Friday, April 1, 2016

The Art of Cherry Picking

We all have committed this fallacy at some point in our lives, whether that’s when writing a paper for a class, holding a discussion with friends, or even creating our personal beliefs after looking at the ‘facts.’ That is, cherry picking. Also known as argument by half-truth or stacking the deck, cherry picking gets its name from cherry pickers, people who actually pick the cherries you would buy in the grocery store. The idea behind it is that those cherry pickers go from tree to tree picking only the best cherries to sell, and when you go to the store you would start to believe then all cherries would be of that quality. In reality however, those cherries you bought at the store are not a representable sample of all the cherries in the world, let alone in even the grove where the cherries were picked, the bad or rotten cherries were left out. When it comes to real life I’m glad cherry pickers do the job they do, and they’re not immoral or wrong for being selective of the cherries they do sell. I wouldn’t want to buy bad cherries on my next shopping trip, but when it comes to arguments it’s a different story.

Essentially, cherry picking is using only select evidence is used to persuade an audience to believe a certain claim, and that any evidence contrary to that position isn’t made known to that audience. The better quality of evidence, or even the amount creates a more fallacious argument. An example of this would be the evidence used by climate change deniers or anti-vaxxers to support they’re beliefs. There may be a small amount of evidence to support their claims, but when compared to the greater weight of evidence contrary to their claims, they clearly cherry pick what sources they say are factual and what aren’t. When you stop to think about it you see cherry picking everywhere, it’s the hallmark of poor science and pseudoscience, and it’s still very common outside academic circles. Job interviews for instance, people often cherry pick the information you put on your resumes, after all you don’t want to potentially look bad at the interview do you? Needless to say, cherry picking looks indistinguishable from reality at times, so it helps to be aware of it, or even ask someone “Are you telling me all the truth?” in order to continues seeking what is true.

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