Fun with fallacies 20: The fallacies of #Gamergate

fun with fallacies 20When I started this series, it was more to drive me to write something on a regular basis, so that if I get busy, I will have some content to post. Since this is post 20 in the series, and we have quite a few to go, I figured I’d make a special post on the two new fallacies I saw emerge from #gamergate.

For those of you who didn’t follow it, #Gamergate is a quantum-state topic, for some it is the gaming communities rise against what is a clear lack of integrity from gaming professionals. Triggered by the discovery that an indie game “developer” who got great reviews for a game that is unplayable, based on sleeping with a string of members of the gaming press. Continue reading

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Fun with fallacies 19: You are like Hitler!

false analogyThe fallacy of a false analogy happens when someone is making an argument in the form of an analogy where the analogy is lacking in certain aspects that make up a good analogy.

The basic form of an argument from analogy tends to be similar to this:

P and Q are similar in A, B, and C

In P we have also observed X

Therefore Q also probably has X

An example of such an argument could be

Ivan and Boris both work out hard, eat right and get extreme results in body composition

We also see that Boris takes anabolic steroids.

Therefore, Ivan probably also takes anabolic steroids.

The factors that either add to or detract from an argument from analogy are:

A) Relevance (positive or negative) of known similarities of the two things to the similarity inferred in the conclusion.

B) Degree of relative similarity or dissimilarity of the two things.

C) The amount and variety of instances that form the basis of an analogy.

This is generally not the type of fallacy you end up evaluating on the fly. In verbal discourse analogies tend to be superficial at best, and used for humorous effect, rather than as a piece of complex reasoning. They serve a purpose in rhetoric by “short-circuiting” a persons mind, by triggering associations.

For instance, when I say that “My opponent is like Stalin” the audience’s minds start doing the X from the argument themselves. I don’t even have to do the A, B, and C for this to happen. This is why good analogies are central to becoming a great orator or manipulator. I remember hearing someone say that the worst way you can punish a child, is by telling them “Go to our room, I’ll be up to punish you in 10 minutes” because the child’s mind starts creating their worst case scenarios for what the punishment will be.

This is what a great orator does with the false analogy, he creates what appears to be an argument, that the audience then convince themselves of in their mind.

Speaker: Trump is like Hitler!

Audience: He said it, so in what ways is Trump like Hitler?

What happens in their mind is that they come up with the best reasons for why Trump is like Hitler, rather than evaluating and dismissing it as fiery rhetoric. This is also congruent with salesmanship tactics, where putting your client in the position where they are selling your product to themselves increases the chance of making a sale.

 

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 15: Kettle logic

Kettle logicKettle logic originally comes from “Interpretation of Dreams” and refers to a person who holds a position, using multiple arguments to defend that position, when his arguments are internally inconsistent.

The original example given by Freud is one where a man is accused to returning a kettle he borrowed from a neighbor in damaged condition and he then uses 3 arguments to defend himself:

  1. He returned the kettle undamaged.
  2. The kettle was already damaged when he borrowed it.
  3. He never borrowed the kettle.

As you can see, each of these arguments by themselves are acceptable. However, argument 3 is inconsistent with arguments 1 and 2. He could not have returned the kettle if he never borrowed it, and in argument 2 he states that he did in fact borrow the kettle.

This is also what Epicurius saw when he came up with what has become known as the “3-O” argument or “The problem of evil”. Wherein god cannot be omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent. In that if God is all of those three, then why is there evil in the world?

Kettle logic is usually one of the harder fallacies to spot, especially if you are not paying full attention. If combined with a flurry of argumentation, and arguments that are obfuscated so as to avoid being clearly contradictory a speaker can easily give the impression of having a lot of arguments at his disposal, despite the fact that they all contradict each other.

One thing that is often not mentioned is “Kettle citations” this is where someone cites a lot of sources in their argument, yet the sources may contradict each other on important points, while superficially giving the impression of a strong case. This is a phenomenon I’ve experienced quite a lot in debates on religion, where a believer will often cherry pick verses or quotations from a work in order to defeat the argument you are presenting that at moment.

For instance, they may cite the new testament if you are criticizing the somewhat harsh and unforgiving god represented in the old testament, and revert to quoting the old testament when the topic changes to homosexuality.

 

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