Monday, February 27, 2017

The Slothful Induction Fallacy: Flawed Reasoning and Dangerous Outcomes

The Slothful Induction fallacy is one that breeds ignorance.
The fallacy concerns situations in which a person fails or refuses to reach the most obvious conclusion that should be reached based on the abundance of evidence available on the subject.
The Slothful Induction Fallacy demonstrates an unwillingness to follow the natural conclusions of evidence, usually due to one of two things: stupidity or vested interests.
            The main flaw in the Slothful Induction Fallacy is the failure of inductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning is the logical process in which premises which are believed to be true most or all of the time, are combined to reach a specific conclusion. The Slothful Induction Fallacy fails spectacularly in that regard. It quite literally revolves around the idea that certain premises aren’t necessary to reach a conclusion, and that a theory can be more useful than concrete evidence. Failure to use some sort of reasoning, in this case inductive reasoning, should be concerning in itself and a major indicator that a person’s claim should be questioned.
The use of the fallacy, also known as Ad Hoc Escapism, tends to be a red flag that a person is not particularly interested in the truth of a matter (i.e. they have an ulterior motive to reach a specific conclusion).
A common example today is the issue of climate change and global warming. Studies have shown that 97% of actively-publishing climate scientists agree that “climate warming trends over the past century are likely due to human activities.” Looking at the following GIFs created by Ed Hawkins, a climate scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS), which documents changes in the Earth’s temperature between 1850 and 2016, a rational person would conclude that, not only is the Earth warming, but that the rising temperatures coinciding perfectly with the start of the Industrial Revolution isn’t simply a coincidence. 

The Slothful Induction Fallacy allows a person ignore the evidence laid out before them, and simply deny the clear correlation between human activity and rising temperatures.
When I participated in debate in high school, we referred to the concept as “extending an argument a priori.” A priori is a Latin phrase which means “from before.” The term is used to describe an argument that “involves deductive reasoning from a general principle to a necessary effect; not supported by fact.” Essentially, an a priori argument reaches a conclusion based on theory, without actually examining the evidence. In the context of debate, it meant someone was unfairly presenting conclusions simply to try and persuade the judge to their side of the debate, despite having little or no evidence to support their claim.

That can clearly be seen as a flaw in reasoning. Ignoring facts and asserting claims and conclusions simply to further a previously decided agenda or viewpoint can result in decision being made that negatively affect large groups of people. Ignoring evidence can be detrimental, and the use of the Slothful Induction Fallacy should not be taken lightly. It can undoubtedly lead to some truly negative outcomes.

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