Flaws of the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy
When first reading the title of this blog post; you are probably thinking what is this fallacy? At first I thought I have never even heard of this, but little did I know that I have read and heard these fallacies many times. For those who don’t know what the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy is; it is when there is a conclusion about a topic that isn’t necessarily correct. In other words, this fallacy is created when differences are ignored, but similarities are emphasized. The data that is similar forms a false conclusion than what actually exists. Personally, I think the best way to understand this fallacy is to look at examples of it being used.
This example may or may not be something you have heard. I saw it on Facebook the other day, and I didn’t realize it was a fallacy at all. It starts off by saying that “Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy were both presidents of the United States elected 100 years apart. Both were shot and killed by assassins who were known by three names with 15 letters, John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald, and neither killer would make it to trial. Spooky, huh? It gets better. Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy, and Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln. They were both killed on a Friday while sitting next to their wives, Lincoln in the Ford Theater, Kennedy in a Lincoln made by Ford…”, and there is more. Basically we are given all of the similarities between Lincoln and Kennedy, but did you notice that there were no differences stated?
To elaborate a little bit more on what this fallacy is, another way of thinking about it is the reverse of cause and effect. The question/argument stated is asked and confirmed with the same information, so there is basically no way this could be wrong, right? A person will ignore the things not supporting their argument, and only state the information supporting their argument. This fallacy is named after a Texan who shot at the side of a bar. After he shoots at the bar he paints around the holes, and makes it look like he shot the bullseye multiple times. The Texan seems like a great shot because of the appearance of the target, but the appearance is from the holes he made after he shot them.
The reason this is a flaw in reasoning is because if only the similarities are emphasized we aren’t being told all of the facts available. If we were told the differences as well as the similarities; I don’t think the argument provided would seem as clear as day. Another flaw is that we tend to ignore the random chance of things. To put this in another way some things are random, but are then given a meaningful cause when they are just random things. There is no reason for these things to have a meaning, solely because they’re random. Things can appear by chance, but they don’t always have a relationship.
McRaney, David. "The Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy." YOU ARE NOT SO SMART A Celebration of Self Delusion. N.p., 11 Sept. 2010. Web. 1 Mar. 2017. <https://youarenotsosmart.com/2010/09/11/the-texas-sharpshooter-fallacy/>.
Rugnetta, Mike. "Re: The Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy | Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studios." Video blog comment. YouTube. N.p., 7 Jan. 2015. Web. 1 Mar. 2017.