Logical Fallacy #21: The Fallacy Fallacy

This logical fallacy focuses on the dismissing of outcomes due to a poorly constructed, or ignorant presentation, of the evidence or logic to support the outcome. Frequently this fallacy is mistaken for using a logical fallacy incorrectly or too rigorously, but it has more to do with throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The baby (the result) is still correct and useful, even if it is surrounded by dirty water (poor evidence and or poor logic and or not being an expert in the topic). It is important to recognise the outcome despite these factors.

I may perform a series of poorly conceived experiments to provide evidence of the strength of gravity. I may even get an accurate result despite the poor construction of my experiments. The correct result should not be dismissed just because of my poor experiments. Instead my experiment should be dismissed because of my poor experiment and the support of the accurate result should be negated. The Earth’s gravity is 9.8 m/s^2 at the surface, regardless of how poorly I experimented to get it. My poor experiment could also have ended up with 5 m/s^2 at the Earth’s surface, which is wrong and can be dismissed, or the experiment may have shown that I only get 9.8 m/s^2 if I stand on my left foot (the left foot part can be dismissed). If this experiment was the only one testing the Earth’s gravity, then the accurate result of 9.8 m/s^2 can be questioned because it is in isolation – so the 9.8 or the 5 have equal weighting. Experiments on Earth’s gravity are not uncommon though, so it can be quickly identified that 9.8 m/s^2 is accurate despite the poor experiment. The Logical Fallacy Fallacy comes in when I attempt to say that clearly Earth’s gravity is not 9.8 m/s^2 due to this poor experiment, despite the mountains of other experiments that actually demonstrate this is accurate.

Similarly to the poor experiment version, I may attempt to use logic to demonstrate that the sky is blue. The current leader of this country is an idiot, therefore the sky is blue in the daytime on a clear day. In this case, the logical fallacy used here is  a non-sequitur, attempting to link the idiocy of the current countries leader to the colour of the sky. Whether the countries leader is an idiot or not, or if the leadership were to change to someone else or not, or if there were not leadership in the country has absolutely no bearing on the colour of the sky. Yet the sky on a clear day is blue. Dismissing this as false because the supportive premise was faulty is not accurate and is the second example of a Logical Fallacy Fallacy.

I am not an expert on climate science. Nor am I an expert on biology, geology and a host of other sciences used to determine the current theory of Global Warming as part of Climate Change. I have a slightly above average laymans knowledge of this field, enough to know that the threat is real and that we should act. I can generally spot bogus anti-climate-change claims. Not being able to spell out the specific mechanisms and evidence supporting the conclusion of the vast majority of the worlds experts on this topic does not mean that they are wrong, it merely means that I am not an expert. This form of the Logical Fallacy Fallacy is again attempting to dump the baby (the mountains of evidence supporting global warming) because of the dirty water (my lack of specific expertise). It is a common tactic of the non-believer to find someone who is not an expert and dismiss the findings of the experts because the non-expert cannot adequately explain to them the science behind the evidence and conclusion.

 

Logical Fallacy Fallacy