2010-09-07 12:23:54Documenting logical fallacies in skeptic arguments
John Cook


Jan Dash (writer of the one-liner rebuttals) just emailed this suggestion to me:

It occurred to me that one way to give a "bat the ball back" argument is to label the contrarian claim with a logical fallacy tag. Here is a list of logical fallacies: 
So for example, for Hasty Generalization, put the tag HG. Maybe these could be added to the one-liners? The advantage of this is that the person doesn't even have to learn the one-liner in order to say something, and at least many people are familiar with logical fallacies...

I can see how this could be a useful resource. Steve Lewandowsky cites psychological research that says when we rebut a skeptic argument, it's not enough just to argue with science. Otherwise to the onlooker, it becomes a case of their facts vs mine. Instead, we need to explain why they're wrong, what they're trying to do. Usually, skeptic arguments employ some kind of rhetorical technique or logical flaw and it's good to point them out. The wikipedia page has good examples of logical fallacies. Eg - "Every person I've met speaks English, so it must be true that all people speak English". Citing these is a powerful way of demonstrating to a person how the skeptic argument attempts to mislead.

However, I'm not sure what is the best way to make this information available. Jan suggests just having a small icon next to the one-liner on the list of rebuttals. Eg - if the argument uses a 'hasty generalisation', put a HG in front of the one-liner response. I wonder whether this is a bit opaque to the average person.

It's also a bit of work. I can set up an admin system where authors can enter logical fallacies and assign them to arguments. But is the effort worth the reward? Is it getting too complicated? Thoughts and comments welcome :-)

2010-09-08 00:22:56Logical Fallacies and Critical Thinking

I think it might be a good idea to have a forum on "how to evaluate scientific articles" that would include logical fallacies, evaluating appeals to authority, errors in induction, errors in deduction, etc.  I would undertake to write some of these. As to their value to Skepticalscience, whose focus is on the science more than the reasoning, I don't know.
2010-09-08 00:30:09Logical Fallacies and Critical Thinking


There are some problems with the Wikipedia article on fallacies. For one thing, there is a faulty categorization: affirming the consequent and denying the antecedent are deductive errors (problems with validity of form), which has it own section below. Also, there are a lot of "fallacies" listed that do not show up in the kind of subjects we are discussing, and some are not really genuine fallacies so much as they are logical infelicities. 


It would not be a bad thing for Skepticalscience to have its own list of logical fallacies to look for in denier arguments. 

2010-09-08 08:50:53

Humorous icons linking to an explanation of the general fallacy? 
2010-09-08 22:25:12icons would work for me

Somebody with a better graphic mind than mine would have to come up with them. I can imagine an icon for "undistributed middle, for example, put might have a rougher time with "parsimony".