Sunday, August 10, 2014

The first book I read was "Freakonomics: A Rouge Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything," by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, published in 2006. In the book, the two authors look at several different issues, such as how much parents matter in development or cheating on standardized testing. To explain the issue, they use different sets of data and economic principles to show why their explanations are correct, and why conventional and common sense thinking leads to incorrect conclusions. They also postulates that emotions and common sense are the main things that impede people from seeing the truth in things.

Throughout the book, Levitt mainly uses logos in the form of data tables as well as analysis of those sets to try and support his point. For each topic he brings up, he provides a separate data set to support his claim. For example, to show what factors of parenting influenced children, he used the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, which correlates different factors with test scores to see how strong the correlation is. He then analyzes this data in detail, such as in this excerpt from analyzing why having books in the house correlates strongly while parents reading to a child doesn't, "Most parents would look at this correlation and infer an obvious cause-and-effect relationship...Isiah does beautifully on his reading test at school; this must be because his mother or father regularly reads to him. But Isiah's friend Emily, who also has a lot of books in her home, practically never touches them...And Emily tests just as well as Isaiah...most parents who buy a lot of children's books tend to be smart and well educated to begin with (And they pass on their smarts and work ethic to their kids." By providing analysis of the data, he convinces the reader that his point is valid. He also shows pathos to outline the opposing views, however not to prove his own points. An example is when he is trying to explain the decreasing crime rates by showing all the other explanations that newspapers had cited, with the introduction, "Of the seven major explanations on the list, only three can be shown to have contributed to the drop in crime. The others are, for the most part, figments of someone's imagination, self-interest, or wishful thinking. One of the greatest measurable causes of the crime drop does not appear on the list at all, for it didn't receive a single newspaper mention." By showing how the wrong conclusions are all based on pathos, he can establish the legitimacy of his logos, which ignores all emotions and focuses only on facts.

The purpose of the book is to convince others to apply logic to the world, and to not follow common sense, or presume that others are looking out for your best interests. In short, the author wants people to think more critically about everything and everyone. This can be seen by how he presents both his argument and the opposing sides points. In almost all of his explanation of the conventional answers to questions, he explains it by showing how emotions and so called common sense often leads to the wrong answer, such as how teachers and real-estate agents are considered to be morally just because of their public role, and therefore must not cheat others. By presenting legitimate facts that prove these common and easy to make assumptions wrong, he is showing how one should think through things and judge the world, through critical analysis and empirical data.

Levitt presents himself as knowledgeable and experienced with the topic, which in this book, changes every few chapters. Although he is not an expert on every question considered in the book, he does not claim to be, and instead uses the work of other experts, as well as the type of analysis he promotes as his purpose, to seem familiar with all of the topics. He also presumes that the audience is uneducated about this topic, or already has strong preconceptions or negative opinions about the topic and his perspective on it, such as how everyone refused to accept that legalized abortion led to the crime drop, instead of a better economy or police work being the cause of the drop. His goal in presenting himself and many other esteemed researchers as experts in the topics, so to destroy all of these misconceptions that the audience has, and refuses to let go of.

The second book was "Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Society," by Jared Diamond, published in 1997. In the book, Diamond explains how different societies around the world, especially in the Pacific Ocean or indigenous people in North America evolved, and to a lesser extent, how societies and people in Europe and China evolved to eventually take over the Pacific and North American ones. He posits that there are several factors that allowed for this domination, especially germs, technology, as well as farming and herding capabilities.

Diamond mainly uses logos to support his argument. He does this by providing data on something that civilizations need, or examples of technology, achievements, species, and diseases that grew in the area to support his claims, such as in the lines, "Among the world's thousands of wild grass species, Blumler tabulated the 56 with the largest seeds, the cream of nature's crop...Virtually all of them are native to Mediterranean zones or other seasonally dry environments. Furthermore, they are overwhelmingly concentrated in the Fertile Crescent or other parts of western Eurasia's Mediterranean zone, which offered a huge selection to incipient farmers: about 32 of the world's 56 prize wild grasses....In contrast, the Mediterranean zone of Chile offered only two of those species, California and southern Africa just one each, and southwestern Australia none at all. That fact along goes a long way toward explaining the course of human history." He also uses ethos by using anecdotes that show that he is familiar with the topic and the people involved. This can be seen in lines like, "It poignantly brought home to me the Indians' perspective on what I, like other white schoolchildren, had been taught to view as the heroic conquest of the American West."

The purpose of the book is for people to stop relying on or believing in racist theories of biological inequalities, as they are horrible and untrue. This can be seen by the evidence he presents. Half of the evidence he presents in great detail the evidence for other factors that caused civilization's to evolve, such as the number of plant and animal species that could be domesticated available in each area as well as whether the continent had a north-south or west-est axis, and how that resulted in many inequalities in societies. However, the other half of his evidence is to prove how all people are biologically the same. Instead of focusing on how people's differences in things like culture caused advantages, he focuses on how everyone is inherently the same, in an attempt to convince others of that.

The audience of the book is presumed to be uneducated about the topic, but with deeply rooted ideas that go against the idea being presented. This can be seen, once again, with how much effort is spent trying to produce evidence to disprove the assumed racist and unequal beliefs of the reader.  Diamond also presents himself as very knowledgeable familiar with the topic. He does this by using anecdotes of his time spent with natives of various Polynesian and Pacific islands, especially to show how equal in intelligence they are to Europeans to prove his point. This stance is also needed to legitimize his stories as real facts that actually support his idea.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Connecting Arguements Between Articles and "Guns, Germs, and Steel"

The first article I used was "Will Civilization Collapse, or Evolve?" by Richard Steiner, a professor who wrote this article for The Huffington Post. The article describes how humanity is currently ruining the Earth, and dooming ourselves. Steiner quotes several articles from other online newspapers, as well as several studies that show how humans are using more resources than the Earth can provide. He then goes on to say how similar circumstances are what led to the collapse of other great civilizations throughout history. However, this time the consequences are more severe, since these problems are now on a global scale. 

The premise of both the article and the book are the same. Both deal with the idea of human evolution in order to survive. However, the book deals mainly with human society's evolution in the past, while the article is attempting to convince others that change is necessary if our global civilization is to continue. However, both are in agreement that societies must adapt and evolve if they wish to survive in a changing world. However, I have not yet come to Jared Diamond's official opinion about the specific issue of modern society, as if it is mentioned, it is not in the first half.

In both the book and the article, the speaker comes from a position of experience and passion about this topic, Steiner as a conservation biologist, and Diamond as a professor with large amounts of experience in this field. Also in both cases, they see the audience as ignorant of the issue presented, and use many examples and explain in detail their arguments to overcome that assumption.

Just like in "Guns, Germs, and Steel," Steiner mainly uses logos to prove his points. However, while Diamond's logos arguments were based off of his own facts and noticed trends, as well as the ones of close colleagues, Steiner uses ones from other online newspapers and books written by others, such as "A recent NASA sponsered study, led by mathematician Safa Motesharrei of the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, warns that modern industrial civilization may collapse in coming decades due to resource depletion and a growing unequal distribution of wealth," and, "Eric Cline's book, 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed, makes a persuasive case that the Bronze Age ended three thousand years ago with the collapse of several Mediterranean civilizations." The type of logos that they used also affects their pathos. Since Diamond is directly involved with most of his sources, he appears more credible about the subject that he is talking about, while Steiner quotes others who may or may not be reliable, and he depends on their credibility for his own. However, both of them gain some cred ability by having the title of professor. Lastly, while Diamond does not use pathos at all to support his arguement, and in fact claims that his goal is to undo people's beliefs of ethnicity giving supieriority over others which is caused by emotions, Steiner does use pathos to appeal to people's hatred of things such as corporations or the government. This can be seen in lines such as, "Academia continues to provide the corporate elites just what they want -- a rationale to continue their self-indulgent, destructive practices. Advertising perpetuates consumerism; the entertainment industry keeps the public distracted; social and environmental systems continue to disintegrate."

If I had to take a side in this issue, I would agree with both the article and the book, even without their very persuasive arguments. Humanity has been using and wasting more resources than we should, and eventually it will reach the point of collapse. And as both arguements pointed out, extinction and collapse follows resisted evolution.

The second article that I found was, "The Endangered Species Act: Preserving Wildlife, Wonder and Our Natural Heritage for 40 Years," by Jaime Rappaport Clark, also on the Huffington Post. This article is about the success of the Endangered Species Act, which places animals whose numbers are low under protection, in an attempt to stop extinction, and keep biodiversity. However, some members of the legislature are attempting to change or appeal the law. The article then describes all the challenges endangered animals face, how the Endangered Species Act, and the Environmental Protection Agency have had many successes, and finally, how the Act and the Agency are essential.

Both the book and the article emphasize the importance of biodiversity, and the consequences of mass animal extinction. In Diamond's argument, a large piece of evidence is based off the fact that areas where large mammals were hunted to extinction took longer to develop. Also, the increased biodiversity made it easier for humans to develop edible and useful plants and animals. In the article, the author is trying to convince the reader that biodiversity is needed to maintain the ecosystem, as well as for the benefits animals bring, whether we know of them yet or not. However, both discuss and agree that biodiversity is important to humans, and the world.

Just like in the last article and "Guns, Germs, and Steel," Clark approaches the topic as an expert, who knows what she is talking about, as well as being very passionate about the topic. However, since she has no academic credentials besides her job as a CEO of a wildlife protection company, this approach is less successful than in Diamond's book. She also has the assumption that the audience is ignorant on the topic presented, and therefore goes into the history of the act, as well as all of its successes, in a way similar to Diamond's book.

The article uses much more ethos than the book did. In the article, Clark tries to appeal to the reader with images of all the animals that would be extinct without the act, in lines such as, "Each winter, people gather in Sauk City, Wisc., during January to see the abundance of bald eagles that gather on the banks of the Mississippi River. The city is just one of hundreds nationwide that host festivals, tours and more to watch expanding populations of our national bird. Off the coast of California, ecotourism guides lead wildlife lovers in search of sea otters at play in the ocean; and in Massachusetts, tourists head off in boats to watch whales migrating through the Atlantic waters." She also tries to appeal to the reader's hope for the future, with other lines like, "My son Carson once gave me a drawing of a polar bear that I hung in my office near my desk. He wrote at the top, "Please save the polar bears mom!" He meant it. It's time for us to mean it too. Carson and all of the other young people in this country are counting on us to ensure that the world we leave behind is as good or better as the one that my generation inherited." As stated before, the article's pathos is much less convincing than Diamond's. The article also tries to use logos, by stating facts about the EPA. However, because there are no sources to these facts, unlike in Diamond's book, they are not as effective.

If I had to join in on this issue, I would agree with both Diamond and Clark. The world's wildlife needs to be preserved, and the amount of species should not drop any more than it already has. Things need to be done now to protect the future.

The last article I found was, "Arguments in Favour of Genetically-Modified Crops," by Ben Miflin, and published on the website AgBioWorld, which is dedicated to information about agricultural technology. The article summarizes many achievements that genetically modified organisms, mainly crops, and also known as GMO's, have accomplished. He then summarizes some arguments that GMO critics have. After that, he states facts and studies that dismiss their claims.

Both the book and the article emphasize the importance of modifying seeds and food. In "Guns, Germs, and Steel," Diamond spends several chapters talking about how without humans changing the genetics of plants, either unconsciously, as ancient humans did, or in a deliberate way, as modern scientists do, and how without this, agriculture would not be possible. In the article, Miflin
 agrees with that general idea, and says that the modified crops bring almost all good effects, and how it vastly improves the world's agriculture and environment.

Unlike the book and the past two articles, Miflin assumes that the audience is already somewhat familiar with both the argument he is making, as well as the points that the critics claim. Just like in the book, the speaker appears very informed on the topic to try and establish pathos. However, Miflin does not discuss or mention his credentials that allow him to be well versed on the topic, unlike Diamond, therefore creating much less credibility. Miflin also tries, and fails, to obtain logos by mentioning various studies, but never officially citing them, such as, "GM technology is the only technology to be regulated from its inception, before any mishaps had occurred," or by stating statistics with no source such as, "Over the last 12 years between 50-100 million euros have been spent by the EU on bio-safety research. GM technology is used widely in the production of foods (e.g. the majority of cheese in the UK and US is made with an enzyme that is the product of GM technology) and medicines (e.g. the production of human growth hormone by GM methods removed the major cause of CJD)." Just like in the book, Miflin does not use ethos, and relies only logos. However, he does not discuss how ethos creates false arguments and points, like "Guns, Germs, and Steel" does.

If I were to join in the issue, once again, I would agree with both the article and the book. Changing the genetics of crops has been used for thousands of years to improve agriculture and advance society. There is no proven scientific reason why that trend should not continue in the modern day albeit on a much larger, worldwide scale.

List of Articles Used:
Steiner, Richard. "Will Civilization Collapse, or Evolve?" The Huffington Post., 04 Apr. 2014. Web. 25 July 2014.

Clark, Jamie Rappaport. "The Endangered Species Act: Preserving Wildlife, Wonder and Our Natural Heritage for 40 Years." The Huffington Post., 02 Jan. 2013. Web. 25 July 2014.
Miflin, Ben. "Arguments in Favour of Genetically-Modified Crops." Arguments in Favour of Genetically-Modified Crops. AgBioWorld, n.d. Web. 25 July 2014.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Strengths and Weaknesses of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

As stated in the last post, all aspects of the rhetorical triangle are important for helping create an successful argument that can persuade others. However, each of the three sides have different positive and negative aspects. An author could possibly use all of them, or choose not to use one if they thought it could possibly strengthen their argument, or was unnecessary. An author can also chose in what way they choose to present each one that they choose to use.

Ethos shows the authors credibility to the audience. There are two main ways to express ethos. One is by giving anecdotes or personal accounts that show how close they are to the issue being talked about. For example, if the topic of persuasion was related to drugs, the speaker could provide a personal story about their relationship with drugs, to show that they have experience with the topic. Similarly, another way to achieve this is to provide a prestigious or very specific field of experience, such as being a professor of something related to the topic. In the drug example, a professor that researches how drugs affect the behavior of people would have great experience in the topic, and would provide sufficient ethos. However, ethos still has several strengths and weaknesses. Since ethos provides credibility, it can help convince others that since the author has extensive knowledge on the topic, they and their opinion can be trusted. However, it could do the opposite, as a reader may think that a person's title that should provide ethos could provide the aura of pretentiousness. This could turn the person off of the argument, and fail to convince the reader of anything. In "Freakonomics," every chapter has a different subject. Because the topics vary so vastly, each one requires a different person to achieve ethos. For example, in Chapter 3, the topic is how the drug dealing business is just as competitive and has the same model as normal capitalist business. For this chapter's ethos, the speaker used was Sudhir Venkatesh, an economics student who spent years around a drug dealing gang to study their economic model and patterns. Because of his large amount of experience with the subject, the argument is valid. On the other hand, in Chapter 5, the ethos is gained by using a study provided by the U.S Department of Education called Early Childhood Longitudinal Study. In this case, because of the prestigious and official title, the study and argument based off of the study has credibility.

As said in the previous entry, pathos is based on emotional appeals to the audience. The main ways to get this is through trying to predict the values of the readers. The author could put in an anecdote to appeal to feelings, or use specific language that makes the readers feel bad if they do not agree with the opinion presented. However, while pathos lets the readers connect with the author and the argument emotionally, it also has some downsides. There are no facts to back up the opinion, and since there are no facts it may seem to some readers that the arguement has no logical backing. In "Freakonomics," the only uses of pathos are in other people's arguments which the authors are attempting to disprove. It is used the least out of the three, because the whole purpose of there claim is that the obvious and most popular opinions are usually wrong, and pathos is the device usually used to back up arguments of that type. This happens in Chapter 1, where others explanations on cheating in sumo wrestler matches as well as by teachers on standardized testing were disproved because the readers emotions, and the authors of those explanations use of pathos meant that they ignored the actual explanation, all because they believed that those professions would never stoop so low. Another example is in Chapter 6, where pathos influenced how successful people with different names, because of people's emotions and connotations on them.

Logos is based solely off of logic. To show logos, the author can use sets of data, analogies, or analyses of any type of data or information. While an argument using logos is useful as it can prove things be simple facts and logic that people can follow, it may also seem impersonal, as  there is no emotion involved at all. This method is what is most used in "Freakonomics," because they were trying to use only facts to show how emotions make people think common sense opinions, which can be disproved by facts. Some of the examples of this are in Chapter 5, where the parenting duties are analyzed by how much they affect children to try and find correlations, and to prove that most things that define "good parenting" really do nothing significant, or in Chapter 4, where they provide police data, crime rates, and abortion rates to both disprove the arguments that the economy and better policing were the causes of less crime, and that the legalization of abortion was the true cause, even though people's emotions and values have blinded them from this apparent revelation.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Rhetoric Explained with "Freakonomics"

The easiest way to explain what rhetoric means is with one simple sentence: it is persuasion. A more complicated definition, is that rhetoric is one person trying to change another person's opinion, whether orally or in a written work, and by using effective language. Nowadays, it may have negative connotations for seeming like it lacks facts or substance, but rhetoric is actually achieved by specifically analyzing how one phrases things, and by appealing to the audience, and as well as different aspects of humanity, such as emotion or logic.

Rhetoric is made up of three main parts, Ethos, or the speaker, Pathos, or the audience, and Logos, or the Message. Combined, all three aspects make up one argument, that should be very convincing. In the next few paragraphs, I will explain in greatly detail each of the 3 points on the Rhetorical Triangle with examples from the book "Freakonomics," by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.

First, on the top of the triangle is Ethos, as Aristotle originally called it when he originally named and explained what rhetoric was, or the speaker, as it is now called. This area deals with credibility. For one' argument to be able to convince others, the speaker themselves must appear like they know what they are talking about. If the speaker doesn't seem believable or knowledgeable in the subject, than their argument loses all of its credibility, and the rhetoric will be weak. In "Freakonomics," the authors obtain their credibility or logos by discussing their experience with economics. Most of the book however, is composed of accounts and studies of others, and their credibility is obtained by discussing their education and credentials, such as being students of Economics, or even professors, as well as at one point a Criminologist.

Next is Pathos, or the Audience. This aspect deals with emotion. To convince others of an argument, one must appeal to their emotions, and convince them of the issues or values that are at sake. These emotional appeals must also be tuned specifically towards the audience the speaker is trying to reach. If the author appeals to values for a different demographic than the target audience, than the argument isn't going to succeed. In "Freakonomics," pathos is rarely used. The author depend only on logic, facts, and data to explain their points. In fact, throughout the book, they even show how pathos and emotions made false arguments seem believable, despite the overwhelming facts, such as when pointing out how crime rates went down. While many of the arguements listed relied on people's emotions, such as better and more police, as well as the economy, the facts provided showed that there was a correlation between the legalization of abortion and the sinking of crime rates. The book then points out how no one wants to achknowlage this, because of their emotions clouding their judgement.

What "Freakonomics" relied on was the last aspect of the rhetorical triangle, Logos, or the message. For this part of an argument, one's points must make sense. There must also be facts, data, or other forms of information that support it. If the rhetoric is not logical, it will not be believable. Just like in the book, how facts prove their arguments right, and the others wrong, such as with the abortion and crime rates, or with baby names linked to income and future success.

Further Reading: