You know Vic, you don’t exactly have standing to be complaining about the rules of formal debate. You have several demonstrable flaws in your method, and a live-moderated forum is hardly the appropriate venue for the kind of semantic arguing that a truly proper formal debate gives rise to.
Your first logical fallacy is that when taken on aggregate, your posts consistently forward an appeal to authority; with yourself as the authority. As an establishment of yourself as an authority on – quite frankly multiple areas of expertise over which you seem to claim domain – you offer neither primary sources nor credentials. Instead you offer whimsical anecdotes that are supposed to be “evidence” of your vast personal experience.
A few issues pop up with this. Experience does not equate to expertise. Oh, you can make it sound as though you *obviously* have the expertise because of tangentially related experience, but that can just as easily by verbal sleight-of-hand. Let’s use an example.
I have over 25000+ hours as a Systems administrator for photography companies and photographic labs. Another 5000+ hours supporting the image/video rendering industry. In that time, I have picked up enough knowledge to talk the talk, but I cannot walk the walk.
I could certainly sound like I knew a great deal about photography. Enough even to convince some experienced professional photographers. The truth of the matter is I neither know nor care about anything related to photography. I know about the bits of photography that relate to computers. The cameras and everything related to them might as well be voodoo.
Now, I can of course put together a line of bull and convince someone online I’m an expert in photography. My experience combined with ready access to Google and Wikipedia could make me photographer trollpants of the year. But it does not make me an expert in photography. It makes me (potentially) an expert in digital imagery processing, at best.
So your appeal to yourself as an authority on embedded systems, vehicles (and the galaxy of related topics in between) that you have oh-so-subtly claimed is denied. I don’t buy it, and your use of this argumentative strategy has lowered my opinion of you quickly and dramatically.
The second issue I have with your argumentation is your approach to statistics. You have evidenced issues that fall under the common heading of the ecological inference fallacy. You have made judgments about me based not upon examination of the individual, but examination of the group to which I belong. (People who drive across a set of tracks when a car that’s acting up.)
Now admittedly, your trespass into this area was not as deep as that of others. (Seriously, “trying to avoid a tow charge?” You people pay for towing? Don’t you have auto clubs?) But you still made (wrong) assumptions based upon the behaviours and actions of other individuals who are members of the same group, instead of examining the motivations and behaviour of the individual in question. Entirely apart from the reasons that this is a fallacy on its own (and I’ll leave you to Google that), is can – and often does – lead to another logical fallacy; the hasty generalization.
The last one that I want to bring to your attention – and I am cutting this off at three rather than iterate the entire list due to comment length, not due to running out of violations – is the Ludic Fallacy. (This is a relatively new term, but Wikipedia does actually have a decent article on it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludic_fallacy.)
The heart of it is “using games to model RL.” While I have my disagreements about the exact representation and caveats typically assigned to the Ludic Fallacy, when extended to apply to both “using games theory to model RL” and “using statistics to model RL” it becomes somewhat more feature complete.
In short; statistics can inform us about the majority of cases. Games theory can do the same. But not all cases are identical, and – statistically speaking – there will always be a certain number of events within a given set that fall outside your 3 (or 5) sigma threshold.
I will not disagree with you for a fraction of a second if you say that “in most cases (or even in nearly all cases) when one is experiencing car troubles, one should not risk taking a car across any set of train tracks.” I would accept that judgment as correct based upon empirical data that you and I both accept as true.
This was empirical data I had in hand when I made the decision I made. I believed – based on circumstances as well as additional information about driving patterns, light timings, observations of neighbouring vehicles, etc. – that this was a situation falling outside at least 3 sigma, and possibly 5.
In other words, I did not take a statistically absolutist approach to risk management and analysed the situation itself rather than believing that the top of the bell curve can speak for all data points.
The particularities of this individual situation meant that it was actually *less risk* to try for the tracks than it was to sit there and get killed. There is zero – understand me literally zero – doubt in my mind that had I not made the choice I made, I would in fact currently be dead.
This is where the appeal to authority comes in. I have in fact talked to individuals I consider to be subject matter experts. Friends and family who drive that road every day, including my insurance broker two police officers and a professor of Mathematics at the local University. Every one of them except one agrees wholeheartedly with my decision. (And he believes that I was “categorically insane to drive that road in the light piece of tinfoil [I] call a car in the first place.”)
I accept them as authorities in the matter, whereas I don’t accept you as same. You may be in possession of some statistical knowledge. You may even have programmed an embedded system or two in your time.
That does not make you a subject matter expert, nor does it make “the statistical norm” apply to every situation. (Which you should damn well know if you do program embedded systems. Otherwise, what the hell are you doing in charge of people’s lives?)
So sir, I find fault with your logic. I find fault with your style of argumentation and I find fault with your so-called “evidence.” I called you on it. If you choose to take that as an ad homenim, feel free.
But to be perfectly clear, the comment was directed at the coherence of your arguments. Arguments that were absolutist, positing assertions as fact and given the number of your posts in this thread alone, an attempt at “accuracy by volume.” (And quite possibly “proof by intimidation,” given your abrasive tone.)
If you want to argue this further, please feel free to return to the article and select “email the author.” My free time is spent debating virtually every topic in existence on the Ars Technica forums with some of the best trolls on the planet. I would be entirely pleased to go 100 rounds with you about this, but there is zero reason to subject other commenters (and the poor moderator) to that much back and fourth.