Logical Fallacy Question Time

Logical Fallacy Question Time

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Recently a reader asked us the below question-

 

“I would like to know what fallacy this is: It cannot be proven that there are not other life forms living in the caves of Mars, therefore I cannot believe that there is no life on Mars.”

 

This is known as the “Argument from Ignorance” (in Latin: argumentum ad ignorantiam) or “Appeal to Ignorance” and is a type of informal logical fallacy. I actually listed this as one of the most common logical fallacies in my opinion in a previous article. I will go into a little more detail here and also share some other examples that others and I have come across. But first we can break down the example you provided.

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Thoughts out loud: Anti-intellectualism and the issue of Vaccination

Thoughts out loud: Anti-intellectualism and the issue of Vaccination

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Recently I was asked by a friend in Indonesia why there seems to be a growing rejection of science-based medical marvels such as vaccination in my own highly developed country of Australia. This is actually something that concerns me greatly, as both an educator and someone involved in medical research applicable to vaccine development. Below I give a recount of my reply, which are merely my thoughts on the matter, and should be seen as me “thinking out loud”. No doubt, in the future, I shall revisit this issue with more scholastic rigor.

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A Call for Scientists and the Scientifically Minded to Enter Politics

A Call for Scientists and the Scientifically Minded to Enter Politics

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As a citizen or resident of any country I think it is highly important to do your best to learn at least the basics about the political system that governs over you, and of course if you want to meaningfully comment on a state of affairs

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Top 5 Kuhnian Revolutions and Paradigm Shifts in Malaria Research

Top 5 Kuhnian Revolutions and Paradigm Shifts in Malaria Research

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Thomas Kuhn was among the leading figures in the philosophy of science during the 20th century (along with other greats such as Karl Popper and Ludwig Wittgenstein). He popularized the use of the word paradigm,

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Hume, Kant and Asking for Evidence.

Hume, Kant and Asking for Evidence.

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David Hume

 

Lately I have been reading a lot of Hoax Slayer and using the associated information for responding to highly incorrect information that people have been re-posting on Facebook. It seems many people do not even bother with a quick two second Google search to check the veracity of most claims. This takes very little effort and intelligence to do for run of the mill posts (so there’s little excuse for not checking), especially compared to proper academic discourse which will require many years of formal education, knowledge of the published literature and relevant experience in the area being discussed.

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Funding Magic: Alternative Medicine

Funding Magic: Alternative Medicine

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magic pic

One of the most alarming trends is the global rise in tax-payer funded magic, particularly in developed countries1. No, this is not a joke, in nations such as Australia and America there has been an increase in government-funded research and care programs into supplements, complementary and alternative medicine (also known as SCAM, a term coined by the fellows at Science Based Medicine). But before I delve into this further, I should define a few terms, reflect on the general problems of giving SCAM’s both attention and money, then give you some specific examples and why they are particularly problematic.

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Cognitive Biases and “Doing Your Own Research”, Part 3 – Memory Errors and Biases

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Finally the third installment of my cognitive bias articles is finished. I must apologize for the delay I have been so busy learning cloning techniques for my new research and dealing with many students, that when I have had free time it has been taken up napping (don’t tell my professor haha)! So in keeping with the theme of what cognitive biases you really need to be aware of when you are doing your own research, particularly citizen-scientists using the internet, I thought I would go over the predominant memory errors and biases that affect all of us. A memory bias is a cognitive process that alters the way, the time, or how we recall memories. As opposed to logical fallacies, memory biases are subtler to pick up on, and as the Wikipedia list in the references shows, there are a lot of them. However, I intend to show you using real examples (as I have done previously), the five memory errors I believe to be both easier to spot, and common in occurrence.

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Cognitive Biases and “Doing Your Own Research”, Part 2 – The Social Biases

Cognitive Biases and “Doing Your Own Research”, Part 2 – The Social Biases

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Following on from part 1 of cognitive biases to look out for when doing your own research, I want to now go into the social biases side of cognitive biases. Social bias, also known as attributional error, occurs when we unwittingly or deliberately give preference to (or alternatively, to look negatively upon) certain individuals, groups, races, sexes etc., due systemic errors that arise when people try to develop a reason for the behaviour of certain social groups (or what we believe is that groups behaviour). These prejudices are exhibited by all of us at some point, so whilst their elimination is arguably not possible, we should still aim to reduce our social bias. Furthermore, we should be able to identify when a social bias is manifesting itself, particularly when people are using mediums like the internet for their own research into an area. Below are some of the common social biases found (with real examples) which often lead to fallacious activity.

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Cognitive Biases and “Doing Your Own Research”, Part 1 – Decision Making, Belief and Behavioural Biases

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So after what seemed to be positive reception to my previous article on logical fallacies to look out for when doing your own research online, I wanted to follow up with another area that leads to fallacious activity, the cognitive biases.

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Logical fallacies and you: What you need to know when “doing your own research”

Logical fallacies and you: What you need to know when “doing your own research”

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The internet has allowed unprecedented access to information, which on the whole, has been a marvelous thing. Gone are the days when

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