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  1. #1
    -=Barry=- The Human Car's Avatar
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    Straw man arguments

    Just to give notice that simply calling an argument a straw man without supplying the details on the “easy refutability” is in itself a straw man. Please supply details if you wish to play the straw man card, it would be appreciated. TIA
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Human Car View Post
    Just to give notice that simply calling an argument a straw man without supplying the details on the “easy refutability” is in itself a straw man. Please supply details if you wish to play the straw man card, it would be appreciated. TIA
    Certainly, but straw man arguments can be built from inferences as well.

    Let's say, hypothetically, that someone asks the question "Are there different levels of skill amongst vehicular cyclists?". Also hypothetically let's say that the answer the question receives from vehicular cyclists is "yes, of course". Then let's suppose that the poster of the question repeatedly treats the answer as both surprising (which it isn't) and as a great epiphany.

    The inference here is that vehicular cyclists believe that learning the principles of vehicular cycling transforms the students into uniformly competent cyclists, but that this belief is somehow being hidden.

    It's a straw man argument, and I'm comfortable pointing that out.

    The thread about route choices is a clearly straw man argument, too.

    And in addition to the straw man aspect both of them have logical leaps and gotcha moments that entertained me. Aha!!!! Vehicular cyclists sometimes choose a more mellow route!!!!!

  3. #3
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by larryfeltonj View Post
    The inference here is that vehicular cyclists believe that learning the principles of vehicular cycling transforms the students into uniformly competent cyclists, but that this belief is somehow being hidden.

    It's a straw man argument, and I'm comfortable pointing that out.
    Do you also think it is just an "inference" that promoters of teaching the principles of vehicular cycling claim transformation of their students into much safer cyclists? Is the claim of 80% accident reduction, a fantastic safety benefit (if true), just an illusion created by critics skeptical of the VC training promoters' unsubstantiated speculations?

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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
    Do you also think it is just an "inference" that promoters of teaching the principles of vehicular cycling claim transformation of their students into much safer cyclists? Is the claim of 80% accident reduction, a fantastic safety benefit (if true), just an illusion created by critics skeptical of the VC training promoters' unsubstantiated speculations?
    The sentence you've constructed is nearly unparsable. Could you translate it for me, and explain how it relates to the two threads I used as examples of straw man arguments?

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    -=Barry=- The Human Car's Avatar
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    Some of my request boils down to a difficulty in keeping track of the nuances of each individual’s position. In your hypothetical example if person A asks "Are there different levels of skill amongst vehicular cyclists?" and person B responds “That’s a straw man.” I’m assuming the inference is that person B believes that there is a uniformity of skill among vehicular cyclists, your implication is that person B is just saying that’s a silly argument. Hence my request to be more articulate so I can better understand person B.

    One question that I would like to see answered is what are the skills that separate the more competent vehicular cyclist from the less competent vehicular cyclist?
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Human Car View Post
    Some of my request boils down to a difficulty in keeping track of the nuances of each individual’s position. In your hypothetical example if person A asks "Are there different levels of skill amongst vehicular cyclists?" and person B responds “That’s a straw man.” I’m assuming the inference is that person B believes that there is a uniformity of skill among vehicular cyclists, your implication is that person B is just saying that’s a silly argument. Hence my request to be more articulate so I can better understand person B.

    One question that I would like to see answered is what are the skills that separate the more competent vehicular cyclist from the less competent vehicular cyclist?
    If calling the argument straw man was the sum total of my response, you'd be correct. I'd suggest you reread the thread, and pay attention to why I called it a straw man argument.

    Cycling on the roadways employs a great many skills, so there isn't any one answer to that. It's like asking a motorist "how do you drive?". But in the urban conditions in which I commute lane changing skills are important, and I'd assume there's some variation in that respect.

  7. #7
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    if larry agrees with my posts, how can he also call them straw man arguments?????
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

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    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by larryfeltonj View Post
    The sentence you've constructed is nearly unparsable. Could you translate it for me, and explain how it relates to the two threads I used as examples of straw man arguments?
    OK, in terms you should be able to "parse." Skeptics do not need to infer nor conjure the fact that promoters of VC training, often make all sorts of fanciful, unsubstantiated claims about the benefits bestowed on those who are trained/taught by the VC "experts." If this doesn't relate for you, I won't be surprised.

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    -=Barry=- The Human Car's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by larryfeltonj View Post
    If calling the argument straw man was the sum total of my response, you'd be correct. I'd suggest you reread the thread, and pay attention to why I called it a straw man argument.
    I was trying to keep things “hypothetical” as there are several people playing the straw man card. But on a personal level there are times I am following you and times I am not and when I am not following what you are saying the straw man card does not help my understanding.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bekologist View Post
    if larry agrees with my posts, how can he also call them straw man arguments?????
    You've wandered well back into Monty Python sketch territory again with this one Bekologist, and I'm starting to imagine you hovering over the comfy chair in full regalia again.

    Stating over and over again that I agree with you doesn't have a whole lot of meaning when you're spouting truistic maxims:

    "Vehicular cyclists can take a more mellow route".

    "There are skill differences among vehicular cyclists".

    The straw man argument arises from your interpretation of the significance of those maxims.

  11. #11
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    what ARE you talking about????

    you agree with the truisms, but they are still straw man arguments???

    ...I'm off to ride around Hood Canal, have as nice time trying to muddy the waters, larry
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  12. #12
    -=Barry=- The Human Car's Avatar
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    I’m going to take a chance and step in with my own observations. VC is about how to ride safely under any road conditions and as an educational program this is good and commendable. But bicycling advocacy has concerns about providing safe and comfortable routes for cyclists or simply engineering. The intersection of these two sets of interests leaves one component a bit out in the air and that is cyclists’ comfort. Comfort may or may not be a skill that is applicable to VC but it is important to engineering, the speed a cyclists travels is not relevant to VC but it is relevant to what conditions a cyclist is comfortable cycling in so it is relevant to engineering.

    Much of these discussions seem to flip-flop between a not well defined state of VC as an engineering guide and the better defined VC as education guide.
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Human Car View Post
    Much of these discussions seem to flip-flop between a not well defined state of VC as an engineering guide and the better defined VC as education guide.
    Actually vehicular cycling advocates put a great deal of focus on engineering considerations, and don't ignore comfort. Follow this link posted in the "wide outside lanes" thread, then follow the links to references at the bottom of the article. I don't think you'll find that article, and the articles referenced in the footnotes, devoid of engineering discussion.

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    -=Barry=- The Human Car's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by larryfeltonj View Post
    Actually vehicular cycling advocates put a great deal of focus on engineering considerations, and don't ignore comfort. Follow this link posted in the "wide outside lanes" thread, then follow the links to references at the bottom of the article. I don't think you'll find that article, and the articles referenced in the footnotes, devoid of engineering discussion.
    Steve’s work is good and a lot better then JF’s on the subject but who is the authority on VC here JF or Steve? The problem is not so much that there is not good engineering on the VC side of things it just that discussions about engineering degrade to discussions about education as it is easy to confuse the two when talking about VC.

    For example: If someone mentions that they are more comfortable with 8 feet of space separating them from fast moving traffic someone else will chime in on how they can safely take the lane. So referencing Steve’s work only gets you “but it’s not needed” response which does not help to define the VC position well.

    I’m just saying there is some frustration here on the side of the engineering folks.
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    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    The Human Car,
    So you now wish to join Bek and Brian R. in dictating the protocal for how everyone should post.

    Interesting that they are all die hard bike lane demanders.
    Last edited by CB HI; 08-05-07 at 09:36 PM.

  16. #16
    -=Barry=- The Human Car's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CB HI View Post
    The Human Car,
    So you now wish to join Bek and Brian R. in dictating the protocal for how evenone should post.

    Interesting that they are all die hard bike lane demanders.
    That's a straw man argument and you know it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Human Car View Post
    Steve’s work is good and a lot better then JF’s on the subject but who is the authority on VC here JF or Steve? The problem is not so much that there is not good engineering on the VC side of things it just that discussions about engineering degrade to discussions about education as it is easy to confuse the two when talking about VC.

    For example: If someone mentions that they are more comfortable with 8 feet of space separating them from fast moving traffic someone else will chime in on how they can safely take the lane. So referencing Steve’s work only gets you “but it’s not needed” response which does not help to define the VC position well.

    I’m just saying there is some frustration here on the side of the engineering folks.

    Steve Goodridge has put many more details into his article on wide outside lanes than I ever had done. That's commendable, but there's no significant difference in thought that I see.

    As to the extent to which comfort needs to be considered, comfort is a very subjective feeling that differs from person to person and changes within one person with experience. I rather doubt that our society is willing to pay the costs of making all road users comfortable; the issues of safety and efficiency and convenience are far more important, more measurable, and more manageable.

  18. #18
    -=Barry=- The Human Car's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Forester View Post
    As to the extent to which comfort needs to be considered, comfort is a very subjective feeling that differs from person to person and changes within one person with experience. I rather doubt that our society is willing to pay the costs of making all road users comfortable; the issues of safety and efficiency and convenience are far more important, more measurable, and more manageable.
    This is exactly the kind of garbage I am talking about, try to emphasize engineering and you get redirected to education.

    Let me try this again, if bike safety education is so much more important and doable for far less money as you seem to imply then give me the info how to educate at least one grade worth of Baltimore's elementary kids this school year. With $3million there are no real good programs available for us, no instructors available and absolutely near zilch for everything in regards to education.

    Talk about the inability of making all roads comfortable for cyclists what about the inability of getting education to all cyclists? Sorry John, but engineering I can buy but education in the quantities that we need can’t be bought.
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  19. #19
    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    The Human Car,
    As you requested.
    http://www.hbl.org/bikeEd_general.html
    By the way, John helped HBL get the program started.
    Maybe you should try to learn from him;
    rather than arguing with him and calling his words garbage.
    Last edited by CB HI; 08-05-07 at 09:39 PM.

  20. #20
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    The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person's actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position. This sort of "reasoning" has the following pattern:
    1. Person A has position X.
    2. Person B presents position Y (which is a distorted version of X).
    3. Person B attacks position Y.
    4. Therefore X is false/incorrect/flawed.
    This sort of "reasoning" is fallacious because attacking a distorted version of a position simply does not constitute an attack on the position itself. One might as well expect an attack on a poor drawing of a person to hurt the person.
    Examples of Straw Man

    1. Prof. Jones: "The university just cut our yearly budget by $10,000."
      Prof. Smith: "What are we going to do?"
      Prof. Brown: "I think we should eliminate one of the teaching assistant positions. That would take care of it."
      Prof. Jones: "We could reduce our scheduled raises instead."
      Prof. Brown: " I can't understand why you want to bleed us dry like that, Jones."
    2. "Senator Jones says that we should not fund the attack submarine program. I disagree entirely. I can't understand why he wants to leave us defenseless like that."
    3. Bill and Jill are arguing about cleaning out their closets:
      Jill: "We should clean out the closets. They are getting a bit messy."
      Bill: "Why, we just went through those closets last year. Do we have to clean them out everyday?"
      Jill: "I never said anything about cleaning them out every day. You just want too keep all your junk forever, which is just ridiculous."
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bockman View Post
    The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person's actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position. This sort of "reasoning" has the following pattern:
    1. Person A has position X.
    2. Person B presents position Y (which is a distorted version of X).
    3. Person B attacks position Y.
    4. Therefore X is false/incorrect/flawed.
    This sort of "reasoning" is fallacious because attacking a distorted version of a position simply does not constitute an attack on the position itself. One might as well expect an attack on a poor drawing of a person to hurt the person.
    Examples of Straw Man

    1. Prof. Jones: "The university just cut our yearly budget by $10,000."
      Prof. Smith: "What are we going to do?"
      Prof. Brown: "I think we should eliminate one of the teaching assistant positions. That would take care of it."
      Prof. Jones: "We could reduce our scheduled raises instead."
      Prof. Brown: " I can't understand why you want to bleed us dry like that, Jones."
    2. "Senator Jones says that we should not fund the attack submarine program. I disagree entirely. I can't understand why he wants to leave us defenseless like that."
    3. Bill and Jill are arguing about cleaning out their closets:
      Jill: "We should clean out the closets. They are getting a bit messy."
      Bill: "Why, we just went through those closets last year. Do we have to clean them out everyday?"
      Jill: "I never said anything about cleaning them out every day. You just want too keep all your junk forever, which is just ridiculous."
    Or how about this example:

    X admits that vehicular cyclists can and do choose routes based on comfort, therefore they aren't the supercyclists they claim to be. (with the phrase after the comma constituting the spurious inference)

  22. #22
    Senior Member sggoodri's Avatar
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    The straw man argument I keep seeing repeated is as follows:

    The vehicular cycling advocate's original argument is this: Vehicular cycling skill development makes cyclists more safe, confident and comfortable on a wide variety of roads than without it; roadway engineering should be conducted in a manner that is compatible with vehicular cycling including the vehicular rules of the road as well as the kinematic and dynamic aspects of bicycles as vehicles.

    The distorted version (straw man) argument is this: No changes to the engineering of the roadway system or behavior of motorists regarding bicycle traffic are ever beneficial or desirable for cycling; All cyclists who know the rules of the road can be perfectly safe and comfortable cycling on all roads designed to accommodate motor vehicle traffic.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sggoodri View Post
    The straw man argument I keep seeing repeated is as follows:

    The vehicular cycling advocate's original argument is this: Vehicular cycling skill development makes cyclists more safe, confident and comfortable on a wide variety of roads than without it; roadway engineering should be conducted in a manner that is compatible with vehicular cycling including the vehicular rules of the road as well as the kinematic and dynamic aspects of bicycles as vehicles.

    The distorted version (straw man) argument is this: No changes to the engineering of the roadway system or behavior of motorists regarding bicycle traffic are ever beneficial or desirable for cycling; All cyclists who know the rules of the road can be perfectly safe and comfortable cycling on all roads designed to accommodate motor vehicle traffic.
    .
    This is a good succinct and complete summary of the repeatedly constructed straw man. Sometimes it's presented in a Straw Man Lite form, and sometimes it's in a form I'm beginning to think of as Beko-Sack-of-Sledgehammers. But it usually boils down to the distortion you've outlined above.

  24. #24
    Senior Member sggoodri's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Human Car View Post
    This is exactly the kind of garbage I am talking about, try to emphasize engineering and you get redirected to education.

    Let me try this again, if bike safety education is so much more important and doable for far less money as you seem to imply then give me the info how to educate at least one grade worth of Baltimore's elementary kids this school year. With $3million there are no real good programs available for us, no instructors available and absolutely near zilch for everything in regards to education.

    Talk about the inability of making all roads comfortable for cyclists what about the inability of getting education to all cyclists? Sorry John, but engineering I can buy but education in the quantities that we need can’t be bought.
    There is insufficient public funding for educating all schoolchildren in vehicular cycling for the same reason that there is insufficient public funding to rebuild and police all roadways to make traffic-averse bicyclists comfortable: There is not enough public demand in the USA to make all cyclists comfortable traveling to all destinations. Other issues receive higher priority.

    For example, on very busy arterial corridors with surrounding commercial development constraining the ROW width, proposals to reduce the lane count or remove on-street parking in order to provide room for striped bike lanes or wide outside lane will typically be rejected. Most of the traffic-averse cyclists who are least comfortable with cycling on such a street can be satiated by alternate routes and locations to bike (this is particularly true for children and recreational cyclists), and the motoring majority will overwhelmingly oppose any engineering change that will reduce the performance of the road for their use. When the politicians decide where to spend their money on improving cycling, they direct it to the alternate streets and linear parks rather than trying to make the most unpleasant roads better, because this decision will win them the most voter support.

    The least expensive way to make access to important destinations on important roads pleasant for traffic-averse cyclists is before those places get built out. That is my focus as a cyclist advocate in a fast-growing suburban city. But the political reality is that there will always be somewhat unpleasant streets where dedicated vehicular cyclists are more comfortable than other cyclists, and there won't be much public funding for training traffic-averse cyclists to ride where they are currently uncomfortable when the money could be spent on elsewhere. Those cyclists who want to ride anywhere are stuck investing in their own skill development. In return, many Bike Ed educators try to make their classes as affordable as possible, because seeing cyclists become more excited about their travel by bike is its own reward.

  25. #25
    Senior Member slagjumper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sggoodri View Post
    The straw man argument I keep seeing repeated is as follows:

    The vehicular cycling advocate's original argument is this: Vehicular cycling skill development makes cyclists more safe, confident and comfortable on a wide variety of roads than without it; roadway engineering should be conducted in a manner that is compatible with vehicular cycling including the vehicular rules of the road as well as the kinematic and dynamic aspects of bicycles as vehicles.

    The distorted version (straw man) argument is this: No changes to the engineering of the roadway system or behavior of motorists regarding bicycle traffic are ever beneficial or desirable for cycling; All cyclists who know the rules of the road can be perfectly safe and comfortable cycling on all roads designed to accommodate motor vehicle traffic.
    Isnt your presentation of the distorted version more like "begging the question". That is, presuming the conclusion is allready accepted as true. For example, imagine God is the most powerfull entity. That is -- there is nothing is greater than God. If god knew everything, was all good, and all powerful, but did not exist, then that could not be God, since existance is an additional, greater element. Since existance is greater than non existance God must exist.

    How about something more like-
    Vehicular cycling skill development makes cyclists feel more safe, confident and comfortable on a wide variety of roads than without it; therefore, no roadway engineering that is compatible with vehicular cycling need be included, since all you have to do is learn to ride better.


    Problem is -- the VCer is not saying that just feeling safer makes you safer.
    So I distorted the original by changing "makes cyclists more safe" to "makes cyclists feel more safe".

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strawman
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question

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