Impossibility Fallacy

I consider this to be a fallacy where something is considered impossible, when in fact it is just difficult.  For example: It was considered impossible to reuse rockets, which was a fallacy because SpaceX proved it was simply difficult.  This fallacy is much used by climate warming deniers who state that it is impossible to use renewables to power a grid on account of intermittency, but many consider that it is simply difficult and the problems can be overcome. The fallacy is linked to the Nirvana Fallacy.

This is my idea of a fallacy which I have not seen defined or named.  Do any others have thoughts on this?

asked on Wednesday, Jul 28, 2021 07:16:21 AM by Bruce

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The concept of "impossibility" is actually quite complex, and requires a decent philosophical understanding. I wouldn't fault people for poor reasoning by claiming "impossibility" most of the time when "extremely difficult" would be more accurate or even factually correct. Also, to be a fallacy, it would have to occur within the context of an argument, and then it would just be a false premise:

1. It is impossible to reuse rockets.
2. Single use rockets are far to expensive for commercial space travel.
C. Therefore, commercial space travel will never be viable as long as rockets are used.

The flaw here is with premise 1 and the fact that it is false.

Again, false premise, lack of understanding of what is possible or not, exaggeration, or perhaps just pathological pessimism, but I wouldn't call it fallacious.

I can see claims of impossibility being used as rhetorical devices in persuasion or manipulation, which borders on fallacies like the argument by gibberish — a form of gaslighting. The difference is, with the argument from gibberish, the real fallacy is when the interlocutor unreasonably conflates the gibberish for a "good reason" and with claims of impossibility, the interlocutor is essentially just being lied to.

answered on Wednesday, Jul 28, 2021 07:28:57 AM by Bo Bennett, PhD

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Bruce writes:

Thanks for the answer. I suppose it depends how we define a fallacy.  I see one definition as "A logical fallacy is an error in reasoning common enough to warrant a fancy name".

So the renewables argument could be put as:

1. It is impossible to balance a grid using intermittent renewables.

2. Going to 100% renewables means that the grid can only be balanced using these renewables.

C. This means that renewables are not suitable for large scale use in a generation grid.

It would be a false premise, although to make it more interesting the second statement is also false because the renewables are supply side and the grid can also be balanced to some extent by demand side pricing (energy bidding).

posted on Wednesday, Jul 28, 2021 11:42:49 AM
Bo Bennett, PhD writes:
[To Bruce]

I have criteria for how I use fallacies detailed here:

The wording in the conclusion doesn't match the wording used in the premises, so we would have a non sequitur . But assuming we argued:

1. It is impossible to balance a grid using 100% intermittent renewables.

2. You propose using 100% intermittent renewables.

C. This means that, under your proposal, it is impossible to balance the grid.

This is valid, but the soundness is dabatable based on premise #1. Again, it is either true or false. A false premise doesn't necessarily mean fallacy.

[ login to reply ] posted on Wednesday, Jul 28, 2021 12:33:36 PM