Another 6 Minutes of Logical Catastrophes

More Catastrophes!

In the article 6 minutes of logical catastrophes, a series of pseudo-reasoning is broken down and analyzed. However, 6 minutes is far from enough to introduce all kinds of flawed reasoning we may encounter, and that’s why this article is written — to help you spot and shatter deluding arguments.

The Logical Catastrophes

False Hypocrisy

If vitamin spplements are really beneficial for us, why don’t the doctor takes them himself?

This kind of argument manipulates the emotion of the listener. The doctor looks hypocritical all in a sudden — why would he recommend something that he doesn’t use?

The assumption behind the doubt is: if something really works, why don’t people suggesting it actually use it. Is this assumption true? Or in other words, does one’s suggestion always have to align with his behavior?

Not really, because suggestions vary with the situation, and the situation varies all the time. In simpler words, no suggestion works for everyone in all circumstances, so it shouldn’t be surprising that one’s advice is not consistent with his action.

Vitamin supplements may be beneficial for people who never eat anything nutritious, but they may not bring anything extra to people who have been having healthy meals, like the doctor.

A piece of advice may apply to the audience but not the speaker — this is not hypocrisy, no advice works for everyone.

Uncertainty=Wrong?

There is no proof of the economy deteriorating. How can we say it is in a downtrend?

‘Proof’ indicates certainty, it is hard to pin down without a bit of doubt how well the economy is doing for two reasons: ‘economy’ is a vague term, at least for most people; also, there is no simple indicator that reflects the economy without any error. Uncertainty, even just a little bit, disqualifies any argument from being a proof.

Does that mean we should believe that the economy is doing good? Probably not, because it is not proven either — just like how we can’t prove it to be declining.

What should we believe then? Is having an opinion illogical?

In fact, we don’t need to complete certainty to be logical. It is logical to believe something that is backed by sufficient evidence, even though it is not certain. Given that they don’t lie, if 8 out of 10 economists assert the decline, you should probably believe so. Uncertainty doesn’t make things wrong — after all, it is not illogical to believe in the weather report.

Analogy

Both alcohol and digital games are used for entertainment and are addictive. Digital games should have an age limit too if people have banned alcohol.

Analogy is a popular technique for arguing and debating for a very simple reason: its persuasiveness is unmatched. There are very few techniques that work this well while being so simple to use.

Unfortunately, analogy isn’t really logical reasoning.

There is an implicit assumption hidden in every analogy: if something is similar in one way, they must be similar in every way. This is apparently false: if two people are of the same gender, does it imply that they are of the same age? God no.

In the example, the similarities between alcohol and digital games — addictiveness and purpose — are compared; but what about the other aspects? Alcohol abuse is instantly baneful to our physical health, while despite its possible harm, digital games are much less destructive to our body. This remains unmentioned in the fallacious analogy, which in turn inhibits a fair and logical perspective.

Analogy is more of a strategy for explanation than for arguing: it makes abstruse concepts understandable, but it makes no promise for the content to be true. This is probably a reason why Elon Musk said ‘it’s important to reason from first principles rather than by analogy’.

‘You don’t have the weight’

Mr.Smith said we should change the law, but who cares? He is a high school dropout.

Admit it, we have seen numerous arguments like this, sometimes convinced by them, but we know we shouldn’t if we stop for a moment and think.

The reasoning here is ‘if someone does not finish his education, his opinion is probably false’, which has nothing to do with the topic being argued. Whether the law should be changed or not should be completely independent of Mr.Smith’s education.

In other words, this type of criticism is merely avoiding the argument. Unless Mr.Smith thinks his education makes his argument sound, any attempt to attack him is mere blustering. But a lamentable phenomenon is that — whenever someone famous launches an acerbic remark like the one toward Mr.Smith, people get affected, usually without listening to what the poor Mr.Smith has said.

The rule is not complicated, though: if an argument is valid, it doesn’t matter if a bird says it; if an argument is illogical, it doesn’t matter if an expert squad said it.

‘But it’s bad!’

Nuclear plants may turn the entire city into a cataclysm, every life will be tortured by the uncontrolled mutation, and the authority wants to build one here? No way.

This kind of argument is very deluding, it works by stating a drawback and using rhetorics to back it up.

However, one drawback is never sufficient to disdain something. Everything has a negative side: vehicles pollute the air, constructions create tons of waste, even talking carries a risk of debilitating a relationship; does that mean we should ban cars, sleep on the grass, and never talk again? Even so, the things we do are still negative in some ways.

Rhetorics embellish this argument, but we can see how vulnerable it is when reduced to a naked form — ‘nuclear reactor comes with a risk of a nuclear accident’. It is possible that an explosion will turn the entire city into a calamity, but what exactly is the chance? The argument is not wrong, but what is the chance?

The argument is not wrong, but it is far from adequate. Simply exaggerating the drawbacks is not called logic.

‘I’ve lost enough, it’s time for my winning streak’

I’ve lost the coin flip 5 times in a row; since the coin is fair, I should be winning this time.

We know there is a 50% chance for a fair coin to land on the heads, and a 50% chance to land on the tails. Doesn’t that make it more likely to land on one side if it has landed on the other 5 times in a row?

Though sometimes remains tacit, this thought is the clockwork driving many gamblers to put their money on the table. However, the coin doesn’t work that way — it has no memory.

A coin does not remember what side it landed on, it does not say ‘I have to be heads now considering I seem to have been tails for too many times in a row.’ How the coin will land is independent of how it has landed, in other words, the past record of a fair coin tells nothing. The coin doesn’t adjust itself to make it land on both sides equally likely.

Final Words

Reading how the logical catastrophes are debunked is fun, until they visit you.

Whether being aware of it or not, a good amount of arguments we see every day are not valid, whether it is from the internet, the radio, the newspaper, your family, or your peers. They have no obligation to ensure everything they say is perfectly true and valid.

But nothing alter our decisions and attitude more than these sources of information, if you want to act rational, you need to expose them yourself. Possess anything logically first before acting upon it.

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