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Jason Mathias

Game: Police brutality, find the fallacies.

(This was in response to George Floyds/ Derek Chauvin verdict.)

P 1: Shares a Fox News meme that says police killed a total of 52 black persons, 3 unarmed, and 109 white persons, 5 unarmed so far in 2021. 

P 2: So Fox News made a cherry piking fallacy of a cherry piked tiny sample size of only 3 months and they also did a statical fallacy by not doing per capita.
Here is a large sample size, not a random cherry piked 3 months. This is from 2015 to 2021 which is the last 7 years to get a larger picture of our systems and its per capita. You need per capita to find out if there is actually any discrepancies. No unarmed person should be killed by state sanctioned power, and that power should be held accountable like the rest of us, not just for justice but to stop the potential abuse of power.

P 3:  So, if a 110lb 5’2” female police office is attacked by a 300lb 6’4” male you do not think she should have the right to use all force necessary to protect herself and life?

asked on Thursday, Apr 22, 2021 07:11:50 PM by Jason Mathias

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Jason Mathias writes:

Oh, and also in response to the Daunte Wright shooting as well. 

posted on Thursday, Apr 22, 2021 07:25:14 PM
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Jordan Pine writes:

Dr. Bo has hit on the key problem with this line of reasoning, especially as seen in the media these days: "lying with statistics." I think it was Mark Twain who said there are three kinds of untruths: lies, damned lies and statistics. That's worth remembering when considering any argument made with statistics, especially in the context of a politicized topic.

"Lying" may be too strong of a word, though. To be charitable, I think it's more an echo-chamber of people experiencing extreme confirmation bias. It's not necessarily cherry picking. It's that disconfirming data doesn't even make it through the narrative filters.

posted on Friday, Apr 23, 2021 10:57:41 AM

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Jordan Pine
4

I'd like to submit an answer to the "spot the fallacy" game to which you are alluding: oversimplified cause fallacy.

P1. X can contribute to a Black civilian being shot and killed by police.
P2. Many recent cases of police shootings are ultimately about X.
C. Therefore, this recent spate of Black civilians being shot by police can be stopped by solving for X.

This fallacy and its cousin, causal reductionism, are typical of the arguments we are hearing these days.

For the Left, X is "systemic racism." Solving for it involves anti-racism training at least and defunding/dismantling the police at most.

For the Right, X is "fatherlessness." That is, the high rate of single-mother households in Black communities.  Solving for it involves Black leaders somehow persuading members of Black communities to get married before having children.

The point is that everyone tries to reduce the problem to a single, simple cause. But like all issues, this one is quite complex. Even in your writeup, there are multiple issues to think about:

  • Can statistics really tell us anything at all about the underlying causes of this problem when the individual cases are so varied? For instance, does an officer mistaking her pistol for a Taser and shooting a civilian have anything in common with an officer shooting someone who was about to stab another civilian? Do either of those cases have anything to do with an officer kneeling on a civilian to the point where he suffocated him to death?
  • Is it true that "no unarmed person should be killed" by the police? What if, as a recent example demonstrates, that unarmed person is about to get into a car and drive in a reckless manner that is likely to endanger the lives of others? What if the person is armed, but only with a knife?
  • Is "power" really a thing that can be held responsible? If so, how would that look? How would it be done fairly with regard to the people involved? Who would be deemed "power" and why/why not? For instance, should the governor of a state be held accountable if a state police officer kills an unarmed Black civilian? What if the governor is a Black politician who was elected because of his desire to reduce police shootings of Black civilians?
  • Is it really the job of a police officer to use force "to protect herself and life"? Or is her primary job to protect the lives and safety of civilians, even sacrificing her own life or safety in order to do so? We think of the job of fire rescue in the latter way. Why not police officers? (Related question: Should police officers even be armed? Or perhaps armed only with non-lethal weapons?)

 

 

answered on Friday, Apr 23, 2021 11:40:10 AM by Jordan Pine

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GoblinCookie writes:

 

For the Right, X is "fatherlessness." That is, the high rate of single-mother households in Black communities.  Solving for it involves Black leaders somehow persuading members of Black communities to get married before having children.

Why would the rate of fatherlessness be any different than for white people of the same class.  It still comes back to systematic racism doesn't it?

 
Is it true that "no unarmed person should be killed" by the police? What if, as a recent example demonstrates, that unarmed person is about to get into a car and drive in a reckless manner that is likely to endanger the lives of others? What if the person is armed, but only with a knife?

People armed with guns or cars are still armed.

There is however a difference between carrying a weapon and wielding it. 

posted on Friday, Apr 23, 2021 06:10:09 PM
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Jordan Pine writes:

[To GoblinCookie]

Why would the rate of fatherlessness be any different than for white people of the same class.  It still comes back to systematic racism doesn't it?

Why indeed. That is a good question. Yet it is true. "Solo moms are more than twice as likely to be black as cohabiting moms (30% vs. 12%), and roughly four times as likely as married moms (7% of whom are black)," according to the Pew Research Center.

Could the cause be systemic racism? I suppose. But how does "the system" encourage or discourage marriage in Black communities?

Interesting fact: During much of the Jim Crow era, Black marriage rates were about equal with White marriage rates, according to the Hoover Institution. Back then, about 2/3 of Black women were married. This began to decline in the 1950s. Today, only about 1/3 of Black women are married. That's the opposite of what we might expect if systemic racism were a root cause.

There is however a difference between carrying a weapon and wielding it. 

That's true. Would you consider Ma'Khia Bryant to have been wielding that knife or just carrying it? What about Jacob Blake? When does, say, reaching for a knife transition into wielding a knife -- and should the cops wait for that transition?

[ login to reply ] posted on Saturday, Apr 24, 2021 05:07:06 PM
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GoblinCookie writes:
[To Jordan Pine]

 
Why indeed. That is a good question. Yet it is true. "Solo moms are more than twice as likely to be black as cohabiting moms (30% vs. 12%), and roughly four times as likely as married moms (7% of whom are black)," according to the Pew Research Center.

Could the cause be systemic racism? I suppose. But how does "the system" encourage or discourage marriage in Black communities?

Interesting fact: During much of the Jim Crow era, Black marriage rates were about equal with White marriage rates, according to the Hoover Institution. Back then, about 2/3 of Black women were married. This began to decline in the 1950s. Today, only about 1/3 of Black women are married. That's the opposite of what we might expect if systemic racism were a root cause.

Racism can encourage it simply through social segregation.  Once you have established two separate cultures through racism, then the tendencies of both can diverge; for the worse or indeed for the better.  It is generally however going to be for the worse because you aren't treating the artificial 'other culture' very well.  It is entirely possible that the stress of living in a racist society undermines family stability in said group.  

The statistics are interesting but back in the Jim Crow era weren't divorce rates pretty low in general? Divorce only started to become socially acceptable basically since that time and have increased since then.  Since the same 'leftist' people who oppose racism are generally comfortable with divorce, the probable explanation is that the trend is connected; the divorce rate increased among blacks for the same reason that divorce rates in general have gone up and this also correlates with the general reduction in the strength of racism because the opponents of divorce are the racists, even though racism is still responsible for the actual divergance.

So we perhaps get the amusing situation that the white get divorces less because they are right-wing racists and the right-wing racists are also relatively speaking against divorce, so white people divorce less because they are racists.  However we also have the mcnamara fallacy propping up here.

That is the marriage statistics however hide what can basically be called 'fake marriages', which is people basically pretending to be married because it is socially unacceptable to be divorced.  The real answer could simply be that the difference always existed, but it was just hidden by the shared antipathy both groups then held towards divorce. 

 
That's true. Would you consider Ma'Khia Bryant to have been wielding that knife or just carrying it? What about Jacob Blake? When does, say, reaching for a knife transition into wielding a knife -- and should the cops wait for that transition?

A lot depends upon how close you are.  If you are a long distance away, you can afford to be more cautious than if you are close up in this particular case.  The police have this unfortunate, if understandable tendency to essentially put their own security above all else, causing them to lash out preemptively at anyone who may be armed, potentially killing people that were actually unarmed by mistake.

Are they wielding the weapon is a better basis to go on than do you think potentially erroneously that they are armed.

[ login to reply ] posted on Wednesday, Apr 28, 2021 07:30:19 AM
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Jordan Pine writes:

[To GoblinCookie]

Racism can encourage it [divorce] simply through social segregation. It is entirely possible that the stress of living in a racist society undermines family stability in said group.  

As I am fond of telling my kids: It's possible. But is it probable? 

The statistics are interesting but back in the Jim Crow era weren't divorce rates pretty low in general? 

Yes, that is true -- if you mean marriage rates. (Divorce is a different matter. The statistics are about marriage, not necessarily divorce. More on this in a minute.) However, while marriage rates declined to around 1/2 for White women, they declined much faster to about 1/3 for Black women, according to those statistics.

Divorce only started to become socially acceptable basically since that time and have increased since then.  

Divorce doesn't seem to be the main issue when it comes to fatherlessness.  Rather, it is out-of-wedlock births. "In 1965, 24 percent of black infants and 3.1 percent of white infants were born to single mothers. By 1990 the rates had risen to 64 percent for black infants, 18 percent for whites," according to the Brookings Institution.

[T[he divorce rate increased among blacks for the same reason that divorce rates in general have gone up and this also correlates with the general reduction in the strength of racism because the opponents of divorce are the racists, even though racism is still responsible for the actual divergance.

You argument appears to be:

  • The opponents of divorce are the racists.
  • The strength of racism has decreased over time.
  • Therefore, divorce has increased among Black people.

If so, this argument is quite strange. Racism is supposed to have a negative impact on Black people. Yet you seem to be arguing that it had the positive effect of stabilizing the Black family or, conversely, that non-racists should be blamed for destabilizing the Black family. Is that your argument?

So we perhaps get the amusing situation that white[s] get divorces less because they are right-wing racists and the right-wing racists are also relatively speaking against divorce, so white people divorce less because they are racists.

You argument appears to be:

  • Whites are right-wing racists.
  • Right-wing racists are against divorce.
  • Therefore, Whites are against divorce (and divorce less as a result).

I think you can see how your premises are flawed when outlined in this way. The first premise is a hasty generalization. The second premise is dubious at best. (You added "relatively speaking," which suggests you know it is a rather weak premise that is likely unsupported.)

In fact, you started by calling this entire argument "amusing," so I gather you didn't really take it all that seriously. If so, I agree: It's amusing!

The police have this unfortunate, if understandable tendency to essentially put their own security above all else, causing them to lash out preemptively at anyone who may be armed, potentially killing people that were actually unarmed by mistake.

Besides being another hasty generalization, this claim is not relevant to the two cases I cited. Ma'Khia Bryant was in the process of attempting to stab another person. Jacob Blake admitted he had a knife and was trying to pick it up. Even my hypothetical example involved reaching for an existing knife vs wielding said knife. It did not involve someone who was "actually unarmed."

[ login to reply ] posted on Wednesday, Apr 28, 2021 09:31:01 AM
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GoblinCookie writes:
[To Jordan Pine]

 
Yes, that is true -- if you mean marriage rates. (Divorce is a different matter. The statistics are about marriage, not necessarily divorce. More on this in a minute.) However, while marriage rates declined to around 1/2 for White women, they declined much faster to about 1/3 for Black women, according to those statistics.

I know, but it takes two people to make a baby, it is entirely possible to have a stable family structure AND a low marriage rate.   A low marriage rate could represent people in a large number people in unstable relationships or it could represent a large number of celibate single people.  Only the former produces any children and is interesting to us.

We are interested in the level of relationship instability but we cannot measure that directly, which is why divorce rates are interesting since this should a proxy for it regardless of the overall actual amount of people marrying.

A question could be asked as to whether the amount of time a relationship existed before marriage was formed is also a proxy, but to my understanding the reverse is true; the longer a person was in a relationship with the person they married before marrying the less likely they are to end up getting divorced. 

Divorce doesn't seem to be the main issue when it comes to fatherlessness.  Rather, it is out-of-wedlock births. "In 1965, 24 percent of black infants and 3.1 percent of white infants were born to single mothers. By 1990 the rates had risen to 64 percent for black infants, 18 percent for whites," according to the Brookings Institution.

I rather doubt that single parenthood is most people's conscious intention, so clearly what we are clearly looking at is a high level of relationship instability.  Having babies implies some degree of faith in the stability of the relationship, at least rationally it does, similar applies to getting officially married.  The decision to have babies with someone is basically similar to the decision to marry them, it implies faith in the stability of the current relationship, even if misguided. 

Though I guess some irrational people do have babies in a desperate attempt to shore up a dying relationship.  Maybe I am overestimating human rationality here. 

 
You argument appears to be:

The opponents of divorce are the racists.
The strength of racism has decreased over time.
Therefore, divorce has increased among Black people.
If so, this argument is quite strange. Racism is supposed to have a negative impact on Black people. Yet you seem to be arguing that it had the positive effect of stabilizing the Black family or, conversely, that non-racists should be blamed for destabilizing the Black family. Is that your argument?

The reason there are two different cultures to begin with is because of racial segregation, which racism upholds.  Without such segregation there cannot be two cultures with different norms and habits of life to begin with, for better or worse. 

Racism can do two things.  It can support the segregation that divides the black people and white people into separate cultures.  It can then oppress the former culture, resulting in bad cultural trends which are then isolated from the wider, white society. 

The problem is that the low relationship stability thing is a new trend, that ironically corresponds with a reduction in the strength of racism.  That is not an intractable problem for that theory, because self-perpetuation problems created by a particular state of affairs can continue to exist even when the state of affairs that initially created them went away.  Black relationship instability can be the result of a former state of extreme racism but still continue to grow because the rate of the self-pepetuation of the thing itself exceeds the rate of the decline of racism. 

Another rival explanation is that the same people fighting against racism are the same people promoting relationship instability.  The blacks rallied to the banner of the anti-racist divorcers and the whites to the banner of the racist anti-divorcers.  The blacks therefore unwittingly ended up as pawns for the divorcers because they joined them due to their opposition to racism while the whites ended up resisting the divorcers because they were racists. 

 
You argument appears to be:

Whites are right-wing racists.
Right-wing racists are against divorce.
Therefore, Whites are against divorce (and divorce less as a result).
I think you can see how your premises are flawed when outlined in this way. The first premise is a hasty generalization. The second premise is dubious at best. (You added "relatively speaking," which suggests you know it is a rather weak premise that is likely unsupported.)

In fact, you started by calling this entire argument "amusing," so I gather you didn't really take it all that seriously. If so, I agree: It's amusing!

It is all amusing to me because it not the explanation I favor at all.  My basic point was only that the opposing right-wing position still comes back to systematic racism just in a convoluted way.  I am trying to figure out if there are any explanations that don't come back to Racism. 

The confusing thing about the second model is that almost nobody is openly declaring in favor of divorce here, it is just the logical consequence of other things they advocate; the obvious suspect is Feminism.  The actual consequence of promoting Feminism is to turn the personal grievances of individual men and women against their partners into political battles of principle; that drives the divorce/relationship instability rates up even though it was nobody's conscious intention to do this. 

So initially the racists 'cut the cake' creating two separate cultures through segregation, the oppressed black culture and the dominant white culture.  Then the anti-racists recruit those of the oppressed black culture and the racists recruit those of the dominant white culture.  The Anti-racists are however ALSO Feminists, so they end up unintentionally creating relationship instability in the black culture because that is the actual result of Feminism. 

The black relationships tend to be unstable because blacks tend to be Feminists and this is because Feminism came with Anti-Racism as part of the general leftist 'package deal'.  The alternative explanation is the instability is simply the result of the stresses caused by living in a racist society. 

The dilemma here is the newness of the problem.  However it could be that earlier statistics are inaccurate because in those days divorce was not really acceptable and marriages were socially mandated.  The actual instability is much the same, just the partners remain married 'on paper'. 

[ login to reply ] posted on Friday, Apr 30, 2021 11:38:44 AM
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Jordan Pine writes:
[To GoblinCookie]

Thanks for your thoughts and the exchange.

[ login to reply ] posted on Friday, Apr 30, 2021 07:00:11 PM
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Bo Bennett, PhD
2

These aren't premises, so we can't treat this like an argument. However, each "premise" can be an argument in itself. I will address them individually.

Shares a Fox News meme that says police killed a total of 52 black persons, 3 unarmed, and 109 white persons, 5 unarmed so far in 2021. 

There is not enough data here to determine that this isn't about race, if that was Fox's goal. It is not about raw numbers; but percentage/per capita. But there is more to this. I won't rehash this as I have written about it extensively in my book Uncomfortable Ideas (touched on below). Bottom line, most conclusions drawn from this would be a non sequitur .

So Fox News made a cherry piking fallacy of a cherry piked tiny sample size of only 3 months and they also did a statical [sic] fallacy by not doing per capita.

I wouldn't call cherry picking on this. The data is actually pretty representative. It is just "lying with statistics" or using actual data to spin a misleading narrative.

Here is a large sample size, not a random cherry piked 3 months.

One can argue this is still cherry picked, if we argue the other data was cherry picked. To avoid accusations of cherry picking, all data should be presented, or at least a summary of it.

You need per capita to find out if there is actually any discrepancies.

But discrepancies doesn't uncover the problem. It is not just the racial makeup of the whole population, but the population that is likely to interact with the police. But it gets more complicated than that—do the police interact with some races more than others just because of their race, or do some races break the law more warranting more interaction with the police, or a combination?

No unarmed person should be killed by state sanctioned power, and that power should be held accountable like the rest of us, not just for justice but to stop the potential abuse of power.

This is an ideological position that hasn't been supported.

So, if a 110lb 5’2” female police office is attacked by a 300lb 6’4” male you do not think she should have the right to use all force necessary to protect herself and life?

I think this is a legitimate question to follow up the ideological position stated.

 

answered on Friday, Apr 23, 2021 07:43:13 AM by Bo Bennett, PhD

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GoblinCookie
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Biased sample fallacy?

They are working on the audience not knowing that black people do not make up 33% of the US population, which it would need to be for the same to not be biased.  There may be two white people killed by the police for every black person, but white people here are the overwhelming majority of the population. 

argument by fast talking  also seems to apply, the arguer is relying upon the people not having done the research to refute their implied claim.

answered on Friday, Apr 23, 2021 07:37:49 AM by GoblinCookie

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Citizen Irrelevant writes:

GC:  You committed an error here, using "white" where you obviously meant "black":

There may be two white people killed by the police for every white person.. .

Contextually that error contributes to the confusion running throughout this thread.  I am not sure how you could correct it, or even if it needed pointing out.  However, I think it seriously derails one's thought stream when you first encounter it, and that perhaps you were unaware?

posted on Friday, Apr 23, 2021 02:34:51 PM
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GoblinCookie writes:
[To Citizen Irrelevant]

I correct it with an edit.  What confusion, everyone is pretty clear as to what is going on here, someone is trying to cover up an undesirable fact, that the police are clearly biased against black people by using statistics in a misleading manner.

[ login to reply ] posted on Friday, Apr 23, 2021 06:05:06 PM
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Citizen Irrelevant writes:
[To GoblinCookie]

What confusion?

Well, for starters, none of the OP "premises" actually qualify as premises, as Dr Bo points out.  Which means the entire "syllogism" offered the group is not really a syllogism at all.  Then I guess we could go from there?  I do understand that with the good doctor and other's help, the argument was sorted & clarified.

And, yes, you are welcome.

 

 

[ login to reply ] posted on Friday, Apr 23, 2021 06:16:07 PM
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WebRanger
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The question is confusing, but it sounds to me like the OP is focusing on the relative statistics: X number of black people killed by police compared to Y number of white people killed...BUT that's misleading because there are far more white people than black people in the U.S.

If that's the crux of the question, then check out the Base Rate Fallacy.

answered on Saturday, Apr 24, 2021 07:23:18 AM by WebRanger

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Bill
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There's a reason that schools offer semester-long courses in statistics, and that reason is this: statistics are complicated and easy to misunderstand. So, I agree that the sample is too small (only 3 months). Furthermore, after only 3 months, many police departments have not completed their reports, which often take quite a bit of time. I also agree that we need to consider the proportions of the population. E.g., the analysis cited above has validity only if black and white people are equal in the population. We all know that's untrue. We'd also need to know much more about the specific incidents; simply knowing the numbers is a starting point for the argument, not its conclusion. 

answered on Saturday, Apr 24, 2021 12:26:19 PM by Bill

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