Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Stone Age Didn't End for Lack of Stone

"The Stone Age didn’t end for lack of stone, and the oil age will end long before the world runs out of oil."

This fabulous and pithy quote from former Saudi oil minister Sheik Ahmed Zaki Yamani in a 2005 New York Times article 'The Breaking Point' is often trotted out by those who wish to ridicule the concept of peak oil.

The quote itself is a wonderful piece of rhetoric. It uses the literary device of parallel structure to make a point that is concise, funny, and dead wrong. It contains an unwritten appeal to technology and to linear historical progress (after stone comes bronze and after oil comes hydrogen.) Unfortunately , this otherwise perfect sentence falls victim to the fallacy of False Analogy. One could unpack the sentence further to make this logical error stand out in greater relief:

"Stones are not scarce. Therefore the reason for the end of the stone age was not scarcity. Therefore all resources are not scarce..."

The conclusion simply doesn't follow from the first two premises.

Until now, that's been my pet peeve with this particular quote. But now, in a news headline worthy of The Onion, it now appears that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia IS actually suffering from a shortage of stones! (specifically rock and gravel for concrete construction)

Saudi Arabia Runs out of Sand!

You can't make this stuff up!

- Ari


Terry Travers said...

Don't I know you?

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