They don’t make peaches like they used to!

23 Aug

Summer peaches – sweet juice running down your chin, a mouthful of flavor!

Hold on, if you’re like me, you’ve often been disappointed.

But before you pass judgment on the quality of peaches or any other fruit and vegetable, let’s look at a potential fallacy.  Yes, welcome to Fallacy Friday.

Today’s false argument is called the Fallacy of Composition and some of us often commit it at the grocery store!

Here’s what it looks like: (let’s imagine a shopper in the produce department at a local New England grocery store)  

The peaches are NEVER good, the tomatoes have no flavor, I’ve tried the Chinese pea pods and they’re tough & stringy …

“ Let’s face it, grocery store produce is not fresh!”

What this unhappy customer has done is assume that because of the lack of freshness in several items of the category ‘New England Grocery Store Produce’, every other member of that category also lacks freshness.  However, operating on that assumption might mean: missing out on the fresh and juicy blueberries that happen to be locally grown and sold to the big grocery store.  

If we assume that because one or more things in a category has a certain quality, then all things in that category are that way, then we have committed the Fallacy of Composition.

The quality or attributes of a whole are not necessarily the same as some members of that group or even ALL the members of the group.

I’ve heard this fallacy used in arguments about gods and religions.

  • Because Thor and Zeus are false gods then every member of the  ‘god’ category is false.
  • Because some people who claim to be Christian have acted in a hypocritical way, then the Christian Church is hypocritical.

Here are some other examples:

  • Each of these ingredients tastes yucky.  Therefore, when put together the finished product must be disgusting!

 

  • If we assemble an all-star team of high-scoring basketball players, then we’ll have a high-scoring team.

 

  • These little paint dots don’t seem to have any sense to them, that guy Van Gogh is just fooling us into thinking he is a real painter.    

So how do we ward off committing this fallacy?  Being aware of the possibility of an incorrect conclusion is probably enough to stop and make us think.  For example, being able to make baskets consistently does NOT necessarily make for a winning team.

What other examples of the Fallacy of Composition have you encountered?

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