Great Depression, but doesn't know WHY or HOW it is weak, so he unspecifically says that it is bad.

Now then, for all the flack that I would like to give Krugman for how willfully obtuse he is , there is plenty of evidence that he has a vocabulary that surpasses a fourth grader. So the second explanation seems to be the likely one, and that he really has no idea how to correctly describe the flaws in Hayek's argument because he doesn't he can't identify them.
Let me elaborate further; if I were to describe an opponents argument, I wouldn't simply say it is *bad*, I would use terms that specifically relate to why exactly the argument is wrong. For example, I would describe the secular argument that the founding fathers were mostly influenced by the enlightenment as demonstrably false that relies on many factual inaccuracies, because that is why argument is bad. Additionally, I would describe the Euthyphro dilemma as logically invalid, Keynesian economics to be intrinsically flawed, and Marx's labor theory of value as outdated.
All of these terms have different meanings; they are not different words to describe the same thing. It is readily apparent that the reason Krugman says that Hayek's hypothesis is bad is because he doesn't know why it is bad. Is it empirically false? Contradictory? Specious? Outdated? Circular?
In the same vein, P.Z Myers, in a recent email exchange I had with him, calls Vox Day's book The Irrational Atheist *awful*. So P.Z, in what way is the book awful? To this P.Z has nothing to say because he doesn't know. The problem is not that he can't back up his assertions, it is that he cannot even properly characterize an argument beyond simply calling it *awful*. Dear Paul and P.Z, you guys truly need to step up your lexicon and intellectual rigor if you really want to be taken seriously; because dismissing an argument as *bad* or *awful* simply will not fly. The only purpose that that serves is to demonstrate your complete inability to discern the mistakes of you opponents as well as discrediting your intellectual honesty because it shows how you dismiss arguments that you don't like out of hand.
I ask you, dear skeptical reader, would you really takes theses writers' poorly constructed cliches at face value? I cannot say that this is a universal law, but it has proven to be a rather useful B.S filter when examining an authors writing ability.

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