Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy

This fallacy is an interesting one, I like to think of it as the fallacy for braggarts. I mean who doesn't like to boost their self-esteem? Not that there is anything wrong with it, unless you mistakenly (or not) commit this fallacy. The Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy is committed when differences in data are ignored, but similarities are stressed. Either you picked a data cluster to suit your argument or you found a pattern to fit a presumption, both of which commit this fallacy. This derived from an old joke about a man in Texas shooting holes into his barn, then painting targets around the random bullet holes to make it seem like he was a top shot and brags about being a Sharpshooter. Now, I know what you're thinking:

"But Ronaldo, any person with common sense and logic wouldn't ignore the differences in the data! That's a crucial part to proving any point."
Well my fellow reader, I wish we lived in such a perfect world, but the truth of the matter is that we as humans, simply aren't as perfect as we think we are.

Take this as an example. We have a fast food chain, Burgertown. Burgertown does some research on how many units of food they sell around the globe. Of all of those countries, the top 5 are in the western hemisphere. Therefore, Burgertown claims that they are the most popular fast food restaurant in the Western Hemisphere.

The problem here is that clusters in data naturally occur by chance, and looking at just one cluster of information can askew the whole research together. It may seem logical to only focus on what's similar about your research/data, but completely ignoring the differences can be very detrimental to any argument that you're trying to have. We aren't even given comparisons to other data that's important to proving Burgertown's claim, such as how many units of food did McDonald's sell, or Burgerking?

As a good rhetor in today's society one must take into account all aspects of the argument before simply discrediting certain information. This is also why it is important to always be aware of what's going on around you and analyzing it for more than what is just on the surface. If we fail to do so, we could be wrongly mislead by someone who doesn't use proper evidence to prove their claims.


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