I found myself quite irritated with this post by an anonymous WordPress blogger (link to site). Here’s the relevant part:

As I was watching T.V. tonight and seemingly becoming dumber with each minute that passed by, I saw a commercial that intrigued me. The commercial starred Ashley Judd and was an ‘Aids Awareness’ promotion speaking how every 15 seconds a person 15-24 years of age dies from an Aids related epidemic.

Every fifteen seconds? That means that someone just died and another one is on their way. These numbers seem a little inflated to me, I mean we are looking at over two million young folks dying per year. Two million doesn’t seem like a lot until you start adding two million here, two million there, then take into consideration that this pace will only pick up and one day we will all be affected by AIDS. Well, maybe not, but if we listen to the ever knowing Ashley Judd we would believe this, simply because she is an actress and she knows what you and I are not smart enough to know.

I was not so irritated by the argument; celebrities do indeed seem to spout off a lot fo non-sense about issues that they know little about, and it is certainly true that their celebrity status does not mean that they have any special knowledge of any subject. And even though I strongly disagree with the author’s political and moral stances (see later in his post) that doesn’t bother me all that much.

No, what irritated me is the author’s reasoning. This post is suffused with the pre-hoc assumption of truth without resource to actual facts. The author clearly has little knowledge of the HIV/AIDS epidemic or it’s extent. Rather than making a (small) effort to track down some actual figures, he assumes that because a ‘left-wing’ celebrity has presented an argument, it must be incorrect and misleading. In his comment section I linked to a WHO article that is accompanied by PDFs with actual data. The extent of the AIDS epidemic is precisely as extensive as Ms. Judd apparently said.

Even though the author then goes on to look at the implications of these numbers, concluding correctly that they are gigantic, he then dismisses them out-of-hand as simply being unbelievable on their face (and then moves on to attacking Ms. Judd, Selma Hyeck, Michael J. Fox, and abortion, all which are of questionable(!) relevance to his main point). He does this from a lack of understanding of the magnitude of the numbers (2 million is only 3 hundredths of a percent of 6 billion — the approximate population of the planet — and therefore it would take 3000 years for everyone on the earth die of AIDS at present rates of death), and as far as I can tell, from the lack of any interest in the truth. He is more concerned with simply ‘scoring points’ against the perceived left-wing threat.

I’ve already devoted too much space to an ‘argument’ that deserves to be ignored. But I would urge all you ‘culture warriors’ out there to argue from evidence rather than belief. Your arguments will be more effective with some facts to support them than if you simply repeat your interpretation of the party line.