The Internet Will Bullshit You

A brief guide to help you spot morons, liars and charlatans

In trying to figure out what is true and what is a steaming pile of horse manure, it's really useful to be able to ask yourself if you're falling for any of the following crocks of crap.

 

A logical fallacy is an error in reasoning.

 

The Anecdote - The fallacy of using personal experience or an isolated example rather than a sound argument and compelling evidence. The "it worked for me" argument.

The Straw Man - Misrepresenting an opponents argument and attacking that position. Think of it as putting words into your opponents mouth and attacking those. 

The Appeal To Authority - The false belief that because a person in an position of authority believes something, it must be true. Think Dr Oz.

The Slippery Slope - Asserting that if action A happens then action Z will automatically happen as a result. It therefore must not be allowed to occur. The "where will it end" arguments. e.g. "If we allow these people into the country then every Tom, Dick and Harry will come as well."

The Ad Hominem - Fuck You. You're too dumb to get it.

 The Confirmation Bias - The tendency to see evidence that agrees with your pre-existing point of view and ignore or discredit evidence that goes against it.

The Hindsight Bias - The tendency to see the past as proof of your ideas by looking back at what you've learned and assuming that you knew them or believed them to be true all along. Backdating your opinions.

The Texas Sharpshooter - The tendency to see patterns where they may not exist. A very human trait.

The Cherry Picker - Misrepresenting the body of data by only selecting the evidence that agrees with your hypothesis and ignoring all evidence to the contrary. 

The Appeal To Novelty - Kneeling Swiss Ball Rope Chop. The idea that because something is different or new, that it must be good or better.

The Burden Of Proof - Claiming that the opposition must provide proof that your claim is incorrect, rather than providing the proof yourself. Unicorns exist on Mars, prove me wrong.

The Red Herring - An attempt to deviate from the topic at hand by introducing a separate argument. Anytime you have an argument with a loved one. Red Herrings fly out from directions you didn't know existed. 

The Appeal To Nature - Implies that naturally occurring phenomena are inherently correct or good because they appear in nature. Associates Naturalness and Goodness. Anything that comes out of The Food Babe's mouth. (That link is a good one - check it out).

The Appeal To Ignorance - Assuming that a claim is true because it has not been or cannot be proven false. Or vice versa.


The Appeal To Tradition - The assumption that because something has been a certain way for a long time, that there must be something to it. "If it was good enough for.....it's good enough for you".

The Tu Quoque (You Too) - An appeal to hypocrisy. Appealing to the idea that because a person fails to act consistently with the argument they are making, that the argument is therefore wrong or should be dismissed. The You Can Talk approach to discourse.

The Bandwagon (Appeal To The Majority) - The assumption that if a large number of people believe something there must be some truth to it. 

The Argument To Moderation - The assumption or argument that the middle ground or compromise between two positions is the correct one.

The Hasty Generalisation - The fallacy of coming to a broad statement from a small amount of data. Basically the Daily Mail's front page. And back page. And the stuff on the inside. Also Fox News. 

The Causal Oversimplification - The fallacy that there must be a simplistic answer or solution to a problem, that may in fact have many contributing factors. "Diet drinks cause obesity". "Sitting is the reason we're overweight".

Begging The Question - A fallacy in which the premise includes the claim that the conclusion is true. "God exists because the Bible says it is true. And I know this because the Bible is the word of God." See also; Circular Reasoning.

Moving The Goalposts - A fallacy in which evidence that is presented in response to a specific claim is dismissed and some other or greater level of evidence is demanded.

The Proof By Assertion - I am right. I am right. I am right. I am right. I am right. I am right. I am right. I am right. I am right. I am right. I am right. I am right. I am right. I am right. I am right. I am right. So there.

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc - Latin for 'after this, therefore because of this.' Confusing correlation with causation. 

The Hitler Card (Godwin's Law) - An attempt to associate the opponent of the argument with a universally disliked figure. 

The No True Scotsman - A type of moving the goalposts. Qualifies a statement by asserting that the definition doesn't allow for counterexamples by refuting them. E.g. "No Scotsman puts sugar in his porridge", "My Uncle likes sugar in his porridge", "But no true Scotsman puts sugar in his porridge". 

The Fallacy Of Presupposition - Making an argument upon ideas that are presupposed to be true but may not be proven or accepted. "I know I need to cut out bread." (May presuppose carbohydrates cause fat gain or that gluten is dangerous).

The False Dichotomy - Presenting only two potential options to a problem that may in fact have multiple solutions. This is the opposite to the Appeal To Moderation. 

The Fallacy Of Division - The assumption that because one part behaves in a certain way, all parts behave in the same way. 

The Fallacy Fallacy - It is possible to poorly argue a true point, in the same way it is possible to persuasively argue a false point. The poor argument put forth doesn't negate the potential for the statement to be true.

Personal Incredulity - Because you find a statement difficult to understand, it must be untrue. "Are you really dumb enough to think that bugs just turned into human beings through random chance?"

The Loaded Question - Asking a question that has a presumption built into it that makes your opponent seem inherently guilty. "Do you still beat your beat your dog?" 

 

There are many more of these and are such a frequent part of every day life that we tend not to notice them until they are pointed out to us. If you can think of other major fallacies that occur that I've missed off this list, please air your views. This is a place where we should all be striving to learn and improve. That includes me. 

For more, check these guys out:

http://www.logicalfallacies.info

http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/

http://www.theskepticsguide.org/resources/logical-fallacies