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Welcome! This is the place to ask the community of experts and other fallacyophites (I made up that word) if someone has a committed a fallacy or not. This is a great way to settle a dispute! This is also the home of the "Mastering Logical Fallacies" student support.


Dr. Bo's Criteria for Logical Fallacies:

  1. It must be an error in reasoning not a factual error.
  2. It must be commonly applied to an argument either in the form of the argument or in the interpretation of the argument.
  3. It must be deceptive in that it often fools the average adult.

Therefore, we will define a logical fallacy as a concept within argumentation that commonly leads to an error in reasoning due to the deceptive nature of its presentation. Logical fallacies can comprise fallacious arguments that contain one or more non-factual errors in their form or deceptive arguments that often lead to fallacious reasoning in their evaluation.

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Connor Emsley

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Connor Emsley


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death
energy drinks
fallacy
health
what fallacy is this
Fri, Nov 30, 2018 - 09:35 AM

What kind of fallacy would this be?

So my mind was racing today, and I made up this argument.

Mother: No, I won’t let you drink energy drinks. There have been cases of people dying of heart problems after drinking them!
Son: Well, you are more likely to get killed by your spouse than by energy drinks, so by your logic, I shouldn’t be getting married!

I know someone committed a fallacy, but I do not know the name of the fallacy/fallacies that were committed.

Could someone explain for me what fallacy/fallacies were committed?



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Bo Bennett, PhD
Author of Logically Fallacious

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Bo Bennett, PhD

Author of Logically Fallacious

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About Bo Bennett, PhD

Bo's personal motto is "Expose an irrational belief, keep a person rational for a day. Expose irrational thinking, keep a person rational for a lifetime."  Much of his charitable work is in the area of education—not teaching people what to think, but how to think.  His projects include his book, The Concept: A Critical and Honest Look at God and Religion, and Logically Fallacious, the most comprehensive collection of logical fallacies.  Bo's personal blog is called Relationship With Reason, where he writes about several topics related to critical thinking.  His secular (humanistic) philosophy is detailed at PositiveHumanism.com.
Bo is currently the producer and host of The Humanist Hour, the official broadcast of the American Humanist Association, where he can be heard weekly discussing a variety of humanistic issued, mostly related to science, psychology, philosophy, and critical thinking.

Full bio can be found at http://www.bobennett.com
Print Fri, Nov 30, 2018 - 12:32 PM
So here is my take on this:

Mother: No, I won’t let you drink energy drinks. There have been cases of people dying of heart problems after drinking them!

First, I give the mother credit for giving a reason! My mother was a big abuser of the just because fallacy. As for the mother's reason, she is making a claim that can be factual or not. Even though this is beyond the scope of this site, I think we can safely say that her claim is true (i.e., let's assume causality). To be true, there just needs to be two cases of people dying of heart problems as a direct (proven) result of the energy drinks. People die of all kinds of weird things every day, including drinking too much water, so this is not at all unbelievable.

The mother COULD BE making an well-reasoned evaluative judgement based on the information she has, which might be factual or might not be. Here are the factors that she should be considering:

What is proven risk of drinking these (in terms of percentages)?
How does this risk relate to other things she lets the son do?
How solid is the research?
Has this been adequately researched?
What would the son lose by NOT drinking these?


Basically, we are talking about a cost/benefit analysis based on actual data rather than cognitive biases (such as the availability heuristic). The problem is, her reason given does not reflect this. She is focused only on the potential cost.

Now for the son:

Son: Well, you are more likely to get killed by your spouse than by energy drinks, so by your logic, I shouldn’t be getting married!

Same as with the mother, the claim "Well, you are more likely to get killed by your spouse than by energy drinks" is either factually true or not. Since we gave the mother the benefit of the doubt, let's do the same for the son and assume this is factually true (it sure seems like it would be, but "seems" is not always good enough). Now, in the second part, the son is drawing a conclusion from the premises, although some might be implied. Let's expand his argument (some assumptions being made here):

P1. Activity X kills Y percent of people.
P2. Y percent it too high of a risk to justify activity X.
P3. Activity Z is even more risky than Activity X.
C. Therefore, activity Z it too risky to be justified.

The above looks good, but it exposes a flaw in the mother's reason given. Recall that the mother gave a reason that only included the risk and not the benefit. The son essentially use a reductio ad absurdum to expose the flaw in the mother's argument. Risk is only one side of the equation.

In summary, I wouldn't call "fallacy" on either the mother or the son, but I would say that the mother has made a weak argument.
Bo Bennett, PhD
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Abdulazeez Alabbasi

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Abdulazeez Alabbasi


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Print Fri, Nov 30, 2018 - 09:59 AM
Let's see!
When the mother says "There have been cases of people dying of heart problems after drinking them!", she can be guilty of the questionable cause fallacy (https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/148/Questionable-Cause) or the oversimplified cause fallacy. (https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/91/Oversimplified-Cause-Fallacy). The mere fact that some fraction of people died after drinking energy drinks shows a correlational link, not necessarily a causal link. Also, if it is only the case for "cases of people" and not the majority of people, it could be the case that energy drinks are only a contributing factor combined with other factors (those people's heart health, other health conditions that are incompatible with drinking energy drinks, etc) that cause death, those other factors being highly unlikely to be available in her son. Also, since the majority of healthy people don't die after drinking an energy drink, she can be guilty of an appeal to possibility fallacy (https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/41/Appeal-to-Possibility) where she's demanding her son's choices to be based on possibilities, not high likelihoods and probabilities.
Now for the son! His response "Well, you are more likely to get killed by your spouse than by energy drinks, so by your logic, I shouldn’t be getting married!" can be seen as a good response that attempts to show the irrational fear of the mother and the absurd conclusions her logic may lead to, but the mother can say that her son is committing a false equivalence fallacy (https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/245/False-Equivalence) because marriage (in the mother's opinion) is a necessary action to take and can yield many benefits to the person that outweigh the small likelihood of the person getting killed by their spouse, whereas energy drinks can be completely avoided without any advantages to miss from not drinking them.


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Jim Tarsi

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Print Fri, Nov 30, 2018 - 10:29 AM
I think the mother is seeing correlation and claiming causation. People drink energy drinks; some people who drink energy drinks die. The mother doesn't state any facts supporting a link between drinking energy drinks and dying. There are many other possible explanations.

I don't know what fallacy the son is making, other than just using the definition of "spouse." By definition, if you don't have a spouse, the chances of your being killed by a spouse are 0.

At this point, the mother might clarify: "OK, smarty-pants, the risks of dying are greater if you drink an energy drink than if you don't." (This is still the same correlation/causation fallacy, unless there is data to support a causation.) "How about we expand your example to include people in relationships as well as married people. That eliminates any definition issues. Is your assertion still true; are people more likely to be killed by someone in a relationship with them than not?"

Hopefully both parties are learned enough in logic to make these extensions of their arguments.


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Michael Chase Walker
Screenwriter, producer, mythoclast

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Michael Chase Walker

Screenwriter, producer, mythoclast

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About Michael Chase Walker

Michael Chase Walker is an actor, author, screenwriter, producer, and a former adjunct lecturer for the College of Santa Fe Moving Images Department, and Dreamworks Animation. His first motion picture was the animated classic, The Last Unicorn.
Michael was an in-house television writer for the hit television series: He-Man, She-Ra, Voltron, and V, the Series. In 1985, he was appointed Director of Children's programs for CBS Entertainment where he conceived, shaped and supervised the entire 1985 Saturday Morning line-up: Wildfire, Pee Wee's Playhouse, Galaxy High School, Teen Wolf, and over 10
Print Fri, Nov 30, 2018 - 11:52 AM
The mother's claim is not fallacious at all, she's merely warning her son of a possible danger. A danger that can be medically substantiated: See Energy-Drink Habit Sends Man to ER with Heart Problems https://shar.es/aa5fU6 via @LiveScience

The son however responds with several notable fallacies: Weak analogy. Non sequitur, a whole school of red herrings and an irrelevant goal or function. (A fallacy of distraction that irrelevantly critiques an idea for failing to do something it never intended to do) There's zero connection between the mother's warning about energy drinks to the son's aspiration for marriage.

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lun

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lun


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Print Sun, Dec 02, 2018 - 05:10 AM
I think the mother has committed the fallacy of converse accident and the son petitio principii


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