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.