Tuesday, February 28, 2017

It's Fate...But Is It Though?

As college students, most of us have heard about or experienced roommate horror stories. You know the story: You think you’ve found this great roommate and you guys have so much in common. You both love chocolate ice cream, scary movies, and soccer. What could go wrong?
A few weeks into school, you realize you and your “perfect” roomie aren’t so compatible after all. She has a boyfriend that constantly spends the night in your room. She’s an early riser and you’re more of a night owl. These things never came up when you talked over the summer. You spent so much time discussing your similarities that you overlooked your differences. This is known as the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy.
Logicallyfalacious.com defines the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy as “Ignoring the differences while focusing on the similarities, thus coming to an inaccurate conclusion.” You want to believe fate had a hand in the situation, when you’re really just trying to give meaning to randomness. The name “Texas Sharpshooter” originates from a story about a cowboy. He shoots the side of a barn multiple times and then paints a bull’s eye around a cluster of bullet holes to make him appear a better shot. He was trying to make a pattern out of pure chance.
Another example of this fallacy is a fertilizer company claiming that farmers who used their fertilizer during a growing season saw better crops than farmers who didn’t, so their fertilizer must be the best. What the company didn’t take into account was factors like weather and soil quality. Maybe the farmers who didn’t use the fertilizer also suffered from a drought that season.
In William M. Keith and Christian O. Lundberg’s “The Essential Guide to Rhetoric,” they describe common types of fallacies. The Texas Sharpshooter fallacy falls under the post hoc ergo propter hoc, or “after this, therefore because of this” type of fallacy. According to Keith and Lundberg, “this type of reasoning becomes a fallacy when arguers make a casual claim based only on things occurring together instead of proving a connection.” In the fertilizer example, just because it worked for some farmers, doesn’t mean it will work for every farmer.
The Texas Sharpshooter fallacy can get people into a lot of trouble, and is a terrible way of reasoning. Just because it seems like fate, doesn’t mean it is.


Phantom Distinction
   In looking at the many fallacies that could be discussed, one major fallacy that holds more clout, that I can at least see, within our most recent news, is the fallacy of Phantom Distinction. Before discussing the definition, let's look at an example. Our President, President Trump, was a man in recent news was quoted by saying something that could be interpreted as a Phantom Distinction fallacy of argument. "A certificate of live birth is not the same thing by any stretch of the imagination as a birth certificate."This quote came from our Commander and Chief in his demand in seeing our former President's birth certificate, and that man being President Obama. The error that comes from this quote, and what makes it a fallacy of Phantom Distinction, is that he made an argument that  "distinction that ultimately cannot be explained of defended in a meaningful way". In light of the argument that Trump had made in regards to Obama, the idea then stems down to the fact that both a certificate of live birth and a birth certificate are indeed the same thing, one just comes before the other(be it the live birth from the Office of Vital records, then copied onto a birth certificate), and furthermore, the only mistake that can come is if the copyist made a mistake. But if there are not any mistakes, the two documents are clearly identical.
   Yet what makes this fallacy one of the ever most dangerous fallacies, is truly what the Latin root means, and furthermore how it is used, especially in attacking people. In Latin, Ad Hominem,(or Phantom Distinction as we say in English), literally means "to the person", and not only is a fallacy in our previous definition, but furthermore is an argument that practically works to break down an argument from logical and intellectual bases, down to nothing more than personal attacks. Now this is fine and dandy(not really, but for the sake of argument), if it's used in a relative context with only using the term Ad Hominem. If a person is to use the fallacy in the same context, but derive their meaning from the full term "Argumentum ad Hominem", literally meaning argument to the person, the argument, not the person, is, in theory, being attacked. But in most cases within our daily lives, we tend to call out the person, and not the argument, and our grand fallacy of Phantom Distinction shines through.
   However, we in our daily lives see, more and more, we see many important faces within our culture make these same quotes, and it definitely can lead to many(and I mean many), negative connotations about not only the person, but their party in which they affiliate with, or their idea in which they wish to further along. From a once great comedian, now deceased, comedian George Carlin, we are given the quote "The God excuse, the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument".  The quote in question was probably made in fun, as the man again was a comedian, but this by no means cannot be overlooked in the essence of what is being stated; an attack on the man, not the argument. But just as we see a semi-friendly comedian make the quote, so too can a person with a greater purpose and position can also make the fallacy with the same effect. Martin Luther, the long deceased found of the Christian denomination Lutheranism, has also made the same fallacy in a quote within a work of his called "The Table talk of Martin Luther". The quote in question is as follows; " People give ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. Whoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system, which of all systems is of course the very best. This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but the sacred scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, not the earth." Within the quote, a direct attack is made against the astronomers who are, most likely, studying the theories of heliocentricity and geocentricity.
   In conclusion, the fallacy of Phantom Distinction, or Ad Hominem(also known as Argumentum ad Hominem), is a dangerous fallacy that could be made against a person, where the logic within the argument truly does not exist, and is instead an attack against the person the argument is made towards. From this, a fallacy that, if not watched for and taken into direct watch and consideration, could lead us down a dark and barbaric path, as this fallacy leads us to move away from logical and peaceful arguments, and in turn forces us into shoving knives against our co-arguers throats when having arguments.
https://www2.palomar.edu/users/bthompson/Phantom%20Distinction.html(Bentham quote and Trump quote stems from this site, along with definition of Phantom Distinction
http://www.skepticink.com/notung/2012/11/12/what-is-meant-by-ad-hominem/(Latin translations of Ad Hominem and Argumentum ad Hominem come from this)
http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/fallacy(George Carlin and Martin Luther quotes come from this site)

Phantom of the Distinction: A Musical

To be completely honest, I only wanted to make a joke about Phantom of the Opera. This post has little to nothing to do with the musical, please carry on.

The Phantom Distinction fallacy is when people spend time arguing about which term is better than the other, when there is little to no distinction between them. This can often result in a battle for superiority because people often just want to argue and prove their argument is the right one versus openly discussing the fact that there is never really one definition for a word.

One example of this would be males when they discuss they are all for equality of the sexes, but do not self-identify as "feminist", due to the feminine nature of the term. While one could argue that the term "meninist" (which also isn't even a real thing, but I digress) came from, it doesn't accomplish the goal that these males set out for. The term "feminist" did originate as a term for women, but over time it has just become synonymous with the term "equality" rather than anything else. Thus, creating an alternative term is not necessary and provides a nice example of the Phantom Distinction fallacy.

Another example of this can be seen through people who share the same ideology arguing over the best way to discuss their platform. As a person who often agrees with liberal ideals I have seen this most often between liberals. While it is critical to always self-analyze your language and understanding of issues, discussion can quickly become a battle of who is the most "woke" or has the most "progressive ideas". I do agree that open discussion is necessary for change, however, when people within the same group begin to tear each other down rather than rally together and fight it is the opposite of helpful. Instead of arguing about things that we as progressives and liberals are doing "wrong" we need to work together. Often times we are fighting just for the sake of status, rather than helping someone genuinely understand. We are fighting over ideas and terms we don't need to fight about.

Overall, humans as a species will always fight for power and dignity. We are always going to try and prove ourselves right, so I don't believe this will ever really go away. However, it is always important to step back and ask, "Do I really need to argue about this, or are we overall fighting the same fight?" While this post didn't really educate you about the Broadway hit, I hope you can take away some interesting new information!

Logical Fallacy For the Rugged Individual In You

I find it fairly safe to assume that considering the individualist nature of America, that nearly all of my own peers would consider themselves individuals, as opposed to parts of a larger whole, which makes this fallacy all the more common in this population, as opposed to more collectivist societies.

The Fallacy of Rugged Individualism, also referred to as the Appeal to the Select Few, has a rather simple basis.  It is used, often in advertisement to show that an "individual" would choose something that isn't as popular, such as a potential claim that Doc 360 is a soda for people who are "rugged individuals."  Another interesting note is that it can appeal to people who consider themselves more rational than the other members of the population, and can enjoy Doc 360, rather than Dr. Pepper, like the less rational average person.

Another name for the use of this fallacy in advertising is "Snob Appeal."  In a sense, the idea of using your "inner snob" to sell goods pushes this.  For many people, the idea of "standing out from the crowd" or otherwise being distinguished is very enticing.  But the failure to prove the potential of a good to stand out in ways other than being not often purchased is prevalent, and yet the advertising is still functional for our "rugged individuals."

While I find the advertisements to be somewhat laughable in terms of its importance to my own life, this fallacy can be a cause of some more concerning issues.  Take, for example, the scientific community.  This group (generally) spends painstaking hours to prove their theories and ideas.  However, an extreme case of this fallacy would encourage a denial of this "popular opinion" coming out of the scientific community.  Out of this, you can find movements like those who believe in a "Flat Earth," or deniers of any number of strongly evidenced scientific theories on which many things in our world are built.

This fallacy can be central to what people believe, as reflected in the second-option bias, which is a belief that whatever opinion is counter to the public opinion must be the one that is correct.  This is especially obvious in Holocaust deniers and other such conspiracy theorists who consider average people to be "sheep" that follow the popular herd.  This side of the fallacy comes at a cost, as movements of this sort can pick up speed, and there is something about wild ideas that tends to make them difficult to remove from people, regardless of use of proper logic and evidence.

I would ask that the next time someone asks you to "stray from the herd" to take some time to look objectively at what it may appeal to, and whether it is really your "rugged individualism," or if it is perhaps something a bit less unassuming than your taste in soda.



The Broken Window Fallacy

Fallacies, according to Keith and Lundberg, are mistakes and errors in argumentation and reasoning.  Arguments with fallacies either will have conclusions that are not implied by the evidence or the reasoning of the argument does not support its claim.  This results in the argument becoming invalid and often times will create a loss of credibility, damaging the argument’s ethos.

The broken window fallacy was first expressed by a French economist to explain that destruction, such as war, is not beneficial to the economy.  He gives the example of a man’s son breaking a glass window, meaning that the man will then have to pay to replace it.  People then argue that the boy has done the community a service because the man will have to pay a repair man to replace the window.  The repair man will then spend that money, therefore contributing to the local economy.  But the economist points out that by breaking the window the man’s income has been reduced resulting in the man not being able to purchase goods.  While the broken window may help the repair man it reduces the amount being spent on other goods, as well as it being a maintenance cost and not a purchase of goods which would be economically beneficial but instead a maintenance cost doesn’t stimulate production.  This fallacy is then applied towards the idea that going to war stimulates the country’s economy by showing that war causes resources to be focused on goods to destroy things and not going towards industries to help the economy.  This being because the rebuilding after war is mostly that of maintenance costs.

The book talks about no arguments being perfect or airtight but many contain obvious and identifiable errors in reasoning, it continues on saying that part of rhetorical skill involves being able to identify these arguments.  According to lecture, an argument is a combination of a claim and evidence.  An argument is able to be discredited when there is a flaw in a type of reasoning which is a fallacy.  In the broken window fallacy example, it shows that the flaw in the reasoning behind war being economically beneficial is that of looking at the parties directly involved for the short period of time, and not seeing those indirectly related such as a local business that the man would have spent money at if not having to had pay the repair man.  This fallacy discredits the argument, damaging the argument’s ethos.  According to lecture, it is argued that ethos is the most important in an argument, therefore when fallacies discredit these arguments they are causing a lot of harm to its reasoning and the point that is trying to be relayed. 


Fallacy of Phantom Distinction

"A certificate of live birth is not the same thing by any stretch of the imagination as a birth certificate." - Donald Trump

Excuse me sir, what?

In Donald Trump's infamous search for the "long lost" birth certificate of Barack Obama, he made an argument that absolutely everyone could deny. A birth certificate's information is copied directly from a certificate of live birth from the hospital by a public agency, but Trump tried to differentiate between the two in order to be "right." Here, we have a perfect example of the fallacy of phantom distinction.

According to palomar.edu, fallacy of phantom distinction is defined as an argument that "appeals to a distinction that ultimately cannot be explained of defended in a meaningful way."

Counselor to the President of the United States Kellyanne Conway loves a good phantom distinction, and might have created the most impressive one yet. When asked in an interview why the public was given false information about the crowd size at Donald Trump's inauguration, she simply stated that the numbers were not lies, but instead "alternative facts." Facts that aren't true are just that, lies. The "Trump Train" might want to hit the brakes and leave the phantoms on the track. 

Take your ultra-conservative grandparents for example, who "don't believe in gay marriage" but are progressive enough to believe that "gay couples should be allowed civil unions with the same rights as heterosexual couples." So, you mean exactly like marriage, right?

This argument is often used to make beliefs sound "less ugly." While gay marriage is an extremely controversial topic, "civil unions" just sounds a tad less contentious. 

In any argument in which the distinctions have no meaningful differences, you will find yourself a phantom distinction. 


How The Avengers Didn't Stimulate the Economy

Or, alternatively, the parable of the broken window fallacy. 

This theory comes from French economist Frédéric Bastiat, and it is an explanation that “…destruction, and the money spent to recover from destruction, is not actually a net benefit to society.” As Bastiat explains, if a shopkeeper’s son breaks a pane of glass, the witnesses of the event may offer their sympathies, yet also ask “What would become of the glaziers if panes of glass were never broken?”

The statement is meant as a well-meaning condolence; even in your misfortune, there is still benefit, somewhere, for someone, to be had. Because Bastiat was an economist, he quantifies the fallacy. 

In keeping with Bastiat’s parable, if the shopkeeper pays a glazier to replace the glass, he has given the glazier business (or, circulated money) that the glazier would not have had otherwise. The flaw in this thinking is that the money spent fixing the window circulates in the economy. Bastiat explains that this money could have circulated in other, less destructive ways; the shopkeeper could buy new shoes, or a new book. The destruction of the window was not necessary to the economy.

Kinetic Analysis Corp., a prominent disaster-cost prediction and assessment firm, estimated that the Battle of New York, Avengers vs. Chitauri, from the 2012 blockbuster The Avengers, would have done $160 billion dollars worth of damage.

That’s billion. With a ‘B’. Theoretically, the cleanup creates thousands upon thousands of jobs- yay! Growth of a job market! Except, well, that’s not exactly how that works.

The financial damage would be greater than 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the tsunami that racked Japan. That 160 billion would be paid, but considering the net worth of the losses, the benefits don’t add up.

Bastiat looks further than the immediate destruction of the window, takes into account what the long term effects of the destruction add up to, and what he sees is the consequence not just for the shopkeeper, but for the shopkeeper’s village.

So, seeing that destruction will not, in fact, offer a net benefit to society, here’s hoping that aliens don’t come crashing out of a portal opened above any major metropolitan areas anytime soon.


Slothful Induction Fallacy

The slothful induction fallacy denies an inductive arguments' proper conclusion despite strong evidence for interference.  The phrase “despite overwhelming evidence” is an indication that someone is about to commit this fallacy. This fallacy is also called appeal to coincidence. 

For example, after someone got into 10 car accidents within the last month, it is clearly due to their own rashness, negligence, and horrible driving skills. Nevertheless, they insist the accidents were a result of something else- which is very improbable. Hence this fallacy is flawed. These accidents are truly their fault but believe they are just consequences. 

In other words, evidence suggests A results in B, yet the person in question believes B was caused by something other than A. 

Another example of this fallacy is when someone receives a bad grade on a test, they believe the poor grade is due to forgetting to wear their lucky socks, not the fact that they did not prepare for the test. 

The Broken Window Fallacy

The broken window fallacy sounds about as bad as someone throwing a brick at your business and causing a broken window. This whole broken window fallacy starts with some coward throwing a brick through a baker’s window causing it to shatter and break. That is horrible. The owner though must pay a glazier to fix the window, which gives the glazier a profit and he can turn that money into buying new shoes or spend it on something else. Apparently, the local economy was able to get jump started because of the glazier able to spend more money. You could trace the economy’s boost all the way back to the broken window though. Good for the glazier that he was able to make some money but we should never root for something bad to happen so good can overcome.
We hope whenever something bad happens that good can come from it, but we should never cheer on evil. That would be immoral. Making the justification for this scenario would be wrong because that’s saying that the means justify the ends and I don’t believe that’s the case in this situation. Even though the glazier and other folks were able to benefit from some hooligan making a foolish decision doesn’t mean we would ever want this to happen again. We should be happy that others were able to get ahead, but we should be cognizant that they were able to make gains “in spite” of a cowardly act.

Some good questions that would need to be answered would be, “if one person should suffer, but the rest will benefit, is that justified?” I think we would hear answers from both sides on that question. It’s unfortunate event for the baker, but hopefully his business was able to make a quick recovery. Looking back on this situation I would hope the town’s people would wish for nothing like this to happen to the baker’s business even if they were to profit from it.