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04 - Defending Against Logical Fallacies


This page differs from the last one, as it focuses on recognising when people use logical fallacies against you, and methods I have found to combat them.

Allow me to reiterate the original ground rules from earlier:

Scrutinise all information equally, follow the evidence, be open to the possibility of being wrong, and admit it when you are.

I bring this up because this section is dedicated to what it's like arguing against alternative-thinker, which to this day is a surreal experience because it's like arguing with a younger version of myself.

Conspiracies are like a house of cards. In my case, someone pulled a card from the bottom and everything came crashing down. Every claim made in a conspiracy builds on all of the others, the more people you have repeating the claims, the stronger it all becomes. Conspiracy theories are stronger than the sum of their parts.

With that in mind, the first fallacy to recognise is the Composition Fallacy. This is to say that because something in your claim is correct, that the entire claim is true. For instance, if I said, "you can't return or try on underwear in clothes stores. That's because they make them super cheap and scam you for your money so you can't return them once they're opened, and you don't know they aren't good because you can't try them on." You would be right that you can't return them or try them on, but does that prove the whole claim to be correct? Does one element of your argument being correct validate everything else? You can experiment with this for yourself. Take something factually true, and make something up completely random. Is this now true because one part of the claim is correct?  This is relevant to conspiracies because they aren't all completely wrong, there exists a sliver of truth in many of them. For example:

Scientists have studied the effects of full body 2G radiation on male and female rats and mice over a decade and found increased cancer in the hearts of male rats. Now, this doesn't mean 5G causes cancer in all humans and that the 5G conspiracies are all true. In reality, the author of that very study which alternative-thinkers cite as proof, openly said it differs greatly to 5G and doesn't apply, and that their testing wouldn't be appropriate for 5G technology. I know this because I actually read the study and the interview.

Another important one to be aware of is the False Cause fallacy. This stems from not understanding that correlation (things happening at the same time) doesn't mean causation (cause and effect). There's a good page from Towards Data Science that provides more information, but simply saying things happen at the same time doesn't connect them together. This is a mix of the pattern recognition problem from before, but also a lack of understanding of how evidence works, or what evidence actually is. This will be explained later.

I like their examples, but I will give my own. Let's say that spring is incredibly wet and it rains a lot. The sale of umbrellas goes up, and more people have car accidents because of the wet road conditions. The sale of umbrellas might correlate with road accidents, but did one cause the other? Does buying umbrellas cause road accidents? Do road accidents cause more people to buy umbrellas? They correlate, but there is no causation. I typically see conspiracy claims made using this reasoning, but the people doing this don't realise they're typically limiting the factors involved in a situation and, imparting causation from correlation. You can expand this into so many scenarios which is why saying something correlates means that it's evidence or proof, is a false equivalency.

Going back to what I said before about alternative-thinkers using low-quality evidence to support their opinions, the next fallacy is the Anecdotal Fallacy. This describes when people use their or someone else's individual experiences or opinions as a substitute for evidence or proof. The alternative-thinker can share a video of someone claiming the earth is hollow because they personally flew a plane through a hole in the arctic, and found an alien civilisation instead of a rotating metal core. They would allow this to be taken at face value, despite there being a huge body of scientific evidence to support the earth not being hollow.

I will extend this later on when I summarise why all of these are important, but for now, I don't want to make these pages too long.

The final section for this page will include the Begging The Question Fallacy. This is what happens when someone poses a question with the conclusion in it. It's a one-sided way to force your conclusion into a question and is a dishonest way to make an argument, and by extension, a dishonest way to search for the truth.

For example, if you asked me "Do cell phones cause cancer?", that's a perfectly reasonable question to ask. Begging the question would be saying, "Are you alright giving your children cell phones when they cause cancer?" There is no actual question there because the conclusion is trying to be coerced by the asker.

This example also includes the Appeal to Emotion Fallacy. This is when emotion is used as justification for a claim instead of evidence. In the above example, the conversation might go something like this:
"Are you alright giving your children cell phones when they cause cancer?"
"Cell phones don't actually cause cancer. There is no evidence to support this"
"I guess you just hate kids, then".

Not only are these appeals to emotion and begging the question unfair and dishonest, but they're completely devoid of substance. Examine the above for a moment. The initial claim is cell phones cause cancer. The question begged the answer, and the response was "you hate kids". Where is the substance? The topic is "do cell phones cause cancer?" Not "They cause cancer, what are you going to do about it?"


Alternative-thinkers don't typically know these things. They don't understand that what they're doing is dishonest. In their own minds, they're making perfectly rational and educated arguments for things they see as obviously true and undeniable.

I will elaborate on this later on coming pages on how to conduct yourself against an alternative-thinker, but for the sake of defending against these fallacies, keep in mind that the alternative-thinker is unaware of logical fallacies, and even when told, they won't accept it and won't care. Here's what you can do.

1. Learn what these are so you are able to spot them.

2. Recognise when someone uses a logical fallacy and instead of exposing it as a fallacy, use your knowledge of why it's logically inconsistent and dishonest to pose them a question that highlights why their argument is flawed.

3. Keep calm and be nice. Alternative-thinkers are people too, and capable of change. Some people are so very far gone, but I was quite far gone myself and look at me now. I'm this way because people debated me calmly and respectfully no matter what nonsense I posted. And now I'm writing this website.

And finally,

4. Be persistent. You won't change people's minds if you give up after a few tries. Alternative-thinkers are stronger than the sum of their parts. The larger the community, and the greater their status in that community, the harder it is.


To summarise: Be calm, collected, rational, respectful and nice. Recognise logical fallacies and dispel them with clear and simple logic. Be persistent and treat the other person with respect. This is something many science and rational-thinking enthusiasts get horribly wrong. They talk down to and make fun of alternative-thinkers in open conversation, and as such, alienate them further, solidify their views and leave them in the rabbit hole. This is irresponsible in my opinion. Alternative-thinkers, and their opponents alike, get nothing done when they attack and undermine each other. It's short-sighted. Is your intention to change someone's mind, or to make them out to be a fool for a quick laugh? Think before you speak, please. Imagine you're arguing against someone you care about.

Next page: How to conduct yourself against an alternative-thinker.

Defending Against Fallacies Narratedby Bobby
00:00 / 09:01
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