Sunday, April 03, 2005

Common types of fallacious techniques used in discussions at the blogosphere

It's not always easy to debate objectively when strong feelings are involved.

I have noticed several kinds of arguments at the blogosphere.

When you argue with true believers (could be both religious and people believing in CAM), some of the arguments could be both unpleasant and invalid.

Some common types of fallacious techniques comes here:

First we have the argument from incredulity. It's an appeal to ignorance, an argument that there is no proof the hypothesis in question is false, like the famous one where theologians argue their hypothesis of an invisible x. It's one even a genius like Galileo could not prove false.
Example I: This is unexplainable (meaning, I can't explain this).

This is the argument from personal incredulity, and it contains the unwritten assumption that the speaker is a genius who should be able to understand everything unless he is missing an assumption. So the genius concludes that some assumption (aliens, psi, whatever) is true.

Example II: Scientists cannot explain this (meaning, as far as I know, science can't explain this).

This variation contains the unwritten assumption that scientists are superhuman geniuses and should be able to understand everything unless they are missing an assumption. In many cases - it is simply not true - scientists do have an explanation, and the speaker just doesn't know it.

Second technique to use is attacking the person instead of dealing with an argument.

Example III: Thanks for the heads up concerning this nut. I went to his websites and wow! What a joke! Is this guy for real.

Example IV: He is creepy on the internet and fucking scary in person.

Example V: You will find out later, when this happens to you, you will realise that I am right. (Galileo-trick: I am a misunderstood genius)

Third is to quote something out of context. When quoting another source, it is important to quote enough of the passage or speech to convey the true meaning. Quoting out of context is a technique that uses isolated statements pulled from their original context in order to (usually) contradict the intended meaning. This technique is used in several different ways to discredit the author of the quote, to discredit the idea itself or to gain credibility for an idea that is not supported by the full context. A slight variation of this technique is selective reasoning, choosing the facts that fit and discarding the rest.

Fourth, another way of arguing is to repeat your point over and over again. This method only works if you're arguing with somebody that is less quick than yourself. A quicker person than yourself will probably come up with some argument which is even more valid than your own, and it won't help you repeating yourself.

If a person uses bad arguments, you can't conclude that the person's opinion is wrong. It is logically possible that someone got his picture of the world right, but gives hundreds of wrong, illogical, and ignorant reasons for it.

Since science is about the logic of the argument, I can't logically conclude that the opinion of true believers is wrong, only their arguments are wrong or invalid. Using personal attacks is also considered to be an invalid "argument".

See who links to your web site.