National Geographic has new article out on population growth. They claim that we cannot be sure whether or not we will be harmed by population growth. On the first page, they link population growth with certain problems in the world. The only problem with this is that their link is an excellent example of a bad argument. National Geographic is using bad arguments!

They mention a number of problems in the world: soil erosion, falling water tables, glaciers melting and vanishing fish stocks. They also mention the large number of poor people in the world. All of this is true. Whether it is caused by population growth is not clear at all. In that same paragraph they mention problems in wealthy countries: clearing forests, burning coal and oil and using fertilizers and pesticides. This is again true. But what does any of this have to do with population growth? Nothing, unless you add some argument that links the two. Since they claim that there is a link, but their argument doesn’t prove it; their argument is a bad argument.

So why would National Geographic use a bad argument? They want you to link problems in society and earth with population growth. By doing this they are promoting the idea of having fewer children to its readers. They are not promoting this because it will help you or because it is true. If they were, they would use a good argument instead. They are promoting this because it serves their own interests – even at the expense of ours.

The true lesson of National Geographic’s bad argument is that good people don’t use bad arguments any more than good people do bad things.

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