The "Survivors" Fallacy

One relatively common attack on the shielding of Star Trek ships is revealed in this page of Anderson's site. Anderson attempts to dismiss the episode's stunningly weak display of Star Trek shielding, when it is revealed that the ship cannot repel more than a few hits from a weapon firing the equivalent of "four hundred gigawatts of particle energy."

"Some unscrupulous debaters try to claim that this event shows a maximum shield strength of 400 gigawatts for the Galaxy Class. In other words, anything more than about .23 tons of TNT per second will overload the shields and bring them down."

The first thing that Anderson does is to try and claim that the use of canonical, unambiguous dialogue is "unscrupulous." However this is blatantly false. Anderson goes on to claim that:

""gigawatts of particle energy" is a peculiar phrase that can refer to kinetic energy of the particles, particle charge, and other things."

This seems to have slightly more merit until you examine it more closely. It is merely an escape clause. [Editor's note: indeed, why would anyone quantify an irrelevant characteristic of a weapon? When someone quantifies the muzzle energy of a bullet from a gun, does anyone idly speculate that he may be referring to its internal (ie- heat) energy instead of its kinetic energy, which is the only thing relevant to its function as a weapon? Obviously, Worf's power figure describes its threat level, not some insignificant side-issue] A gigawatt is a gigawatt is a gigawatt, and Worf clearly referred to the equivalent firepower, earlier in the episode:

"WORF: The vessel is firing jacketed streams of positrons and anti-protons. Equivalent firepower: forty megawatts. Shields are holding."

In other words, the effect of the weapon on the shields was the equivalent of forty megawatts. Moreover, the weapon being fired is made up of "jacketed streams of positrons and anti-protons." Anderson attempts to claim that the quote could be referring to "can refer to kinetic energy of the particles, particle charge, and other things." This is obviously false. Kinetic energy is a unit of energy. Particle charge is measured in volts [Editor's note: actually, it is measured in coulombs, although this doesn't help RSA since coulombs are no closer to watts than volts are]. Both of which are only nominally related to power (watts). He continues:

"Second, no one else including the Empire fires jacketed streams of antimatter, and the only other time we saw antimatter fired like that was when the Enterprise-D used an antimatter spread to confound Borg sensors in "Best of Both Worlds"."

This is quite obviously a red herring. The dialogue refers unambiguously to the weapon as being a jacketed stream of anti-matter. Debaters may speculate on why they would require such a weapon, but to dismiss it as being impossible because it may only have limited utility would be to ignore the principle of suspension of disbelief. Moreover, it really does not matter that no one else uses such weapons. The episode clearly shows that only a few gigawatts of equivalent firepower can overload the shields of the E-D. Entertainingly, this fits nicely with observations made in the newest Star Trek film, "Star Trek: Nemesis."

[Editor's note: it gets worse. He tries to dismiss the entire sequence of events with the following: "Of course, over and above all of that is the fifth, and most incontrovertible, proof of the fallacy. This was a weapon fired by an image of a ship, created by an omnipotent being. This being had proven himself capable of fooling sensors in various capacities. Since it was the construct of a being of "disguise and false surroundings", one can hardly bank on the reality of the event. A dog's flatulence could bring down shields, so long as there was an omnipotent being wishing it to be so." This is a common escape clause: declare somebody to be omnipotent because you're not sure how he does what he does (interesting "logic" by that reasoning, a caveman would have been perfectly justified in declaring a modern man omnipotent). But it's ultimately irrelevant: whatever the weapon was, its effect on the ship was real; the ship was physically damaged. Since sensors can only measure through interaction, their readout indicates that this mysterious phenomenon interacted with the ship in a manner consistent with a 400GW weapon]

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