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

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