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Thread: Fallacies Guide

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    Fallacies Guide

    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

    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.



    The 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 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.




    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: Shamus 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.



    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.



    Last edited by Sheik; Sep 24th '16 at 04:57 PM.


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