Most “discussions” in favor of building giant wind turbines follow rhetorical dodges that are well known as fallacious in the logic trade. Knowing them will help you avoid falling into their traps (or using them inappropriately yourself). You can then point them out and bring the debate back to the actual issue. (Actually, the “discussion” will usually end there, because your adversary will throw up his or her hands – saying, “Well, if you don’t care about asthma [because you point out the probable lack of benefit from building giant wind turbines] then there’s no point in continuing!” – rather than engage in an honest debate.)
1. ad hominem. Attack the messenger if you can’t refute the message (NIMBY!).
2. ad populum. Also called weasel words. Cloak your assertions in unopposable abstractions (e.g., national security, our children’s future, values, jobs).
3. non sequitur. The usual promotional device. Example: We need to reduce global warming! We need to build wind towers! (The leap from the first statement to the second is not supported.)
4. red herring. The usual defense tactic. Also called changing the subject. Recently called “what-aboutery” in the U.K. Technical term: ignoratio elenchi (ignorance of the issue). Examples in response to criticism of wind power: Then what are you for? Cats kill more birds. They’re better than smokestacks. None of these has anything to do with assessing wind power itself or the siting of a specific facility.
5. straw man. Also known as paper tiger. Instead of addressing the issues as raised by the opposition, the proponent creates a simplified or mischaracterized version that can be easily dispatched.
Recognizing these dodges helps us avoid getting caught up in them and derailed in our own arguments. And it makes it easier to cut through the deceptions of the promoters.
Learn more at “Logical Fallacies.”