10 August 2009

Argument graph

At the Cosmic Variance blog, Sean Carroll presents what he calls the “Graph of Disputation.”

Grid of disputation
Sean’s point is that if you’re going to argue with people, you should spend your efforts in the lower right corner of the grid. I have two problems with this.

First, the X axis – whether an argument is sensible or crazy – can be incredibly difficult to recognize. I’ve blogged about it a lot here, usually under the “skepticism” label. Nobody is born with a bullshit detector; every one has to try to create one through experience.

Second, you ignore the crackpots in the lower left corner at your utter peril. Not all fools drool. Because people disagree over where things fall on the craziness continuum, the crackpots can suck normally sensible people over into realm of total wackiness.

And it often feels like the crackpots have infinite effort.

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