"Propter nomen" — Because of the name

Guest Essay by Kip Hansen

nomen

In the current round of discussion over at Climate Dialogue, which is about the effects of the Sun on Earth’s climate, one of the participants, Dr. Mike Lockwood, in his essay “The sun plays only a very minor role”, lists the following item as one of seven fundamental considerations which are often overlooked in discussions of climate issues:

“7. Logic based on the name given to a phenomenon, interval or feature is bad science, because the name is often inadequate and misleading.”

— Mike Lockwood

 

Dr. Lockwood later gives a specific instance saying “The ‘Little Ice Age’ — I dislike this name as it has been used to build arguments that rely on the name which, as mentioned in point 7, is inherently bad science.”

His point 7 struck me as much more widely true and as a logical fallacy or error in critical thinking of which I was aware, and which I would often call out in discussions as invalid logic, but not quite in that finished sense.

Presuming much more learning and authority than I have, I suggest in the title of this essay a proper Latin name which might be used for this error: Propter nomen with a casual translation of “Because of the name”.

We could restate Dr. Lockwood’s consideration this way:

Propter nomen: A logical argument in which the assumption of truth or logical validity is based on the name or title of a thing. Such logical assumption, based on the literal name or title given to a thing, is fallacious, because the name or title itself may be false, self-serving, inadequate and/or misleading.”

This informal logical fallacy can lead to, depend on or contribute to other logical fallacies: take the World Bank whose name appeals to authority (which grants itself, by name, worldwide authority in financial matters — which it does not have) or the self-serving organizational name Center for Science in the Public Interest which, by name, claims appeals to the scientific authority of “science” and assures us that their efforts are “in the public interest”. (CSPI is really a Washington lobbying organization, not necessarily made up of scientists, sometimes called “The Food Police”, infamous for being nearly always scientifically wrong about the issues it lobbies for, thus almost never acting in the real public interest). If we were to base our logic on the names of either of these organizations, we might think that the World Bank must be honorable, well-meaning and in charge of world finances or that CSPI was certainly operating in our best interest out of concern for us poor benighted ignoramuses. Then we have the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project and its products which some people use while literally accepting the acronym as fact, Propter nomen — “because of the name”.

How many studies and news articles have we seen in which the authors claim that such and such a local or regional phenomenon is caused by Global Warming? — without any data in the study about the temperature record in the region or at the locale under consideration — assuming that since Global Warming is named “Global” Warming, that such data is not needed…after all, the whole globe is warming — it’s right there in the name.

We often see this with Global Mean Temperature. Giving this data set such a name is not the same as it actually being global or the mean or the temperature. It is not meant to be the temperature of the globe itself as a three-dimensional object. It is not strictly a mean but could be seen as “an average of averages of averages”. It does not literally represent an average (mean) of Earth temperatures at any given time. Thus, when some specific phenomena is listed as caused by an increase in Global Mean Temperature, it is nearly invariable false. Propter nomen — fallacious logical assumption that Global Mean Temperature is actually literally as named, thus, like Global Warming, if it is rising, it must be affecting all things everywhere on the globe.

We have seen in the main stream media, and especially in the environmental media, articles which refer to “the 6th mass extinction” or “current ongoing mass extinction” which is fallaciously granted power and magnitude by its name alone — even though it is apparent, based on data from the IUCN, that it is not only not ongoing, it is not great and there is no mass extinction (nor has there been any in the 19th, 20th or 21st centuries). The IUCN Red List has as “extinct” only 828 plants and animals since records began to be kept, the vast majority of these occurring on islands and other isolated niche micro-environments: island extinctions almost invariably caused by arrival of rats, cats, dogs and pigs brought by sailors and colonists. The Red List has not yet been updated for the re-discovery of Rhachistia aldabrae — the Aldabra Banded Snail — so there are only 827 correct listings. Many of these articles start with “the 6th Mass Extinction” as a given, assumed true because of its name, and go on to build a logical house of cards from there. Propter nomen — you can’t create something just by giving it a name — the name does not grant actual existence nor physical (moral, natural, chemical or any other kind of) properties to the thing — to assert or assume so is a logical fallacy, an error in critical thinking.

Yes, I know that there are real, scientific definitions of Global Warming and GMT and that it is possible if one searches long and hard in the literature, one could find out exactly what is really meant — but there are many different data sets, all calculated differently resulting in different values and often based on different definitions — and yet still called by the same, sometimes misleading, names. Sometimes the names or titles themselves are mistakenly believed to be literally true and used as the basis for logical argument — Propter nomen.

I have no wish to argue or discuss Global Warming or to complain about the commonly used names of climate science things, everything must have a simple common name if we are to refer to it often in speech or text — this is about Logic and Critical Thinking — the error of assuming in a logical argument that the Name or Title of a thing grants it existence or properties, literally as named.

I would like to read your experiences in which Propter nomen has raised its head in providing a false logical step or false basis to a logical argument. Do you think that such an error in logic or critical thinking really exists? Would you like to supply a better definition?

# # # # #

Author’s Reply Policy: This essay is not about Global Warming, Anthropogenic Global Warming, Global Cooling, the effects of the Sun on Earth’s Climate, proper scientific calculation of Global Mean Surface Temperatures or any of that boring stuff. This is an idea about a newly defined (maybe — it might be on someone’s list somewhere) Informal Logical Fallacy or maybe just an Error in Critical Thinking. It is meant to be interesting, informative and fun. I’d like to read your examples and ideas. I’ll reply as I can as my wife and I are on the move again.

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280 thoughts on “"Propter nomen" — Because of the name

    • What about it Stuart? Provide links to where the the world is actually warming or the oceans are acidifying please. Driveby postings are not accepted without proof of assertions

      • I think Stuart is citing global warming and ocean acidification as examples of Propter nomen which make his comment on topic.

      • Thank you Terry
        Thats what I meant, I don’t believe our globe is warming (it is a scary Nomen) and ocean acidification is not only a bad nomen, it is totally untrue all the oceans are alkaline.

      • Yes, I’ve just had some idiot say “ocean acidification”. As I understand it, the change in acidity from day to night is greater than the total effect of doubling CO2. The ocean is alkaline now and it will be even which much higher concentrations of CO2. And I recall that when all the huge limestone rocks were being laid down, the level of CO2 was much higher.

      • I believe the appropriate term would be “[immeasurably small] ocean neutralisation”.
        (unless you are a squealing propagandist)

  1. “Propter nomen: A logical argument in which the assumption of truth or logical validity is based on the name or title of a thing.
    World Series (baseball) that always gets a good laugh outside the USA…
    Suggesting there may also be; politico, religious and geo-blind spots?

  2. 11 year sunspot cycle: name based on series of counts started long before it was known what is physical reality behind the phenomenon of the events counted.
    Centuries later it was found that there are two distinct 22 year magnetic cycles, one in each solar hemisphere, overlapped by yet another 22 year global magnetic cycle.

      • Making up a name does not make the phenomenon. There is no 22-year ‘magnetic cycle’. Each 11-yr sunspot cycle is an entity by itself, born from the polar fields at minimum. There is no ‘memory’ of previous cycles.

      • Point taken.
        I came across couple of references to Lassen and Friis-Christensen 1995 paper
        “Variability of the solar cycle length during the past five centuries and the apparent association with terrestrial climate”
        mentioning presence of 400 solar ‘cycle’. the paper is beyond pay wall, any chance of a short quote from the paper referring to this to me previously unknown 400 year cycle.
        Perhaps you might wish to elaborate further, since 400 years from the Maunder Min start is only just few decades away.

  3. That is why I changed my name to “The increadably Handsome, Most intelligent and Unimaginably Wealthy Paul Mackey”.
    Unfortunately, in my case, “Prompter nomen” does not seem to work …..

  4. Fragile Ecosystem.
    Whenever any green groups talks about any ecosystem it is nearly always called a fragile ecosystem as though any slight change will inevitably result in its catastrophic demise. Yet these ecosystems have usually survived wildly varying climates and natural disasters over the years making them anything but fragile.

    • Thanks TerryS, this has been a pet peeve of mine for ever. In my experience, there is nothing fragile about nature. It’s true that slight changes in conditions bring about differentiation in nature, but this is its normal condition. A tree falls in the forest and a myriad of changes occur ushering in early colonizing species. The only thing fragile in nature is stasis. Unfortunately, many environmentalists impose their own value judgments on prefered natural arrangements. Nature doesn’t care about a big, beautiful (to us perhaps) tree. Nature is just as content to have alders and other early adapters grow in the trees place (untill another tree eventually gows there) The way nature appears to man at first glance forms the static image in his head of how it ought to be. I live and work outside (spent over 2200 nights in a tent!) in wild places and treasure them but recognize that what I love about these places is a selfish version what I personally find beautiful. This version of nature is no better than any other from nature’s perspective.
      The only thing fragile about nature is stasis.

      • “Natural Disaster” is another one. Hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, all part of a constantly changing planet, all necessary to a dynamic world.

    • Humans are fragile, the ecosystem not so much. An implication is that all humanity will all suffer if the ecosystem is damaged. What is interesting is that even as fragile as humans are, we have adapted to everything the ecosystem has thrown at us over the millennia and prospered. We got a pretty good track record there.
      Environmentalist confuse success at adapting to the ecosystem with controlling the ecosystem. We do not control poo in that regard. If all humans disappeared from the earth, the ecosystem would not even blink and would happily recycle everything we left behind.

  5. In fact in English alone there are waay too many such anomalies to even worry about it. For sure Shakespeare described this naming issue succinctly and sweetly.
    Little Ice Age? A storm in a teacup.
    Case closed, everyone can go back to work..

      • The real problem is that regardless of how you address the issue, someone else always pays when someone who can’t afford a doctor needs one. The political debate is simply about whether the “pay” is to be overt or covert.

      • Yes, the Left is usually much better than the Right at using language to artfully promote their causes, so one should expect more examples of propter nomen in left leaning causes and propaganda than in right leaning causes and propaganda. – just a hunch –

    • Well for certain low income people it is affordable, except for those people it was already affordable before under Medicaid. For everyone else your mileage will vary, some people will experience savings, others will get hammered. It’s all over the board by state, income, job sector, age, and familiy size. To be fair there are some good things such as capping out of pocket costs for middle class families with severe illness or injury. Ultimately though it is an extraordinary amount of effort and cost to replace one screwed up system with another screwed up system.
      A better name for the “Affordable Care Act” could be the “Affordable Care Lotto Act”. Like on a game show spin the wheel, jump up and down, and hope you end up a winner.

  6. “I have no wish to argue or discuss Global Warming or to complain about the commonly used names of climate science things, everything must have a simple common name if we are to refer to it often in speech or text…”
    That’s fine, as long as you recognise that the vague and commonplace terms “global warming” and “climate change” have been hijacked as part of a blatant manipulation. And if you try to get the hijackers to come up with clearer terms to define the phenomena or problems they wish to refer to, it’s surprising how unwilling they are to sacrifice the wriggle-room and emotiional charging they get from their slob terminology. Suddenly their precision and specificity desert them and it’s: “c’mon, guys, you know what I mean. Whatever.”.
    Where would the push-pollers of junk science be if they couldn’t ask the punters if they “believe in” or “deny” “climate change” and “global warming”? No, it’s not just about simple communication: the klimatariat know this has been a valuable stunt for them. You’ll have to take their deliberately slobby terminology from their cold dead hands.

    • The Alinsky tactics of the left. I think of Global Warming as a lie so large that you wouldn’t think anyone be so bold as to make it up, Goebbles would be proud. Taxes are now just Revenue or fees. People who believe in the constitution are tea baggers, domestic terrorists etc….

  7. PROMPTER NOMEN….. JUST A METAPHOR FOR FRAUD.
    I think this whole argument is absolutely stupid.
    You have to name things or subjects one way or the other. To give a name that justifiably describes what you are doing would require many times, if not most times, a title that could go on for several pages.
    That is why, we have expressions in the English language like, ” You can’t trust a book by its cover”. This argument, that is, “Prompter nomen”, is just another metaphor that exactly infers this.
    How many times do we have to reinvent the wheel! Prompter nomen…. so bloody what!
    Let’s get down to the issue… Prompter nomen, is just a fancy, la-la do-do di-di da, way to cover up the real crime here…. ladies and gentlemen, its called, F-R-A-U-D.
    When you do things, lie about things, provide false information, to push a false agenda for personal gain, its fraud. Pure and simple.
    Lets stop this IDIOTIC, STUPID intellectualization of what is just purely fraud.
    Prompter Nomen….is just an academic snobish term invented to redirect the real guilt and dishonest attempts by fraudsters and turn them into some sort of victim of systematic semantic misadventure, how’s that for prompter nomen!
    WHAT LOAD OF RUBBISH. ENOUGH OF THIS ACADEMIC SNOBBERY!!

    • I don’t think Kip was being in the least bit snobbish; it’s a perfectly valid way of looking at the problem. I think your reaction is a bit overly strong Dorian.

    • Kip is making a valid point about the way names are DELIBERATELY made to fullfil some propaganda role. This is definitely not the same as inadvertent use of unfortunate names to save space. Eg, names like “Democratic republic of . . .” are invariably associated with totalitarian regimes. And who could argue with legislation with names like “Patriot act” or “Mothers and baby welfare act”?
      We should all be alert for this kind of language abuse.

      • Language evolved to extend psyco-social control. So every word is propter nomen.
        But it can be redeemed. Each speaker can choose to use words to deceive or educate, to ensnare or enrich. Words lend power to the self or the other.

    • Dorian,
      you can say temperature anomaly, temperature change or temperature difference. Reading the first name you think that there’s something wrong, the second name is neutral and the third describes the mathematical operation made. Propter nomen!.

    • Uhm Dorian – the word suggested in “propter”, not “prompter” as in teleprompter. Kip choose ‘propter’ in his suggested fallacy name because it references the formal fallacy “post hoc ergo propter hoc” – roughly translated as “if something happened first, it must have caused what happened later”. Most of the responders here seem to appreciate Kip’s suggestion because it allows us to succinctly identify an idea regarding fallacious reasoning without having to make a long-winded explanation each time it is used.
      Perhaps you might have to look up “long-winded”…

  8. Well perhaps I’m not on the same page as everyone else but I think Kip is making an important point about the abuse of language for propaganda purposes. Debates use language as the medium. Capture the language, you frame the debate; frame the debate, you’re likely to win it. By ‘capture the language’ I mean, re-define words so they mean basically what you want them to mean, rather than what they have commonly been understood. The latest example I’ve noticed is that people in England who were sexually abused in the past are now being described as ‘survivors’.

    • “Well perhaps I’m not on the same page as everyone else but I think Kip is making an important point about the abuse of language for propaganda purposes.”
      No, he’s not. I wish he had instead of feeding us this useless tripe.

      • Tripe? No… He has provided a rather useful name for a common thing / behaviour. I, for one, find it highly useful. So being able to refer to this behaviour in one short phrase, propter nomen, is very useful to me.
        Say your elected political machine names a bill “The Veteran Support Act” (as it guts the VA, shrinks the Navy, and reduces benefits to Veterans). That kind of think is rampant in D.C. In fact, I’d wager you can simply list the names of bills from the last 20 years and have a long list of Propter Nomen examples. So why is it done? Simply so that in the next election the proposers of the bill can say “My Opponent voted AGAINST the ‘Veterans Support Act'” and a way to force fence sitters to vote for the bill (often before reading it…) Being able to name that broken form of THINKING by the one doing the voting is just as important as being able to name the act of naming it that way (the fraud).

      • Sorry E.M.Smith, but you miss my point. The fact is that the essay didn’t go far enough in pushing the point of your second paragraph. The essay, along with much of Kip Hansens writings, avoids the hard and real issue. Instead of attacking lies it presents excuses. Yes, in a general sense the essay is not wrong about these oddities and inaccuracies embedded in our language. To that point, I have no issue, that is I don’t generally disagree.
        But so what. Presented in the way it is here it offers only excuses and a soft landing for those who would, have and do use language in nefarious ways, ie Alarmists and their ilk.
        Others in this thread, much like yourself have taken it to the next logical step but I think that the essay itself falls far short of any real useful point.

      • For instance Vince Causey says:
        Vince Causey
        November 7, 2014 at 4:34 am
        Kip is making a valid point about the way names are DELIBERATELY made to fullfil some propaganda role. This is definitely not the same as inadvertent use of unfortunate names to save space. Eg, names like “Democratic republic of . . .” are invariably associated with totalitarian regimes. And who could argue with legislation with names like “Patriot act” or “Mothers and baby welfare act”?
        We should all be alert for this kind of language abuse.
        _______________________________________________________________________
        And I agree 100 % with this, but I don’t think that the essay was really trying to make that strong of a point. I think the essay seems more to try to excuse such supposedly “incidental” uses of propagandized language.

  9. “Yes, I know that there are real, scientific definitions of Global Warming and GMT”.
    I’m sorry, that is not true. There are a group of academics who claim to be “Climate scientists” in the way “Social scientists” and “Political scientists” and “economic scientists” and “cookery scientist” and “scientologists” all claim to be “scientists”. But that doesn’t make the definitions dreamt up by climate “scientists” anymore scientific than ones used by “sceptic scientists” on this blog.
    So, e.g. as one of the first people to start using “the pause”, I started using it as an accurate description of a cessation of warming. Also from a technical point of view, on a tape machine the pause occurred when the mechanism for play was still engaged. So, there was absolutely no implication of there being a “stop”.
    So, why did some idiotic academic invent the word “hiatus” when there was already a perfectly sensible word that everyone readily understood?
    The reason is clear: they intended to obfuscate — or in plain language — hide the reality that the climate was no longer warming and they intentionally used a complex obscure word to try to suggest it was something more complex than the simple fact the temperature had stopped going up. So, no science at all there.

    • I definitely agree about the various groups calling themselves scientists and their speciality a science when there’s no sign of the scientific method. But here’s some fun with propter nomen. Whenever you see the term “climate”, replace it in your mind with “weather statistics”. After all, that’s exactly what it means.

    • Are there folks claiming to be Economic Scientists? If so, it must be a new thing. My Econ degree is a B. Arts degree in recognition of it not being quite a science… I was specifically told that was why my school did not offer a B.S. Econ (which would be curiously more appropriate 😉 Yes, that was 40ish years ago, and at the time the Econometrics folks were lobbying for a B.S. since they did mathy stuff… but the answer then was no…
      Oh Dear… a Google of “Economic Scientist” shows there is… I grieve for my Art…

      economic science – The Free Dictionary
      http://www.thefreedictionary.com/economic+science
      Noun, 1. economic science – the branch of social science that deals with the production and distribution and economic science – the branch of social science that …
      Economic Science Association
      https://www.economicscience.org/
      A professional organization for scientists and educators who use controlled experiments to learn about economic behavior.

      I blame it on Social Science that is anything but a science…. Talk about a Propter Nomen… The Wiki on Economics says it is a “Social Science” dealing with money stuff, so there is a direct line back to Social Science as the source of the sellers puff and self aggrandizement…

      • Your comment reflects a phenomenon that has haunted human language since the very beginning. “Arts” used to indicate physical “arts” (i.e. “mechanic arts”, cooking, agriculture, etc.). It was also applied to anything that employed geometry systematically (architecture, engineering, mathematics, etc.). The meaning has drifted and in the process confounded things royally. These days we are faced with “soft” – difficult – sciences (economics, climatology, sociology) which attempt to understand mathematically complex or chaotic phenomena, “hard” – experimental – sciences, which derive from an 18th and 19 century attempt to simplify through laboratory particularization and lean heavily on readily quantifiable observations, and “natural” – largely observational, field – sciences such as geology, astronomy, paleontology, and some phases of archaeology.
        Classically (as in Greco-Roman “classically”), no distinction was drawn between what we now call science, mathematics, and philosophy. It isn’t until Francis Bacon that any serious attempt is made to draw a demarcation (see Karl Popper for more about that) between empirically grounded and philosophically “grounded” science.

    • Using the term “hiatus” is just like P.T. Barnum’s signs saying “This Way To The Egress” and a wonderful example supporting Kip’s Propter Nomen theory. Nice Job.

  10. “Propter nomen: A logical argument in which the assumption of truth or logical validity is based on the name or title of a thing. Such logical assumption, based on the literal name or title given to a thing, is fallacious, because the name or title itself may be false, self-serving, inadequate and/or misleading.”
    It’s a question of precedence or existence. Horses preceded the word “horse”, but we’re still waiting on something to meet the word “unicorn”.
    “The Little Ice Age” might be a poor name, but it refers to something real, something that had a significant effect and was commonly observeable.

    • ““The Little Ice Age” might be a poor name, but it refers to something real, something that had a significant effect and was commonly observeable.”
      Correct.
      Just as for the Mediaeval Warm Period, Dark Ages, Roman Warm Period, Minoan Warm period and even the Current Warm Period.
      This article is just another attempt to get rid of earlier climate variations that make recent warmth look entirely natural (as it probably is/was).

  11. Progressives.
    Greenpeace.
    People’s Democratic Republic of …..
    Carbon pollution.
    Reality TV.
    Recreational drugs.
    Liberal Democrats (UK).
    Democrats (USA).
    Greens (Anywhere).

  12. Propter nomen: A logical argument in which the assumption of truth or logical validity is based on the name or title of a thing. Such logical assumption, based on the literal name or title given to a thing, is fallacious, because the name or title itself may be false, self-serving, inadequate and/or misleading.

    Try “radiative gases” instead of “greenhouse gases”.
    Yes, almost all at WUWT fell for it. Thick as…;-)

    • Yes, “Greenhouse Gases” implies a cessation of convection (which is how a real greenhouse works) while “Radiative Gases” is an accurate description of the physics. That so many of us continue to use the term “greenhouse gases” is a testimony to the power of that Propter Nomen.

      • excellent point. virtually everyone has bought into the notion of the greenhouse effect based on radiation, but that is completely wrong. the notion that greenhouses warm as a result of blocking outgoing radiation was what we were taught in schools in the 60’s, but it is now known to be completely false.
        we now know that greenhouses warm by limiting convection. but we have a whole body of climate science that is based on false teachings from half a century ago. and by and large most everyone on WUWT bases their mistaken beliefs in GHG warming on this false teaching about greenhouses.

  13. the whole of the climate change issue is smattered with “promter nomen”.
    Global warming –> climate change (when not warming) –> catastrophic climate change, and to add it’s our fault anthropogenic catastrophic climate change. Solution – study the science with real science (ooops I didn’t mean that).
    Carbon dioxide (CO2) –> greenhouse gas –> dangerous greenhouse gas –> carbon –> eliminate –> decarbonisation –> total decarbonisation. Solution – anyone who mentions this should be told to stop breathing immediately, not to pollute the clean air).
    Ocean acidification (as mentioned above). the Oceans are naturally base (alkaline) –> Ocean + CO2 = acidification –> destruction of all coral reefs, the death of all sea creatures). Solution – none, there isn’t a problem, the oceans are still alkaline with varying diurnal/nocturnal levels.
    Fossil fuels –> dirty fossil fuels –> decarbonisation (again). Solution renewable energy –> solar energy –> wind energy –> green energy. Solution – all alarmists should write an essay on how wind is green (colour), how the sun is green as I am sure it is yellow, and how biomass (burning carbon based material) is going to decarbonise the world.
    “I could go on, but time presses and won’t allow me.” 😉

  14. Propter nomen — you can’t create something just by giving it a name — the name does not grant actual existence nor physical (moral, natural, chemical or any other kind of) properties to the thing

    This only true for physical objects.
    Superman is not “Super” without the prefix, he’s just a man.
    A woman or a man is still a woman or a man whether they are a feminist or not. But if they so name themselves then they become so.
    Liverpool FC is Heysel and Hillsborough and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” – a group of loyal supporters and a corporation with a sports club – but the name embodies the whole concoction.
    Remember, many people, including politicians, poets and journalists, deal in ideas, not physical objects. They are used to the correct use of names to create things that matter; even if they do not create things composed of matter.
    Propter nomen is a fallacy when it is misapplied. It is not false in general.

    • Why not call “Superman” “Man of somewhat extended physical capabilities that do not necessarily confer any special moral nature or superiority”.
      Is “super” not just propaganda: an attempt to create a general aura of infallibility, propter nomen?

      • Exactly. It creates a role model – a superior – a hero that it is acceptable to support.
        “Man of somewhat extended physical capabilities that do not necessarily confer any special moral nature or superiority” is not the same concept at all.
        And it has very different utility for persuading children not to smoke (lifesaving) or creating vision of the US as being linked with Truth and Justice or for validating a working woman in the 1930s.
        That prefix has real-world power.

    • Reply to M Courtney –> My wife raised this argument while editing my essay. It is both valid and invalid, depending on the instance. Many examples above are given by readers in which the act of Naming transparently attempts to grant properties to a thing which they do not in themselves actually LITERALLY have: Affordable Health Care Act, Universal Health Care, Eco-friendly…..many ideas or idealized things whose reality (even as just an idea) does not literally match the Name. This is propagandistic, often quite intentional, and sometimes fraudulent.
      At other times, it is simply a case of “you have to have a simple common name for a complicated thing”, in which the Naming is not at fault, but the invalid LITERAL use of the Name to support a logical argument is the error. This this instance, it matters not whether the named thing is physical or an idea.

      • Just to present a counter-point: Merely because something can pretend to be something else does not mean the something else doesn’t exist. People’s Democratic Republics are usually not. But that doesn’t mean there are no Democratic Republics of the People – or that there cannot be.
        This statement is still false.

        you can’t create something just by giving it a name — the name does not grant actual existence nor …moral,

        You go too far by saying that names have no meaning and no real value except as signifiers.
        Sometimes, in the world of ideas, the name creates the value. Either by aggregating other ideas or by modifying an existing one.
        Analogy, a hairband can make a ponytail – but all you have is hair and band. Yet the idea that ponytails can’t exist because hairbands are not always around hair is illogical. Same with names and concepts.

  15. “Hate”. It’s no longer necessary to explain why certain beliefs are hateful or give any examples of behavior by certain groups is motivated by hate, you simply label anyone who disagrees with you a “hate group” and then you’re the good guy forever because you’re against hate and so anything you do–no matter how violent or destructive–is justified.

  16. An interesting argument but all it demonstrates is the inadequacy of formal logic as a basis for argument or discussion. The problem is that in all discourse – whether theoretical, observational or indeed everyday – the words we use signify meaning they do not wholly capture it. Take any term you like, temperature is a good example, as you try to define it you end up introducing other terms which themselves beg definition. This is what the philosopher, David Papineau, talks about as visious meaning regress. If what Lockwood is suggesting is that naming something should not be taken to mean that something has any reality then that is obviously true. However, in practice, all the words we use are inadequate and potentially misleading. Saying that we cannot label concepts and then try to reason from them is just trying to make a clever point. The problem with making clever points is that they are rarely as clever as you think they are.

    • Exactly Lewis – and that’s why its a futile exercise. Formal logic works well with ‘p’s and ‘q’s which have no meaning content. Try and attach meaning and it only has use to pedants.

    • This is not about the inadequacy of language to accurately communicate ideas or the appropriateness of formal logic’s application to problem solving — vast tomes have been written on both subjects and occupy whole departments in Universities.
      It is rather simply about the error in thinking which involves literally accepting the Name or Title of a Thing or Idea as necessarily True, thus a valid basis for further thought.

      • I think there might already be a term for this: reification, or reification fallacy. It’s mentioned by William Briggs a lot, but is above my mental pay grade to evaluate.
        From Wikipedia:

        Reification…is a fallacy of ambiguity, when an abstraction (abstract belief or hypothetical construct) is treated as if it were a concrete, real event, or physical entity.[1][2] In other words, it is the error of treating as a concrete thing something which is not concrete, but merely an idea.
        Another common manifestation is the confusion of a model with reality. Mathematical or simulation models may help understand a system or situation but real life will differ from the model (e.g., “the map is not the territory”).

        Maybe someone with more etymological skills than I have could weigh in.

      • The way that the Greenhouse Effect was taught in schools or treating the mean of thermometer readings as the GMT when modelling might be Reification. The first merely being an analogy so you can’t say that it is not real because CO2 doesn’t create a glass-like ceiling (its just a stupid analogy for teaching kids why its real). The kids don’t assume that we will bang our head on the ceiling if we rise too high.
        Prompter nomen might be something like Arabic numerals which implies that they were invented by Arabs although the numerals came from India and the decimal method was invented by a Persian rather than Arab. Its not intentionally misleading because it came to Europe via Muslim literature but it might give the reader the wrong idea.

    • Bob Ryan:
      You have some good thoughts and your point is well taken, but I do not think it counters the issue raised in the head post. Yes, in using language (which by its very nature is necessarily symbolic), every term we use is referring to something outside of itself. However, the point of the head post is not that nothing should have a name; rather that a name can be misleading and can serve less as an accurate representation of the underlying substance and more as a political/rhetorical tool.
      Controlling the naming of things is a classic tactic in politics, as well as in debates over controversial social and scientific issues. It is good to be on the lookout for such tactics.

  17. Lockwood was the clown that kept getting SC24 predictions totally wrong and then pretended to be right.

  18. Just as I have suspected all along.
    Our climate has nothing whatsoever to do with the sun.
    It’s entirely at the mercy of bloody Alpha Centaurus.
    So when it’s bloody hot or freezing bloody cold – we just blame bloody Alpha Centaurus.
    AND – if it is warming (or cooling), just blame bloody Alpha Centaurus.

  19. Oh did anyone mention greenhouse effect.
    It’s not about the effect of a greenhouse.
    It’s not about being green and there is no house involved.
    Nor has the effect shown itself in last 18 years.
    At least, the Little Ice age was cold.

  20. Great essay. Thanks.
    The notably large number of papers, organizations, meetings and jobs that exist to market so-called “climate change” is, for me. an indicator of how unserious and unsure the climate concerned actually are about the reality of their obsession. Evolution has not had to be renamed or re-branded and evolution is controversial, but the science is strong. Quantum physics was controversial and is difficult for the public to understand. But the science is strong. Climate science has a whole sub industry devoted to selling it to the public and to policy makers. An expensive well funded one.

  21. One other point. I believe that Lockwood has actually inverted the definition of propter nomen. Or am I missing something?

  22. How about ‘The World Series’ for that stupid game that no one else plays except north Americans. They may as well call the winners ‘Champions of the Galaxy’.

    • As stated earlier in this thread, “World” refers to a name of the a newspaper that sponsored the series. You may also want to note that baseball is very popular in Japan, so unless Japan has floated over to North America you are wrong again.

      • Unless of course snopes.com is correct. Calling it the “World” Series couldbe interpreted as meaning a competition between the world’s two best baseball teams, which of course would be American teams at the time. Sort of, but not quite like brand new temperature stations recording record-high temperatures (simply because there never existed any previously-recorded temperatures for that location).

      • Everybody has it wrong. I have it on good authority(Al’s) that the correct name is the World Serious.
        ==============

      • In the UK “world” is used to describe darts and snooker championships. However in these cases everyone knows and accepts that this is Propter Nomen. And that its a joke – a sort of self parody. Its called irony. Americans generally use irony rather less. In labeling a baseball “World Series” – despite historic origins with a newspaper, there is more of a sense of earnestly willing the propter nomen to be true – as evidened by comments here about Japan, forced to play baseball at the barrel of a gun after WW2.

      • “. . . forced to play baseball at the barrel of a gun after WW2.”
        Not really–baseball was popular there before the war. The Yankees toured the country in the thirties. Their catcher spied on Japan–there was a book about his exploits.

    • Don’t try selling that to the Japanese… they’re more fanatical about baseball than most Americans.

  23. This is really all about marketing, period, and I don’t understand the point of the essay.
    Naming something has ALWAYS been all about marketing to some degree or another, so how is this news to someone?…anyone?…Beuhler?

    • When they start doing real science, we can start worrying about whether or not they named something correctly. This is arguing over how many angels can fit on the head of a pin.

  24. In the public mind, a label that is useful and descriptively adequate may indeed be mistaken for an explanation. My candidate: “punctuated equilibrium.”

  25. This is really an interesting essay and thread. I believe that the “propter nomen fallacy asas illustrated by Lockwood is part of the well recognized fallacy of “Euphemism”
    Euphemism
    This fallacy involves the use of a different word for a word we wish to avoid using, yet still containing the SAME meaning that we need to transmit. This is done to purposely obscure or confuse the reader to the true motives of the arguer, to make the reader or listener believe one desires to commit to one action when one really is favoring the opposite, or merely avoid making embarrassing admissions outright. In some cases the motivation is merely to aesthetically please – such as calling a toilet the ‘necessarium’ in front of the hoity-toity. The worst misuses of euphemisms may occur to people unaware that they are in fact using it – self delusion.
    Here is an infamous example of a euphemism being used to avoid making an embarrassing admission: One commits a crime by failing to comply with a law, so Dinkins is using a euphemism. This allows him to avoid the politically embarrassing situation of admitting in public that he is a law breaker, it not only fails, it also serves to show him as a cowardly liar.
    It is no coincidence that I have chosen to use a politician as an example of euphemisms, for they are the worst offenders of this brand of fallacy – watch for how our government works. (I.e. – The Korean Conflict instead of War). For example, consider:
    Republicans create new policies – Clinton Flip Flops. Clinton was a pothead – George W. Bush had a ‘substance abuse problem’. Clinton has affairs – Henry Hide had a youthful indiscretion (in his 40s). Clinton raises taxes – Reagan ‘enhanced government revenues’.
    Lastly, consider the following three step transitions from good connotation to bad connotation, while all the words used have the same denotation. This method best explains the range of possible word choice when speaking about the very same phenomena:
    I am firm; you are obstinate; he is a pigheaded fool. I have reconsidered it; you have changed your mind; he is going back on his word. I failed to comply with the law; you committed a crime; he is a felonious social deviant.
    Warning Catchphrase to look for: The solution to uncovering this fallacy is simple in theory, but difficult in practice – as a logician you must ask the meaning of terms when you are unsure of them. If some military figure tells you that there will be a ‘predawn vertical insertion’ find out what the crap this means. (It means armed troops are going to parachute into some hostile country, and start killing poor bastards – but they don’t want to tell you it that way…) Don’t just pretend to be smart, ask and BE smart. If the military figure reveals that there has been some ‘friendly collateral damage’, be honest with yourself and say to him ‘what the hell is friendly damage, buddy?!’ You’ll find out that it means that innocent bystanders were killed during a battle or a bombing mission. Again, the military guy ain’t too pleased to tell you this. Asking someone what they mean takes on the risk of ‘looking dumb’ but remember, that is the very thought process being taken | advantage of in a euphemism! When Reagan looked America in the eye and spoke of revenue enhancements, he knew the average Republican voter had no idea what he meant, and that none of them would risk admitting ignorance to find out. That’s how people trick you – by using your own hang-ups against you! Note: The opposite of Euphemism is ‘dysphemism’, which is the act of replacing a favorable term with a nasty, unfavorable term. ”
    http://editthis.info/logic/Informal_Fallacies#Fallacy_of_Composition
    Lockwood is trying to change old well established and useful names like “Little Ice Age” because they do not serve his goal of selling the idea that we are experiencing something unique and dangerous, like ‘climate change’ which is of course a euphemism for something that is not happening, ‘global warming’.

    • Let me try to clean this up a bit. Lockwood was not “trying” to do anything. He just pointed out a common error in thinking and argument found in his field of study and gave an example: “Little Ice Age” which, strictly speaking, was not a geological ice age in the normally considered sense, and may or may not have been little, depending on whether one was a peasant, sustenance farmer in Central Europe during that time.
      Propter nomen can be differentiated from Euphemism both in the act of naming and in the motive behind the instant occurrence. Propter nomen does not occur in the Naming — it occurs in the improper use of the Name or Title in argument or Thinking Process and does not depend on the intention of those giving the Name of Title.
      The title “Pythagorean theorem” is often taken to be literally true and thus might mistakenly to used to attribute the originator of the theory to be the ancient Greek mathematician Pythagoras (c. 570 – c. 495 BC) — despite the well know fact that the theorem was previously known to Mesopotamian, Indian and Chinese mathematicians who are believed to have discovered the theorem independently and, in some cases, provide proofs for special cases. The logical error is Propter nomen which occurs in the literal use of the Name to provide a valid property to a thing — that of the identity of the discoverer — which in this instance is not true.

    • From Wikipedia. “Prior to his marriage, Bush had multiple episodes of alcohol abuse.” and “(Clinton) was impeached for perjury before a grand jury and obstruction of justice during a lawsuit against him, both related to a scandal involving a White House intern.”
      a) didn’t we all?
      b) I think the pothead accusation was said because he denied ever smoking marijuana although he claims to never have really denied it. The “didn’t inhale” was a joke http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2518382/I-didnt-say-I-holier-thou-Bill-Clinton-claims-denied-smoking-marijuana.html
      c) Your implied bias by one side of politics is not real.

  26. “Science”, when those who are using the word are merely appealing to authority. Science has no authority; it is just a way to discover truth. However, because it has proven to be a very successful way to separate truth from fiction, especially for natural phenomenon, the less informed (like the media) elevate its practice to the infallible state of authority and then proceed to invoke it in areas in which science cannot possibly be used to get at the truth.

  27. jimmaine above said: “This is really all about marketing, period, and I don’t understand the point of the essay.” and I tend to agree.
    And that brings to mind that as long as the AGWite side can keep everyone so focused on only Earth’s atmosphere and opposed to Earth’s atmosphere in relation to the science and physics of *all* atmospheres, I’m sorry, they have you bound, captured and enslaved, in your minds.
    There are some global relationships the AGWites absolutely do not want you to ever realize. These come from other branches of science.
    If you would just sit in to some statistical mechanics courses you should become aware that all gravitationally attracted bodies in motion above a gravity well have an inherent negative heat capacity component. It’s true. If these ‘orbiting’ particles are not interacting in any meaningful manner like a billion non-colliding satellites about an airless Earth then when you add energy to such a system the conglomerate of bodies cool. That is, they move away from the gravity well and slow so their characteristic temperature is lowered. But if there is interaction like the atmosphere’s molecules there is introduced a fraction that have components in the vertical z axis which are no longer to be considered in this negative heat capacity phenomena so you should end up with an imprint factor to be something like 1-0.333, or 2/3. Think on that. Not sure if that factor is correct but both the virial theorem and the vis-viva equation say that some factor does exist there in all atmospheres.
    There is another hidden fact they never raise, best you not even know about.
    Take Venus’s atmosphere, it is about 739 K at the surface so the l.w. radiative power found there is about 16,900 W/m². Why does not that power express itself at the top of the atmosphere ready to exit to space, where the outgoing long wave radiation (OLR) is only measured to be about 160 W/m²? Well, there is about 1,080,000 kilograms/m² (per NASA fact sheet) that this i.r. radiation has to transverse upward and it is attenuated at a rate of about 0.0155 W/m²/kg. Multiply and subtract from the total power at the surface and you will find the remnants of the 160 W/m² OLR expressed at the top.
    Now take Earth, our column mass is about 10300 kg/m². Our surface at about 396 W/m² so 10300 kg times the same 0.0155 W/m²/kg mass attenuation leaves our OLR here on Earth to be, yep, about 237 W/m². Maybe we are twin planets, one is just more that a little overweight. 😉
    Myself, this explains worlds of why our atmosphere system is so darn stable and also why such tiny factions of carbon added between two oxygen atoms is not going to make any dent in our climate anywhere on this planet barring an asteroid stripping part of the atmosphere away or a solar flare-up or cool-down.
    It is thoughts like this, that has taken me six years to uncover, that we should really be investigating. I have more inconvenient factors, but I have also found that usually all I that just wrote will be wadded up and tossed trivially in the trash and I can never understand that. Now tell me who really has an ‘agenda’ in this discussion? Or, maybe it just that everyone here is actually quite science illiterate though they don’t really understand that to be so. They know a lot of science terms, concepts and simple equations and relationships and can definitely toss them about in such discussion sessions but never stop to really learn enough to look down into the core of such matters.

  28. Any object or concept (especially in a specialist profession), must have an unambiguous name. It’s not uncommon for several different ones being tried but when a particularly apt one is found, it sticks. It’s Darwinian like that.
    However, when a word is used which clearly doesn’t describe the thing, it usually means there is deliberate deception being practised.
    eg. When you see a country named The People’s Democratic Republic of X, it nearly always means it’s not run for the people, isn’t democratic and is a thinly disguised dictatorship.
    Pointman

  29. So in essence “propter nomen” is indicative of oxymoron in practice. Not like “military intelligence”, or “hot ice”, but as “Sisters of mercy” rock band.
    Nice 🙂

  30. ”propter nomen”—-How about ”Greenhouse Gas”? Whoever named any gas one has no clue as to the workings of a real greenhouse. Since a greenhouse works by removing convection from the inside how can any gas in an open atmosphere stop convection???

  31. Perceptions due to the name of something is quite common in politics. How many communist dictatorships contain the words Democratic or Republic in them. None of them being democratic nor a republic?
    Sometimes you can almost see the extent of the thought process exerted to come up with a name or acronym that is useful to the proponents.
    It’s why the Alarmists keep changing the language. It’s why liberal progressives and other socialist and populace controlling ideologies spend so much time and effort on redefining language.
    I tell as many folks as I can to stop using the language of your opponents. When you do, you’ve lost half the battle.
    They first impression last the longest and that’s what’s being done here.

  32. The reason that I like this article is that it at least makes you think about words.
    The phrase “climate change” no longer means anything to me but it is much used
    by the younger generation and always as something to be worried about.
    When I ask them what they mean, they invariably look as me with some amusement
    implying that I should know.
    I also have a “B” in my bonnet about the cronic overuse of the word “nice” which I
    maintain contains no information because whenever it is used in my presence, I
    always ask, but what was it like.

    • It’s capital C Climate Change, that’s supposed to mean CAGW. Like capital Native American has a different meaning that lower case native american.

  33. “… name or title itself may be false, self-serving, inadequate and/or misleading.”
    Ex-BBC environment correspondent Richard Black’s ‘Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit’ fits all four categories perfectly. Quite a ‘distinguished’ Advisory Board too, including:
    – the Bishop of London
    – Dr Emily Shuckburgh
    – Lord Oxburgh
    – Sir Crispin Tickell
    plus the near obligatory former WWF media relations careerist as team member.
    Birds of a feather the lot of them.

  34. The biggest ones of all in the Warmist dictionary of course is “Climate Change” and “Climate Disruption” being used instead of AGW.
    Bending the use of Climate Change to become a catch all and Climate “Disruption” to mean anything mildly unusual weather event.

  35. “Propter nomen: A logical argument in which the assumption of truth or logical validity is based on the name or title of a thing. Such logical assumption, based on the literal name or title given to a thing, is fallacious, because the name or title itself may be false, self-serving, inadequate and/or misleading.”

    Good argument, but I think it misses the point.
    The kind of name this discusses is where it is used as an attempt to summarise the properties of the “thing” being named. It is inevitable that any such name is going to be inaccurate and will be ambiguous. Removing ambiguity means making names or definitions longer. Would you prefer “global warming” or “Rise in the anomaly in the mean of the mean daily temperature of the atmosphere measured at random points throughout the globe at approximately 2 metres from the surface of the earth earth, sea or ice and adjusted blah for blah blah…”
    The point is not that the name misleads but that the namer intended to mislead. Intention is the whole point. If the intention of “World Bank” was part of a hubristic plan to replace or govern all the other national central banks then that is bad. If it was simply shorthand for a bank that operates around the world, then that is not so bad.
    Most of the time I suspect the problem is that names are hi-jacked and used for something that was not originally intended by the original namer.
    This problem can be partly avoided by using a meaningless name, a random collection of letters making a sound that is used as a unique identifier of a “thing” without attempting to define it. For instance “Prius” is used as the identifier of a brand of car. As far as I know it has no actual meaning in any language. In fact marketing companies go out of their way to pick names that mean nothing in any language so as to avoid causing offence or derision. You can then attach a long winded written definition to the name if you wish, or send a glossy brochure with full specifications and price list, or a set of charts or however is most appropriate.
    Maybe we should call “Global Warming” a meaningless name, “Flubbit” perhaps or, as it is a process rather than a thing, perhaps “Flubbitation” is more appropriate?
    Yeah, I know, Flubbit probably means testicles in Serbo-Croat, but you get my point.

  36. gotta love the German language with it regular use of compound words.
    Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften – auto liability insurance as one word.

  37. Interesting idea, but I like solutions rather than problems 😉 If this becomes a generally used logical fallacy then written and verbal debate is pretty will defunct without agreeing a complete glossary up front. In most cases it’s not usually a problem because both sides usually have a common intent to gain clarity. In fields that propagandise the intent is reversed.
    And I prefer to call it the tweedledum fallacy (words mean exactly what I want them to mean.) In discussions I often have to refer people back to the dictionary of their choice.
    Pesadia: it’s a ‘bee’ in your bonnet that annoys you 😉
    And I was taught that the only proper use of nice was to describe a distinction. Capitalised it is a town in France or a biscuit.

  38. 1 – I do hope Christopher Monckton chimes in here.
    2 – Controlling vocabulary is a well known and standard tool of propaganda.

    • controlling vocabulary or trying to control it is one of the core regulatory functions of all social groups.

      • True, but very much a surprise to hear it from you. AKA “groupthink” and “groupspeak” one can see it on this and other blogs and wherever a rah rah consensus of the like minded arises.
        What do we do about it?

      • gymnosperm – Some Ideas:
        1) Welcome alternative views and debate them without guessing they are from trolls or children. Some people just disagree.
        2) Don’t all pile in with “I agree” . Congratulate wittiness, original thought or a very good research but not just the yeah yeah yeahs..
        3) Accept that some people may agree on some things and disagree on others. The Solar threads and Carbon cycle threads are most fun because that happens. Politics, not so much.
        4) Occasionally stand up and oppose the orthodoxy if you see any merit in doing so. It is easy to be cowardly and let the debate die into group smugness..
        5) Broaden the reach of the blog. If it is only Texan Republicans reading then you have a problem. If it’s only Brighton Greens then you have a problem. A global perspective can provide different approaches to the same questions.
        Just off the top of my head.

  39. The political topic of illegal immigration in the US is another area where this common. Illegal Aliens become Undocumented Immigrants. US Immigration laws, which are similar to those of most developed countries, must be Reformed, and not just Reformed, but Comprehensively Reformed.
    And if you can’t change the name, change the definition: Deportation, GDP and UE rates no longer mean what they once meant.
    How far will they take it?
    Will Burglars become Uninvited House Guests?
    Will Vandals become Exterior Design Decorators?
    Will Rapists become Unexpected Sex Partners?
    One last thought: If George Zimmerman was defined by the media as a White Hispanic, what does that make Obama? a White African American? a White Black?

  40. “Right Wing” and “Left Wing”. Essentially devoid of meaning. The original meaning was set based on which side of the building the folks sat in after the French Revolution. Business was on the “left” while religious leaders and royalty were on the “right”. So how did business and folks advocating for liberties (like Libertarians) end up on the “right”? A series of name changes. Similarly, calling the National Socialists “right wing” is a Propter Nomen based on Stalin saying they were ‘to the right’ of International Socialism (i.e. Communism). Discussion of Left Wing vs Right Wing here:
    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2011/01/20/nationalist-socialists/
    Then there is “Liberal”… a word grab by Centralist Socialists (a.k.a. “Progressives”) in America that still afflicts our speech to this day, since in the rest of the UK Derived World “Liberal” has the original meaning of one who advocated for liberties and change (that French Revolution “left wing” that had nothing to do with socialism and a lot to do with getting freedom from Central Authority oppression. Rather like the USA term Libertarian). So after the name “Progressive” was tarnished by WW II (where we had International Socialism fighting National Socialism fighting “Progressive” semi-socialism); the Progressives of the USA renamed themselves “Liberals”… trying to gather the honor of the Classical Liberal to themselves. Now, a generation later, in the USA Liberal means “socialism lite” while in the UK and Australia / New Zealand et. al. it means “Conservative”.
    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2011/01/19/i-am-a-liberal/
    One of the fascinating things to watch is how the Progressive/ American Social-Liberal / Left Wing / Socialist / Central Authority Power Mongers constantly mutate their name in an attempt at Propter Nomen deception of the masses. I use ‘name change’ as a flag of such actions now.
    I find it much more useful to simply ask: Are you advocating for personal liberties and power distributed to the lowest possible level? Or are you advocating for Central Authority and control of money and decisions (with reduction of freedom and choice)? Central vs Individual power. It is really that simple.

    • Not quite true. Whilst in Oz liberal is conservative, in the UK it is more associated with “champagne socialists”, and most expressed through the Liberal Democrat party. People holding such affiliations are tempted to vote Green as well as Lib dem. They have disdain for capitalism and tend to promote affirmative action for perceived victim groups or minorities, and have a visceral dislike of small c conservatives.

  41. I nominate “solar activity” as one of the rather misleading terms seen frequently on the climate blogosphere. It is properly used as a reference to solar magnetic activity (e.g. “sunspots”) and other phenomena in the outer solar atmosphere related to the solar dynamo, which creates the Sun’s magnetic field. So “solar activity” is primarily manifested by the 11-year sunspot cycle:

    Solar activity refers to natural phenomena occurring within the magnetically heated outer atmospheres in the Sun throughout the solar cycle. This activity takes the form of solar wind acceleration, [magnetic] flux emergence, light and energy particles released from the Sun such as solar flares, coronal mass ejection or solar eruptions, and coronal heating; as well as sunspots which are one of the most commonly noticed forms of solar activity. Solar activity is generated due to a helical dynamo deep near the center of the Sun’s mass responsible for generating strong magnetic fields; and a chaotic dynamo near the surface of the Sun which is responsible for producing smaller magnetic field fluctuations.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_activity
    However, this term does not include “activity” in the solar core, where hydrogen is fused into helium at a rate of roughly a gigaton per second to generate the main energy radiated by the Sun (3.86×10^^26 joules per second).
    True, the term “solar activity” encompasses almost everything we can directly observe. But it is not a direct measure of the radiant gamma-ray energy from thermonuclear fusion process, which takes about 100,000 years to reach the photosphere, where it is scattered into space as mostly visible light.
    This is unfortunate because it creates an unwarranted expectation that the energy generated by the Sun is somehow the principal manifestation of ‘solar activity’

  42. The name is not the item being named. The act of naming something in a conscious manner provides for a handy device for communicating ideas. Unfortunately, we poor humans often are unable to separate in our minds the object from its label and suffer miserably for trying to make our imagination equal to the reality of our world.
    As an example we can use “global warming” two totally and widely diverse words (innocuous individually) which when combined together provide a “solid” handle in the unconscious mind which links all manner of “global” or even “local” events to “warming” add in a little judgement that “warming” equals “bad” then all things that happen on the “globe” are due to “warming” and it will all come to a “bad” end. The same applies to “climate change” and many other examples which can be found in our current social discourse.

  43. World Wildlife Fund
    Leader of the Free World
    Royal Family
    Prince of Wales
    Friends of the Earth
    Critical Thinking
    Christian Science
    United Nations
    Community Leader
    BBC Trust
    Michel Mann Nob Laureate

  44. I think “propter nomen” is a propter nomen. Just because it is Latin it doesn’t mean it is scientific or valid.

  45. Great article and well taken. I’ve always rebelled against the term “Federal Reserve,” which is nothing of the sort. It’s a propter nomen. lol

  46. Lockwood writes on Maunder:
    “This is undoubtedly invalid as most paleoclimate records indicate that the lower temperatures began at least 50 years before the start of the Maunder minimum.”
    The 1620’s to 1650’s were generally warmer (CET reconstruction), the previous cold periods were nothing to do with the MM. The notable warm winter in 1685/86 in the coldest part of Maunder, occurs interestingly at the same type of major planetary ordering of solar activity as the small cluster of warmer years from 1727, 1796, 1826, 1865, 1934, 1948, 1975, and 2003.

  47. Replies to TerryS –> “Fragile Ecosystem” Good one! also the egregious use of the adjectives “threatened” and “endangered”.
    Geoff, Kevin L., Gamecock –> “Affordable”…perfect!
    Annie and Vince C. –> In response to Dorian: Thank you. Quite right…not all uses of Propter nomen represent fraud or intentional trickery. “Chaos Theory” is a good current example…the study of this field is really dynamical systems theory, nonlinear systems theory, or maybe just plain nonlinear dymanics — there is not a “Chaos Theory” in the same sense as “Quantum Theory” or “Theory of Relativity”.

  48. “Propter nomen”… America, to designate the United States of America.
    Cause you know, last I heard, Canada, Mexico, Brasil, Peru, Columbia, Panama… yeah… ALL part of America.
    The US is definitely NOT… America.

    • propter nomen is happening whenever you hear this rhetorical judgment :
      “What part of XXX do you not understand! “

  49. Political Correctness.
    Replacing the truth with something more politically acceptable. Giving a lie more power than the truth, because less people are offended.

  50. Scientific Consensus
    Determining scientific fact via the vote. A show of hands to determine if PI = 22/7. The force of gravity is determined by the number of scientists that believe in it.

  51. “The American People”. I hate it when politicians use that one. Then go on to express exactly what “The American People” believe, think about, want, dislike, love, hate, etc. as if we are painted with one color and one wide brush.

    • And the corollary to that is that it is almost illegal (unless you’re a Dem) for someone born in the United States to call themselves a “Native American” on a federal form unless they have provable ancestry that includes the aboriginal tribes that showed up in North America before Europeans did. That’s kind of a Propter Non Nomen.

  52. Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation
    why dark matter and dark energy had to be invented. to explain the difference between Universal and universal.

  53. Conservative. I heard a liberal commentator say that conservatives should be environmentalists because they should want to conserve “It’s in the name” he said.

  54. Pro life
    Pro choice
    Union of Concerned Scientists
    Real Climate
    Climate Progress
    Social Security
    Welfare
    Environmental Protection Agency
    United Nations
    Propter nomen is a fancy name for a particular kind of lying. I like it. The sooner we recognize all the ways we are lied to on a regular basis, the better off we will be.

  55. Oh, goody! A discussion of logical fallacies! Can I play?
    Not only that, an inherently self-referential article, allowing me to kick in an amusing contribution from the contributions to logic of Godel! Heaven indeed!
    So what you are saying is that we should give an impressive Latin name to an informal logical fallacy (because nobody could read it if it were Greek, but we are clearly trying to make it sound all Platonic and Greek — note well the picture that accompanies the top article!) so that people will eventually take it seriously enough to use the name alone as a persuasive feature in a discussion. So when we consider whether or not the World Bank is or is not in fact a development bank with a world-wide scope, we don’t need to analyze any actual details such as its offices in 120 countries worldwide (roughly 2/3 of the countries in the world) concentrated in the poorest of the available countries, which does some subset of things that a “bank” does — loan money, recover money from the loans — with a high level directive that the loans and other activities support development, we can just shout Propter Nomen and end the discussion! I like it!
    It’s like magic the way that it refers to itself! Propter Nomen is a Propter Nomen! I mean there are informal fallacies on this list here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies#Informal_fallacies
    that don’t have high-falutin’ latinized greek sounding names — equivocation, for example. Or the Referential fallacy — assuming that all words refer to existing things as opposed to the possibility that a collection of words that has either no real world referent or where the words themselves are misleading.
    But that sounds suspiciously like Propter Nomen, without the latin and with a bit more detail. It merely warns us that words alone are not proof of the existence of the things the words apparently describe or refer to. It does miss one essential feature, though — the “sound bite” advertising character, the creation of a Grand Title (expressed in Capital Letters to give it more argumentative force and authority), not propter nomen but Propter Nomen, not “warming of parts of the earth due to human activity” (something nobody would argue with who lives in the middle of UHI effect in a city) but Anthropogenic Global Warming. This is an admixture of False Authority and perhaps a few other informal fallacies, or better yet (since it is almost always associated with selling something, whether the something is a politician, a used car, or global warming) we could consider Propter Nomen to be a mixture of the referential fallacy and the Caveat Emptor informal fallacy that never quite made it to the list because in some sense it is the reason for the list.
    Let the buyer beware, when someone tries to sell them a cute collection of sound-bite words. It is just possible that those words have no real world referent. Wisdom so old that it was doubtless used in the marketplaces of ancient Mesopotamia and Sumeria when seeking to buy a slightly used camel, never been in an accident, indeed a Fabulous Racing Camel, from Abdul’s Fabulous Camels incorporated.
    This is probably distinct enough that it deserves inclusion on the list, possibly as a variant of the referential fallacy worth of special mention as it is so common on our society. I personally would drop the self-referential latin name as the Greeks and Romans never wrote this one down and the fancy name isn’t what gives it force — and call it something like the Advertising Name Fallacy or the Sound Bite Name Fallacy.
    Naming something clever doesn’t make it real.
    rgb

    • Naming something clever doesn’t make it real.

      Largely agree and understand the anti-classicism but…
      Naming something cleverly does make it real if everyone agrees – in the world of ideas and in classifications.
      Congealed blood is not food but I love eating Black Puddings.
      An albino slave in 19th century Louisiana definitely knew the meaning of names.
      All electable political parties combine many strands of political thought that ally into one – and then support each other regardless.
      BBB, yes. But naming something cleverly can create new things.

    • Twice to day I’ve made that formatting error.

      Naming something clever doesn’t make it real.

      Largely agree and understand the anti-classicism but…
      Naming something cleverly does make it real if everyone agrees – in the world of ideas and in classifications.
      Congealed blood is not food but I love eating Black Puddings.
      An albino slave in 19th century Louisiana definitely knew the meaning of names.
      All electable political parties combine many strands of political thought that ally into one – and then support each other regardless.
      BBB, yes. But naming something cleverly can create new things.

    • Reply to Dr. Brown –> Naming something cute in Latin is just plain fun — sorry you missed the joke. I also name it in English, so we can talk about it.
      Again, for those of you who do not read all of the comments and replies, the logical error, or error in Critical Thinking, is to believe and depend on the Name of Title of a thing or concept to be literally true, and this a valid basis for logical argument or a valid step in critical thinking.
      To argue that “simply because a logical argument for or against some proposition contains a logical fallacy” thus the proposition must then itself be invalid is the Fallacy Fallacy and should be avoided.

      • No, I appreciate the joke. That’s what my reply is all about! I don’t disagree at all that this is an informal fallacy. I’m not certain that it is a unique fallacy — I rather thing it is a special case of an existing fallacy — but it is one that is probably noteworthy and common enough to deserve independent mention. I just love Godellian loops and Propter Nomen is most definitely a Propter Nomen!
        As to the other remarks where people didn’t like “Naming something clever doesn’t make it real”, I agree that one can create new symbol collectives, clever or not, and that these symbols may or may not be in some sort of inherited correspondence with real world referents, and that whether or not the inheritance is valid those symbol sets can be accepted non-critically as describing something real even when they don’t. After all, one doesn’t have to stretch far afield to find such things: Pink Unicorns. God. Heaven. Hell. Global Average Temperature. In each case the terms are either familiar or concatenations of familiar words, and we can describe and comprehend a meaning, of sorts, that can be assigned to them at least in terms of other words including words that eventually are in concrete correspondence to the real world and/or part of the system of logical and semantic connectives.
        In each case the words refer to things that one cannot objectively discover or demonstrate, either empirically or in the abstract sense that we can demonstrate “a triangle” without needing a physical triangle to point to.
        The point is that My Little Pony doesn’t make pink unicorns real. One cannot make a silk purse out of a sows ear. One can define a way to compute a number, and one can call that number a “global average temperature”, and the computation can share at least some of the properties of computing a proper average from data that includes temperature and is drawn/sampled from parts of “the globe”, but that does not make it the actual global average temperature outside of the narrow range of the specific, non-unique definition that violates various specific precepts of the notions of “temperature”, “average”, and “global” along the way.
        I don’t think that we are in any sort of actual disagreement on this. This is precisely what the referential fallacy is — building a set of words with some presumptive or assigned or inherited meaning doesn’t ensure that the object or concept they add up to exists or is real. Propter Nomen (caps and all:-) simply points out that we should be especially on our guard when we see assemblies like this that are being used to sell us something (including the conclusion of some formal or informal argument). It is a way of slipping false premises or even contradictions into an argument in the disguise of something true, and of course from contradictions anything at all can be proven and from false premises false conclusions may follow. It is a close cousin of the oxymoron.
        So don’t get me wrong — I think that this is a valuable enough concept. It’s just that there isn’t enough space in the cognitive universe to address all of the problems inherent in its application. I mean seriously, God as a Propter Nomen (indeed, the original propter nomen in the literal sense of the term) is the basis for an entire globe-spanning human construct of enormous complexity in spite of the fact that no human can or ever has been able to point to a sense-object in the Universe or the Universe itself and say “here be God”. Then there is Number Theory — one hundred percent Propter Nomen, wouldn’t you say? Just because I can axiomatically define numbers and arithmetic and prove all sorts of contingent theorems, whence are the referents of the terms? No wonder we get into Godellian loop trouble with number theory.
        The fundamental trouble with the Propter Nomen concept is that it is at the heart of the fundamental problem of epistemology and language. One can use it to demonstrate that reason itself is an informal fallacy, because it is. Hume pointed this out several hundred years ago. But that doesn’t really help us, since whether or not language itself is an informal fallacy, it is useful.
        rgb

      • rgbatduke, thanks for acknowledging my missive.
        Berkeley would say that the material world was the error and that the ideal is all that is real. Which is equally unprovable.
        Rather more helpful is your final comment on language (and numbers) – is it useful?
        So what makes something useful?
        A) Well, it has to be self-consistent.
        B) It has to remain consistent through time (GASTA was a good measure of AGW until it wasn’t… but if it was ever a sign of AGW it must now be sign of it not being so).
        C) It has to be unambiguously understood by those who use it.
        D) Its applicability must be understood – a tool is not always useful everywhere. How many is a sonnet?
        E) As in all things, its use must be ethical (ahem).
        Just a quick thought for discussion if anyone wants to.

      • Reply to Dr. Brown –> Glad we got that sorted. I do appreciate your intellectual support and additional insights.
        I’m afraid my sense of humor is a bit dry and obscure at times [don’t think so? Ask my wife!] and my attempts at humor often miss the mark.
        Thoroughly agree that it may not be a distinct, totally new, logical fallacy (it may even just be a common error in critical thinking).
        For our readers: “Referential fallacy – assuming all words refer to existing things and that the meaning of words reside within the things they refer to, as opposed to words possibly referring to no real object or that the meaning of words often comes from how we use them.” — the Wiki.
        That’s a little deep for me….I like Steve Mosher’s suggested “Don’t let the name fool you” …. as this is really not about words in general, but in the use of the Name or Title of a thing (concept, idea, phenomena, whatever) taken absolutely literally as support for logical argument or critical thinking process — in that way, it could quite well be a special case of the Referential Fallacy, it is certainly, as we see from reader’s comments, very common.

  56. Very Nice Kip.
    When I read Lockwood’s piece #7 also stuck out as a unique and important observation. I gave it no further thought, but reading your list of examples I think that you’ve made a clear case that the one example he cites ( LIA) is not isolated. Perhaps this informal fallacy does need a name.
    Reading through the comments I think it’s important however to say the following. First, there is nothing inherently wrong with trying to name or rename things: Calling that period the LIA is of course every historians right. And of course the name will obscure certain details, potentially create a slant or bias.
    metaphors are like that. On the other hand, Don’t let the name fool you.
    For grins go back through the posts at WUWT and watch the reactions people have when I question whether there was a LIA. Simply because it has a name people have assumed that it actually happened. Its almost like an ontological argument of sorts. I’ll have to think about this some more. once again, thought provoking piece

    • The current term the climate obsessed use, “climate change” is deceptive.
      The climate has always changed. Fighting so-called climate change is like fighting the lunar tides or gravity: a fool’s errand.
      We adapt to gravity: we learn to keep things from falling; we build things that can fly inspite of gravity. We adapt to tides by adjusting our sailing schedules and building levees or adjusting where we build in relation to where the tides can go. But the climate obsessed not only want to fight the always changing climate, they think we can manage the climate by controlling CO2.

    • Reply to Mosher –> Excellent! I like your “Don’t let the name fool you” — sort of Feynman-ish — looks like a better English name for the logical error or error in critical thinking than my back-translation of my quick-pick Latin name — which is, for those who missed the point, a bit of poking fun at our famous and infamous contributors who can’t resist using the proper Latin for such things — which forces this California-educated ignoramus to have to repeatedly find an online Latin translator.

      • I need to look more closely but this might be related to the fallacy of reification or misplaced concreteness.

    • “For grins go back through the posts at WUWT and watch the reactions people have when I question whether there was a LIA. Simply because it has a name people have assumed that it actually happened. Its almost like an ontological argument of sorts.”
      But, even one of your favorite of climate distortion sites agrees that the LIA was global:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Ice_Age#Southern_Hemisphere
      Obviously you or one of your buddies need to take care of that oversight.

      • Mr. Mosher said; “i have no buddies. by design.”
        That is the saddest statement I have ever read.

      • David Ball November 8, 2014 at 6:24 am

        Mr. Mosher said; “i have no buddies. by design.”
        That is the saddest statement I have ever read.

        David, you might not have fully considered the backstory. First, you can’t put much weight on Mosh’s comments when he’s in drive-by mode.
        Second, this was in response to BFL’s unpleasant accusations that a) Mosh’s favorite climate sites includes Wikipedia, and that b) Mosh is somehow in league with “his buddies” doing something wrong, and that c) Mosh or “his buddies” should run to Wikipedia and change something to agree with Mosh’s point of view. All of this is just BFL’s unpleasant fantasy. In addition, it is a clear ad-hominem attack devoid of any scientific content.
        Had someone made the same set of ugly accusations about me, I’m not sure I would have replied in such an even tone.
        Third, BFL is clearly using the term “buddies” to mean “co-conspirators in something underhanded” … I don’t have “buddies” like BFL is talking about myself, and by design.
        Finally, Mosh is a decent, honest man who is totally transparent about his scientific work. I disagree with some of his scientific conclusions myself, but the idea that he’s screwing with Wikipedia like William Connolley is both ludicrous and vindictive. BFL should be ashamed … but then that’s one of the benefits of posting anonymously, you never have to say you’re sorry.
        w.

    • I am aware of quite a few people who believe in the Little Ice Age, not because the era has a name, but because of the abundant historical documentation of that period. The only question is the geographical extent of it, but most evidence points to it being a global phenomena (except for a tree in Yamal).

      • Evidence from every continent shows the LIA to be a real phenomenon. By whatever name, it was cold, stormy & wetter or drier, depending upon region. Even the tropics were affected. The transition from the balmy Medieval Warm Period to the bitter LIA was accompanied by crashes in human numbers, most notably in the last century of the MWP (the 14th), from which decline it took 200 more years to recover. Population also fell during the previous Cold Period, of the Dark Ages, particularly during the 6th to 8th centuries AD.

  57. The phrase “Balance of Nature” has my vote. It conjures up some beautiful deity placing every plant, animal and physical feature of the planet on some intricately carved curio shelf in its own perfect, special spot where it should remain for eternity. Instead of portraying Nature as a the random interaction of billions of things heaped on a pile that will always be in a supercritical state… which is what reality is. Nature is anything but “balanced” its rather more along the lines of reactive chaos.
    Wonderful article Kip, it makes people think about how they communicate and that is a good thing.

  58. Well OK, you can fly to Canada from Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport but that’s it.
    When they were renaming it quite a few years back, I wrote a letter to the then Milwaukee Journal that they should just get it over with and call it, “General Mitchell Inter-Galactic Space Portal” But, for some reason my letter wasn’t published.

    • Yes, certainly not a Geological Epoch

      despite the strong “blame humans” advocacy for it to be so named.

    • Sententia omnium verborum cardinis dependet ==> The sentence depends on all of the key points ?? Have the online translators got that right?

      • I hope they’re not right and that my schoolboy Latin from the sixties comes close to “The meaning of all words depends on context.”
        Every choice of one tense rather than another conveys significance that varies with the perspicuity of the speaker and the perspicacity of the listener.
        It is increasing. (present continuous refers to the future). It has increased. (present perfect denotes the past).
        Propter nomen may well apply to grand terms, especially jargon, that have spilled out of their domain and into the world at large, but accuracy is more abused by adverbs and conjunctions than extravagant titles given to spurious phenomena.
        (please don’t require me to say that in Latin!)

  59. Wittgenstein: “‘realist’, as used by philosophers, is more a boast than a discription”
    As oppossed to proper names (John), which used to be descriptive (doloros), but become mere labels, any descriptive name contains an implicit truth claim. ( a common wallboard product is called “ez sand,” I think because it is not easy to sand.)
    Natural language is essentially figurative and polysemous (every word has multiple meanings), but science (not Science!) requires a terminological ideal of language that purges terms of associative and conotative meanings such that one thing has but one word, and that one word means only that one thing. Any technical writing that is fat with associative and conotative language is suspicious as science. Although that is not the most suspicious thing about “climate science.”

  60. How about canola oil? It is really rapeseed oil with a lower amount of erucic acid. It was invented in Canada (can), it is an oil (o), it is low acid (la), and that, ta da. equals: canola. Quite a clever marketing trick.

  61. This ‘propter nomen’ relates to something I’ve long thought of as “magical” thinking, where the language used about something alters the perception of the something. Now I have a term that won’t put off my hard-sci and hard-sci-fi friends. 😉
    As an example? How about Domino’s “certified carbon-free” sugar? No sh*t — just search the phrase.

  62. The idea that our language guides–or misguides–our thinking is known among linguists as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. It’s had a long history, and in its strongest form is pretty much debunked. However, in weaker forms–where particular words, rather than the argument, guide you towards a belief–it’s pretty much accepted, I would say. George Lakoff has been a big proponent of this, and while I think he goes off the deep end, he does make some points. E.g. the Republican term “tax relief” uses a metaphor where taxes are presupposed to be bad; a contrary metaphor would treat taxes as a membership fee. (Warning: if you’re a Republican, you’ll find Lakoff almost as infuriating as Noam Chomsky. Just try to separate his ideas about language from his ideas about politics.)

      • I’m not saying anything about which metaphor is right, and all metaphors break down at some point. I’m just saying that the choice of words/ metaphor to make one side or the other of an argument appear right has a long history in linguistics, and indeed outside of linguistics. If you prefer a more right wing statement of the same thing, you might try S.I. Hayakawa. Other recent examples of the same thing are the right to life vs. pro choice, and network freedom.

      • I probably would separate Lakoff’s ideas about language (I have a bit of the philology bug) if he kept them separate from politics. Once he stepped into the political arena to use them as a weapon, the rules change. When you have diametrically opposed premises in an argument, I think both premises can’t be true for the same conditions; though both can be false (to get back to the subject of formal predicate logic).

  63. Very nice, Kip, and well spotted.
    My vote for the “propter nomen” error is the term “natural variations”. This term is merely camouflage to avoid saying “we don’t know”. I mean, it’s much more sciencey to say something like “Ten percent of the warming is from black carbon, and the rest is natural variation” rather than to say “Ten percent of the warming is from black carbon, and we don’t have a clue what causes the rest”.
    w.

    • The problem with this is we do not know the extent of what “natural variability” is, do we? No baseline for climate variability. This shark was jumped by the alarmist contingent.

  64. Although not climate related, one rather (in)famous example of “propter nomen” is the communist “Bolshevik Party”. While still small and nationally very much in the minority, they named themselves the “Bolshevik Party”, i.e., the “Majority Party”. What wonderful publicity to have every newspaper refer to you as the “majority party!

  65. In astronomy, the terms “dark matter” and “dark energy” refer to the quantified gap between observation and standard theory. But most researchers pursue these issues in the vein of matter & energy, very likely because of those terms. So I say “caveat nomen” to that.

  66. Hi,
    The best example I know of is the term “unbiased estimator” from Fisherian statistics. When I was young and less experienced in math and critical thinking, I accepted this as something good and sound. Although we have a precise mathematical definition, the name itself is very suggesting and who wants to be biased? Today I reject the definition as a good scientific definition.
    Since we are talking statistics, I guess “statistically significant” is THE most damaging terms of all time for science.
    Regards
    Thorsten Ottosen, Ph.D., Director of Research, Dezide

  67. Hi,
    The best example I know of is the term “unbiased estimator” from Fisherian statistics. When I was young and less experienced in math and critical thinking, I accepted this as something good and sound. Although we have a precise mathematical definition, the name itself is very suggesting and who wants to be biased? Today I reject the definition as a good scientific definition.
    Since we are talking statistics, I guess “statistically significant” is THE most damaging terms of all time for science.
    Regards
    Thorsten Ottosen, Ph.D., Director of Research, Dezide

    • Since we are talking statistics, I guess “statistically significant” is THE most damaging terms of all time for science.

      Hm, interesting observation. It’s a case where both ends are clear — things with probability zero are definitely statistically insignificant and things with probability unity are definitely statistically significant — but in between? No clear statistically significant meaning…
      I run into this one in the context of p-values in hypothesis testing (testing random number generators) all the time. One of the most boneheaded rules of all time is the implementation of p = 0.05 as either an accept or reject threshold for a hypothesis. Really? Nineteen to one odds is your threshold for certainty or uncertainty? No wonder it is so easy to slip terrible results in medicine, especially, through a data dredge.
      So I agree, but at the same time, the term definitely has asymptotic meaning.
      One suggestion of E. T. Jaynes that I favor when addressing science in particular is to map this into a log (e.g. log likelihood) representation and present it in decibels as something like L = -10\log_{10}(P). That way, every three decibels is a halving of probability (down from unity/certainty at L = 0). The probability of the existence of pink unicorns as an undiscovered species here on Earth is a huge number even in decibels given the evidence. The probability that a penny, released from rest over a table, will fall to the table is a very, very small number in decibels — essentially unity. If one avoids attaching any particular cut-off to this concept, it can be quite useful. The point isn’t that some threshold is suddenly “significant”, it is that it represents a process, and knowledge requires a pretty steady motion of L towards 0 or infinity as one accumulates evidence in addition to a value that is at least “really big” or “really small”. In between all one can really conclude is “wait and see”, or “answer cloudy, try again later” (my favorite from the good old 8-ball:-).
      rgb

  68. I think another term for Propter nomen or using a name to create an idea that has nothing or little to do with the entity being described, is propaganda.
    Propaganda does not need to be logical, fallacies from the small to the grand are the tools of its trade, and the primary purpose is to persuade in order to gain power.
    Climate science left the pure science sector to gain power in the public sector using propaganda. If the IPCC reports are not examples of this, I do not know what is. The Synthesis report??? Really???

  69. Politically, you can bias a debate by the names attached to groups, things, or concepts (name something ‘radical’ the radical right in the US promotes. The party of the status quo would be closer to the truth).
    In science, learning a term is too often a substitute for understanding a concept. Ask a student (and far too many grads) why a large collapsing body gets hotter, and you will almost always get the answer, “gravitational collapse”. That doesn’t explain WHY, it’s simply a term, and you will elicit blank stares if you ask them the mechanism behind gravitational collapse producing increased temperatures. The same is true with why hurricanes in th N. hemisphere have counter-clockwise winds. The coriolis effect! Great, you know the term. Now explain it…..
    I think it was Isaac Asimov who wrote that you could be able to identify by name every bird, yet know no science. What we call things in our language is just a short-cut in communication. Unless you understand the subject behind the name, you know nothing, and if you understand the subject behind the name, what you call it is immaterial except for clear communication.

  70. My favorite is “Save the Planet”. It tells you there is something the planet needs to be saved from and that you are able to effect the saving. You become a hero. It is a phrase that as it all.

  71. Just as gun-grabbers invented the convenient neologism lie of “assault weapon”, so have CACA advocates abused “climate change” as a thought-stifling replacement for what they really should say, ie “catastrophic man-made global warming”, but don’t want to do so, since real climate change isn’t man-made, isn’t catastrophic & for going on 20 years hasn’t been warming.

  72. “Propter nomen: A logical argument in which the assumption of truth or logical validity is based on the name or title of a thing. Such logical assumption, based on the literal name or title given to a thing, is fallacious, because the name or title itself may be false, self-serving, inadequate and/or misleading.”

    An example.
    In the early days of model railroading there was a standard gauge for larger trains. (I forget the width.)
    In 1906 or ’07 Lionel came out with a gauge close to that but different. (2 1/8 width)
    He named it “Standard Gauge”.

  73. Think about it in terms of pre-plate tectonics geology. It’s not just names that imply meanings that aren’t necessarily accurate portrayals of reality but also just the naming of something implies an extent of understanding. Stuff were named and characterized (like shield volcanoes vs. stratovolcanoes) such that they could be discussed as if we understood them. We didn’t really understand what was going on but since they were named and characterized the illusion of understanding was created. I wonder how much in climate science will turn out to be like this in the end.

  74. “Propter nomen”- “Proper name” (accurate naming)
    propter nomen – proper noun
    My understanding in regard to “propter nomen” and the example of LIA :
    “ice age is not a “proper name”, Ice Age is a “proper name” and so is the LIA (the Little Ice Age)
    Sun funny enough does not make it as a proper name, just a proper noun at best, I think.
    Also funny enough LIA seems to be good enough as a proper noun, a very rare, unike case, as far as I can tell, in climatology.
    To my understanding, in climatology, the most “proper name” is LIA, you can’t get confused at what it means and what value of expression and description it carries.
    The extention of the general term “ice age” is what the ice ages can be used to refer to, it is what the definition expresses. If you know about ice ages you have no problem with the LIA as its very essential characteristic the short term period, corresponds to the very clear description, the Little ( the Little-ice age).
    Even the term Ice Age is not such a clear cut, people still get confused while in the argument about the Ice Age.
    Most of the other “proper name” in climatologic terminology are not so descriptive and clear as LIA.”

    I don’t know, probably I am wrong with my understanding of all this, …..hopefully some one may clarify it for me if that’s the case.
    I am sure that many out there have mixed feelings about LIA, some probably don’t like even the sound of it and hate it….but I am sure that all concearned in the matter know well enoughh and are very clear and can’t be confused at what LIA is….funny enough there is never any much arguing about it, unless while the argument is about the worthiness of that information and knowledge about and related to LIA.
    How good and easy for some if LIA did not even exist…..and erasing the “nomen” is the first step to erase it off the argument and the climatology debate, or at least destroy its real proper accumulated academic value.
    I don’t know…..perverse, maybe- maybe not….immoral, maybe- maybe not……..devious, maybe- maybe not……stupid, in this one the only thing I can say is “of course, no doubt ”
    Really sorry I can’t see it any other way
    Once upon a time, this same kinda of creed tried to destroy the academic and scientific value of the Darwin’s “The Origin of Species” under similar methods, the “propter nomen” argument about the word Species.
    To me, a serious and a heavy debate and argumenting in the terms of “propter nomen” as a valuation in some matter, is no any better than the moral lecturing given by a prostitute…….ah sorry..again to harsh with my expression of thought…but again that’s the way I see it.
    cheers

    • Minor nitpick – Latin “propter” means “due to” or “on account of”, NOT “proper”. Latin for English “proper” or “correct” is “rectus.”
      Global Warming could be described as a name emerging from the rectum though…

      • sirra
        November 7, 2014 at 10:33 pm
        Thanks for the reply.
        As you say “propter” means “due to” or “on account of” or perhaps I would add “in favour of”, or my favorite one; “depending on”,….. but my problem is that I do see the English “proper” meaning the same thing (“pro-per”) as a word or a concept.
        Even while “proper” and “correct” in the English may be similar,….. in constract as words these two words are not the same. While “correct” is “rectus” I don’t think “proper” is “rectus” …seems to me that “proper” more like “propter”, …only a “t” has dropped there. :-).
        To me the difference between “propter” to “rectus” is as same as the difference between “proper” to “correct’
        To me that difference can be portrayed as in the case of the “relative” and “absolute” estimation or evaluation………………
        The “propter” (load) is a relative estimation, a “due to” one, and so it seems the case for the English “proper” (“due-to” or “pro-per”)…and
        The “rectus” (load) is an absolute estimation or evaluation and so it seem the case for the English “correct”.
        Now, whatever I have said in this reply to you may be not proper or correct, please do take it as a simple funny argument…..but I still looking forward to any other “rectus to rectum” argumentum..:-)
        thanks again.
        cheers

      • I assumed that this was intentional. As an analogue of post hoc, ergo propter hoc this does make sense. I believe that the translation would be that it is an informal fallacy to ascribe a truth value to some assertion in an argument on account of the (or a) name. Hence my assertion that it is clearly a variant of the existing referential fallacy, but one worthy of independent mention because it embraces a whole range of other fallacies formal and informal in context — begging the question (which is also precisely what it is when one discusses Anthropogenic Global Warming because using the term at all in most discussions begs the question of whether or not the referent exists!), special pleading (galore), Jaynes’ mind projection fallacy (which is another thing that it often is in its entirety). It’s a blanket term describing a particular use of several fallacies in the context of creating a name that is deceptive in that there is no certain or agreed on referent in reality corresponding to the name.
        This concept is not new. I would remind people of the term “stereotype”. In some deep sense, the use of stereotypes is often the commission of the propter nomen fallacy. It is a false generalization — but because of the name. Worldly Oriental Gentlemen (wog). Heathen. Heresy. To name someone a Heretic was at one time a death sentence, and yet it was almost impossible to defend against the accusation because by the time the name was given, no one dared to argue against it because argument defending Heresy was Heresy! Powerful name! Child Pornographer (or Child Molester) has almost equal force now when applied against a sharp age cutoff, as if one single day divides a life-shattering felony from something we merely frown upon but that is completely legal, or applied without regard to the mutual relative ages of the participants.
        The problem with all of these things is that the use of the name itself eliminates by substitution for any application of human judgement. By using the name while arguing against it you grant it conceptual force. The entire concept of the Politically Incorrect, which has gained such social force that it threatens the entire live comedy industry and has shattered careers in star chambers everywhere is substantially Propter Nomen, even where in many cases the underlying arguments, if made without the benefit of the name, would still stand. Why is the name needed, then, in the other cases? When did political correctness become a form of common law, where anyone with a grudge can make an accusation of political incorrectness in any of a dozen contexts and stifle free speech and humor?
        As nothing more than a warning to remain on one’s guard, it is useful. It’s a further warning to try not to let opponents control the language of a debate, because a clever sound bite, an insidious Propter Nomen, can often win the argument without reason.
        rgb

  75. With respect, “propter nomen” is itself a conceptuum falsus, in that framing any conclusion solely on a basis of the name customarily given to the particular phenomenon has no relation to science – it is simply fallacious and should never get past any critical review process.
    But the more a natural phenomenon stands out from its forerunners or antecedents, the more likely it is to be called by some distinguishing name, if only for ease of reference. Surely the answer is to do as the lawyers do – define terms first with precision, such as “In this paper, unless the context otherwise requires, the expression LIA refers to climactic conditions in Europe and North America between 1300 CE and 1870 CE”, and so on.
    In short – if you wish to spout latin, get the lawyers in!

    • Since lawyers have no official description of what “is” is, the few terms that are defined in statutes find themselves defined by undefined terms. This is a noble effort but it ain’t “the solution”.

      • Correction: in the UK statutes are enacted under the interpretation rules of the Interpretation Act 1978 – which doesn’t use “is” for definition. For example Schedule 1 includes: “Person” includes a body of persons corporate or unincorporate, and “The Tax Acts” means the Income Tax Acts and the Corporation Tax Acts – amongst many other definitions. The word “is” is not used to framing the executive definition.

      • Clinton’s famous statement may not have made it to the UK but I thought it was a good allegory for the situation where the vast majority of words used in framing any statute do not have definitions other than in dictionaries.
        For that matter, there’s nowhere in your Interpretation Act 1978 that it’s stated that the use of the present tense of the verb ‘include’ means for all time time and in all instances. In English the present tense is also used to indicate a single event in the future (Tomorrow, you go to Crewe) or a single event in the past (He shoots, he scores.)
        We rely on ‘common sense’ and though it is common, it’s also all too rare.

      • Don’t worry: all covered here in the UK. Statutes always speak as at the present time until repealed (and you can be sure the Interpretation Act would be replaced in updated form if ever repealed); by judicial precedent the UK courts then look at the Oxford English Dictionary for guidance – or if not there is always specific judicial precedent to fall back on. And thanks for picking up my typo: yes, I meant “climatic”. Now: any more nits to pick, or would you actually like to address the substance of my posting above?

    • Until corrected by someone who actually knows Latin, I insist on propter nomina (plural accusative neuter 3rd declension)

  76. … Then there’s the talk of temperature change “since pre-industrial” which seems to be designed to create the misleading impression that before industry, the world’s temperature was constant.

  77. This might be more of a problem than misleading names.
    “Dr Elizabeth Hanna: Well, the main points of course is that warming is unequivocal … Without concerted action on carbon, the temperatures are going to increase in the coming decades and it could be almost up to 5 degrees by the end of this century.”
    Even if fiddled a little, climates have warmed in general since the LIA (that was just a little colder than now). Her statement is made so that warming of 5 degrees by the end of the century is also unequivocal but only proof of the the first claim is needed.
    And ‘global climate’ might be another Prompter nomen. Climate refers to weather in regions and are we good enough at estimating global averages of anything to use that term?

    • No. Astronomers and geophysicists use it for the difference from the average.
      If its normal to be anything but the average then it shouldn’t be referred to as an anomaly, strictly speaking. A GMT that has changed 1°C and was calculated from temperatures that differ by over 100°C might be taking it a little too far.

  78. Anything by the government described as “Free.” Free cellphones, free internet access, free food, free housing, free healthcare, etc.. Everything from the government is taxpayer funded.

  79. Boston Cream Pie
    Ain’t a pie. It’s a cake. A very delicious cake that is center stage on my table every July 18th. The day of my birthday.

  80. Thanks to all the readers who have chipped in with their examples of things so named that they easily (and often intentionally) lead people to commit the logical or critical thinking error: “Propter nomen — Because of the name.”
    Many of them made me laugh out loud.
    I think most of you agreed that there just may be a special case logical fallacy (or critical thinking error, your choice) that results from “the assumption of truth or logical validity is based on the name or title of a thing. Such logical assumption, based on the literal name or title given to a thing, is fallacious, because the name or title itself may be false, self-serving, inadequate and/or misleading.” and that the error is the assumption or assertion — a misuse — not really in the naming itself.
    Fallacious, propgandistic, self-serving, misleading, fraudulent or just plain inaccurate Naming or Titling of things, concepts, ideas and phenomena is another kettle of fish and contributes to (or intentionally causes) the tendency of the public to fall prey to this fallacy or error.
    Thanks to all of you who read and/or commented.

  81. “Propter nomen” implies an appeal to authority of language or generally reference.
    Another term in the same spirit is semantic game, that is played with an intent to manipulate perception through exploiting language. Semantic games are similar to rhetoric, but are decidedly negative or change-oriented.
    I suppose that neither can be assumed to have a negative connotation, but that they often have that character in practice.

  82. Propter Nomen:
    Climate change (as if something unusual).
    Anthropocene
    Forcing
    Pre-industrial
    Greenhouse gas
    Ocean acidification
    Climate model
    Climate sensitivity
    Back-radiation
    Pauze

  83. The worst of the lot is simply “climate science”. Climate is a multi-faceted and complex area of study with uncertain and potential chaotic feed backs. Climate studies are similar to economic studies, neither is truly science, neither leads to truly testable/falsifiable hypotheses. Both use the same scientific and mathematical toolboxes to advance, neither deserve the label science.

    • @ Phill
      November 8, 2014 at 3:45 am
      What is funny about “climate science” is that the real name is Climatology, but not really heard so much as it implies that a high degree of logic should prevail within it…the very thing lacking with “climate science”. 🙂
      “Propter nomen” could not be invoked on “climate science” as that not actually a proper name. 🙂
      cheers.

  84. If anyone’s heard one of the SkS kidz end an ‘argument’ with “…that’s WHY they’re called deniers,” they will have noticed that the ‘argument’ began with an implicit “they’re called deniers, so….” and was therefore a canonical Propter Nomen.
    Kip, thank you for giving us a 2-word comeback suitable for audiences used to rebuttals such as “strawman!” and “Dunning Kruger!”
    Those who are criticising you for failing to identify a completely unique fallacy are not being fair. Your essay is (or will be) a valuable contribution to the discourse if it gives us a new weapon in the War on Inept Thinking. Thanks!

  85. “7. Logic based on the name given to a phenomenon, interval or feature is bad science, because the name is often inadequate and misleading.”
    The term “Global Warming” is the preeminent example of this. The term exists only because of flawed computer models which are based on the (wrong) assumption that CO2 is the primary climate driver.

  86. If you can’t refute the science attack the description warmists find so upsetting. Or is that me being cynical?

    • Yes. NOTHING has been attacked in this essay. It should have been, but it WASN’T. It actually excused and searches for a soft landing for those who would use such misleading words. And frankly I’m a little embarrassed for those here, many whom I admire, who have bought the softsoaping hook, line and sinker, choosing instead to believe that one among them has said something new and brilliant and important.
      They haven’t , it’s nothing but mindscaping BS.

  87. A bit late, but I would put forward “global” as in global warming. Obviously not every spot is warming so how much coverage does it take to call something “global”. 90%, 75% or is 55% enough? And then, iwithin what time frame? 10 years, 30 years, 100 years? The IPCC doesn´t say but the MWP is obviously NOT a global phenomen because it wasn´t “global” enough? So, somewhere, somebody actually now what “global” means, but dare not to define it?

    • JPC,
      Outstanding! I’m a bit of a newbie, but I REALLY look forward to the thread associated with this one. I’ve wondered this myself and am truly looking forward to what folks know about this definition. It is on my list, so your bringing it up here will hopefully add to many’s “enlightenment” on this topic. Much thanks!

  88. Kip, I call this logical fallacy Argumentum ad Liturgiam, or Reference to the Formulaic. It’s basically the bastard love-child of ‘ad populum’ and ‘ad verecundiam’. The word Liturgiam is pertinent in a number of ways. It alludes to the ancient Greek form of public service by wealthy individuals, and is thus inextricably linked to forms of public worship and religious rites and texts.
    But the primary context I had in mind when I came up with the idea was the Holy See’s Liturgiam Authenticam, on the thorny problem of translating and publishing liturgical texts into the vernacular. That text makes very interesting reading in light of what you’re saying here and the wider debate on the religious tone of the ‘true believers’ in CAGW.
    Ultimately I guess we’re talking about ‘faith on a plate’, a formulaic creed – gnosis precogitated and regurgitated using specific nomenclature by the ‘approved authorities’ for the purpose of mass consumption and herd cohesion.

  89. An excellent topic, Kip. Would it be correct to say that “propter nomen” arguments might also apply to names that carry negative connotations? Words such as “fracking” are used by environmentalists to imply a host of evils.

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