Joe Sabia's Airheadedness -- One Simple Example

Joe loves getting attention. (To clarify, this is Joseph J. Sabia from American University.) Negative attention perhaps even more so than positive attention. He is, in a way, a sort-of Michael Moore of the right, at least when it comes to his narcissism.

That noted, I will keep this page about my former graduate officemate relatively brief. I do not doubt that Joe will get a little grin on his face if he discovers this page about him anyhow, regardless of how unflattering he may find it, because it is more attention for him. But I think I will limit this attention to one simple but illustrative example.

Consider the statistics at the beginning of his article A Vote for Bush Is a Vote for God. There are, of course, problems with all five of the statistics he quotes not implying the claims that he tries to support with them, but let's just look at the most comical one.

Joe writes, "A 2004 USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll found that 54 percent of weekly church attendees identify themselves as 'conservatives.'" Now think about that for a second. That means that 46% of weekly church attendees do not identify themselves as conservatives. If you had a big group of weekly church attendees, about half would identify as conservatives and about half would not. If you had eleven random weekly church attendees, you would expect that six would identify as conservatives and five would not identify as conservatives.

All we can draw from this statistic is that weekly church goers are pretty evenly divided between being conservative and not. Joe, however, fails to get it, and he tries to use this statistic to help justify the dichotomy he presents in his article of right-wingers and left-wingers being religious and anti-religious, respectively. He writes, "One of the best predictors of voting behavior is religious attendance," and, "Is anyone particularly surprised that religious Americans vote Republican?" and, of course, the title of the article.

Regardless of whether you think the dichotomy he argues for is accurate or not, it is difficult to do anything else but chuckle at Joe trying to support his claims with that statistic. Maybe there are some good reasons to believe that dichotomy (although I personally doubt it), but that statistic is, without a doubt, not one of them.

There is nothing in what I am saying here that has to do with politics either -- there certainly are lots of conservatives out there who think Joe is rather foolish as well. The point is just to make a simple consideration of the quality of the argument that Joe made.

The broader message then, that I am quite far from being the first person to realize or point out, is that Joe has trouble with reasoning. To put it in the blunt sort of language that he himself commonly uses, Joe is dumb and makes dumb arguments.

Joe once made a response to such attacks on his intellect in the following way:

This is typical - when liberals do not agree with a conservative's arguments, they lie about him and call him dumb. Apparently, a bachelor's degree, two master's degrees, and an impending doctorate from an Ivy League University do not inoculate a person from liberal charges of stupidity. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

The obvious thing here, however, is that it doesn't matter whether one agrees with the claims Joe is trying to support. Statistics that he uses to try to support them do nothing in the way of providing support, and the fact that he did use them (and probably will continue to defend using them) is what brings about a clear and valid reason for attacking Joe's intellect.

People with advanced degrees often try to claim an immunity to charges of dumbness, but, as I'm sure anyone who has lingered around academia knows, having a doctorate is certainly no guarantee of good reasoning skills. Many people with advanced degrees are quite bright, but others are definitely not. Some just make it through their degress by working exceptionally hard, without ever really being able think critically. Joe probably worked harder than any other economics graduate student that I knew, and I think his academic successes are due solely to this.

So, that is the discussion of my simple example. There are so many other examples of things he has written that I could go on and on about, but I think I will hold myself to just this for the reasons mentioned above.

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