Thursday, February 25, 2016

Week 7 Blog Prompt

Do some research on one of the following fallacies: three men make a tiger, parable of the broken window fallacy, fallacy of rugged individualism, fallacy of the vacuous explanation, fallacy of the phantom distinction, Texas sharpshooter fallacy, or the slothful induction fallacy. Explain the fallacy and give several examples of how it is a flaw in reasoning.


  1. “Sharpshooter or Square”
    **To be rapped to the theme song of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air’

    Now, this is a story all about how
    A logos fallacy came about
    I’d like to take a moment
    Just sit right there
    I’ll tell you how the Texas Sharpshooter acted like a square

    In Western America, a cowboy was raised.
    Shooting aimlessly at barns is how he spent most of his days
    Shooting here and shooting there lookin’ like a fool
    He came up with a lame idea to make him look cool
    He got some red paint because he knew that he could
    Started painting ‘round some bullets on the wood
    Outlining clusters like they were meant to be there
    Even though those constellations totally came from thin air

    He bragged and gloated to the town everyday
    About how he was the sharpshooter here to stay
    Not letting anyone challenge him like a bigot,
    He flaunted that he was the best and totally legit

    A Texas sharpshooter’s fallacy is clear
    He picks data clusters to suit his arguments, ya hear?
    Finds patterns to fit presumptions with out a care
    Clusters naturally appear by chance but it’s rare

    False conclusions can be inferred, don’t need to hate
    But it’s not a technique I’d ever use in a debate
    This rap just might be dumb
    But I don’t really care
    Go try and make a better one if you dare

    The Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy describes a circumstance when someone does not necessarily have a specific hypothesis before they gather data. It is the same fallacy when someone draws a hypothesis after gathering and examining data. The issue is, the same information cannot be used to construct and test the same hypothesis.
    I have experienced this in real life with my friends on the men’s gymnastics team here at UNL. One of the world’s best male gymnasts is Kohei Uchimura from Japan. In an interview he expressed that he does not like fruits and vegetables and seldom eats them. Two of my friends do not like fruits and vegetables and use the fact that Kohei is one of the best gymnasts in the world to justify that they do not need to eat them in order to excel at the sport. This is not a reliable inference and is very flawed in reasoning because fruits and vegetables are very nutritious and contribute to muscle growth. They are very highly recommended for every athlete and make up a large portion of a balanced meal.
    The Texas Sharpshooter explains that people will subconsciously ignore any information that goes against their beliefs. For example a kid that believes in Santa will justify every clue that supports their parents being Santa. People also tend to seek out information that confirms their beliefs, like when a child asks their parents if Santa is real in hopes they will re-assure them that he is. It is often described as mental cherry picking, which allows people to feel comfortable with their decisions and beliefs. It is a flawed method because it is using partial information to support conclusions.
    *Paraphrased from Identifying Common Flaws in Arguments by Kevin

  2. Three Men Make a Tiger

    Centuries ago, China consisted of seven separate territories. These territories were constantly trying to conquer each other. War was profitable back then because the winner of battles got to claim the land, resources, and treasures of their enemies.
    Due to the constant threats of war and invasion, the seven territories created tentative alliances to ensure some sort of peace in China. Sometimes you wanted a territory on your side, others you wished them all dead. Because of this, the states didn’t trust each other one but, regardless of alliances.
    So, they created a system to keep each other honest. When one state allied with another, they would exchange princes as hostages. This way, the kings couldn’t attack each other without causing the brutal death of their own sons.
    During one of the exchanges, a kings official named Pang Cong was assigned to travel to Handan with the prince to make sure the exchange went as planned. In ancient China, people had a bad habit of gossiping. So when Pang Cong heard he was to travel with the prince he decided to take measure against the slander of his good name. After all, he didn’t want to fall out of favor with the king.
    So Pang Cong told the king a story.
    "Your Majesty, if someone were to tell you that there was a tiger roaming the markets of our capital city, would you believe it?"
    "No," the king replied.
    "What if two people told you there was a tiger in the market?"
    "I might be suspicious of it, but I wouldn't believe it," the king replied.
    "What about three people?" Pang Cong said.
    After pondering for a bit, the king admitted that, yes, he would believe there was a tiger in the market if three people said it.
    Pang Cong said, "It is obvious that there is no tiger in the marketplace, yet three men saying so can make a tiger. Handan is further away from here than the marketplace. And the number of men wanting to slander me is far more than three. I hope your majesty can see my circumstances."
    "I understand," the king replied.
    But of course, the king didn’t really understand what Pang Cong was saying. So, when he returned the king refused to see him… due to all the new incriminating rumors about him.
    The main thing Pang Cong was trying to say was just because a bunch of people say something, does not mean it is true. And this is where the three men make a tiger comes in. Just because people say there is a tiger in the market does not mean a tiger will be there.
    Drawn and paraphrased from “Three Men make a Tiger” by Dan Steinhart:
    The three men make a tiger fallacy deals with the tendency to believe outrageous or absurd information just because a lot of people are saying it. For me, this was especially prevalent in high school. When a group of people don’t like someone, they tend to start a rumor about them and then it spreads and is accepted as the truth regardless of evidence just because everyone keeps talking about it. Another good example is urban legends. Bloody Mary won’t actually come out of the mirror and kill you if you say her name three times (or will she?...) but when you’re a little kid and everyone tells you it, you believe.

  3. Broken Window Fallacy

    The broken window fallacy was first brought to life by Frederic Bastiat, a French economist. His main argument of the fallacy was to point out the fact that destruction doesn't actually benefit the economy.

    The actual background information of the broken window fallacy came from a tale about a man's son breaking a pane of glass. Due to the man having to pay to replace the pane of glass, they actually came to the conclusion that the boy actually did the community a service by breaking the window because he will have to pay the glazier to replace it. In addition, that would then mean that the glazier would have to spend money on tools and pieces to replace the glass, which would then "jump-start the local economy".

    It is believed that breaking windows was the beginning stages of stimulation in the economy. However, there was different opinions as to if it truly only impacted the economy in a positive way or if there was a negative side to it all as well. Hence, that is why the broken window fallacy is used to "discredit the idea that going to war stimulates a country's economy."

    Furthermore, this specific fallacy comes from making a decision by only looking at the parties that are directly involved, rather than the overall view of people that could be involved either short term or long term.

    This fallacy is very interesting to me. I had no idea that the fallacy was based off of the breaking window and that in depth of how they based that to the economy. While some may fully agree with this fallacy, there are many flaws that can come with this as well. For example, basing the stimulation and jump-start of the economy off of the simple story of the fallacy is just not realistic. In reasoning, you need to realize the end goal and effects by such a fallacy. People's reasonings for this fallacy are based off of something that isn't considered a "major indication" of our economy jump-starting or not.

  4. Often times, for me at least, the escalation that occurs in an argument can be blamed on some form of miscommunication. This afternoon I experienced an interaction that perfectly explains the fallacy of the phantom distinction. My boyfriend recently had work done on his car and was explaining to me how all the different parts and procedures would add up to nearly $4,000, but clarified he had a $1,000 deductible through his insurance company. Near the end of the conversation when I repeatedly asked how much he would personally have to pay, his irritated response was “I already told you.” From my perspective, the fact that his insurance offered a $1000 deductible did not answer how much he would have to pay, but to him it was obvious information.

    The fallacy of phantom distinction identifies arguments that contain perceived miscommunication, when in reality, there is no effective difference in what each individual is trying to establish or accomplish. A phantom distinction fallacy happens when one person argues for the superiority of one term over another rather than discussing the intended topic. Often one individual prefers one certain term over the other due to historical or emotional associations with it.

    The form of this fallacy is as follows:

    1. X (term 1) is preferable over X (term 2).
    2. X (term 1) is true.
    3. X (term 2) is not true.

    Another example of this fallacy could look at a husbands claim that he would never even consider the thought of taking a yoga class, but when his wife suggests the idea of hiring a personal instructor to come teach them in their home, he jumps on board without hesitation. As mentioned before, the term “yoga class” has specific emotional or historical attributes that the husband certainly did not want to associate himself with, but in reality he really was not opposed to the idea of practicing yoga. Phantom fallacies can occur when terms have obvious identical meaning, such as “the letter A” and “the first letter of the alphabet.” On the other hand, they can also take place in contexts where terms may have different interpretations to the two individuals, such as a woman mentioning to her husband, “I am not a feminist. I just think women should have the same rights as men,” and him accepting it without an argument. Regardless of the context, the fallacy of the phantom distinction can be summarized as "drawing a distinction without a difference."


  5. The “Three Men Make a Tiger” fallacy is a Chinese proverb. It originated about 2500 years ago when Pang Cong tried (and did not succeed) to preserve the King’s perception of his character. During this time in Chinese history there were several states that had alliances with each other, but none of them trusted each other, so they would exchange princes as hostages before a war to make sure kings honored their alliances. Pang Cong was the high ranking official who was given the job of escorting his state’s hostage. Pang Cong knew that many people were jealous of his position and that they would talk poorly about him while he was away in order to detriment his credibility with the king. To prepare for this Pang told the king a story. He started by asking the king if he would believe someone if they told him there was a tiger wandering in the markets. The king told Pang that he would not. Pang then asked if he would believe there was a tiger roaming through the markets if two people told him. The king still claimed that he would not believe two people who told him such a thing. Pang then proceeded to ask the king if he would believe the same story if three people told him – this time the king decided that it would have to be true if three people made the claim. Pang Cong then went on to explain that a tiger being in the market would be ridiculous, but three men can make it seem true. He told the king that there was many more than three men who would make slanderous claims to remove him from his highly regarded position. The king said he understood, but clearly did not, as Pang Cong no longer had his position when he came back from escorting the prince during the war.
    This type of reasoning is flawed because it does not use any facts or evidence to back itself, just a group of people who say something is true – therefore it must be true. A perfect example of this occurred last fall. This video made its rounds on Facebook and with every share it became more believable to everyone. This video of an Egyptian news show should have generated skepticism in its viewers, but it had so many shares – how could it be fake?
    This fallacy is very relevant today as more and more forms of media go viral everyday. It is becoming more important for social media users to be skeptical and do research before they believe a story just because it has 100,000 shares.

  6. Broken Window Fallacy:

    Frederic Bastiat was the French classical liberal theorist among many other things that introduced the idea of the Broken Window Fallacy. In an essay he wrote about the broken window fallacy he explained why the destruction and the money required to cover the cost of the destruction does not help the net benefit of the economy.

    The tale in Frederic Bastiat’s essay goes like this. It starts out with a man’s son breaking a pane of glass that he will have to pay to have it replaced. In the story, the onlookers, have declared that the situation is going to do the community a service because of the money being spent to replace the window. The idea is that when the boy’s father pays the glazier to fix the window that, the glazier, would end up spending that extra money on something else. As this is true, the onlookers are wrong that it will boost the economy. They are forgetting the critical third party in this situation. Now, because the boy’s father spent the money on the glazier to repair the window, he has lost the ability to spend that money elsewhere.

    For example, let’s say the cost to repair the window was $200 and also that the boy’s father was going to spend $200 on new clothes for the family later that week. He now has to choose between spending the money, in the same economy, either on replacing the window or buying the family some new clothes. Obviously in this situation, because the boy’s father is such a nice guy, he replaces the window.

    This is why the broken window fallacy does not help the NET benefit of the economy. The onlookers are correct when they say the situation is going to do the community a service, but it will not jump-start the economy. First, because an economy will never get to the point that it is at a standstill and breaking glass and having to pay to replace it will start the economy up again, and second, the money used will just keep getting cycled through the economy.

  7. Phantom distinction fallacy:

    This fallacy is occurs when somebody argues that two things are different, when in reality there is no real significant distinction between the two. The most widely used example of this is the phrase "Instead of the letter A, why not the first letter of the alphabet." now, we can all see and admit that there is no real difference between those two things and this example may seem kind of ridiculous, but this fallacy is far more popular than one might think. This fallacy is deeply intertwined with the idea of framing

    Framing is not too different from what it sounds like it is. Essentially it is a concious choice to view something through a particular lens, while ignoring other points of view. has a great example for this fallacy when they say "Before we condemn violence used to promote a social agenda, we must remember the distinction between freedom fighters and terrorists." this is of course a framing difference but in this particular case there happens to be no real difference between these two descriptions, aside from the fact that one is positively framed while the other carries negative connotations.

    There are a couple important circumstances in which speaking fallaciously in terms of phantom distinction actually serves a real purpose, like when somebody tells you that they dont want you to try and achieve something, they want you to ACHIEVE it. objectively speaking these have no real difference, but we can see the difference which is emphasis. The other exception is when a word and its synonym hold different emotional/political/or social meaning

  8. Fallacy of Rugged Individualism
    In America we are spoon-fed to believe the notion of the American Dream, that one can accomplish anything from any background through perseverance and hard work. Through the analyzations of social class, racial discrimination and obstacles to a person’s identity we come to realize that the American dream is little more than a mere fallacy to persuade the masses to work hard for the betterment of society. A similar notion can be made for the fallacy of Rugged Individualism. Rugged Individualism refers to the idea that each individual should be able to help themselves out, and that the government does not need to involve itself in people's economic lives nor in national economics in general. It is often associated with Social Darwinism or an "up-by-the-bootstraps" philosophy. It is a very conservative mindset that was highly preached by Herbert Hoover in his "Philosophy of Rugged Individualism" Campaign Speech. On October 22, 1928, Herbert Hoover gave the penultimate speech of his successful presidential campaign entitled, "Principles and Ideals of the United States Government." In that speech, he expressed his belief that the American system was based on "rugged individualism" and "self-reliance." That the America we know today was here not because of government assistance, luck or family heritage but purely because American men worked hard and that hard work manifests always into success. One excerpt particularly stands out to me
    “During 150 years we have builded up a form of self-government and a social system which is peculiarly our own. It differs essentially from all others in the world. It is the American system. It is just as definite and positive a political and social system as has ever been developed on earth. It is founded upon a particular conception of self-government; in which decentralized local responsibility is the very base. Further than this, it is founded upon the conception that only through ordered liberty, freedom and equal opportunity to the individual will his initiative and enterprise spur on the march of progress. And in our insistence upon equality of opportunity has our system advanced beyond all the world.”
    There is a great deal of American ethnocentrism in this excerpt but most of all what I find almost humorous is his inclusion of the last statement where he mentions America’s “insistence upon equality of opportunity”. I find it humorous because today this is something we still struggle with not to mention the time when this was read, the 1920s, in which blacks faced such extreme forms of discrimination that to step over a cultural norm could quite seriously lead to death in the form of lynching. I believe just as the federal government turned a blind eye towards the poor and the ostracized during this era so too does the entire theory of rugged individualism. The reality of the world we live in is that people from birth through no fault of their own are given various slates in life. Some have to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds while others can ride through life on family fortune or racial privilege. It is because of this reality that we need government assistance to help those who have obstacles so high that they make economic and social mobility nearly impossible. The idea of Rugged Individualism only keeps the mighty in power feeling justified and the poor in the slums striving for an unattainable dream.

  9. The “Three Men Make a Tiger” fallacy is based on an old Chinese proverb that characterizes someone who believes any information that is repeated by multiple people. This is an obvious flaw in logic. The amount of people telling you something has no barring on if the information is true or not. Examples of this fallacy can most easily be found on social media platforms. Social media is the breeding ground for the three men make a tiger fallacy. I often see this fallacy take place within the first minute of scrolling through my Facebook timeline. I see people I graduated high school with repost articles from The Onion, which claims to be “AMERICA’S FINEST NEWS SOURCE” on its website. The Onion, for people who don’t know, publishes its “news” taking a satirical approach. Posts from The Onion often get thousands of likes and reposts, creating the perception that the information is true. People often associate something on social media with a large amount of likes and or shares to be information that is true. Are there people who share the stories and understand that it’s satire? Of course, but not everyone fully understands the concept of satire and credible information. This creates a showdown of people who do and don't understand satire that takes place on my Facebook timeline.
    Another example of this fallacy occurring was when one of my friends texted me saying, “yo Ray-Ban is having an 85% off sale right now on their website”. I immediately asked my friend if he saw this “sale” on Facebook. Sure enough, he did. I checked Facebook to see the post, which brings you to a fake Ray-Ban website. My friend believed that this sale was true because many people had liked the post. This shows the flaw in the logic of the three men make a tiger fallacy.

  10. Phantom Distinction Fallacy

    The Phantom Distinction fallacy can be described as an argument to substitute one term for another though there is no significant difference between the terms being used. This fallacy is sometimes used to deliberately mislead the discussion by using complex wording, or by rearranging an understood concept to make it more difficult to understand. One would typically substitute a word because it holds an emotional connotation or historical significance. In short, the Phantom Distinction fallacy creates a distinction without a difference. Another way to think of the Phantom Distinction is as a euphemism.

    This fallacy occurs when these three conditions are met:

    1. X (using term 1) is preferable over X (using term 2).
    2. X (using term 1) is true.
    3. X (using term 2) is not true.

    A distinction without a difference is one of many cover ups that mask the fact it's based upon three possibilities. These three possibilities are infinite regress, circular reasoning, and axiomatic thinking also known as Agrippa's trilemma. Phantom Distinction is a fallacy of ambiguity considering it overshadows the line between words and an informal fallacy. Since drawing distinctions when we speak is commonly associated with good reasoning, this fallacy tends to slip right past us.


    My mom states, “I’m not feminist, but I believe that all women should have the same rights as men”. Though my mom doesn't consider herself a feminist, she believes in equality for women. This shows a distinction without a difference.

    In the United States, we use the word soccer to refer to a game the rest of the world calls football.

    A financial advisor who prefers using the term “death tax”, instead of “estate tax” with his clients.

    “Just because I said I believe in god doesn’t mean that I’m a Christian, you idiot!”

    “No I don’t like ice cream, however, I love frozen milk that has been mixed with sugar.”

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  12. The fallacy of vacuous explanation is a deductive argument that uses extreme generalizations to explain things. The argument presented in this fallacy is an explanation with a vague or unclear meaning is used in place of a solution. The word vacuous literally means expressing or characterized by a lack of ideas or intelligence, so this fallacy could also be called ‘the stupid explanation fallacy’. It’s pretty easy to see why you should never use this reasoning in an argument or any area of life. Some examples of these arguments could be; “whatever happens, happens”, “it was meant to be”, or a personal favorite of mine “it is what it is”. Other times the reasoning relies on fate or destiny for explanations. The biggest issue with this fallacy is that it entirely eliminates the possibility of discussion on the topic any further which is the worst way to address an issue. If you were to put this fallacy into emoji form it would be this guy right here ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. The shrugging and smile represent the willful admission of ignorance and the acceptance of not really looking for solutions to problems.

    One area I see this fallacy used in is astrology and horoscopes. I think that the basic functions of a horoscope it to let people escape having to explain their emotions and actions. An example of thi I decided to look up my libra horoscope from three different websites and see how I was supposed to feel today. I found out that today is a great day for flirting, information retrieval form “the depths of my psyche”, and being appreciated by little gestures. While none of these accurately described the events of my day I could imagine that with enough time something will be right. If I use these horoscopes to explain my issues in life this is how they would be an example of vacuous explanation. Other ways zodiac signs use this fallacy is in compatability. If I meet someone who is a cancer and I don’t get along with them I could explain it away because libras and cancers aren’t supposed to get along. Instead of thinking about reasonable explanations as to why I don’t like someone or why they don't like me, I can just hop over to to let someone else do it for me.

  13. There are essentially three basic techniques to gather information: deductive, retrodutive, and inductive reasoning. The slothful induction fallacy has everything to do with inductive reasoning and being bad at it. Inductive reasoning is, in my mind, looking internally at what you have in front of you and making a decision. It is taking the information and then trying to figure out the causes. Slothful induction is a logical fallacy which is an error in the actual logic of the argument which can still win over the mind’s of people but is not actually valid. In an argument, one individual demands a extremely high amount of evidence before they will come to a conclusion. Often, this stubborn attitude can greatly influence the quality of the discussion because the conversation can not move smoothly towards a conclusion.
    When I think of this fallacy, I think of Adrian Monk from the TV show Monk. Adrian Monk is a detective with obsessive compulsive disorder who goes over and beyond to find the truth about the crime committed. The reason I think of this is because of the term, “pseudoskepticism” which is a term often used in reference to this fallacy and is describing individuals who are skeptical of a subject but also cannot be convinced by any sort of evidence. Likely, pseudoskeptics would fall into the trap of using the slothful induction fallacy. Now, I’m on a Monk rabbit hole on Youtube. Thanks Damian.
    The form is fairly straightforward: there is strong evidence that X results in Y but then someone thinks that Y was the result of something entirely different. A great example I found of this fallacy is that of anti-evolutionists because they often inquire about facts that prove evolution to be true, and then believe that they’ve succeeded when there is no proof. But, scientists can prove a lot of evolution to be true and using inductive reasoning one can probably determine that evolution is real.
    One of the main reasons this is flawed in reasoning is that if something is true it is going to be true. When looking at a situation with overwhelming evidence towards on outcome, that outcome is likely going to be true no matter how much arguing takes place. The key is to reference the strength of the evidence one has against the fallacy and hope that the truth wins out.