Tag Archives: Mob Appeal

Logical Gal – same ‘ole, same ‘ole lazy thinking clouds the minds of many

24 Jun

Many people still seem to swallow whole whatever they hear or read.  Reminds me of Saturday Night Live’s skit portraying a restaurant, Pre-Chew Charlie’s, for those who didn’t want to masticate their own food.

Pre-Chew Charlie's

A kind reader sent me examples of a common fallacy he had encountered, all in one day.  The first illustration came from a Twitter conversation in which the other fellow maintained that ‘evolution MUST be true because’ (drum roll, please: Voilà his rational reason) ‘…most biologists believe it.”  That’s it? That’s why the theory of evolution is true?

‘Twitter-man’ is using the crutch called, “Truth by consensus.”  Yet anyone who has been exposed to a bit of logic or lessons in clear thinking knows the first ground rule.  To wit – the responsibility is yours to make a case for what you claim.  In other words, the person asserting an opinion, in this case that evolution is true, is obliged to give supporting reasons and evidence.  In this case, Twitter-man merely trotted out the hackneyed, but inappropriate prop called Fallacy of Mob Appeal, also called Band Wagon.

It could be that most biologists are right, but Twitter-man must provide evidence if he is making an argument.   But maybe he wants merely to offer a sound-byte and leave it at that.

He should know that it actually doesn’t matter what most people think.  What matters is if his claim is true or false.  However, I do understand that siding with ‘most people’ FEELS safe.  As a follower of Christ in today’s shifting sands, it’s challenging and sometimes uncomfortable to belong to a minority of thinkers who hold an unpopular view.

The same day as his conversation with Twitter-man, this reader See his website; he also advocates clear thinking! drove past a movie rental shop with the sign out front that proclaimed a take-off of that original song from the 1920s entitled, “Fifty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong.”

3 million can't be wrong

Set during the era of Prohibition, the song (followed by a book and then a movie) contrasts life in France where drinking and looser sexual mores appeal to a young American man.  One could debate for hours which culture promotes human flourishing.  But I would hope each side would actually martial positions based on clear terms, true premises and valid arguments.  What a bunch of people DOES doesn’t make it ‘right’.  What SHOULD matter is rather whether what they DO is in line with true beliefs regarding reality. That’s called integrity.

I am a Christian. Both the Christian AND the non-Christian are created in God’s image.  God has made us different from animals.  He has given us minds.  And like the muscles that pack our skeletal structure, humans must DAILY exercise, guide, train, hydrate and nourish their minds or else we are no different than most animals!  Choosing beliefs based on fallacious crutches is to bypass the mind entrusted to you.

Mind is a terrible thing to waste

Logical Gal – it must be true if 97% of scientists agree

9 Jun

Truth by consensus!

97 % of scientists

Now there’s a stable foundation for science and public policy!

When someone making an assertion offers as support the fact that the majority of experts back his view, then you know the arguer has no argument.

People resort to fallacies (false reasoning) for one or more of the following  reasons:

  • they haven’t thought through a proper defense of their point of view
  • they KNOW they don’t have any legitimate reasons resilient enough to respond to critique
  • they are lazy and rather just bash their opponent by appealing to a variation of that old song lyric ‘50 million Frenchmen can’t be wrong‘!

50 million frenchmen

But science has always progressed by being dragged forward by a few brave souls going against the ‘party line’.

So what is driving the forceful and almost shrill proclamations that the ‘debate is over’?

Like so much in life, I think it’s……… the money.

In today’s local Sunday paper, hope for new jobs permeated an unabashedly eager article about Asheville positioning itself to sell tech solutions to our ‘climate problem’ Article link is here.   This was in the same issue that gave editorial space to syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts who mockingly derided climate deniers who should do the math and get on board. See if you can spot his use of Mob Appeal cum Appeal to Authority fallacies

What frightens me is that the ‘average Joe or Jane’ DOESN’T take the time to read, study and think through issues.  And to be honest, one has to pick and choose just which topics one is going to investigate.  There was a time when the Fourth Estate, the ‘soi-disant’ independent media, played that role in society, keeping the other three estates in check (traditionally – the nobility, the clergy and the commoners….perhaps in 21st century America – the government, business and the little people).

But today, a FIFTH ESTATE has arisen – us, the counter-cultural voice of independent media, bloggers and certain talk-show hosts.

For more information click here

We CAN make a difference, one step at a time.  My small piece in that unorganized but powerful force is to encourage average Joes and Janes to practice clear thinking.  Acquiring logic is a useful tool to that end!

Question:  Which issue is number one for you?  the one that is worth your time and concentrated energy

  • to study
  • to be able to articulate both sides
  • to come down on one side and be prepared to give a defense

 

 

Logical Gal and how kids can benefit from studying Logic

31 Jan

A friend of mine’s daughter has her doubts about the benefit of studying logic.  It’s a required course for 7th graders at her classical school.  The curriculum introduces informal logic in the 7th grade and formal logic in the 8th grade.

Informal logic consists in all the fallacies or bad arguments people use.  Formal logic is the study of GOOD argumentation: its form.

But back to this pre-teen’s question about the relevance of her course of study.  I hear it as a French teacher and I’m sure math teachers have learned to shut their ears to this perennial question:

When am I ever going to use THIS!!!!

Here is how the study of poor argumentation can help anyone, no matter his or her age.  Armed with the ability to identify the fallacies of others, you will be able to stop them in their tracks when they come at you with:

  • …because I said so (Argumentum ad Baculum – Big Stick) – often used by parents!!
  • …because anyone who is anybody does it (Argumentum Populum – Mob Appeal)
  • …because Justin Bieber said they were the coolest running shoes (Celebrity Transfer)
  • …because these puppies and kittens will die if you don’t donate (Appeal to Pity – avoiding looking at other reasons, but relying on emotions)
  • You shouldn’t vote Joe for class president because he’s a nerd (Ad Hominem Abusive- attacking the guy’s character instead of looking at his platform)
  • You can’t trust what the disciples said about Jesus.  After all, they lived with him for 3 years (Ad Hominem Circumstantial – they must be biased)
  • You can’t tell me not to smoke because YOU smoke (Tu Quoque – you do it, too!)
  • You can either clean up your room now or before dinner. (False dichotomy – there are other times) again, a favorite of parents.
  • If you don’t let me have a cell phone at age 12, then I’ll never have any friends! (Strawman – reframing someone’s position incorrectly)- a favorite of kids!

These are just a few of the more common poor arguments or fallacies that swirl around us all the time. Can you see how useful it will be in giving both the adolescent AND the adult the key to identifying manipulative reasoning?  Even if you don’t remember the name of any of them, once you understand the thinking behind each, they are super easy (and fun!) to spot.  All you have to do, when someone tries to lay one of these babies on you,  is come back forcefully with,

That’s a fallacy!  

Try your hand at spotting what’s wrong in this argument!

How did you do? At least you could probably FEEL that something was wrong.  It’s invalid because of the Fallacy of Equivocation.    In this case, the word ‘headache’ is used equivocally, that is – in two different senses, thus creating the fallacy.  Equivocal words refer to two different concepts.  Both a pain in one’s head and an annoying condition can be called a headache.

Finally, the one fallacy I, as a parent, would want my child to have down pat before launching out on his or her own would be the Fallacy of the Non Sequitor.

If you have a daughter, think of a guy trying to get her to indulge in casual sex with him.  He lays this line on her: “If you love me, you’ll sleep with me!”

That, my dear readers, is an example of something that does not follow, hence a NON SEQUITOR.

Or how about this: “Why not try these drugs, you’re only young once!”

In both cases, there is absolutely NO CONNECTION between the first premise and the second.  Our children need to know HOW to respond before they are faced with the absurd and sinful choices, which will surely be thrown at them.

Question: Which fallacies have you succumbed to?

Logical Gal – Holiday Expectations and the Mob Appeal Fallacy

23 Dec

Here’s a common fallacy for you!

  • Everybody celebrates Christmas by ____________(you fill in the blank)
  • Therefore, I must celebrate the same way

This is a pressure-producing example of Mob Appeal

The only way to rescue oneself from misery is to ask some questions:

  • Why must you be like everyone else?
  • How do you know ‘they’ are doing Christmas the ‘correct way’?
  • What would happen if your celebration were different?
  • Is it an absolute truth that the majority always knows what is right?

I almost succumbed to the Ad Populum Fallacy at various times this month of December:

  • In my new school, I noticed that teachers started to gift their colleagues with little goodies – Should I do as well?
  • In our new house in the woods, I considered whether I should put the traditional electric candles in the windows (no neighbors to see them) – Must I keep up this tradition?
  • Our Frasier Fir was glorious just as it sat in our living room– naked in it’s tree stand  – Must we decorate it?
  • So many musical offerings are listed in our local paper this time of year –  Should we not attend at least one to be truly in the Christmas spirit?
  • And what about clothes and jewelry with Christmas themes?  Every gal seems to be sporting those holiday earrings or sweaters or pins or …… I don’t like schmaltzy stuff.  Do I have to get with the program?

So as a Christmas present to you and to me: I grant us all the right to think for ourselves and to make decisions based on values grounded in Truth.  And for those matters that are mere convention and often inconsequential, it really doesn’t matter what you do.  If you DO find yourself going along with convention because you want to blend in, then at least admit it to yourself, laugh and lighten up!

Question:  what burdensome practice can you drop since you no longer have to toe the line and do what you think everyone else is doing?

If everyone is doing it, it must be right.

But Mom, EVERYone…….

20 Sep

“ But Mom, I’m the only kid in 4th grade who doesn’t have a cell phone!” 

How’s that for an appeal to faulty logic!

If Mom falls for it, her daughter will have successfully employed the  Mob Appeal fallacy (Ad Populum) to twist Mom’s arm.

Mom should take the time to encourage her daughter to THINK deeper by responding –

“ That’s not a good reason.  Convince me of why you, at age 9, should have a cell phone.  What practical reason can you advance?”

Bandwagon or Mob appeal often surfaces during elections.  Proponents of a candidate tend to make frequent appeals to the collective opinion of the majority in order to persuade you of the ‘ rightness’ of a view.

  • You should vote for John in the Student Council elections.  Everyone is going to.

A thoughtful person would retort – “Well maybe every one is making a poor choice.  What are John’s plans for the school?  How has he followed through on previous campaign promises? “

A few years ago, a British newspaper ran a headline after President Bush was re-elected, something to the effect of “ How could 100 million Americans be so wrong!”   The implication seemed to be a NOT-so-veiled accusation that those who voted for George W. Bush just went along with the crowd and did not have a valid reason for re-electing him. If that’s true, then we have an example of Mob Appeal.    

Remember  – just because a majority of people act or think a certain way says nothing about rightness or wrongness.  All one can conclude is that a lot of people acted/thought thus.

Reasonable and thoughtful people at least make AN EFFORT to find a rational justification for believing what they do.  If you can’t articulate WHY you think something, you haven’t thought deep enough.

But take heart, your going along with the crowd is what McDonald’ s banks on!.  Thanks in part to enough non-rational consumers, they do a good business!.