Fun with fallacies 18: Oh you won’t believe how horrible I felt!

The fallacy of misleading vividness is one that I didn’t think I would end up writing about for this series. It used to be quite rare, and the anecdotal fallacy would usually be sufficient to cover most bases on this issue. However, as I’ve been spending way too much time online and following the primary season in the US election, it became very apparent that this fallacy was trending.

The fallacy is in my opinion a form of an anecdotal fallacy, yet it uses strong language and vividness in the description to make it seem as a relatively rare or low probability occurrence is a big problem.

This also seems to be a social justice warrior/third-wave feminist favorite, judging from the high volume of pathos and ethos used in their communications. It also signals a departure from the objective to the subjective wherein the narrative of what is taking place is the major part of what is being communicated, rather than the facts and pure logic that should inform action.

A typical example is the 1/4 women in college will be raped argument, which is not true when statistics from the BJS are involved and show about a 1/40.

[1]http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/rsavcaf9513.pdf

Fun with fallacies 17: Feminism will fix all your PROBLEMS!!

Nirvana fallacyThe Nirvana fallacy, is the fallacy of rejecting solutions to a problem because another solution may be better. It effect it creates a false dichotomy between a real world solution and a theoretical solution that may be better.  It’s closely related to a concept named the “perfect solution fallacy” where the non-perfect solution is argued against on the basis that it will not solve every single aspect of the problem. The Perfect solution fallacy on the other hand, is an example of black and white thinking, where complexity is overlooked.

So, when MHRA (Men’s human rights activists) argue that there needs to be advocacy groups for the rights of men and boys, and feminists counter with that feminism is the perfect solution (and that they will get to male suicide rates, divorce rape and imbalanced family courts once they are done with the important things like women being able to walk around naked at 3am without fear), they are committing a perfect solution fallacy.

On the other hand, when MHRA groups argue that there needs to be help for male victims of domestic violence, help lines for suicidal men, and such things, and feminists argue that domestic violence and male suicide is a result of Patriarchy, which won’t be fixed by setting up the equal support system for men that women already have, they are committing the Nirvana fallacy.

The goal of either, is to dismiss practical solutions, either on the grounds that the solution is not perfect. A great example is that “we have helmet laws, yet people still die in motorcycle accidents, thus helmet laws do not work” alternatively “Come on baby, condoms are only effective in like 70% of cases… let me hit it bareback”

How do you spot when someone is engaging in this fallacy? There are 2 major questions you can ask yourself:

  1. Does their argument against your solution seem to be highly theoretical, with no seeming connection to reality?
  2. Does their argument against your solution, seem like they are doing the equivalent to arguing that you should not put a piece of plywood over a broken window, because then you can’t look out for a few days?

 

Fun with fallacies 16: #Yesallmen and #Yesallwomen

Yes, I picked this just by accident, it has nothing to do with the hordes of feminists, social justice warriors and male accomplices of these group committing this fallacy so frequently that its easier to point out when they are not doing it. Of course, I’m guilty of doing this on occasion such as arguing “AWALT” (all women are like that) or using phrases such as “All women” or “All feminists”.

The basic foundation of this fallacy is to generalize from a small sample to the whole of a group. For instance, the leap from “1% of men are rapists” to “All men are rapists” is a hasty generalization.

To give you a little bit of a background on representative samples when it comes to research. The basic principle is that the sample should:

A) Be representative of the population as a whole

B) Be large enough to capture the population as a whole.

For instance, if you are looking into “campus rape culture” among 30000 students, matching the demographic mix of society as a whole in the age range of 20 – 25. Then in order for your sample to be valid within a reasonable confidence limit, you would have to:

A) Ensure that your group consists of people who represent the right mix of race and gender, are college students and are in the age range of 20 – 25. If you pick students at an adult learning facility who are mostly white, and between 40 and 45, you cannot say that this is representative. You also want to make sure that your sample is not confined to one area of study as this can influence your results. For instance if you asked the arts department at Columbia and the Arts and humanities departments at Duke you probably would have poor results.

B) Ensure that your sample is big enough to ensure that your sample size is valid.

Once this is in place, you can make educated generalizations about a group as a whole based on the information you got from your research. This is how this type of research is done for polls, or census surveys and so on.

The problem with the hashtag activists behind those hashtags is that it becomes very easy to prove their proposition wrong, as if you find a single man or a single woman who protests, that invalidates the proposition.

I’m reminded of David Hume, who made the observation that we can say:

  • The sun has always risen as far as we know.

But we cannot say:

  • The sun will always rise.

 

Fun with fallacies 14: Cherry picking

cherryCherry picking is not a logical fallacy per say, but I’ve chosen to handle it as one as it is very common in debates and other forms of discourse. The core of the fallacy is misrepresentation of an opponents position. Thus it is related to the straw man fallacy. The core difference lies in that while straw manning is a straight misrepresentation of what was said, cherry picking often quotes verbatim, but Continue reading

Fun with fallacies 13: Straw man argument

strawmanThose of you who get into a lot of debates online have inevitably found yourself either using, or facing a straw man. Now, this isn’t the fun kind of strawman people burn Nicholas Cage inside for participating in a crappy remake. This is the kind someone uses to make it appear that they have refuted your argument.

The core of the strawman is a misrepresentation Continue reading

Fun with fallacies 12: The Red Herring

redherringI was going to save this fallacy for later, but in writing the pieces on some other fallacies, I found myself wanting to reference this fallacy so it got expedited in my posting schedule. The Red Herring is a relevance fallacy and thus falls into the same class as straw man arguments. Now unlike the straw-man that is based on misrepresenting your opponents argument. The red herring is ultimately a distraction tactic to draw an audience away from the arguments being made.

As a general rule, the red herring will tend to lead an audience towards plausible but ultimately false conclusions that are not relevant to the topic at hand.

Example:

Participant 1: We need more focus on the suicide epidemic among men and boys, and we also need to focus on men’s health to look for reasons for the “life expectancy gap” between men and women.

Participant 2: I agree with participant 1 about the focus, but it is important that we remain focused on the rape culture as we are in a time where women are under attack.

As you can see from participant 2’s argument, it is not a response to the argument made by participant 1, as the second part of the sentence distracts away from the primary argument made by participant 1.

To write out participant 2’s response in a more clear manner:

“I agree with you, however I disagree with you completely now look at my issue”

Unfortunately, I have no good techniques to respond to red herrings except being brutal in following the red thread of the discourse and steering the debate by staying in control. This can be done by either:

A) Introducing your own red herrings to bring the debate back to the focus you want.

B) Ignore that the red herring took place, and what came of it.

C) Pointing out that the person is shifting the focus of the debate away from the topic (provided there is a defined topic for the debate).

There is also a second form of red herring that I’ve frequently seen politicians use that I refer to as the digressional red herring, where a politician will knowingly switch the subject with digressions a few times to draw focus away from the central topic.

Example:

On the subject of gun control, I think it is important to bear in mind the second amendment rights that our founding fathers built into the constitution. Our founding fathers were wise men, and their legislation has held up remarkably well, I remember when my father first read the constitution to myself and my sister by the campfire at our roaring fire at our cabin by the Lake in North Dakota. This is why family values are central to this country, by having strong and secure families, we can prosper and regain our competitive advantage in exports.

As you can see from the above text, the politician switched topic from the second amendment, to the founding fathers, to family, to family values and finally to the economy.

Fun with fallacies 9: Are you being shifty?

burden of proofShifting the burden of proof, is a fallacy so common that pointing it out is exhausting. The accepted decorum in debates and arguments is that the burden of proof is on the person making a claim. So, if I claim that there is a hobbit living in my television, I have to prove that claim, I cannot demand that it be treated as true until proven false.

This is also a very common argument that Atheists run into when debating believers, where they will run into a variant on

You are making the claim that God does not exist, therefore you have to prove that he does not

The reason why this is burden of proof shifting is that without a claim to there being a god, the Atheist position would not exist. The cause and effect cannot be:

There is no God! – > There is a God.

Where the negative claim comes before the positive claim. The positive claim always comes first and thus has the burden of proof. This is one of the funnier things to see in popular news programs or debate shows, where the people claiming that “X does not exist” are the ones that have to provide evidence.