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Author Topic:   A proper understanding of logical fallacies will improve the quality of debate
designtheorist
Member (Idle past 2771 days)
Posts: 390
From: Irvine, CA, United States
Joined: 09-15-2011


(1)
Message 1 of 344 (640789)
11-13-2011 9:15 AM


Having just completed my first thread, I am convinced a better understanding of logical fallacies will improve the quality of debates here. While I studied logic in college (and therefore logical fallacies), it has been a long time and this debate will do me good as well.

Background
Logical fallacies have been studied and debated for thousands of years and are well-defined and well-categorized, but not always well-presented. I am interested in debating the definitions and practical application of these fallacies to debate.

I recommend reading Taxonomy of Fallacies at http://www.logicalfallacies.info/ as a way to get some context for the debate. There are a number of links there, providing more information about the types of fallacies.

Goal of the debate
The goal of this debate is for us to come to some agreement about the definitions of important fallacies and also about how they are to be confronted.

I suggest information about each fallacy be gathered into the following outline:

Definition of the fallacy – quote from a standard online source (not a blog belonging to a participant here)
Short explanation of why it is bad –
An example -
What to do when you recognize this fallacy –
What to do when you are accused of this fallacy –

Example: Quote-mining

Definition: “The practice of quoting out of context, sometimes referred to as "contextomy" or "quote mining", is a logical fallacy and a type of false attribution in which a passage is removed from its surrounding matter in such a way as to distort its intended meaning.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quote_mining

Why this is bad: Quoting out of context can change the author’s original meaning. The “context “is generally thought of as the immediate linguistic context, but can also refer to the historical context of a person’s life. This is sometimes complicated by the fact people can and do sometimes change their views as they go through life.

Example: Newbie says: “Albert Einstein was a Christian because he once wrote “In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognise, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what makes me really angry is that they quote me for support of such views.”
In this example, Newbie is probably not maliciously attempting to mislead, but is simply misled himself. It is very easy for someone to project their own views into a quote.

How to respond to Newbie: Newbie, yes, Einstein did say that but he was never a Christian. Einstein also wrote “I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.” Please, Newbie, try to be careful not to project your own views into quotes you read.

Quotes are extremely valuable inputs into any debate. By responding in this way, it is more likely Newbie will stick around and become a valuable member of the forum. A comment calling Newbie a liar will not increase learning or encourage him to stay. In fact, if Newbie has introduced the quote slightly differently, someone might think is quote mining but he was not. By taking a few minutes to verify the quote does not represent Einstein’s position, you can provide Newbie with new information and a link to conclude the matter.

Other fallacies I hope others will consider and write about include:
• Ad hominem
• Appeal to authority
• Circular reasoning
• Non-sequitor
• Many others

I hope we get many people to engage in this discussion and debate.


Replies to this message:
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 Message 6 by kbertsche, posted 11-13-2011 1:45 PM designtheorist has not yet responded
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Message 2 of 344 (640791)
11-13-2011 9:34 AM


Thread Copied from Proposed New Topics Forum

  
Larni
Member (Idle past 13 days)
Posts: 3999
From: Liverpool
Joined: 09-16-2005


Message 3 of 344 (640809)
11-13-2011 12:59 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by designtheorist
11-13-2011 9:15 AM


What do you want to debate?

The definitions seem pretty clear cut.


The above ontological example models the zero premise to BB theory. It does so by applying the relative uniformity assumption that the alleged zero event eventually ontologically progressed from the compressed alleged sub-microscopic chaos to bloom/expand into all of the present observable order, more than it models the Biblical record evidence for the existence of Jehovah, the maximal Biblical god designer.
-Attributed to Buzsaw Message 53

Moreover that view is a blatantly anti-relativistic one. I'm rather inclined to think that space being relative to time and time relative to location should make such a naive hankering to pin-point an ultimate origin of anything, an aspiration that is not even wrong.

Well, Larni, let's say I much better know what I don't want to say than how exactly say what I do.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by designtheorist, posted 11-13-2011 9:15 AM designtheorist has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 5 by designtheorist, posted 11-13-2011 1:44 PM Larni has responded

  
NoNukes
Inactive Member


Message 4 of 344 (640814)
11-13-2011 1:36 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by designtheorist
11-13-2011 9:15 AM


designtheorist writes:

In this example, Newbie is probably not maliciously attempting to mislead, but is simply misled himself. It is very easy for someone to project their own views into a quote.

Sure. That could be what happens.

But it not what usually happens. The more usual case is that the newbie did not find the quote in the source material. Generally the newbie finds the material on some website because it was put there for the purpose of perpetrating a fraud. Maybe you made that mistake.

After having seen any number of posters make attempts to prove that Einstein was something he wasn't, most people are understandably going to be short with a newbie going down that road yet again even if the quote is not a familiar one.

If your point is that the newbie did not actually quote mine but was instead just being sloppy, well don't be sloppy. And don't start a whole new thread just to defend the mistake.

I can understand not wanting to be called a liar. I am extremely slow to make that accusation. But I noted examples of unsavory motive impugning in your own posts. Don't dish it if you cannot take it.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by designtheorist, posted 11-13-2011 9:15 AM designtheorist has not yet responded

  
designtheorist
Member (Idle past 2771 days)
Posts: 390
From: Irvine, CA, United States
Joined: 09-15-2011


Message 5 of 344 (640816)
11-13-2011 1:44 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by Larni
11-13-2011 12:59 PM


Reply to Larni
The goal is to build a database of common fallacies, learn to recognize a fallacy or when someone is falsely accused of a fallacy and to discuss how best to respond when we see a fallacy or when someone is accused of one.

It is conceivable one online definition for a particular fallacy may be markedly different from another. In that case, we may debate which definition is better. It is also possible people may wish to debate the best way to respond to a charge of a logical fallacy.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 3 by Larni, posted 11-13-2011 12:59 PM Larni has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 14 by Larni, posted 11-13-2011 3:29 PM designtheorist has not yet responded

  
kbertsche
Member (Idle past 1069 days)
Posts: 1427
From: San Jose, CA, USA
Joined: 05-10-2007


(1)
Message 6 of 344 (640817)
11-13-2011 1:45 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by designtheorist
11-13-2011 9:15 AM


quote:
Definition: “The practice of quoting out of context, sometimes referred to as "contextomy" or "quote mining", is a logical fallacy and a type of false attribution in which a passage is removed from its surrounding matter in such a way as to distort its intended meaning.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quote_mining


Sounds like a good definition. The key is that the meaning of the original passage is distorted, either intentionally or unintentionally. This frequently occurs on discussion and debate forums when someone pulls something from a collection of quotes without reading the quote in its original context.

But I've also seen incorrect accusations of quote-mining here at EvC Forum as well. Sometimes when someone doesn't like the gist of a quote or the position of a poster, in a knee-jerk reaction they will accuse the poster of quote-mining without checking the context themself, either. Use of a quote to support a specific point of argumentation does NOT imply that the poster is in 100% agreement with all of the positions of the person quoted, but he is sometimes incorrectly accused of quote-mining in such instances.

When one uses a quotation, he should make sure that he is not distorting the meaning of its originator (and if he is using it to go beyond the views of the originator, this should be made clear). And when accusing someone of quote-mining, the accuser should explain how the original meaning was distorted. If everyone tried to do this, it would greatly help in online discussions.


"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." – Albert Einstein

“I am very astonished that the scientific picture of the real world around me is very deficient. It gives us a lot of factual information, puts all of our experience in a magnificently consistent order, but it is ghastly silent about all and sundry that is really near to our heart, that really matters to us. It cannot tell us a word about red and blue, bitter and sweet, physical pain and physical delight; it knows nothing of beautiful and ugly, good or bad, God and eternity. Science sometimes pretends to answer questions in these domains, but the answers are very often so silly that we are not inclined to take them seriously.” – Erwin Schroedinger


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by designtheorist, posted 11-13-2011 9:15 AM designtheorist has not yet responded

  
designtheorist
Member (Idle past 2771 days)
Posts: 390
From: Irvine, CA, United States
Joined: 09-15-2011


(1)
Message 7 of 344 (640819)
11-13-2011 2:11 PM


An appeal to authority
Definition: Argument from authority (also known as appeal to authority or argumentum ad verecundiam) is a special type of inductive argument which often takes the form of a statistical syllogism. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_authority

Why it’s bad: No expert is always right.

Example: The following example is taken from http://www.appealtoauthority.info/

The structure of the fallacy looks like this:
1. Smith says X is true
2. Smith is an expert
3. So X must be true
ex. The queen says the earth is flat, the queen knows all, so the Earth must be flat.

In other words, someone claims they are right, because an expert says so. And because the expert says so, it must be true. This is defective induction because no expert is perfect. An expert is never 100% right, all the time.

There is nothing wrong with arguing that what an expert says is true. It however becomes fallacious when arguing that the expert is exempt from criticism & incapable of making mistakes.

In a previous thread, an accusation of appealing to authority came up because a quote was introduced like this: “X, winner of the 19xx Nobel Prize is Physics, writes: …” This is not an appeal to authority because it is not a claim the authority cannot be wrong. It is completely valid to describe someone’s expertise in a particular field. The purpose is to get the reader’s attention, not to claim the expert is infallible.

What to do:

What is the proper response when you do see an appeal to authority? This is subject to debate, but it is best if you point out exactly what was said that contains the fallacy and identify the fallacy. Then provide a link either to this thread or to another link which explains the fallacy.

What is the proper response if you are accused of an appeal to authority? First, consider if the accusation is true. If it is, see if you can restate your point without the appeal to authority. If it is not true, explain why you do not see your comment as a logical fallacy.


Replies to this message:
 Message 8 by PaulK, posted 11-13-2011 2:32 PM designtheorist has responded
 Message 27 by DWIII, posted 11-13-2011 6:06 PM designtheorist has responded
 Message 59 by Taq, posted 11-15-2011 11:02 AM designtheorist has not yet responded

  
PaulK
Member
Posts: 16883
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.9


(2)
Message 8 of 344 (640820)
11-13-2011 2:32 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by designtheorist
11-13-2011 2:11 PM


Re: An appeal to authority
How can I put this. You're wrong.

quote:

In a previous thread, an accusation of appealing to authority came up because a quote was introduced like this: “X, winner of the 19xx Nobel Prize is Physics, writes: …” This is not an appeal to authority because it is not a claim the authority cannot be wrong. It is completely valid to describe someone’s expertise in a particular field. The purpose is to get the reader’s attention, not to claim the expert is infallible.

In other words you claim that an appeal to an authority is not an appeal to authority unless it explicitly claims that the expert is infallible ?

You are very, very wrong.

Firstly an appeal to authority does not need to make that claim. It is the fact that authorities are not infallible that makes the argument a logical fallacy - even if it does not explicitly claim that what the authority says must be true.

Secondly, obviously citing credentials is intended to set up the source as an authority. If you are appealing to what an expert - or any other supposed authority - says, rather than to the facts of the matter, you are making an appeal to authority.

That is not to say that an appeal to authority cannot be a GOOD argument. Sometimes - if done well - it may be the best available to us. But it is not, and never can be, a logically valid argument.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 7 by designtheorist, posted 11-13-2011 2:11 PM designtheorist has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 9 by designtheorist, posted 11-13-2011 2:39 PM PaulK has responded
 Message 22 by kbertsche, posted 11-13-2011 5:05 PM PaulK has responded

  
designtheorist
Member (Idle past 2771 days)
Posts: 390
From: Irvine, CA, United States
Joined: 09-15-2011


(1)
Message 9 of 344 (640821)
11-13-2011 2:39 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by PaulK
11-13-2011 2:32 PM


Reply to PaulK
Your comment illustrates why this thread is important. You have a view you feel very strongly about. However, you opinion is only your opinion. The logical fallacy known as Appeal to Authority is well-defined in the literature. If you think I have selected a poor definition or a poor example, you are free to cite a definition or example you think is better.

But just saying "You're wrong" doesn't cut it.

See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQFKtI6gn9Y

If you want to marshal a real argument, get some facts on your side.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 8 by PaulK, posted 11-13-2011 2:32 PM PaulK has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 10 by PaulK, posted 11-13-2011 2:59 PM designtheorist has responded

  
PaulK
Member
Posts: 16883
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.9


Message 10 of 344 (640822)
11-13-2011 2:59 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by designtheorist
11-13-2011 2:39 PM


Re: Reply to PaulK
quote:

Your comment illustrates why this thread is important. You have a view you feel very strongly about. However, you opinion is only your opinion. The logical fallacy known as Appeal to Authority is well-defined in the literature.

Which is how I know that I am right. If you are appealing to the views of an authority, then you are making an appeal to authority. And that is not a logically valid argument because authorities can be wrong. Therefore it is a logical fallacy. It really is that simple.

The Wikipedia article agrees with me on the definition of appeal to authority, and recognises that it is not a logically valid argument.

quote:

But just saying "You're wrong" doesn't cut it.

Pretending that the rest of my post does not exist doesn't cut it either.

quote:

if you want to marshal a real argument, get some facts on your side.

I did.

Appealing to an authority is by definition an appeal to authority.

An appeal to authority is a logically invalid argument because the premises may be true and the conclusion false.

These are facts. They are on my side. It's for you to answer them instead of trying to pretend that they don't exist.

Edited by PaulK, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 9 by designtheorist, posted 11-13-2011 2:39 PM designtheorist has responded

Replies to this message:
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PaulK
Member
Posts: 16883
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.9


Message 11 of 344 (640823)
11-13-2011 3:08 PM


Non-sequitur
quote:

The Times article quotes Allan Sandage as saying the Burbidge would call him three times a week for 40 years to debate the big bang. That, by itself, might not mean a lot to most people. But Allan Sandage was a leading astronomer in his own right and converted to Christianity because of the big bang. This is historical evidence Burbidge was concerned about his peers being converted to religion as a result of the big bang.

Here's a fuller quote:


Dr. Burbidge never lost what Dr. Strittmatter called a “rebel’s instinct.” Dr. Sandage said Dr. Burbidge had called him up three times a week for 40 years to argue about the Big Bang.

“He delighted in bringing up all the details that didn’t quite fit,” Dr. Sandage said. In recent years, he added, as the evidence for the Big Bang mounted, Dr. Burbidge held his ground.

“I just didn’t understand that,” Dr. Sandage said. “I often wondered if he was just arguing with me to keep on the phone.”

How can we conclude that Burbidge was concerned about religion ?
Why could he not simply be calling a friend - a friend with relevant expertise - hoping to bring him around to his own views on cosmology ?

(The obituary describes Sandage as "an old friend" of Burbidge)


  
designtheorist
Member (Idle past 2771 days)
Posts: 390
From: Irvine, CA, United States
Joined: 09-15-2011


Message 12 of 344 (640824)
11-13-2011 3:19 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by PaulK
11-13-2011 2:59 PM


Re: Reply to PaulK
There is nothing wrong with arguing that what an expert says is true. It however becomes fallacious when arguing that the expert is exempt from criticism & incapable of making mistakes.

Did you miss this part of the description? Oh, that's right. You are claiming that my comment is a fallacy because I quote a definition of Appeal to Authority. Does this mean you have never looked up a word in a dictionary? Never looked up a fact in an encyclopedia? Never used a reference book? Never set foot inside a library?

Why do you think people pay for college? So they can ignore the experts who lecture from the front of the lecture hall? No, so they can learn from them.

I am wondering if you will ever see how fallacious your argument is. Is there anything that can convince you that you are wrong?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 10 by PaulK, posted 11-13-2011 2:59 PM PaulK has not yet responded

  
designtheorist
Member (Idle past 2771 days)
Posts: 390
From: Irvine, CA, United States
Joined: 09-15-2011


Message 13 of 344 (640826)
11-13-2011 3:25 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by PaulK
11-13-2011 2:59 PM


Re: Reply to PaulK
I see in this comment you claim the Wikipedia supports your view. What part of the article? I don't see anything in it that supports the view that saying "winner of the 19xx Nobel Prize in Physics" is an appeal to authority.

Wikipedia does say that one fallacious appeal is "an appeal to inappropriate authority" which means a person who is cited is not truly an authority. When talking about physics, a Nobel Prize goes a long way to demonstrate real authority.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 10 by PaulK, posted 11-13-2011 2:59 PM PaulK has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 15 by PaulK, posted 11-13-2011 3:34 PM designtheorist has responded

  
Larni
Member (Idle past 13 days)
Posts: 3999
From: Liverpool
Joined: 09-16-2005


(3)
Message 14 of 344 (640827)
11-13-2011 3:29 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by designtheorist
11-13-2011 1:44 PM


Re: Reply to Larni
Ah, right.

So you want to redefine what are already readily understood terms to absolve yourself of complicity in said fallacies.

Got it: carry on, do.

However, you opinion is only your opinion.

Incorrect, I share PaulK's opinion as it is an accurate take on 'Argument form Authority'. It seems yet another Cdesignproponentist is attempting to redefine terms to better suit their beliefs.

You sir, have adopted the position of an idiot.

Edited by Larni, : No reason given.

Edited by Larni, : No reason given.


The above ontological example models the zero premise to BB theory. It does so by applying the relative uniformity assumption that the alleged zero event eventually ontologically progressed from the compressed alleged sub-microscopic chaos to bloom/expand into all of the present observable order, more than it models the Biblical record evidence for the existence of Jehovah, the maximal Biblical god designer.
-Attributed to Buzsaw Message 53

Moreover that view is a blatantly anti-relativistic one. I'm rather inclined to think that space being relative to time and time relative to location should make such a naive hankering to pin-point an ultimate origin of anything, an aspiration that is not even wrong.

Well, Larni, let's say I much better know what I don't want to say than how exactly say what I do.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 5 by designtheorist, posted 11-13-2011 1:44 PM designtheorist has not yet responded

  
PaulK
Member
Posts: 16883
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.9


Message 15 of 344 (640829)
11-13-2011 3:34 PM
Reply to: Message 13 by designtheorist
11-13-2011 3:25 PM


Re: Reply to PaulK
quote:

I see in this comment you claim the Wikipedia supports your view. What part of the article? I don't see anything in it that supports the view that saying "winner of the 19xx Nobel Prize in Physics" is an appeal to authority.

By referring to someone as "winner of the 19xx Nobel Prize in Physics" you are attempting to establish them as an authority. Isn't that obvious ?

quote:

Wikipedia does say that one fallacious appeal is "an appeal to inappropriate authority" which means a person who is cited is not truly an authority. When talking about physics, a Nobel Prize goes a long way to demonstrate real authority.

However, as I keep saying - and you keep failing to address - even an appeal to an appropriate authority is a logical fallacy (and Wikipedia supports THAT, too. And note the thread title that you chose.)

And let me point out something you seem to have missed:


The strength of this argument depends upon two factors:[1][2]
1 The authority is a legitimate expert on the subject.
2 A consensus exists among legitimate experts on the matter under discussion.

(bolding mine)

An appropriate authority is not enough. Even when logical validity is not required.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 13 by designtheorist, posted 11-13-2011 3:25 PM designtheorist has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 17 by designtheorist, posted 11-13-2011 3:49 PM PaulK has responded

  
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