Saturday, August 09, 2008

A Climate of Bad Writing

So apparently evil white people disproportionately pollute the planet, and minorities disproportionately are affected. This, according to J. Andrew Hoerner and Nia Robinson. The insidious evilness of white people is truly astounding. At least, if you believe these two racist Marxists.

But you know, plenty of people are attacking their ridiculous article in general terms. Let me show how absurd it is from a purely English composition point of view. Let's take the first paragraph.

"Everywhere we turn, the issues and impacts of climate change confront us. One of the most serious environmental threats facing the world today, climate change has moved from the minds of scientists and offices of environmentalists to the mainstream. Though the media is dominated by images of polar bears, melting glaciers, flooded lands, and arid desserts, there is a human face to this story as well."

Let's begin with the first sentence. If we accept philosopher Donald Davidson's claim in "Truth and Predication" that truth is to be found in the predicate of the sentence, then we can see that the first sentence says nothing at all, since many other subjects can be interchanged with it (since the predicate is in fact predicating nothing). Examples:

"Everywhere we turn, the issues and impacts of welfare confront us."
"Everywhere we turn, the issues and impacts of illegal immigration confront us."
"Everywhere we turn, the issues and impacts of racists like Hoerner and Robinson confront us."

Take your favorite issue, plug it into the subject slot (the true subject is in the prepositional phrase "of ---"), and the sentence is just as meaningful. Meaning, it has no meaning. So the entire work starts off with a meaningless statement. So far, so good.

In the second sentence we have the term "climate change." This is a meaningless term. The climate has always changed, throughout world history. It will always change. The implication is that if humans weren't around, then the climate would never change, which is false. There is an implied world view in the term "climate change" that does not match reality. Truth must map well onto reality. So we have seen that the first sentence is meaningless, and the second sentence is implicitly untrue.

The last sentence of the first paragraph is equally nonsensical: "Though the media is dominated by images of polar bears, melting glaciers, flooded lands, and arid desserts, there is a human face to this story as well." I'm not ignorant of the picture of the polar bears they are referring to, but it's not explicit. It could in fact mean any picture of a polar bear in the media. Recent pictures of melting glaciers should perhaps give us pause, but I am pretty sure that floods and deserts have been with us for a long, long time. The implication is that all the floods and deserts came about due to climate change, which is false. So the nouns of the predicate of this sentence go from "uncertain reference" to "true implication" to "false implication" and "false implication." Which makes the entire final sentence false in its implications -- not to mention very sloppy. For example, aside from the examples I gave, they wrote "dessert" for "desert," though I do suppose "arid desserts" could be blamed on climate change if we suddenly saw a rash of dry deserts due to our having less access to milk and vegetable oils due to climate change.

It's a rather embarrassing beginning to an article, and it demonstrates the poverty of thinking skills of the authors. Writing demonstrates thinking clarity and skill. They have demonstrated immediately to the reader that they are neither clear nor skilled in their writing or thinking.
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