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The Gentetic Fallacy and Probability

posted Sunday Nov 20, 2016 09:11 AM

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Bo Bennett, PhD


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I often see people call "fallacy" when someone makes a probabilistic statement rather than coming to a definitive conclusion based on a questionable source. For example:

Person 1: I read on ConspiricyBlogs.com that our government comprises many lizard people!

Person 2: That is an extremely unreliable source. Pardon me if I don't believe in lizard people running the government.

Person 1: That is the genetic fallacy! You are judging the truth of the claim by it source!

Had person two said something such as, "That is an unreliable source, therefore the claim must be false," then we could reasonably say that person two's statement was fallacious. However, person two formed an opinion based on the reliability of the source combined with the believably of the claim, and simply refused to accept the claim as true (not insisted that it must be false). This kind of probabilistic reasoning based on limited information is an important part of critical thinking. It is quite reasonable to refuse to accept a claim based on insufficient information or based on poor quality of the source of the information.


Podcast Episode: The Gentetic Fallacy and Probability


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Ad Hominem Info
Wednesday, June 06, 2018 - 02:47:02 PM
The way that you state it, as "that is an unreliable source, therefore the claim must be false", it looks more like a variation of the "Fallacy Fallacy": just the fact that the source is unreliable (false authority) is not enough to refute the argument itself as untrue.

However, since the source can not claim undisputed authority in such matters, it needs to support the claim by valid and stringent evidence. If it fails to do so, it is indeed a false claim.

Hint: even sensationalist websites with clickbait-headlines and wild conspiracy theories galore may sometimes make a right claim. If this particular claim is one of them ... well, I have my doubts :-)

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Leslie Hayman MSc
Wednesday, June 06, 2018 - 11:19:58 AM
Speaker 1 made a relative statement referring to a specific source and a generic label.

Some might argue that Lizard”
descriptors used to characterize people relies on a hasty generalization without proof.

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