EppsNet Archive: Logical Fallacies

Many Have Long Known …

14 Dec 2014 /

Many in academia have long known about how the practice of student evaluations of professors is inherently biased against female professors. . . .

 
  1. Group A getting better evaluations than Group B is not evidence of bias.
  2. Asserting that something is true doesn’t mean it’s true.
  3. Asserting that many people know something to be true doesn’t mean it’s true.
  4. Most college students (i.e., the people evaluating professors) are female. What, if anything, does this fact suggest?

More People I’m Sick Unto Death Of: Paul Krugman

19 Nov 2012 /

America in the 1950s made the rich pay their fair share; it gave workers the power to bargain for decent wages and benefits; yet contrary to right-wing propaganda then and now, it prospered. And we can do that again.

I hardly know where to begin with this . . .

First of all, what is the relevance of the 1950s as opposed to any other period of American history? America prior to 1913 had no permanent income tax and contrary to left-wing propaganda, it prospered. Why can’t we do that again?

Workers of the World, Unite!

Of course we’re all in favor of fairness — right? — but why is it only important that “the rich” pay their “fair share”? I don’t remember ever hearing anyone, certainly not Krugman, use the phrase “pay their fair share” in reference to any group except “the rich.”

If you’re concerned about fairness, isn’t it also important that the middle class “pay their fair share”? Isn’t it important that the poor “pay their fair share”? Shouldn’t we all have some skin in the game?

Why not say that everyone should “pay their fair share” instead of making a class warfare issue out of it?

 

As George Harrison used to say:

Should five percent appear too small
Be thankful I don’t take it all

America in the 1950s had a top tax bracket of 91 percent for incomes greater than $200,000. For every dollar you made in excess of $200,000, the federal government took 91 cents as its “fair share.” You got to keep nine cents as your “fair share.”

Out of those nine cents, you also had to pay Social Security taxes, state taxes, local taxes, sales taxes, property taxes and excise taxes. Am I forgetting anything? It doesn’t seem unlikely to me that nine cents on the dollar wouldn’t be enough to cover all those taxes, in which case you’d actually lose money on every dollar.

If I’d been a business owner in the 1950s, with the knowledge that once I made 200 grand, I’d be operating at a loss, I would have just shut the place down at that point and sent everyone home till the next year. I don’t care if it was November or August or January.

Finally, when Krugman talks about workers having “the power to bargain,” he’s talking about unions, as though the two things are inseparable. I’ve never been in a union but I’ve bargained for wages and benefits at every job I’ve ever had. Anyone with marketable skills can bargain for wages and benefits.

P.S. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but “workers” is a telling choice of words, isn’t it? Why not “employees” or just “people”? “Workers” calls to mind communist rallying cries and the Wobblies.


If Everything Goes as Intended . . .

19 Nov 2012 /

If [Affordable Care Act] implementation goes as intended and widespread utilization and automation are achieved, providers could save about $11 billion per year.

Flying pig

You really can’t dispute something as vague as that but it does raise a number of questions:

  1. What does it mean for thousands of pages of legislation affecting the entire healthcare industry as well as every man, woman and child in America to go “as intended”? It’s a circular argument. If it goes as intended, we save $11 billion. If we don’t save $11 billion, it didn’t go as intended.
  2. Is “widespread utilization and automation” part of going “as intended” or is that a separate thing?
  3. Assuming that implementation does go as intended and widespread utilization and automation are achieved, the best we can say is that providers “could” save “about” $11 billion per year? Could they save more? Less? Break even? Could they lose $11 billion? It’s meaningless speculation.
  4. Can anyone remind me of a large-scale government program that went “as intended” and saved everyone a lot of money?
  5. Why, despite all evidence to the contrary, do people continue to believe that government can successfully engineer social aspirations?

In other news, if my plan to grow wings on pigs goes as intended, it could revolutionize the way we export bacon.

These things never go as intended. They can’t possibly go as intended. There are always unintended consequences. I can’t implement a policy in my own house and have it go as intended and there’s just two people and a dog.

I asked the friend who called the NEJM article to my attention what going “as intended” means in the context of the ACA and he said, “I think it means legislators don’t muck with it too much.” What does “muck” mean? What does “too much” mean? We could go on and on . . .


How to Be a Denialist

31 May 2010 /
self-applied blindfold
  • Allege that there’s a conspiracy. Claim that scientific consensus has arisen through collusion rather than the accumulation of evidence.
  • Use fake experts to support your story. “Denial always starts with a cadre of pseudo-experts with some credentials that create a facade of credibility,” says Seth Kalichman of the University of Connecticut.
  • Cherry-pick the evidence: trumpet whatever appears to support your case and ignore or rubbish the rest. Carry on trotting out supportive evidence even after it has been discredited.
  • Create impossible standards for your opponents. Claim that the existing evidence is not good enough and demand more. If your opponent comes up with evidence you have demanded, move the goalposts.
  • Use logical fallacies. Hitler opposed smoking, so anti-smoking measures are Nazi. Deliberately misrepresent the scientific consensus and then knock down your straw man.
  • Manufacture doubt. Falsely portray scientists as so divided that basing policy on their advice would be premature. Insist “both sides” must be heard and cry censorship when “dissenting” arguments or experts are rejected.

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

11 Mar 2009 /

Correlation