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Faulty Comparison

(also known as: bad comparison, false comparison, inconsistent comparison [form of])

Description: Comparing one thing to another that is really not related, in order to make one thing look more or less desirable than it really is.

Example #1:

Broccoli has significantly less fat than the leading candy bar!

Explanation: While both broccoli and candy bars can be considered snacks, comparing the two in terms of fat content and ignoring the significant difference in taste, leads to the false comparison.

Example #2:

Religion may have been wrong about a few things, but science has been wrong about many more things!

Explanation: We are comparing a method of knowledge (science) to a system of belief (faith), which is not known for revising itself based on new evidence.  Even when it does, the “wrongs” are blamed on human interpretation.  Science is all about improving ideas to get closer to the truth, and, in some cases, completely throwing out theories that have been proven wrong.  Furthermore, the claims of religion are virtually all unfalsifiable, thus cannot be proven wrong.  Therefore, comparing religion and science on the basis of falsifiability is a faulty comparison.

Exception: One can argue what exactly is “really not related”.

Tip: Comparisons of any kind almost always are flawed.  Think carefully before you accept any kind of comparison as evidence.

References:

Dowden, B. H. (1993). Logical Reasoning. Bradley Dowden.



Registered User Comments

Leslie Hayman MSc
Thursday, May 31, 2018 - 08:54:06 AM
I assume we consider data or information in standard classification systems a different type of information or generalized knowledge than the raw data or information that has been used in the process or equation used for classification. In legal terms, the classified standards are “second level” summaries or averages, for example. Do we call it a false comparison when people compare raw data with the item in a standard? Or is there a better kind of logical fallacy to which we can refer? Thanks!

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Thursday, May 31, 2018 - 09:14:22 AM
I am going to need an example here... I don't quite understand what you wrote.

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Leslie Hayman MSc
Friday, June 01, 2018 - 12:22:04 AM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: thank you. I am thinking about the common tendency to compare scientific findings and standard categories made of those findings. There can be research using the standardized findings but standards can’t be falsified. Eg Medical standards put arbitrary boundaries on biological findings and construct conventional disease definitions from itemized lists of biological findings. I would argue that we are mistaken to compare biological research with medical research. One is a science while the other is a recombination of “second order” factors.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Friday, June 01, 2018 - 07:03:02 AM
@Leslie Hayman MSc: Conceptually, what you wrote makes sense. I would still need a specific example, however, to give my opinion on any possible fallacy.

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Leslie Hayman MSc
Friday, June 01, 2018 - 07:57:05 AM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: thank you. I am thinking that many meta-analyses are faulty when, for example, findings of fundamental biological sciences are compared to findings of Medical studies on a medical issue, a Disease. The context and scope of knowledge differ. Evidence in Medical research is defined as a product, combination or derivative of bio sciences. Studies use similar methodologies. But one set calls on an open scope of data and can be refute. The second calls on “second order” data that has been reduced through a prior decision to limit/define the data, in order to standardize and simplify the scope of study. Bio science findings may or may not be an ingredient for a particular Medical definition in question.

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Predrag Stojadinović
Monday, April 17, 2017 - 02:02:03 PM
On wikipedia, Incomplete comparison and Inconsistent comparison are considered to be different fallacies.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Monday, April 17, 2017 - 02:27:02 PM
Yes, there are differences. Faulty comparison is the general category of fallacies in which the aliases are also known—and some of them, as you point out, or said to have slight differences. Perhaps those are unique enough to warrant their own entry.

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