While Hessian continues to write posts on a variety of different arguments she comes across it’s imporant to once again remind everyone about those terrors of logic we all must contend with. Logical Fallicies.
Humans are not naturally include to be rational. We mostly make use of heuristics in our thinking rather then pure logical rationals. A heuristic, in the sense I’m using it here, is a cognitive short cut use to solve problems. These can take forms of, rules of thumb, educated guesses, a “common” sense statement or rule. Heuristics have there place due to them often be relatively accurate compared to guessing at random, but exceedingly fast when compared to a formal system of logic. This optimization towards speed is where the problem lies. When using heuristics we are bound to make mistakes, and while we might generally be able to use heuristic effectively, when we get into difficult cases they often send us spiraling into logical dead ends or mistakenly lead on a wild goose chases. This dependance and affinity towards heuristics is largely why we make logical fallacies, and why understanding them, and logic in general, is so important.
I shall focus on a couple key fallacies which I have been seeing regularly in the comments, as well posting links to useful sources to learn more about fallacies.
The Argument from ignorance: This has been the fallacy I’ve been noticing on this blog lately so I think it is the one fallacy that need to be addressed. The basics of this fallacious argument goes as follow. I don’t know what x is, or how x works, because of that it must be y, or is being done by z. This is exemplified when someone claims an unidentified object in the sky must have been a alien craft, when in fact they have no idea what the UFO was.
The most common form I’ve seen of the argument from ignorance in general is the argument for a deity due to the complexity of life. That argument can usually be condensed as follows.
I look at this flower or at the movements of this majestic animal, and I just know (my) God must exist. Now this can break down in to the following formal argument*.
P1: Living organisms are extremely complex.
P2: The Extreme complexity of life can not be explained by natural means.
P3: The only thing which can bring about things unnaturally is my deity.
C: Living organism were brought about by my deity.
*To be clear this does not represent all arguments of this type, there are others, and some are stronger, but as I will mention later on. This is the formalized version of arguments I have regularly encountered.
Funny enough this has several of the fallacies I wish to discuss. Like you might imagine is this an argument from ignorance because the second premise generally come from ideas such as. “I couldn’t imagine such complexity with out it coming from god,” or “It make no sense for complexity to come from “nothing”.” Because they do not know the answer they assume that their deity (and not some other deity) must have done it. Even though they have no idea why life is as complex as it is they appeal to their ignorance and just assume it must have been their god. Which bring us to the second fallacy.
Begging the question: Begging the question is when you assume the conclusion in to the premises instead of deriving, or in the case of induction, supporting the conclusion with premises.
In the example above the argument just assume that this person’s god exists and it could only be their god that did it. This may seem like I’m making a strawman of my opponent, but I have illegitimately ran into this argument dozens of times, over and over again. They have sew the success for there argument into the premises in a way which is whole unsupported. So while if you grant the premises the argument works, but why would you grant this premises to anyone? Would you let a person of a different faith claim it was their god(s) who made all life and that their god(s) exists? If not, and your trying to use this argument, then your making the fallacy of special pleading.
Though in simplest terms begging the question is a kind of circular reasoning where in you guarantee the conclusion with out adequately justifying those premises which give that guarantee.
Black and white fallacy: Also know as a false dilemma. This goes hand in hand with what I’ve already be writing. This is where you argue that there are only two options when in fact there are many. The above argument does not technically make a black and while fallacy, but it is an easy fallacy to explain. “Your with us or against us!” A common use of the black and white fallacy. People often try to limit the options to them verse us, good verse bad. Except it’s rare where you a trapped with a true dichotomy. In the common case of “Your with us or against us!” it is often the case that a person is neither. I could be with you or against you, but I could be against both parties, or have a mix of positions from both, or only like some of the argument from one! Suddenly I tuned a situation from 2 limited options to 5 much open positions.
This reminds me of a joke I some times tell amongst other feminist “All Dichotomies are false Dichotomies! Even this one!”
The final fallacy is one that is rampant through out the internet and that’s the good old Ad hominium. I won’t spend too much time on this one, but but a common mistake people make is think that an Ad hominium is just an insult. An Ad hominium is when you call into question a trait, action, or belief of a person which has nothing to do with the argument at hand. Then the one making the Ad hominium use that perceived flaw as a counter argument to their claim. Even though that character flaw has not bearing on the argument in question!
What isn’t an Ad hominium is when you call into question a trait which does relate to the argument at hand. Perhaps your arguing against a known lair. When the known lair makes an unsupported claim you can call into question their honesty without committing an Ad hominium. However, if they then substantiate their claim to an acceptable level. Then you can no longer use their dishonesty as an argument, without making the Ad hominium fallacy, until they again make a claim that they could again be reasonably be lying about.
Before we get into the links it is important to reiterate that there a several names for the some fallacies. For example The Black and white Fallacy is the same basic idea as the false dilemma fallacy, and the Argument from ignorance is also called an appeal to ignorance.
The first link I’d like to share is “The Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments” It’s cute and that probably why I’m linking to it first. I don’t like all of the examples, but it does the job of running through a good number of logical fallacies in a memorable manner.
Next is a link to the poster “thou shalt not commit logical fallacies!” It’s a fun one with an interactive poster on the website. It’s also where I got two of the images for this post.
And finally for those of you whom are include to watch you tube videos here is a playlist by PBS idea channel about logical fallacies.
I suggest looking into more on logical fallacy if you get through all of those, but the above links are an excellent starting place.
Edit: Here is another link provided by clubschadenfreude
It gives a few more special cases not discussed in the other links as well as more examples.
February 23rd, 2015 at 11:48 pm
Reblogged this on number|4235.
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February 22nd, 2015 at 8:00 am
I just recently had to start a new anonymous blog because the threats I received started getting really scary. Apparently being a feminist writer means a lot of people want to rape and kill you. Another thing I noticed reading people’s comments is that ad hominem fallacies are increasingly popular among people who disagree with women. Many people would rather tell me how ugly or undesirable I am than actually engage in some sort of debate. Any time I point out a logical fallacy, I get some other kind of backlash. Thanks for laying it all out for the people who don’t know how to debate properly.
February 22nd, 2015 at 3:31 pm
I actually read an article about that trend yesterday. Jessica Valenti said that, if she could go back, she would have made her writing anonymous. It’s really quite sad that people are so threatened by feminism that they feel the need to attack people, especially women, who support it.
We’re lucky with this blog: there are two authors, and everyone just assumes that every post is written by the man. It’s sad that that’s what it takes, but it keeps things civil.
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February 22nd, 2015 at 4:49 pm
Well I’m sorry your getting harassed. It is all to common, but yes if you need a little back of in the comment sections you can always call us in to beat some people over the head. Though not approving messages and adding names to black lists is how we deal with the abusive ones.
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February 19th, 2015 at 3:44 am
Your writings are clear and logical and as far as The False Prophet can see, it contains no fallacies. However, I was quite distracted throughout reading your master piece by the question,’ How did that teapot ever end up in an orbit around earth?’ I guess the mad hatter and his tea party have been at it again. In any case, keep on blogging in a free world.
– The False Prophet
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February 19th, 2015 at 4:00 am
Was it in earth orbit or was it floating about in the asteroid belt? I do forget. Also I wonder what the invisible pink unicorn would think about it.
I’m glad you found thing to be be clear it is a goal I strive for. And should you see something don’t hesitate to tell me I hate to spread false or misleading information if it can be helped.
February 14th, 2015 at 5:14 pm
[…] are wrong.” On assumption two, I never claimed to be “The One True Christian.” Here in fact is an atheist friend of ClubS’ take on logical fallacies and whenever you choose to read the original post I want you to specifically notice ClubS’ […]
February 11th, 2015 at 4:49 pm
I enjoy that you think this way, and thought I should comment to that effect. in regards to the actual post I find that dialogue with people who employ heuristic approaches to any kind of argument I tend to have to avoid, because they think they are the clever one regarding the issue at hand, so I resolve to never speak philosophically with them again because they aren’t interested in the answers just in being smart which is super annoying
February 11th, 2015 at 7:51 pm
Well it is imporant to remember heristics are not bad, they are is large part what makes us so able to tackle challenging problems. We can skip step come to conclusions and work backwards. We can jump to conclusions and then test them. These are not purely logical activities, but short cuts which are very good at getting results.
As well we are naturally inclined to think heristically, and we will no matter what use those heristics. We must they are programmed into us in any fundamental ways. So we must understand them, and since they can be so effective in many circumstances to ignore them would also be folly.
The trick is to try to works oh when and how to use logic and heuristics, and even when to guess. There is a lot going on in such decisions so I’m not going to be able to truly address the topic here. However, yes it is fair to ignore those who refuse to address logical system of thought in favor of common sense or rules of thumb. However it is not to correct path to not make use of heuristics. In my opinion, the correct path is to be able to understand and point out those heuristics and understand how they fail and how they still have strengths.
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February 11th, 2015 at 8:46 am
as always, a good educational post. Another good site for fallacies is: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/ , started as a way to deal with Holocaust deniers.
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February 11th, 2015 at 2:30 pm
Ah that is a good link I’ll add it to the post, thank you.
February 11th, 2015 at 3:16 am
This was an interesting read. Happy my blogging break is over so I can keep up to date with your posts.
February 11th, 2015 at 2:05 am
Thank you for exercising my brain. Almost never made it.