As the debate over President Obama’s economic stimulus plan gets under way, one thing is certain: many of the plan’s opponents aren’t arguing in good faith. Conservatives really, really don’t want to see a second New Deal, and they certainly don’t want to see government activism vindicated. So they are reaching for any stick they can find with which to beat proposals for increased government spending.
Some of these arguments are obvious cheap shots. John Boehner, the House minority leader, has already made headlines with one such shot: looking at an $825 billion plan to rebuild infrastructure, sustain essential services and more, he derided a minor provision that would expand Medicaid family-planning services — and called it a plan to “spend hundreds of millions of dollars on contraceptives.”
But the obvious cheap shots don’t pose as much danger to the Obama administration’s efforts to get a plan through as arguments and assertions that are equally fraudulent but can seem superficially plausible to those who don’t know their way around economic concepts and numbers.
Anyone who has ever debated a creationist is very familiar with creationist “cheap shots” (or, as I like to refer to them, lies). What’s worse is that they are so familiar with the refutation of their lies (to the point where, if you were unable to keep speaking, they could probably finish your argument for you), yet they still speak them (“Evolution is just a theory”, “Flagella are irreducibly complex”, and so on).
Increasingly, they’ve been dressing up creationism in pseudo-scientific garb, so it sounds like science. When sounds ‘sciencey’ enough, then <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/mikethemadbiologist/2008/02/thirteen_things_creationists_d.php“>they flood the rhetorical space:
Pack a sentence with numerous falsehoods, misconceptions and biases so that it is difficult, if not impossible, to rebut them all within a reasonable time. For example (a hypothetical one, exaggerated to illustrate the technique): “Stem cell research, concocted and shamelessly promoted by the same Godless biologists that want to ban the Bible everywhere, has one and only one purpose, which is to kill innocent human babies.” By the time anyone has corrected all the errors of fact, any conceivable audience open to persuasion has fallen asleep.
Unfortunately, this stupidity won’t only harm biological education, but the entire economy (national or global, take your pick).