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October 05, 2004


Thucydides Jr.

I am enjoying your review of Laskoff, but when you mention data continually, you must realize that some data, for either side, is not trustworthy. Both sides have "data" that is not as independent as one might like in a thorough debate of critical issues. Having data alone is not enough of an argument to free the claimant of bias or of a particular agenda. One example is of course the proven addictive nature of nicotine, which tobacco companies denied for decades with a great deal of "data".

Semantic Compositions

I don't disagree that some data is inevitably going to be dismissed as ideologically biased. But I think an argument made in good faith has to demonstrate that this is so. Claims asserted as facts can't be dismissed as false merely because people you oppose cite them. But this is exactly the game that Lakoff plays -- assertions made by people he agrees with are facts, and assertions by opponents are falsehoods. The underlying assumption is deeply cynical -- everyone will make judgments the way they do because their moral reasoning decides their positions in advance, and invocations of specific facts are merely attempts to justify already held beliefs.

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