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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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David Blomstrom

Seasoned Vet

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David Blomstrom


Seasoned Vet

About David Blomstrom

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Fri, Aug 31, 2018 - 02:43 PM

"1,000 People Can't Keep a Secret!"

Please note that this is a HYPOTHETICAL QUESTION. I'm well aware that conspiracies are complex things involving multiple fallacies, lies and other games.

However, I want to focus on one specific fallacy that is commonly used by propagandists to ridicule conspiracy claims.

So imagine we're on another planet - maybe Mars - where there are few distractions. NASA orders 1,000 people living in a space colony to take a certain pill once a day. They're told it will protect them from some local environmental hazard. However, it's really a dangerous experiment that could have lethal consequences.

I'm not talking about rumors or speculation here. In this hypothetical example, there really are 1,000 colonists on Mars, and NASA really is using them as guinea pigs.

Now imagine one person discovers what's going on when he intercepts some messages from NASA to the person in charge of the colony. He angrily tells a colonial official that he knows the colonists are being used as guinea pigs.

The official says, "Are you suggesting a CONSPIRACY? That's crazy, because 1,000 people can't keep a secret."

For the sake of this HYPOTHETICAL EXAMPLE, this official is part of the conspiracy. He gets his orders from NASA, and he knows that 1,000 colonists are being used as guinea pigs. So when he says 1,000 people can't keep a secret, he's effectively lying, because he knows they have no secrets to keep; they're uninformed guinea pigs.

What fallacy is at play here?



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David Blomstrom

Seasoned Vet

Print Sat, Sep 01, 2018 - 02:11 AM
Wow, even this relatively simple example is a can of worms, full of all sorts of possibilities.

First, the official says 1,000 people can't keep a secret. That's a lie, because it is indeed possible for 1,000 people to keep a secret; it happens in the military all the time.

Second, he's effectively lying a second time when he implies the colonists were informed of their status as guinea pigs.

So before we can name the fallacy involved, we need to figure out if we should include the officials' second lie or just focus on his argument. These are the choices:

1. An official says 1,000 people can't keep a secret (LIE).

2. An official implies that 1,000 people were privy to information they could choose to divulge or not divulge (effectively LIE #2).

3. An official implies all the above.

4. The officials' ARGUMENT is based on the false claim that 1,000 people can't keep a secret. Most people who hear the argument would have no idea that the colonists were uninformed.

To me this sounds like hasty generalization or its inverse, slothful induction. The more I think about it, the closer I'm looking at slothful induction.

Can anyone tell me why slothful induction would NOT be a good fit?

Thanks.


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