[LMB] OT: Types of Logical Fallacies

B Van Look vanlook19 at gmail.com
Wed Sep 1 13:40:50 BST 2021


Some of the discussions have devolved into exchanges of logical fallacies.
Here's a list of some of the most common. It is by no means a complete list

As a special bonus, I've read various (mostly OT) threads and got to play
Logical Fallacy Bingo!



STRAWMAN
You misrepresented someone’s argument to make it easier to attack.
By exaggerating, misrepresenting, or just completely fabricating someone's
argument, it's much easier to present your own position as being
reasonable, but this kind of dishonesty serves to undermine honest rational
debate.
*Example: After Will said that we should put more money into health and
education, Warren responded by saying that he was surprised that Will hates
our country so much that he wants to leave it defenceless by cutting
military spending.*


FALSE CAUSE (aka CORRELATION DOES NOT EQUAL CAUSATION)
You presumed that a real or perceived relationship between things means
that one is the cause of the other.
Many people confuse correlation (things happening together or in sequence)
for causation (that one thing actually causes the other to happen).
Sometimes correlation is coincidental, or it may be attributable to a
common cause.

*Example: Pointing to a fancy chart, Roger shows how temperatures have been
rising over the past few centuries, whilst at the same time the numbers of
pirates have been decreasing; thus pirates cool the world and global
warming is a hoax.*

APPEAL TO EMOTION
You attempted to manipulate an emotional response in place of a valid or
compelling argument.
Appeals to emotion include appeals to fear, envy, hatred, pity, pride, and
more. It's important to note that sometimes a logically coherent argument
may inspire emotion or have an emotional aspect, but the problem and
fallacy occurs when emotion is used instead of a logical argument, or to
obscure the fact that no compelling rational reason exists for one's
position. Everyone, bar sociopaths, is affected by emotion, and so appeals
to emotion are a very common and effective argument tactic, but they're
ultimately flawed, dishonest, and tend to make one's opponents justifiably
emotional.
*Example: Luke didn't want to eat his sheep's brains with chopped liver and
brussel sprouts, but his father told him to think about the poor, starving
children in a third world country who weren't fortunate enough to have any
food at all.*


FALLACY FALLACY
You presumed that because a claim has been poorly argued, or a fallacy has
been made, that the claim itself must be wrong.
It is entirely possible to make a claim that is false yet argue with
logical coherency for that claim, just as it is possible to make a claim
that is true and justify it with various fallacies and poor arguments.
*Example: Recognising that Amanda had committed a fallacy in arguing that
we should eat healthy food because a nutritionist said it was popular,
Alyse said we should therefore eat bacon double cheeseburgers every day.*


SLIPPERY SLOPE
You said that if we allow A to happen, then Z will eventually happen too,
therefore A should not happen.
The problem with this reasoning is that it avoids engaging with the issue
at hand, and instead shifts attention to extreme hypotheticals. Because no
proof is presented to show that such extreme hypotheticals will in fact
occur, this fallacy has the form of an appeal to emotion fallacy by
leveraging fear. In effect the argument at hand is unfairly tainted by
unsubstantiated conjecture.

*Example: Colin Closet asserts that if we allow same-sex couples to marry,
then the next thing we know we'll be allowing people to marry their
parents, their cars and even monkeys.*

AD HOMINEM
You attacked your opponent’s character or personal traits in an attempt to
undermine their argument.
Ad hominem attacks can take the form of overtly attacking somebody, or more
subtly casting doubt on their character or personal attributes as a way to
discredit their argument. The result of an ad hom attack can be to
undermine someone's case without actually having to engage with it.

*Example: After Sally presents an eloquent and compelling case for a more
equitable taxation system, Sam asks the audience whether we should believe
anything from a woman who isn't married, was once arrested, and smells a
bit weird.*

TU QUOQUE
You avoided having to engage with criticism by turning it back on the
accuser - you answered criticism with criticism.
Pronounced too-kwo-kwee. Literally translating as 'you too' this fallacy is
also known as the appeal to hypocrisy. It is commonly employed as an
effective red herring because it takes the heat off someone having to
defend their argument, and instead shifts the focus back on to the person
making the criticism.

*Example: Nicole identified that Hannah had committed a logical fallacy,
but instead of addressing the substance of her claim, Hannah accused Nicole
of committing a fallacy earlier on in the conversation.*

PERSONAL INCREDULITY
Because you found something difficult to understand, or are unaware of how
it works, you made out like it’s probably not true.
Complex subjects like biological evolution through natural selection
require some amount of understanding before one is able to make an informed
judgement about the subject at hand; this fallacy is usually used in place
of that understanding.

*Example: Kirk drew a picture of a fish and a human and with effusive
disdain asked Richard if he really thought we were stupid enough to believe
that a fish somehow turned into a human through just, like, random things
happening over time.*

SPECIAL PLEADING
You moved the goalposts or made up an exception when your claim was shown
to be false.
Humans are funny creatures and have a foolish aversion to being wrong.
Rather than appreciate the benefits of being able to change one's mind
through better understanding, many will invent ways to cling to old
beliefs. One of the most common ways that people do this is to
post-rationalize a reason why what they thought to be true must remain to
be true. It's usually very easy to find a reason to believe something that
suits us, and it requires integrity and genuine honesty with oneself to
examine one's own beliefs and motivations without falling into the trap of
justifying our existing ways of seeing ourselves and the world around us.

*Example: Edward Johns claimed to be psychic, but when his 'abilities' were
tested under proper scientific conditions, they magically disappeared.
Edward explained this saying that one had to have faith in his abilities
for them to work.*

LOADED QUESTION
You asked a question that had a presumption built into it so that it
couldn’t be answered without appearing guilty.
Loaded question fallacies are particularly effective at derailing rational
debates because of their inflammatory nature - the recipient of the loaded
question is compelled to defend themselves and may appear flustered or on
the back foot.

*Example: Grace and Helen were both romantically interested in Brad. One
day, with Brad sitting within earshot, Grace asked in an inquisitive tone
whether Helen was still having problems with her drug habit.*

BURDEN OF PROOF
You said that the burden of proof lies not with the person making the
claim, but with someone else to disprove.
The burden of proof lies with someone who is making a claim, and is not
upon anyone else to disprove. The inability, or disinclination, to disprove
a claim does not render that claim valid, nor give it any credence
whatsoever. However it is important to note that we can never be certain of
anything, and so we must assign value to any claim based on the available
evidence, and to dismiss something on the basis that it hasn't been proven
beyond all doubt is also fallacious reasoning.

*Example: Bertrand declares that a teapot is, at this very moment, in orbit
around the Sun between the Earth and Mars, and that because no one can
prove him wrong, his claim is therefore a valid one.*

AMBIGUITY
You used a double meaning or ambiguity of language to mislead or
misrepresent the truth.
Politicians are often guilty of using ambiguity to mislead and will later
point to how they were technically not outright lying if they come under
scrutiny. The reason that it qualifies as a fallacy is that it is
intrinsically misleading.

*Example: When the judge asked the defendant why he hadn't paid his parking
fines, he said that he shouldn't have to pay them because the sign said
'Fine for parking here' and so he naturally presumed that it would be fine
to park there.*

THE GAMBLER'S FALLACY
You said that ‘runs’ occur to statistically independent phenomena such as
roulette wheel spins.
This commonly believed fallacy can be said to have helped create an entire
city in the desert of Nevada USA. Though the overall odds of a 'big run'
happening may be low, each spin of the wheel is itself entirely independent
from the last. So whilst there may be a very small chance that heads will
come up 20 times in a row if you flip a coin, the chances of heads coming
up on each individual flip remain 50/50, and aren't influenced by what
happened before.

*Example: Red had come up six times in a row on the roulette wheel, so Greg
knew that it was close to certain that black would be next up. Suffering an
economic form of natural selection with this thinking, he soon lost all of
his savings.*

BANDWAGON
You appealed to popularity or the fact that many people do something as an
attempted form of validation.
The flaw in this argument is that the popularity of an idea has absolutely
no bearing on its validity. If it did, then the Earth would have made
itself flat for most of history to accommodate this popular belief.

*Example: Seamus pointed a drunken finger at Sean and asked him to explain
how so many people could believe in leprechauns if they're only a silly old
superstition. Sean, however, had had a few too many Guinness himself and
fell off his chair.*

APPEAL TO AUTHORITY
You said that because an authority thinks something, it must therefore be
true.
It's important to note that this fallacy should not be used to dismiss the
claims of experts, or scientific consensus. Appeals to authority are not
valid arguments, but nor is it reasonable to disregard the claims of
experts who have a demonstrated depth of knowledge unless one has a similar
level of understanding and/or access to empirical evidence. However, it is
entirely possible that the opinion of a person or institution of authority
is wrong; therefore the authority that such a person or institution holds
does not have any intrinsic bearing upon whether their claims are true or
not.

*Example: Not able to defend his position that evolution 'isn't true' Bob
says that he knows a scientist who also questions evolution (and presumably
isn't a primate).*

COMPOSITION/DIVISION
You assumed that one part of something has to be applied to all, or other,
parts of it; or that the whole must apply to its parts.
Often when something is true for the part it does also apply to the whole,
or vice versa, but the crucial difference is whether there exists good
evidence to show that this is the case. Because we observe consistencies in
things, our thinking can become biased so that we presume consistency to
exist where it does not.

*Example: Daniel was a precocious child and had a liking for logic. He
reasoned that atoms are invisible, and that he was made of atoms and
therefore invisible too. Unfortunately, despite his thinky skills, he lost
the game of hide and go seek.*

NO TRUE SCOTSMAN
You made what could be called an appeal to purity as a way to dismiss
relevant criticisms or flaws of your argument.
In this form of faulty reasoning one's belief is rendered unfalsifiable
because no matter how compelling the evidence is, one simply shifts the
goalposts so that it wouldn't apply to a supposedly 'true' example. This
kind of post-rationalization is a way of avoiding valid criticisms of one's
argument.

*Example: Angus declares that Scotsmen do not put sugar on their porridge,
to which Lachlan points out that he is a Scotsman and puts sugar on his
porridge. Furious, like a true Scot, Angus yells that no true Scotsman
sugars his porridge.*

GENETIC
You judged something as either good or bad on the basis of where it comes
from, or from whom it came.
This fallacy avoids the argument by shifting focus onto something's or
someone's origins. It's similar to an ad hominem fallacy in that it
leverages existing negative perceptions to make someone's argument look
bad, without actually presenting a case for why the argument itself lacks
merit.

*Example: Accused on the 6 o'clock news of corruption and taking bribes,
the senator said that we should all be very wary of the things we hear in
the media, because we all know how very unreliable the media can be.*

BLACK-OR-WHITE (aka FALSE DILEMMA)
You presented two alternative states as the only possibilities, when in
fact more possibilities exist.
Also known as the false dilemma, this insidious tactic has the appearance
of forming a logical argument, but under closer scrutiny it becomes evident
that there are more possibilities than the either/or choice that is
presented. Binary, black-or-white thinking doesn't allow for the many
different variables, conditions, and contexts in which there would exist
more than just the two possibilities put forth. It frames the argument
misleadingly and obscures rational, honest debate.

*Example: Whilst rallying support for his plan to fundamentally undermine
citizens' rights, the Supreme Leader told the people they were either on
his side, or they were on the side of the enemy.*

BEGGING THE QUESTION
You presented a circular argument in which the conclusion was included in
the premise.
This logically incoherent argument often arises in situations where people
have an assumption that is very ingrained, and therefore taken in their
minds as a given. Circular reasoning is bad mostly because it's not very
good.

*Example: The word of Zorbo the Great is flawless and perfect. We know this
because it says so in The Great and Infallible Book of Zorbo's Best and
Most Truest Things that are Definitely True and Should Not Ever Be
Questioned.*

APPEAL TO NATURE
You argued that because something is ‘natural’ it is therefore valid,
justified, inevitable, good or ideal.
Many 'natural' things are also considered 'good', and this can bias our
thinking; but naturalness itself doesn't make something good or bad. For
instance murder could be seen as very natural, but that doesn't mean it's
good or justifiable.

*Example: The medicine man rolled into town on his bandwagon offering
various natural remedies, such as very special plain water. He said that it
was only natural that people should be wary of 'artificial' medicines such
as antibiotics.*

ANECDOTAL
You used a personal experience or an isolated example instead of a sound
argument or compelling evidence.
It's often much easier for people to believe someone's testimony as opposed
to understanding complex data and variation across a continuum.
Quantitative scientific measures are almost always more accurate than
personal perceptions and experiences, but our inclination is to believe
that which is tangible to us, and/or the word of someone we trust over a
more 'abstract' statistical reality.

*Example: Jason said that that was all cool and everything, but his
grandfather smoked, like, 30 cigarettes a day and lived until 97 - so don't
believe everything you read about meta analyses of methodologically sound
studies showing proven causal relationships.*

THE TEXAS SHARPSHOOTER
You cherry-picked a data cluster to suit your argument, or found a pattern
to fit a presumption.
This 'false cause' fallacy is coined after a marksman shooting randomly at
barns and then painting bullseye targets around the spot where the most
bullet holes appear, making it appear as if he's a really good shot.
Clusters naturally appear by chance, but don't necessarily indicate that
there is a causal relationship.

*Example: The makers of Sugarette Candy Drinks point to research showing
that of the five countries where Sugarette drinks sell the most units,
three of them are in the top ten healthiest countries on Earth, therefore
Sugarette drinks are healthy.*
MIDDLE GROUND
You claimed that a compromise, or middle point, between two extremes must
be the truth.
Much of the time the truth does indeed lie between two extreme points, but
this can bias our thinking: sometimes a thing is simply untrue and a
compromise of it is also untrue. Half way between truth and a lie, is still
a lie.
*Example: Holly said that vaccinations caused autism in children, but her
scientifically well-read friend Caleb said that this claim had been
debunked and proven false. Their friend Alice offered a compromise that
vaccinations must cause some autism, just not all autism.*


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