On Logical Fallacies, Part 4

"You might be poor, your shoes might be broken, but your mind is a palace."
-Frank McCourt
 Today will conclude our series on logical fallacies. While there are more logical fallacies than just what's been covered in this month, my hope is that this basic overview will cause your analysis to be easier and more effective. So let's begin this final post in the series.

The first of today's fallacies will be the black or white fallacy, also commonly known as false dilemma or false dichotomy. A simple fallacy, this assumes that there are only two possibilities, when in reality, more possibilities exist. For the sake of example, you could claim that either one God exists, the God of the Bible, or else Darwinian evolution is true. While these seem to be the most popular opinions, there are other opinions such as pantheism, deism, etc. While I don't believe those opinions to be accurate, they still exist.

On the flip side, we have the middle ground fallacy. This fallacy assumes that the middle ground between two points of view must be the truth. This could involve a compromise, or combining the two points of view. For example, with the previous example of Darwinian evolution vs. the God of the Bible, the middle ground would be theistic evolution- the belief that God used evolution to create the universe. While the middle ground can sometimes be the truth, that doesn't make it necessary. Sometimes the truth is black or white. Sometimes the truth is the middle ground. But to assume either of these is a fallacy.

Finally, let's look at the loaded question fallacy. This fallacy involves asking a question with a presumption built into it, so that no matter what the person answers, they seem guilty. A common example of this is the question, "Have you stopped beating your wife?" If you say yes, you're admitting that you once beat your wife. On the other hand, if you say no, you're implying that you currently beat your wife. If you're prepared for this, you can get around it. "No, I haven't stopped, because I never started, and therefore don't have the ability to stop." Of course, if the question is even asked, it's already planted seeds in the minds of whoever's listening. But even worse is when you aren't expecting the question. You start to backpedal, and it puts you on the defensive. You look like you're trying to cover something up, when in reality, you're being attacked with fallacies.

With that, we'll conclude this series on logical fallacies. Hopefully, this will make recognizing and avoiding logical fallacies easier and more effective. If you'd like to learn more about logical fallacies, you can Google "list of logical fallacies," and you should get multiple results. Some of them are more complex than others. The site that I used when I was first learning about logical fallacies was https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/ , and I still use it when I'm looking for more detail about a logical fallacy. Next week, posts should return to various types of logical analysis.
"You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant."
-Harlan Ellison

On Logical Fallacies, Part 3

"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe."
-Commonly attributed to Albert Einstein
In this world, logical fallacies surround us. People use them often, and usually without realizing it. This makes it all the more important for you to understand them, so that you can root them out. Today, we'll begin with Tu Quoque.

Tu quoque is Latin for "you too," and is pronounced "too kwo-kwee." It can also be called the appeal to hypocrisy. Instead of answering an accusation, you made an accusation upon your opponent. Person Andrew makes the claim that person Bob lied. Bob responds with, "You lied earlier, and I don't see you getting all worked up about that." This claim may or may not be accurate. Andrew may have actually lied, or maybe Bob is mistaken or lying again. But this is still a fallacy, because Bob hasn't addressed the claim. He hasn't refuted the claim that he lied, but he also hasn't acknowledged the lie and apologized. Instead, he attempted to move the spotlight off of himself by accusing Andrew.

Next, let's look at the fallacy of ambiguity. Essentially, you aren't clear about what you're saying, so that later on, you can claim that it's what you were saying all along, or you aren't clear now so that you can make it match what you said before.
This is very similar to the fallacy of equivocation, which I actually see much more often. You could say that equivocation is a subset of ambiguity, and even though there are subtle differences, I typically treat them both as equivocation. Equivocation is saying that two words mean the same thing, when actually they mean something different. This could be two different words, or it could even be one word with multiple meanings. One example that I've heard is with the word mitigate. In high school debate, the resolution for one year was "Resolved: The United States has a moral obligation to mitigate international conflicts." I have underlined any terms that would need to be defined in the debate round.
Now, while the debate year was rather political and complex, I'll try to break it down. Basically, one person said that we should mitigate, and another person said that we shouldn't. But what does mitigate mean? One person says that it means military intervention, while another person says that it means providing medical aid. Both could be accurate depending on context. But while it is important to choose a good definition, it isn't as important as sticking to the same definition the whole time, instead of switching back and forth. Now, while I used the word mitigate as an example, I underlined any terms that could have this issue. Does "the United States" refer to the government, or the citizens? Is a moral obligation any different than a legal obligation? Can they ever overlap?
Official debates like this can be rather complex. But even in day to day life, it's still important that we not use the fallacy of equivocation.

To make up for the complexity of the last one, let's now look at a simpler fallacy. The false cause fallacy. In this fallacy, you assume that because two things happened one after the other, that one must have caused the other. This one is easily memorized with a simple rhyme: correlation is not causation. I have seen this simple saying used often even in official debate rounds. And as long as you remember what it means, that's not a problem. Just because two things happened together, or one after the other, that doesn't mean that one caused the other. If I decided to take up American football, and suddenly pigs all over the world sprouted wings and started flying, it might look very much like one caused the other. However, scientifically speaking, my taking up a sport cannot cause swine, or any other type of mammal, to grow wings.

The Texas sharpshooter is another type of false cause fallacy. In this fallacy, you decide what you believe, and then look for evidence to support it. This is very dangerous, and also very common- especially, I'm sorry to say, among Christians. True logic requires that you look at all the evidence, whether you like it or not, and come to a logical conclusion. This is a fallacy because you're working in the reverse order. Anything that seems to work against your point of view is then explained away rather than being applied.

This series on logical fallacies will be concluded next week, at which point the plan is to continue with with the regular analysis.
"When once your point of view is changed, the very thing which was so damning becomes a clue to the truth."
-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

On Logical Fallacies, Part 2

"I mean, you could claim that anything's real if the only basis for believing in it is that nobody's proved it doesn't exist!"
-Hermione Granger (J.K. Rowling)
Today we continue our walk through the land of logical fallacies. Hopefully, this will help to make  debates more reasonable, as well as helping with personal analysis.

We'll begin with the burden of proof fallacy. This is when you claim that the other person has the burden of proof, when in reality, you do. The person making the claim is required to prove their claim. The claim is assumed false until shown to be true, not the other way around. But keep in mind that this fallacy works both ways. You may claim to me and my friend Bob that you can jump around the Earth in one bound. Bob and I find this rather hard to believe and ask you to prove it. You tell us that we can't prove you wrong, so therefore you must be right. That's a logical fallacy. In this case, Bob and I are perfectly justified in not believing this claim, since you haven't shown it to be true. However, if I make the claim that you cannot jump around the Earth in one bound, then I have made a claim, and the burden of proof rests with me.

Next let's look at personal incredulity. You don't understand something or how it works, and therefore act as though it isn't true. Rather straightforward. This can often lead to the strawman fallacy discussed in the previous post. But it can also lead to and be coupled with another fallacy, appeal to ridicule.

Appeal to ridicule involves treating another person's claim as too ridiculous to be worth your time. Saying, "that's stupid" is a common example of this fallacy. Something may very well be stupid, but just saying that it's stupid isn't enough. You've now made a claim, and therefore are required to prove your claim that it's stupid. If it really is stupid, then you should be able to show why it's stupid. Break apart the argument and find out what's not right.

Next we'll look at the bandwagon fallacy. This is when you assume that an argument is true because the majority believes that it is. Of course, this can also be used in reverse. After all, people who know the logical fallacies will attempt to keep away from them, and will sometimes inadvertently go to the opposite extreme. While some fallacies, such as strawman, can't be used in reverse, others, such as this one, can. A reverse bandwagon fallacy would say that because the majority believes one side, therefore it must not be true. In either case, which option more people believe or fewer people believe has no effect on which is, in reality, the truth.

Logical fallacies can often be subtle, and can be combined in very dangerous ways. For example, while appeal to ridicule and personal incredulity can be used on their own, they are often combined. When fallacies are combined, they become much more dangerous, making it even more important for us to know our logical fallacies, so that we can reason with accuracy. We'll continue this overview of logical fallacies next week.
"Passion has helped us; but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy. Reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason, must furnish all the materials for our future support and defence."
-Abraham Lincoln

On Logical Fallacies, Part 1

"When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures bristling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity."
-Dale Carnegie
In the effort to analyze accurately, we must be certain that we're not using any logical fallacies. This is a rather difficult task, considering how many there are, and how many different names each fallacy can have. But if you're claiming that someone is wrong, then one of three things must be true. A, they're a liar. B, they don't have all the evidence. C, they're using one or more logical fallacies. In my experience, B and C are the most common, and often combinations of the two. But C is often overlooked and not addressed. So today, we'll be looking at a few basic logical fallacies and why they're important. Keep in mind that logical fallacies can be, and usually are, very subtle. After all, if they were obvious, people wouldn't make them. That said, let's look at the first fallacy, strawman.

The strawman fallacy involves misrepresenting an opponent's case or argument in some way. This could mean oversimplifying it, or exaggerating it. Either way, it's a fallacy because you're saying that they made a claim when actually they didn't make that claim. You're not attacking their true statement, you're attacking a false statement that you made up. It's important to check with your opponent, therefore, and make sure that you understand what they're really saying.

The next fallacy we'll look at is appeal to emotion. While true logic must take the existence and use of emotion into account, emotion should not be used within a logical debate or discussion. It may be an emotional issue, but removing the emotion from the topic should yield the same result. This is one of the most common fallacies I see. Emotion clouds judgement, and while emotion is a good thing, it's not for making decisions. When you're angry, it makes it very easy to see where the other person is wrong. People often use this anger to rebut their opponent's claims. However, it also clouds your judgement so that you can't see where you yourself are wrong.
Whenever I'm angry, I keep track of where my opponent is wrong, but store that information away until it's time to use it later. When I've calmed down, I look over the information again, including my own side. This way I can weed out the logical fallacies more accurately. Again, you may have an emotional attachment to your side, and that's fine, but that emotion must not be used in defense of your claim.

Ad hominem involves attacking the person rather than their case or arguments. I see this one occasionally, but not as often as the next one, the genetic fallacy.

The genetic fallacy decides that information is good or bad based on where it came from. While some sources have shown themselves to be trustworthy, and other sources have shown themselves to be untrustworthy, that does not mean that everything they say is true or false. You may be more or less likely to trust one source or another (based off of history), but should not use that as evidence. It is similar to the ad hominem fallacy in this way, and is one of the more common fallacies I see used.

The fallacy fallacy is one that you need to be careful of when you start learning about logic. This fallacy involves claiming that an argument is wrong because it's poorly argued. For example, let's take Andrew and Bob. Andrew believes that the Earth is round, while Bob believes that the Earth is flat. Andrew says, "My parents taught me that the Earth is round, therefore the Earth must be round." Bob recognizes that Andrew has just used the genetic fallacy, most likely with appeal to emotion thrown in as well. So he responds, "You used a logical fallacy in your argumentation, therefore the Earth must be flat." Bob has now used the fallacy fallacy. It is possible for a person to be wrong, but for their idea to be right. The person claims "A is true because B." A may be true, but if it's actually true because C, the person is still wrong. However, the fallacy fallacy assumes that if the person is wrong, the end idea is wrong as well.

Logical fallacies are important to understand. If you're right, you need to understand why the other person is wrong. If you're wrong, you need to be able to understand why. And, ideally, you would keep from being wrong in the first place, by avoiding logical fallacies. If all goes according to plan, the discussion on logical fallacies will continue next week.
"Everything must be taken into account. If the fact will not fit the theory---let the theory go."
-Agatha Christie