21-08-2009, 01:48 PM
Join Date: Jun 2007
Alright...just wait until I finish all 89, then you get to post.
35. Argument From Spurious Similarity:
this is a relative of Bad Analogy. It is suggested that some resemblance is proof of a relationship. There is a WW II story about a British lady who was trained in spotting German airplanes. She made a report about a certain very important type of plane. While being quizzed, she explained that she hadn't been sure, herself, until she noticed that it had a little man in the cockpit, just like the little model airplane at the training class.
an abstract thing is talked about as if it were concrete. (A possibly Bad Analogy is being made between concept and reality.) For example, "Nature abhors a vacuum."
37. False Cause:
assuming that because two things happened, the first one caused the second one. (Sequence is not causation.) For example, "Before women got the vote, there were no nuclear weapons." Or, "Every time my brother Bill accompanies me to Fenway Park, the Red Sox are sure to lose."
Essentially, these are arguments that the sun goes down because we've turned on the street lights.
38. Confusing Correlation And Causation:
earthquakes in the Andes were correlated with the closest approaches of the planet Uranus. Therefore, Uranus must have caused them. (But Jupiter is nearer than Uranus, and more massive too.)
When sales of hot chocolate go up, street crime drops. Does this correlation mean that hot chocolate prevents crime? No, it means that fewer people are on the streets when the weather is cold.
The bigger a child's shoe size, the better the child's handwriting. Does having big feet make it easier to write? No, it means the child is older.
39. Causal Reductionism (Complex Cause):
trying to use one cause to explain something, when in fact it had several causes. For example, "The accident was caused by the taxi parking in the street." (But other drivers went around the taxi. Only the drunk driver hit the taxi.)
40. Cliche Thinking:
using as evidence a well-known wise saying, as if that is proven, or as if it has no exceptions.
41. Exception That Proves The Rule:
a specific example of Cliche Thinking. This is used when a rule has been asserted, and someone points out the rule doesn't always work. The cliche rebuttal is that this is "the exception that proves the rule". Many people think that this cliche somehow allows you to ignore the exception, and continue using the rule.
In fact, the cliche originally did no such thing. There are two standard explanations for the original meaning.
The first is that the word "prove" meant test. That is why the military takes its equipment to a Proving Ground to test it. So, the cliche originally said that an exception tests a rule. That is, if you find an exception to a rule, the cliche is saying that the rule is being tested, and perhaps the rule will need to be discarded.
The second explanation is that the stating of an exception to a rule, proves that the rule exists. For example, suppose it was announced that "Over the holiday weekend, students do not need to be in the dorms by midnight". This announcement implies that normally students do have to be in by midnight. Here is a discussion of that explanation.
In either case, the cliche is not about waving away objections.
42. Appeal To Widespread Belief (Bandwagon Argument, Peer Pressure, Appeal to Common Practice):
the claim, as evidence for an idea, that many people believe it, or used to believe it, or do it.
If the discussion is about social conventions, such as "good manners", then this is a reasonable line of argument.
However, in the 1800's there was a widespread belief that bloodletting cured sickness. All of these people were not just wrong, but horribly wrong, because in fact it made people sicker. Clearly, the popularity of an idea is no guarantee that it's right.
Similarly, a common justification for bribery is that "Everybody does it". And in the past, this was a justification for slavery.
43. Fallacy Of Composition:
assuming that a whole has the same simplicity as its constituent parts. In fact, a great deal of science is the study of emergent properties. For example, if you put a drop of oil on water, there are interesting optical effects. But the effect comes from the oil/water system: it does not come just from the oil or just from the water.
Another example: "A car makes less pollution than a bus. Therefore, cars are less of a pollution problem than buses."
Another example: "Atoms are colorless. Cats are made of atoms, so cats are colorless."
44. Fallacy Of Division:
assuming that what is true of the whole is true of each constituent part. For example, human beings are made of atoms, and human beings are conscious, so atoms must be conscious.
45. Complex Question (Tying):
unrelated points are treated as if they should be accepted or rejected together. In fact, each point should be accepted or rejected on its own merits.
For example, "Do you support freedom and the right to bear arms?"
46. Slippery Slope Fallacy (Camel's Nose)
there is an old saying about how if you allow a camel to poke his nose into the tent, soon the whole camel will follow.
The fallacy here is the assumption that something is wrong because it is right next to something that is wrong. Or, it is wrong because it could slide towards something that is wrong.
For example, "Allowing abortion in the first week of pregnancy would lead to allowing it in the ninth month." Or, "If we legalize marijuana, then more people will try heroin." Or, "If I make an exception for you then I'll have to make an exception for everyone."
47. Argument By Pigheadedness (Doggedness):
refusing to accept something after everyone else thinks it is well enough proved. For example, there are still Flat Earthers.
48. Appeal To Coincidence:
asserting that some fact is due to chance. For example, the arguer has had a dozen traffic accidents in six months, yet he insists they weren't his fault. This may be Argument By Pigheadedness. But on the other hand, coincidences do happen, so this argument is not always fallacious.
49. Argument By Repetition (Argument Ad Nauseam):
if you say something often enough, some people will begin to believe it. There are some net.kooks who keeping reposting the same articles to Usenet, presumably in hopes it will have that effect.
50. Argument By Half Truth (Suppressed Evidence):
this is hard to detect, of course. You have to ask questions. For example, an amazingly accurate "prophecy" of the assassination attempt on President Reagan was shown on TV. But was the tape recorded before or after the event? Many stations did not ask this question. (It was recorded afterwards.)
A book on "sea mysteries" or the "Bermuda Triangle" might tell us that the yacht Connemara IV was found drifting crewless, southeast of Bermuda, on September 26, 1955. None of these books mention that the yacht had been directly in the path of Hurricane Iona, with 180 mph winds and 40-foot waves.
Two more posts to go.
"A witty saying proves nothing."