What kind of logical fallacy is X is statistically rare, therefore X is not a problem.

An example of this fallacy is police brutality. Comparing incidents of excessive force/police brutality to the whole population or police interactions shows that it’s statistically rare. Would it be a fallacy to then say it’s not a problem? Would it be a form of relative privation?

asked on Sunday, Aug 01, 2021 09:35:13 AM by quise

Top Categories Suggested by Community


Want to get notified of all questions as they are asked? Update your mail preferences and turn on "Instant Notification."

Eat Meat... Or Don't.

Roughly 95% of Americans don’t appear to have an ethical problem with animals being killed for food, yet all of us would have a serious problem with humans being killed for food. What does an animal lack that a human has that justifies killing the animal for food but not the human?

As you start to list properties that the animal lacks to justify eating them, you begin to realize that some humans also lack those properties, yet we don’t eat those humans. Is this logical proof that killing and eating animals for food is immoral? Don’t put away your steak knife just yet.

In Eat Meat… Or Don’t, we examine the moral arguments for and against eating meat with both philosophical and scientific rigor. This book is not about pushing some ideological agenda; it’s ultimately a book about critical thinking.

Get 20% off this book and all Bo's books*. Use the promotion code: websiteusers

* This is for the author's bookstore only. Applies to autographed hardcover, audiobook, and ebook.

Get the Book


Bo Bennett, PhD

non sequitur. It doesn't follow that because something is statistically rare, it isn't a problem. We don't know if it is a problem or not—too many variables and ambiguity.

answered on Sunday, Aug 01, 2021 12:30:55 PM by Bo Bennett, PhD

Bo Bennett, PhD Suggested These Categories


Rationalissimus of the Elenchus writes:

I'd say that one could argue it isn't a problem as long as the threshold for "problematic" is defined, otherwise there is a risk of creating confusion through unclear standards for alarm (e.g. X only happens to 1 in 5000 people, so it is argued that X is not problematic- however, X could be a catastrophe that affects entire families, so it cannot be summarily dismissed with statistics).

posted on Sunday, Aug 01, 2021 06:23:50 PM

The issue seems to be, "Can police brutality be a problem if it only happens infrequently?".  The answer would seem to depend on what one understands as "problem" and "brutality".  It's also important to agree on who it is that experiences the problem.  

If it's a bad thing, it would seem to qualify as a problem for those directly impacted (in the example above, for those brutalized in whatever way by the police).  Whether it's a problem for those who aren't directly involved in the brutality or a problem for the larger society depends on how broadly one defines "problem".

It's easy to run the risk of inviting the ambiguity fallacy when we use (without defining them) terms that could be and are understood in different ways in different contexts.  If we hope to find common ground or agreement among debaters, it's important that each party share a common understanding of the terms being used.

answered on Monday, Aug 02, 2021 11:10:22 AM by Arlo

Arlo Suggested These Categories