Let Them Pick Cherries: The Principle of Charity No. 2

This article describes a way in which cherry picked data is useful for deduction and debate, in conjunction with the principle of charity, in the context of a specific example.

Let’s start with the specific example. Michelle Obama and the leftists have recently been touting the success of Michelle’s health initiative. There are some problems with the way they are doing this:

  1. Their data comes from a singular source.
  2. The source contains a cited fact which is statistically invalid. The study mentions a 43 percent drop in obesity rates among children ages 2-5, but the margin of error is so large that obesity may have even risen.
  3. The alleged 43% drop occurred over the time period from 2003-2012. Obama was elected in 2008. This creates an obvious double standard where the Obama administration claims credit for successes even which precede their own administration, but problems which continue even through their administration are blamed on previous administrations. In particular, wars and a long suffering economy are blamed on Bush, while Michelle claims credit for the alleged improvements to health.
  4. While there was an alleged improvement in childhood obesity, there was a rise in obesity among the elderly according to the same study.
  5. Even if there was some change in health, the idea that Michelle Obama was even a mild cause of that change is hilariously without evidence.
  6. The fact that Obama is so desperate to prove her effectiveness that she is willing to use obviously flawed data is in and of itself evidence toward the fact that she was probably ineffective.

It is that last point that I want to generalize and focus on.

The principle of charity is a deductive technique best used in the context of comparative explanation such as in the case of debate or when using inference to the best explanation.

The idea behind the principle of charity is that arguments can be refined, reformed, and improved. Therefore if some argument A beats some argument B, it may be that B can be reformed into a better argument C which is better than A. In an effort to pre-emptively defeat B, C, D, and so on, the person supporting argument A will not only attempt to defeat their opposing argument, but they ought to genuinely seek to improve the opposing argument into its strongest form. If argument A can beat the best form of B, not necessarily the explicitly given form of B, then the debate can truly be put to rest.

Cherrypicking is related to the best version of an argument because cherrypicked data will support a particular argument more strongly than the best form of that argument. If some argument A can defeat the cherrypicked form of an opposing argument B, then it seems that A can also easily defeat an balanced and honest form of B.

In conclusion, cherrypicked data isn’t the most useful for an intelligent debate, but if you can defeat an argument based on cherrypicked data then defeating a similar argument based on accurate data should be a piece of cake.

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