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Also available in Greek French Listen: If you haven't heard last week's episode, we covered many of the most common logical fallacies and other argumentative devices that are commonly used by proponents of something that can't otherwise be supported by evidence, like many pseudosciences and conspiracy theories.
Hopefully, familiarity with these devices will help you to identify them in conversation. And, when you point them out, you often strip your opponent of the tools on which he depends the most. If you're going to have a debate, stick with valid arguments.
Don't get caught out by fallacies.
We finished up last week with post hoc rationalizations and slippery slope arguments. And we will now continue with: Excluded Middle The excluded middle assumes that only one of two ridiculous extremes is possible, when in fact a much more moderate middle-of-the-road result is more likely and desirable.
An example of an excluded middle would be an argument that either every possible creation story should be taught in schools, or none of them. These two possibilities sound frightening, and may persuade people to choose the lesser of two evils and allow religious creation stories to be taught alongside science.
In fact, the much more reasonable excluded middle, which is to teach science in science classes and religion in religion classes, is not offered. The excluded middle is formally called reductio ad absurdum, reduction to the absurd.
Bertrand Russell famously illustrated how an absurd premise can be fallaciously used to support an argument: The set containing just me and the Pope has 2 members.
Don't fall for it. Statistics of Small Numbers You really have to take a statistics class to understand statistics, and I think the part that would surprise most people is the stuff about sample sizes.
Given a population of a certain size, how many people do you have to survey before your results are meaningful? I took half of a statistics class once and learned just enough to realize that practically every online poll you see on the web, or survey you hear on the news or read about in the newspaper, is mathematically worthless.
But it extends much deeper than surveys. Drawing conclusions from data sets that are too small to be meaningful is common in pseudoscience.
Listen to Bombo make a couple of bad conclusions from invalid sample sizes: These dice are hot. Weasel words are a favorite of politicians. Witness the names of government programs that mean essentially the opposite of what they're named: By the way certain programs are named, it sounds like it would virtually be criminal to disagree with them.
Weasel words can also refer to sneaky wording in a sentence, like "It has been determined", or "It is obvious that", suggesting that some claim has support without actually indicating anything about the nature of such support. Fallacy of the Consequent Drawing invalid subset relationships in the wrong direction is called the fallacy of the consequent.
Cancers are all considered diseases, but not all diseases are cancers.
Stating that if you have a disease it must be cancer is a fallacy of the consequent. Listen to how Bombo blames Starling's failure to heal upon his failure to take one particular treatment, without regard for whether that treatment is a valid one for Starling's particular condition: Loaded Question A loaded question is also known as the fallacy of multiple questions rolled into one, or plurium interrogationum.
If I want to force you to answer one question in a certain way, I can roll that question up with another that offers you two choices, both of which require my desired answer to the first question. That you have killed someone, that you doubt the truth of the Bible, or that you don't shower or bathe.
Loaded questions should not be tolerated and certainly should never be answered. Red Herring A red herring is a diversion inserted into an argument to distract attention away from the real point.
Supposedly, dragging a smelly herring across the track of a hunted fox would save him from the dogs by diverting their attention away from the real quarry. Red herrings are a favorite device of those who argue conspiracy theories:Reviews, essays, books and the arts: the leading international weekly for literary culture.
Stanford Libraries' official online search tool for books, media, journals, databases, government documents and more. Lively, comprehensive, and contemporary, The Voice of Reason: Fundamentals of Critical Thinking covers three principal areas: thought and language, systematic reasoning, and modes of proof.2/5(1).
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