A Brilliant Argument

Watch this video. It features the most amazing argument you will ever see:

You may know already that I’m a fan of Ben Goldacre, but it’s not him. I found his style of agument quite conservative and traditional: people have been trying to win arguments by pointing out the gaping holes in their opponents’ ideas for centuries. Ancient people used evidence to draw conclusions. There’s nothing new there.

No, his opponent, Dr Sigman, is the genius here. I have, in retrospect, seen his argument elsewhere, too, but he has formalised it further than most. Here it is in a nutshell:

  1. We disagree and are talking.
  2. Therefore, There Is A Debate.
  3. Therefore, the cautionary principle applies.
  4. Therefore, whatever I dislike should be banned.
It sounds so reasonable (well, a bit reasonable), and yet you can literally use the same rationale to argue semi-convincingly for a ban on anything you happen to mention.