Creative Destruction

April 2, 2007

Logical Fallacies

Filed under: Content-lite,Debate — Brutus @ 9:33 pm

Considering our general lack of thoughtful posts for, oh, I dunno, almost a month, I’m putting up this shameless post completely and totally recycled from the web somewhere. I stole this from my e-mail archive, so I don’t know where it comes from, but it sounds suspiciously like something Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) writes. The mention of Elbonians is the dead giveaway, I think.

1. AMAZINGLY BAD ANALOGY
Example: You can train a dog to fetch a stick. Therefore, you can train a potato to dance.

2. FAULTY CAUSE AND EFFECT
Example: On the basis of my observations, wearing huge pants makes you fat.

3. I AM THE WORLD
Example: I don’t listen to country music. Therefore, country music is not popular.

4. IGNORING EVERYTHING SCIENCE KNOWS ABOUT THE BRAIN
Example: People choose to be obese/gay/alcoholic because they prefer the lifestyle.

5. THE FEW ARE THE SAME AS THE WHOLE
Example: Some Elbonians are animal rights activists. Some Elbonians wear fur coats. Therefore, Elbonians are hypocrites.

6. GENERALIZING FROM SELF
Example: I am a liar. Therefore, I don’t believe what you’re saying.

7. ARGUMENT BY BIZARRE DEFINITION
Example: He’s not a criminal. He just does things that are against the law.

8. TOTAL LOGICAL DISCONNECT
Example: I enjoy pasta because my house is made of bricks.

9. JUDGING THINGS WITHOUT COMPARISON TO ALTERNATIVES
Example: I don’t invest in U.S. Treasury bills. There’s too much risk.

10. ANYTHING YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND IS EASY TO DO
Example: If you have the right tools, how hard could it be to generate nuclear fission at home?

11. IGNORANCE OF STATISTICS
Example: I’m putting ALL of my money on the lottery this week because the jackpot is so big.

12. IGNORING THE DOWNSIDE RISK
Example: I know that bungee jumping could kill me, but it’s three seconds of great fun!

13. SUBSTITUTING FAMOUS QUOTES FOR COMMON SENSE
Example: Remember, “All things come to those who wait.” So don’t bother looking for a job.

14. IRRELEVANT COMPARISONS
Example: A hundred dollars is a good price for a toaster, compared to buying a Ferrari.

15. CIRCULAR REASONING
Example: I’m correct because I’m smarter than you. And I must be smarter than you because I’m correct.

16. INCOMPLETENESS AS PROOF OF DEFECT
Example: Your theory of gravity doesn’t address the question of why there are no unicorns, so it must be wrong.

17. IGNORING THE ADVICE OF EXPERTS WITHOUT A GOOD REASON
Example: Sure, the experts think you shouldn’t ride a bicycle into the eye of a hurricane, but I’ve got my own theory.

18. FOLLOWING THE ADVICE OF KNOWN IDIOTS
Example: Uncle Billy says pork makes you smarter. That’s good enough for me!

19. REACHING BIZARRE CONCLUSIONS WITHOUT ANY INFORMATION
Example: The car won’t start. I’m certain the spark plugs have been stolen by rogue clowns.

20. FAULTY PATTERN RECOGNITION
Example: His last six wives were murdered mysteriously. I hope to be wife number seven.

21. FAILURE TO RECOGNIZE WHAT’S IMPORTANT
Example: My house is on fire! Quick, call the post office and tell them to hold my mail!

22. UNCLEAR ON THE CONCEPT OF SUNK COSTS
Example: We’ve spent millions developing a water-powered pogo stick. We can’t stop investing now or it will all be wasted.

23. OVERAPPLICATION OF OCCAM’S RAZOR (WHICH SAYS THE SIMPLEST
EXPLANATION IS USUALLY RIGHT)
Example: The simplest explanation for the moon landings is that they were hoaxes.

24. IGNORING ALL ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE
Example: I always get hives immediately after eating strawberries. But without a scientifically controlled experiment, it’s not reliable data. So I continue to eat strawberries every day, since I can’t tell if they cause hives.

25. INABILITY TO UNDERSTAND THAT SOME THINGS HAVE MULTIPLE CAUSES
Example: The Beatles were popular for one reason only: they were good singers.

26. JUDGING THE WHOLE BY ONE OF ITS CHARACTERISTICS
Example: The sun causes sunburns. Therefore, the planet would be better off without the sun.

27. BLINDING FLASHES OF THE OBVIOUS
Example: If everyone had more money, we could eliminate poverty.

28. BLAMING THE TOOL
Example: I bought an encyclopedia but I’m still stupid. This encyclopedia must be defective.

29. HALLUCINATIONS OF REALITY
Example: I got my facts from a talking tree.

30. TAKING THINGS TO THEIR ILLOGICAL CONCLUSION
Example: If you let your barber cut your hair, the next thing you know he’ll be lopping off your limbs!

31. FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND WHY RULES DON’T HAVE EXCEPTIONS
Example: It should be legal to shoplift, as long as you don’t take enough to hurt the company’s earnings.

32. PROOF BY LACK OF EVIDENCE
Example: I’ve never seen you drunk, so you must be one of those Amish people.

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8 Comments »

  1. Shouldn’t you include all the latin names?

    Comment by Joe — April 2, 2007 @ 9:50 pm | Reply

  2. Although strictly speaking it is not a logical fallacy, I’ve always hated the “false middle ground:”

    Example: Let’s compromise on this issue; you stop disagreeing with me, and I’ll stop saying you are stupid.

    Comment by Glaivester — April 2, 2007 @ 11:55 pm | Reply

  3. How about:

    REFUSAL TO ACKNOWLEDGE NON-ABSOLUTE TENDENCIES
    aka EXCEPTION DISPROVES THE TENDENCY
    Example: The pro-wrestler Chynna is stronger than most men. Therefore, one cannot say that men are generally stronger than women, because there are exceptions.

    SHIFTING DEFINITIONS
    Example:
    Day One: Whatever other positions you take, you cannot be a feminist unless you support the right to abortion on demand.
    Day Two: How can she say that she doesn’t agree with feminism? Doesn’t she believe in the right to vote?

    MISAPPLICATION OF “BURDEN OF PROOF”
    Example:
    You said that the people in that town are unfriendly, but you have not provided any evidence. Therefore, I will write in my guide book that they are friednly, as it is up to you to prove your claim that they are not.

    FACTS MUST BE MORAL
    Example:
    Intelligence cannot be heritable because that would mean that we are not all born equal, and that would be bad.

    OVERRELIANCE ON PURE LOGIC AS THE ONLY VALID MEANS OF DEBATE
    Example:
    The fact that Dr. Sturmfuhrer is a Neo-Nazi is not relevant; it’s an ad hominem attack. Unless you do extensive research on the 9/11 hijackers to disprove the facts he presents in his book 9/11 for Zion, you have no basis for disputing or disbelieving his claim that all of the hijackers were actually Mossad agents.

    Comment by Glaivester — April 3, 2007 @ 12:24 am | Reply

  4. BLINDING FLASHES OF THE OBVIOUS
    Example: If everyone had more money, we could eliminate poverty.

    I’m sorry. I can’t help it…This is wrong. If everyone suddenly had more money we’d have massive inflation, not an end to poverty. If everyone had more resources that might eliminate poverty…or it might just redefine it. (If being impoverished means that you have less than 90% of the population then 10% of the population will always be impoverished, regardless of how much money or stuff everyone has.)

    Comment by Dianne — April 3, 2007 @ 10:36 am | Reply

  5. REFUSAL TO ACKNOWLEDGE NON-ABSOLUTE TENDENCIES

    Or as I call it, failure to grasp non-integral correlations.

    Comment by Brandon Berg — April 3, 2007 @ 11:39 am | Reply

  6. Dianne, he’s probably using “money” as shorthand for “wealth”. Lots of people do that who ought to know better, me included. 😉

    Comment by Robert — April 3, 2007 @ 11:55 am | Reply

  7. he’s probably using “money” as shorthand for “wealth”.

    That takes care of my first objection, but I still claim that “poverty” is usually defined in a relative, not an absolute manner so that even a vast increase in the amount of wealth wouldn’t end poverty. Consider the difference between a person living in a housing project today versus a person who was royalty in the medival era. The first has, by most measures, a higher standard of living. He or she is more likely to live to 80, is more likely to have access to food year round, is more likely to have all his/her children survive to adulthood, has access to better medical care, etc. Yet he or she is still considered “poor” whereas a medival king or queen was considered “rich”. So the thing needed to end poverty is not increased wealth but rather absolutely even distribution. (Not saying that that would be a good idea, mind you, just that it would be the only way to end poverty if poverty is defined as having few resources relative to the amount available to the average person in the population.)

    And now I think I should probably stop demonstrating logical fallacy #N: the derailment. In which one ignores the major arguments of the post in order to pick at a minor, unimportant detail of the post as though it were the main point.

    Comment by Dianne — April 6, 2007 @ 12:34 pm | Reply

  8. We’re in complete agreement, Dianne. I’ll alert the media.

    It drives me nuts when arguing about poverty that people say “but he’s poor” and the intention is to generate extreme concern for the person’s well-being because of their terrible material hardship. And then you look at the numbers and he’s relative-poor, not absolute-poor. But if you point this out, you’re a heartless monster. He only has $20 a month for his iTunes budget, and that justifies some huge redistributive program or idea. Nein!

    Comment by Robert — April 6, 2007 @ 12:38 pm | Reply


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