EppsNet Archive: Logical Fallacies

Many Have Long Known …

Many in academia have long known about how the practice of student evaluations of professors is inherently biased against female professors. . . . — Amanda Marcotte, “Best Way for Professors to Get Good Student Evaluations? Be Male.”   Group A getting better evaluations than Group B is not evidence of bias. Asserting that something is true doesn’t mean it’s true. Asserting that many people know something to be true doesn’t mean it’s true. Most college students (i.e., the people evaluating professors) are female. What, if anything, does this fact suggest? Read more →

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

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. — Paul Krugman 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? 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… Read more →

If Everything Goes as Intended . . .

If [Affordable Care Act] implementation goes as intended and widespread utilization and automation are achieved, providers could save about $11 billion per year. — Reducing Administrative Costs and Improving the Health Care System — New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) You really can’t dispute something as vague as that but it does raise a number of questions: 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. Is “widespread utilization and automation” part of going “as intended” or is that a separate thing? Assuming that implementation does go as intended and widespread utilization and automation are achieved, the best we can say is that providers “could” save… Read more →

How to Be a Denialist

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.… Read more →