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I'm getting a little tired of things like this.

Let me state, to attempt to prevent any future comments in this vein, that (apparently) unlike many people, there is no one whose opinion I have sufficient respect for who could convince me that Barack Obama would be a better president than John McCain (not to imply, of course, that I think that John McCain will be a great president). Only those who have no time to evaluate the candidates and the issues rely on endorsements, from anyone, and to do so is a short cut and an intrinsic logical fallacy.

I have abundant information on both candidates at this point, and while (in theory) I could be persuaded to change my mind, this seems unlikely. What I will not be persuaded by is an endorsement by anyone, absent new facts. All that I will be convinced of is that the endorser is either an idiot, ignorant, or on the take (e.g., Colin Powell). I would like to think that this is the case with (at least the intelligent) readers of this blog as well. And (I would like to think that this would go without saying, but apparently it doesn't, because it keeps happening) I will have a similar opinion of the commenter who informs me of the endorser.

I hope I have made myself clear about this, because I have no more to say on the subject.


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II wrote:

OK. That's fair.

Now will you consider a further piece of evidence and read Obama's writings?

Rand Simberg wrote:

How do you know I haven't?

Actually, I know you haven't, because much of them remain under wraps...

Jeff Medcalf wrote:

But what if the endorser was Bill the Cat?


II wrote:

Which one would that be?

The one under wraps, which one is it?

Rand Simberg wrote:

The one under wraps, which one is it?

How would we know? He keeps everything under wraps. There are few examples of his writing, other than his two books. How do we know they weren't ghost written?

He won't even show his college transcripts.

Brock wrote:

What if Stephen Hawking endorsed the O because according to research no one can understand except him that the Earth would explode if Barack Obama was not elected President?

Bob wrote:


That's not really how it works (and you know that!). Hawking built his reputation on the ability to explain his theories to other scientists. I daresay he would abhor the idea that he had research no one else could understand, and he would be the first to discredit such findings until he could whip his theory into a state where others in his field could indeed understand it!

Bob wrote:

PS But it was a funny comment! :-)

Carl Pham wrote:

Actually, Bob, in my experience the best theory is exactly the one that's instantly understandable, where, when you hear it, you smack yourself in the forehead and say of course! why didn't I think of that?

Hawking radiation is kind of like that. Easy to understand, viz.: we know particle-antiparticle pairs can spontaneously emerge from the vacuum, so long as they recombine shortly afterward, so that energy is conserved. Hawking just asked: what happens to those pairs that are created right next to the event horizon of a black hole?

Well, if one of them slips across, it can never recombine with its partner. So, in essence, you have a newly created particle (the one that didn't get trapped) that wanders away. Since the books have to balance, that released mass or nergy must come from somewhere -- it comes the black hole. Hence, the black hole emits a steady stream of particles, "Hawking radiation." If the hole is small enough (so the surface to volume ratio is high enough), it can actually entirely evaporate.

Presto! No math needed. That's the signature of brilliance. Theories that are exceedingly difficult to understand are usually highly decorated kludges of doubtful longevity.

Bob wrote:

Carl, surely you are talking to Brock, and not me, unless you are in complete agreement with me.

Thanks for the lucid explanation of Hawking radiation. I confess I still don't understand it, but you've inspired me to go read more. (Specifically, I don't understand what causes the black hole to emit anything, since it doesn't "care" about conservation laws. And I'm unclear on what it is emitting, and how those emissions escape.)

Brock, If, on the other hand, Hawking came up with an easy-to-understand-but-only-easy-for-other-scientists theory of why the Earth would explode if Obama was not elected, and other scientists all concurred, particularly scientists such as Carl who were going to vote for McCain until they heard the Hawking-Brock theory of why the Earth would explode and then immediately endorsed Obama as a result, then yes, in that case, I think people should pay attention to expert endorsements, and Rand would be foolish not to listen to them.

wickedpinto wrote:

I could whore my co-bloggers post, by saying that this post is racist, but I don't roll that way.

Jeff Medcalf wrote:

Actually, I was giving this point some thought, because it really annoys me, too. I mean, why would I care what Ken Adelman or Colin Powell thinks even were I a Republican? And then I realized: it's a shortcut for thinking. If you can't think about the candidates' characters and stands on issues, you are left with what other people say, atmospherics, and the trivia about who left which reporter out of access or whatever. It's like counting votes and saying "so-and-so voted for/against the President x% of the time." Without the details and context, that's a meaningless number, fit only for emotional string-pulling; but for some, that's all it takes, because they simply cannot comprehend the issues and people involved in the decision. It says far more about the person flogging the endorsement than the people they are trying to sway.

Karl Hallowell wrote:

II, you wrote:

Now will you consider a further piece of evidence and read Obama's writings?

Why do people think his writings are useful here? It's pretty clear that Obama had considerable political ambitions for some time preceding the writing of his books. In that light, it is naive (I use this word reluctantly) to base your vote on a book. Further, there is no contract there. We don't know how Obama will act.

What I do know is that Obama has already reneged on some promises made during the Democrat primaries, particularly the FISA legislation. In hindsight that was the deciding factor for me.

Josh Reiter wrote:

Brock wrote:

"What if Stephen Hawking endorsed the O............"


Because that would still be an appeal to authority. We would have to ask, "What makes Stephen Hawking an authority on American Presidential endorsements?" Have planets been known to explode in the past based upon elections? Has Stephen endorsed candidates in the past? Was he right most of the time, sometimes, or never?

Take this for an example: I have a sink and when I turn the water on eventually the water overflows onto the floor. My friend Joe says I need to unclog the drain.

This would technically be an appeal to authority because we really don't have any reason to believe what Bob says. For all we know, we just need a bigger sink.

Now, I can make Joe a valid authority on drains if I were to follow-up by saying, "Joe is a plumber and he has been unclogging drains for 13 years." If we wanted we could go out and look into Joe's past (though this won't be too fair to Joe) and see that yes indeed Joe has unclogged several drains that often times overflowed on the floor. So, it would be likely that Joe is correct and supports the conclusion that we should unclog the drain.

This is were the media is going in the wrong direction with the real Joe the Plumber. They are investigating him like he is the authority on Obama's tax plan. When in reality, it was he who ask the question and Barack answered as the authority on his tax plan.

This is how we escape the fallacy of an appeal to authority when we reference the fact that a doctor says we need surgery, or a lawyer says we should sue.

memomachine wrote:


@ Rand

Absolutely agreed.

Particularly since the conservative punditry has a long record of having the consistency and courage of a bowl of gruel.

memomachine wrote:


@ II

"Now will you consider a further piece of evidence and read Obama's writings?"

I'd love to.

But the records of his work at his law firm are either under lock or shredded.

His records as a Illinois state senator aren't available.

His records as a US Senator have not been made available.

His medical records aren't available either.

The records from the Chicago Annenberg Challenge aren't available online and I'm not really planning on traveling to Chicago to read them when Stanley Kurtz is doing a bang up job there already.

The records of Obama's conduct at the Woods Foundation aren't available.

The records of Obama's work at the Joyce Foundation aren't available.

So really. What "writings" are you talking about? His books?

I hope you're not serious.

memomachine wrote:


"But what if the endorser was Bill the Cat?"

A dead communist cat that ran for President?

Dude I am so *there*.

My favorite comic of all time is when Bill the Cat is being taught by Milo on how to handle a tough press conference by being hammered on the head with a baseball bat.

"Now say something witty!"


MG wrote:

Speculation (or speculative drivel, if necessary):

Mr. Powell could have endorsed Senator Obama at any time, but waited until the Senator was ahead in the polls.

Could it be that Mr. Powell is not impressed w/ Senator Obama, but wants (for whatever reason) to be in a position of influence, and to provide "adult" supervision?

Not that I am a Colin Powell fan, mind you.

Bob wrote:


Powell cited recent events and recent McCain tactics and choices as the reason he finally made up his mind. You can read what he had to say here:

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on October 20, 2008 6:43 PM.

Inevitability was the previous entry in this blog.

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