Niel Jones' responses

Felix Sperling Felix.Sperling at
Sun Jan 6 19:01:33 EST 2002

First, my apologies to everyone for inadvertently referring to 
another person called Neil in my last posting. I meant Neil Jones.

Since I am on your screen, I feel that this much-flogged issue should 
not rest with the the most recent postings of Neil Jones. First , I 
commend his effort to employ logic in his new postings. However, I 
will argue that his logic and argumentation have flaws.

First, it is simply not a good strategy in rhetoric and logical 
argumentation to nit-pick at peripheral points right at the 
beginning. It is true that smallpox and polio are not caused by 
bacteria, but this list is made up of lots of people without formal 
biology training and Neil would be better off to just let that pass 
with a gracious correction. By focusing on that rather than the key 
point that some kinds of extinction are desirable, Neil inadvertently 
gives credibility to that argument.

Second, Neil disagrees point blank with the factual basis of the 
statement that "many conservationists are blinded to their own 
impotence". My reaction is maybe. And maybe not. I recall an 
interview I had in 1993 on national radio where the environmentalist 
interviewer took strong offence to my statement that I wasn't 
absolutely sure that we were to blame for Boloria acrocnema looking 
like it was about to be squeezed off its relict mountaintop sites by 
global warming. This was 1993, and she was incensed that I would be 
equivocal about the root cause of global warming (not the observed 
fact of increasing temperatures), and called me "arrogant". I 
responded, as gently as I could, that we may not be that 
all-powerful, and that I felt that it was a case of humility to 
recognize that. She abruptly stopped the interview. Now I am by no 
means an apologist for the rapacious environmental practices that we 
see across the planet, and with new evidence I am convinced of the 
importance of our role in global warming. But my point is that I have 
had experiences, and in fact many of them, that support Mike Soukop's 
statement about many (notice he didn't say *most*) conservationists 
being blinded to their own impotence.

Third, I have never listened to Rush Limbaugh, and I have no 
intention of starting now. But Neil's attempt to counter Limbaugh's 
argument is not good logic, and thereby again only serves to boost 
the credibility of the opposing argument. Limbaugh said that 
"environmentalists are saying .. that some trees are better than 
others" and says, in effect, that old, virgin forests are no big 
deal. Neil countered by saying that virgin forests are untouched by 
humans, very old, and ecologically important to endangered species, 
but he still didn't get the point. Limbaugh said that those are not 
the most important factors in valuing trees. So Neil needs to say 
*why* old trees, untouched forests, and endangered species are 
valuable. Instead he says that Limbaugh may be a liar. Sorry, but 
that is just not going to cut the mustard as a logical argument, 
because it evades the point of Limbaugh's expression of value.

Finally, it is true that Neil did not mention Hitler by name. But he 
did mention Ghengis Khan and Attila the Hun and that amounts to the 
same sort of thing. Again, this sort of nit-picking diversion from 
the central argument is not going to win a logical argument.

I will not indulge myself by responding at equal length to Neil's 
other postings, including his rude response to Rene Boutin on 
Cherubini (what good can it really accomplish to say "Listen very 
carefully I shall say this only once!" ?) Instead I think, based on 
what I have seen on Leps-l, that there is a strong resemblance 
between Neil Jones and Cherubini in their use of inappropriate logic 
and vitriolic rhetoric. But Cherubini seems to be better at keeping 
his cool under fire. That is really too bad, because I am no fan of 
much of what he says. I realize that it takes a lot of emotional 
energy to counter this sort of thing, but I sincerely hope that Neil 
will continue in his effort to use logic, and to hone his use of 
logic, to counter such arguments. To do anything else is to give 
credibility to those arguments.

Enough. Now I'll off this list for a loooong time; starting tomorrow 
I get to preach to 450 Intro Bio students.

Felix Sperling


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