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Crimes Against Logic

Exposing Bogus Arguments

Jamie Whyte

Worth quoting some of his preface where explains why he is "Outraged of London". "The modern world is a noxious environment for those of us bothered by logical error. People may have become no worse at reasoning, but they now have so many more opportunities to show off how bad they are.... most know next to nothing about the ways reasoning can go wrong. Schools and universities pack their minds with invaluable pieces of information, but leave them incapable of identifying even basic errors of logic. Which makes for a nation of suckers, unable to resist the bogus reasoning of those who want something of them, such as votes or money or devotion.... cynicism is a poor defense, because it doesn't help to tell good reasoning from bad."

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"I'm entitled to my opinion" is a fallacy because it is offered (usually as a last resort) by someone who has run out of rational objections to someone else's reasoned argument. And it is offered as if it is a reasonable counter-point to logic.You are only "entitled" to an opinion if it is well-supported by evidence. If it's not, then it's no different to random noise.

The Motive Fallacy: questioning someone's motives instead of answering argument. So common in politics that serious policy debate is almost unheard of. If a pol suggests a policy, opponents dig around until they can find a friend or donor who will benefit from the policy, which clearly shows the policy is flawed.

Authority. Victims quoted as experts. A new drugs policy is suggested; press quote opinion of someone who's daughter died of a drug overdose as if he is qualified to assess the impact on society in general. Big problem is that he is actually even less qualified as an expert, because humans over value anecdotal evidence, and undervalue valid evidence. Sub genre of celebrities pronouncing on social issues. But they too are less qualified, because they live outside of real world, and invariably have less schooling than most. Basically, don't be bullied. Ask if the person is an expert in that field. If not, then ask him to explain why we should believe.

Bankruptcy of the "It's a mystery" ploy - it applies equally to any opinion you dredge up, no matter how outlandish or absurd.When someone says that it can't be explained because it's a mystery, they have it the wrong way round. It is personal ignorance that is to blame, not some general quality of the belief. Dressing it up as "faith" doesn't improve the quality of your ignorance. Note that people only claim "faith" for opinions he cannot defend. No one ever says his shoe size is a matter of faith.

Fake science. Lyall Watson starts out Supernature with "Science no longer holds any absolute truths. Even the discipline of physics, whose laws once went unchallenged, has had to submit to the indignity of the Uncertainty Principle." rebuttal: When were the laws of physics ever unchallenged? They are always up for debate. That's the minor point. Major objection is Watson's deliberate misinterpretation of the UP. The UP is about subatomic particles and says that you cannot measure both speed and position - measuring one changes the other. But Watson tries to use it to say that somehow the laws of physics are uncertain.

The "but still ..." argument beloved of those determined to stick to an unlikely thesis even in face overwhelming evidence. Yes yes yes I know all the evidence that grass is green. But still ..... there are times when it could be red. Monty Python Life of Brian Reg, leader of the People's Front of Judea asking 'What have the Romans ever done for us?' and eventually ending up with 'All right, but apart from sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, roads, fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?' Flawed argument that truth is culturally relative, ie that truth depends on what is believed by the relevant culture at the time. Yet AD 900 everyone believed that the sun orbited the earth, which is not true, and will never be true, no matter what the local culture believes. Books by Title

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