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Welcome! This is the place to ask the community of experts and other fallacyophites (I made up that word) if someone has a committed a fallacy or not. This is a great way to settle a dispute! This is also the home of the "Mastering Logical Fallacies" student support.


Dr. Bo's Criteria for Logical Fallacies:

  1. It must be an error in reasoning not a factual error.
  2. It must be commonly applied to an argument either in the form of the argument or in the interpretation of the argument.
  3. It must be deceptive in that it often fools the average adult.

Therefore, we will define a logical fallacy as a concept within argumentation that commonly leads to an error in reasoning due to the deceptive nature of its presentation. Logical fallacies can comprise fallacious arguments that contain one or more non-factual errors in their form or deceptive arguments that often lead to fallacious reasoning in their evaluation.

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Jim Grace

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Jim Grace


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Tue, Sep 03, 2019 - 08:42 PM

Deferring causal attribution to parts of the whole

Consider the following:

Statement 1: "Forests are important for taking carbon dioxide out of the air."

Statement 2: (counter argument) "It is not the forest that takes up carbon dioxide, it is the trees in the forest."

I dispute that the counter argument has merit because while on its own it is true, it does not negate the first Statement, which is also true.

To make the case that appealing to a lower level of organization does not negate statements at a higher level, I offer some additional statements that I believe make the same error as the counter argument:

Statement 3: "It is not the trees that take up carbon dioxide, it is the leaves on the trees."

Statement 4: "Further, it is not the leaves that take up carbon dioxide, it is the stomata (openings in the leaves) that take up carbon dioxide."

Statements 5 to many: "It is not the stomata, it is the chloroplasts, the chloroplast cell membranes, . . . etc"

My question is, What fallacy is Statement 2 making?

Perhaps the counter argument is a Regress Argument?
Perhaps Statements 3-many demonstrate that the counter argument is an example of reducto ad infinitum?
I am not sure of the best language to use to describe what I see as flawed in the counter argument.

Many thanks for consideration. I am reviewing a scientific paper making a claim similar to that presented here.


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skips777

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skips777


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Print Thu, Sep 05, 2019 - 03:43 AM
I think statement one suffers from ambiguity. No. 2 simply clarifies that a forest has trees and other things that make up "forest", but the trees are the active subject. Going into what part of the trees is semantics and irrelevant.


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Bo Bennett, PhD
Author of Logically Fallacious

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Bo Bennett, PhD

Author of Logically Fallacious

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About Bo Bennett, PhD

Bo's personal motto is "Expose an irrational belief, keep a person rational for a day. Expose irrational thinking, keep a person rational for a lifetime."  Much of his charitable work is in the area of education—not teaching people what to think, but how to think.  His projects include his book, The Concept: A Critical and Honest Look at God and Religion, and Logically Fallacious, the most comprehensive collection of logical fallacies.  Bo's personal blog is called Relationship With Reason, where he writes about several topics related to critical thinking.  His secular (humanistic) philosophy is detailed at PositiveHumanism.com.
Bo is currently the producer and host of The Humanist Hour, the official broadcast of the American Humanist Association, where he can be heard weekly discussing a variety of humanistic issued, mostly related to science, psychology, philosophy, and critical thinking.

Full bio can be found at http://www.bobennett.com
Print Wed, Sep 04, 2019 - 08:05 AM
It appears to logic chopping. You are correct that statement 2 does not invalidate statement 1. You did not claim that the forest "takes up carbon dioxide" you said it was "important for taking carbon dioxide out of the air." You can play the game of pedantics as well :) If there is a reason for the clarification, then this would be acceptable, like if there were a forest of dead trees it is important to know that this wouldn't help much with carbon dioxide (assuming it wouldn't - not my area). So it could be unnecessary precision (logic chopping) or perhaps necessary clarification depending on the context.
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Jim Grace

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Print Wed, Sep 04, 2019 - 08:24 AM
Upon further thought and reading, I will suggest my own resolution of the debate.

My interpretation of the situation is that the objectionable statement (Statement 2) is using a “Theoretical Vice” by stitching together into one sentence a statement that is true, “ . . . it is the trees in the forest.” with a statement that is false, “It is not the forest that takes up the carbon dioxide.” It is simply to demonstrate that their first phrase is false by reference to an infinite regress.


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Michael Chase Walker
Screenwriter, producer, mythoclast

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Michael Chase Walker

Screenwriter, producer, mythoclast

Master Contributor

About Michael Chase Walker

Michael Chase Walker is an actor, author, screenwriter, producer, and a former adjunct lecturer for the College of Santa Fe Moving Images Department, and Dreamworks Animation. His first motion picture was the animated classic, The Last Unicorn.
Michael was an in-house television writer for the hit television series: He-Man, She-Ra, Voltron, and V, the Series. In 1985, he was appointed Director of Children's programs for CBS Entertainment where he conceived, shaped and supervised the entire 1985 Saturday Morning line-up: Wildfire, Pee Wee's Playhouse, Galaxy High School, Teen Wolf, and over 10
Print Wed, Sep 04, 2019 - 04:17 PM
I would say that Statement number 2 is not a logical fallacy at all, but literally and figuratively an example of the 'Forest for the Trees'
Cognitive Bias of being so focused on the minutia one misses the larger picture.

SEE: Poor Charlie’s Almanack, Charlie Munger


Registered User Comments

Michael Hurst
Thursday, September 05, 2019 - 12:04:09 PM
@Michael Chase Walker: That would make sense if there was no contradiction. Your theory is that the person is simply seeing the issue incorrectly, whereas the statement that "it is not the forest..." is a refutation, with an apparent intent to mislead. The most insidious example of this is the argument that "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

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Jim Grace
Thursday, September 05, 2019 - 02:19:45 PM
Michael, Wow, you really found a powerful comparison! They say that people discount the part of a sentence in front of a comma, focusing only on the part after the comma. I had not really thought generally about the powerful distortions perpetrated by half-truths in the form of compound sentences.
Thanks!

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Jim Grace
Wednesday, September 04, 2019 - 06:22:01 PM
Thanks! Lots of ways one can look at it. There is definitely some severe cognitive bias. I am trying to break the authors out of it by showing exactly where the logic fails. I may have made some progress with one of the authors, though too early to see.

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