Sunday, October 18, 2015

Scam Tactics: The Galileo Gambit

Does everyone remember who Galileo Galilei is? He's the one who taught heliocentrism (the sun is the center, not Earth) and was persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church because heliocentrism ran counter to the Biblical literalism of the time (that Earth is the center and everything revolves around Earth).

So what is Galileo Gambit? An argument tactic that combines three separate fallacies (appeal to minority, appeal to authority, conditional fallacy) in one concise package. 
They made fun of Galileo, and he was right
They make fun of me, therefore I am right.
Galileo Gambit is generally used to dismiss the "widely held truth". Creationists and Climate change deniers often use Galileo Gambit and claiming persecution. (Indeed, Rick Perry sparked controversy when he claimed that science on climate change was 'not settled yet' in 2011 and added "Galileo got outvoted for a spell")

There is a variation called Semmelweis Gambit that was often used by "alternative medicine", or otherwise known by its less complimentary acronym, SCAM (supplemental, complementary, and alternative medicine).  Ignaz Semmelweis was a doctor that provided the start of germ theory in 1800's Vienna, but his views were not accepted during his time and he died a broken man, with his views only came into acceptance after his death.

Another variation is known as "Three Stages of Truth" often misattributed to Arthur Schopenhauer (who never wrote such a thing). Let us look at an example:

Here is one form of it used in a recent... suspect scheme (that had since collapsed.)

Comment left on TechCrunch by Jim Bunch regarding
Rippln for Jonathan Budd, founder of Rippln, as words
of encouragement, using "3 stages of truth" fallacy
To the right is a screenshot of a comment left on Techcrunch of a recruitment scheme called Rippln that was hot in 2013. It had collapsed in 2014, and was even sued by Ripple Labs for besmirching their name.

Jim Bunch is a supporter / buddy and later partner of the Rippln's founders, and in the comment he defended Rippln's launch with "3 stages of truth".
So just consider for a moment that there "could" be something that you feel like
1 - ridiculing...
2 - opposing and just realize that someday the idea that your social graph has a value will become
3 - self-evident 
People often mock what they don't understand... so just consider for a moment how you're showing up in the world and ask if you're in fact at the beginning of a transformation that maybe, just maybe, you're lacking enough information to really make an informed opinion.  
Since Rippln died in 2014, there is no transformation, and as the joke goes, "history is told not by who's right, but who's left".  (That's a word play, as "left" here actually means "remain".)

The logic is bogus, so how do you see through such?

Galileo Gambit can be categorized in many ways. In Wikipedia, it's grouped under "association fallacy".  In RationalWiki, Galileo Gambit is described as a combination fallacy including aspects of "transfer" (i.e. association by honor), appeal to authority (also association by honor), appeal to minority (i.e. "cheer the underdog"), and conditional fallacy (bad logic).

Basically, the presenter, in face of facts and evidence against his hypothesis, claims (with little or no proof)  that it's a vast conspiracy to suppress him by a nebulous "scientific establishment", or "big Media", or "big Pharma", or the really ridiculous like the Bilderberg Group or the Illuminati.

The concept is actually quite simple to illustrate if you rewrite the premise

  • A is B  / People who were right (like Galileo) were laughed at
  • A is also C / I was laughed at
  • Therefore all Bs are Cs / Therefore I am right (like Galileo)

This is a fallacy because there are plenty of people who were laughed at that were not right.  Without proof that you are right, you're just a crank with delusion of persecution.

The gambit can be most easily disproved by a quote from the late Carl Sagan
The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.  
(Broca's Brain by Carl Sagan, 1979, pg 64)
Does everybody who get laughed at are geniuses? Of course not. So how do you separate the comic and the truly hilarious from the genius being laughed at?

Evidence, of course, which the cranks will not have.

So to summarize, if any one tries the Galileo Gambit (or one of the variants) on you, demand proof that explains WHY he is right and everybody else is wrong, and evaluate THAT against the established facts. Ignore the rhetoric.

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