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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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Dan Bailey

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Dan Bailey


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About Dan Bailey

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denialism
factual falsity
Mon, Mar 11, 2019 - 01:32 AM

“Denialism” Popular Political Label. List of Atributable Fallicies?

“Denialism” is becoming a very popular political term used by accusers to labels others who they believe are denying a belief or position that they define as a “fact”. Most common use is associated with “Climate Change Deniers.” (Fun fact; a CA legislator as introduced a bill that would make climate denial a crime for specific entities). But “denialism” has also been used regularly by those who accuse others of stating the subjective as objective (I.e. feelings equate to logic).

Denialism, begs the foundational definition of “what is the fact that is being denied.” But “facts” evolve as human knowledge expands and concretizes ideas that were at one time theories. Even science, which is supposedly based on rational observation and objective proof evolves from competing theories to what is commonly accepted as proven truth - yet even factualized status of such “truth” were arrived at by scientific consensus.

But how does this differ from the process of common consensus belief about what is factual when it comes to serving as the foundation of a claim that something is “true” - in fact, so undeniable true, that anyone who does not ascribe to it is a denier. At one time, the civilized world believed the earth was flat. Those who didn’t believe that could have been called “flat world deniers.” Today, anyone who doesn’t believe the world is round would be called a denier. But at what point does the believer of the truth become a denier of the truth.

Assuming there is a universal truth (I.e. A=A as Aristotle and later Rand referred to it in short hand), what is the logically defendable path to the truth. If it is an evolution of consensus in the minds of men, any view of any fact would seem to be a moving target, which by definition means it’s false. If true, can “denialism” have any validity when it can never be anchored by fact. P.S. I know the arguement some make that nothing can ever be proven as fact since reality is filter through the flawed mind of men. That nothing can be known to an absolute certainty. But this would seem to have its own logic flaws particularly if practicality is the measure of meaning rather than mere sophistry.

Can you help me highlight some of the logic fallacies in “denialism”, and/or my own logic in thinking about it?



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Michael Chase Walker
Screenwriter, producer, mythoclast

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Michael Chase Walker

Screenwriter, producer, mythoclast

Master Contributor

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 Wed, Mar 20, 2019 - 06:36 PM
"But at what point does the believer of the truth become a denier of the truth?"

I think what you're talking about is a human cognitive mechanism adapted for other purposes rather than a specific
error in reasoning or logical fallacy: Denialism, belief, misbelief, agency detection, animism, idolatry, mythology, etc.

It is something we all do; be it putting off a nagging cough or dismissing a potential threat as harmless. We weigh possibilities
and give credence to some while discounting others.

Steven Pinker explains this reactive bias thusly:

"Challenge a person’s beliefs, and you challenge his dignity, standing, and power. And when those beliefs are based on nothing but faith, they are chronically fragile. No one gets upset about the belief that rocks fall down as opposed to up, because all sane people can see it with their own eyes.? Not so for the belief that babies are born with original sin or that God exists in three persons or that Ali is the second-most divinely inspired man after Muhammad. When people organize their lives around these beliefs, and then learn of other people who seem to be doing just fine without them–or worse, who credibly rebut them–they are in danger of looking like fools. Since one cannot defend a belief based on faith by persuading skeptics it is true, the faithful are apt to react to unbelief with rage, and may try to eliminate that affront to everything that makes their lives meaningful."

NO, You are not entitled to your opinion. You are only entitled to what you can argue for.” http://theconversation.com/no-youre-not-entitled-to-your-opinion-9978 via @ConversationEDU


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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 Mon, Mar 11, 2019 - 07:25 AM
Well thought out and articulated question, Dan!

But how does [denialism] differ from the process of common consensus belief about what is factual when it comes to serving as the foundation of a claim that something is “true” - in fact, so undeniable true, that anyone who does not ascribe to it is a denier.

Since scientific facts are provisional and often the result of consensus, they are represented with a confidence level (percentage of confidence in the conclusion). The larger the number of studies that support the consensus, the more scientific organizations that publicly support the consensus, the more time spent researching, the higher the confidence level... the more those who reject the consensus (for the wrong reasons... explained below) are engaged in denialism.

Denianism goes beyond just denying facts; it is a psychological condition/mechanism that the person uses to avoid a distressing or uncomfortable reality. For example, people can simply be ignorant of the facts or led astray by misinformation. They can be victims of brainwashing, etc. While these people are often labeled "deniers," it is more of a colloquial use of the term. Often, like in the case of the flat earthers or other conspiracy theorists, the drive for being part of a movement that exposes the "truth" and fighting the lies of an evil adversary (government, scientists, big pharma, the Illuminati, etc.) instills a sense of importance and a life purpose so powerful that the acceptance of facts that go against their narrative would destroy them (psychologically). In many cases, the denialism is linked to an ideology, often religious or political where accepting the facts would mean that the individual's religious or political group would be wrong on the issue, which would mean a blow to their own ego. So it is not only about the level of consensus of the fact being denied, it has to do with the reasoning behind the denial.

At one time, the civilized world believed the earth was flat. Those who didn’t believe that could have been called “flat world deniers.” Today, anyone who doesn’t believe the world is round would be called a denier. But at what point does the believer of the truth become a denier of the truth.

The belief that the earth was flat was a result of limited observation and "common sense." The fact of the earth being spherical was the result of math and science. Like we see see today, one groups uses the scientific method and peer review to arrive at a conclusion, and the other group uses rhetoric and politics. Again, it is not just the consensus, it is the reasoning behind the consensus that really matters.

A couple of related articles I wrote on this topic:

Conspiracy Theorists: Although They Might Be Right, Why It's Reasonable To Assume They're Wrong

The Psychology Behind the Anti-Vaccine Movement

The Problem with Relying on Your Own Common Sense and Ignoring Scientific Consensus




Bo Bennett, PhD
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Colin P

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Colin P


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Print Tue, Mar 19, 2019 - 06:03 PM
Denialism
If I understand correctly your main question is about denialism as a label and potential logical fallacies arising from its use. In reasoning it is better to avoid labels as they may take you into a debate grounded on an ad hominem strategy with fallacious reasoning arising.

People use labels as shorthand tokens for entities that may in fact be multi-faceted. But as a communication medium labels have weaknesses. Communication involves transmitting and receiving, how do we know that people transmitting and people receiving have a common understanding of the labels they use? For some people some labels may be neutral, for others they may be biased. Moreover in usage a label may develop a bias in the perception of some people whilst the entity for which it is a token in fact remains unchanged; or the opposite may occur, the label may remain unchanged in usage whilst the entity for which it is a token in fact changes. Better therefore to avoid the term "denier" and instead discuss the matters denied. Likewise better to avoid the term "accepter" and instead discuss the matters accepted.

Unless of course you want to pre-load the argument one way or another, in which case labelling someone a denier or an accepter will be an appealing course of action!

Universal Truth
You ask a second question, "Assuming there is a universal truth... what is the logically defendable path to the truth?" In point of fact I think this question contains the kernel of its own logical fallacy, namely that just because there may be a universal truth does not mean that there must be a logically defendable path to that truth. In other words, why assume you can know everything? As the Bible says of God, "How unsearchable his judgements, and his paths beyond tracing out."


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