Logical fallacies part trois

Finished! Finally!

Got through the list of the last few fallacies:

Straw man – creating a false argument to argue against (because it is easier)

Tautology – Claiming that A = B because A = B

Moving the goalpost – Losing an argument, then changing the focus of the argument

Tu quoque – attacking a person because they are guilty of what they are arguing against

Begging the question – Leaving out an important assumption that your argument makes

Again, the kids really enjoyed going through them all and even came up with some great ideas. When I mentioned to them that “millions of people use acupuncture” is an argument from popularity, one student said “what about the millions who don’t use it? Surely less than half the world uses acupuncture!”

I had never thought about it this way. If as many as 1 billion people around the world use acupuncture, then 6 billion people don’t use it! As a maths teacher I feel confident in stating that 6,000,000,000 > 1,000,000,000. Therefore, by that logical fallacy acupuncture must not work.

This is one of the great things about teaching, being taught things by your kids.

Some of them also pointed that labelling people can become an ad hominem attack. We have a homeopath coming to visit and it was mentioned that if we are debating any of his point, we cannot dismiss them simply because of what he does. Every argument needs to be refuted on its own merits. Even labelling somebody a sceptic can be counter-productive. It’s a label I apply to myself but I wouldn’t want somebody dismissing me simply from hearing that. If I am a sceptic then I must be unimaginative and contrary. (Sometimes I am but that’s beside the point)

We closed our session today with a logical fallacy quiz! One of my senior girls put together some quotes that the rest of the kids had to de-fallacise. I will get a copy from her later during the week and put it together for you all to peruse.


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Filed under McKinnon Secondary Sceptical Society

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