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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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Anon

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Anon


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#example
#help me
accusations
logical?
what fallacy is this
Fri, Sep 20, 2019 - 08:19 PM

True Statement, yet still an Argument from Incredulity?

This is just an example I made up:

Context - Police searched Bob's home and find a stash of illegal firearms in Bob's possession. Court proceedings are later held on how Bob got his hands on such weapons. For the sake of this example Bob doesn't confirm or deny anything.

Witness with insider information: The Italian Mafia helped arm Bob by selling him weapons for dirt-cheap.

Bob's Defence Lawyer: That's nonsense, your claim is unfounded! Why would Bob spend his hard-earned money? If he wanted such weapons he simply would've gotten them from his brother Steve who is a major gun nut and lended his high-powered weapons to other members of his family, including Bob.


In this case, the Defence Lawer's claim regarding Steve lending his weapons out to others is true. Bob's Defence Lawyer doesn't believe the insider witness' testimony because Bob could've had other avenues for obtaining his weapons. So is Bob's Defence Lawyer committing an argument from incredulity here, or does he have a good enough reason to completely disregard the insider witness' story?



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Steven Hobbs, PhD

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Steven Hobbs, PhD


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Print Sun, Sep 22, 2019 - 01:55 AM
Yeah, John,
Another example along similar lines.
Since there are no whistleblowers the official story must be correct.
It is incredulous to think otherwise.


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JohnWilson

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Print Sat, Sep 21, 2019 - 12:25 PM
I want to thank you for drawing attention to the Argument from Incredulity, OR, should this be "the Appeal to Incredulity." I had not thought of this argument or appeal before - I see it in world and national events where the application of it is used to nullify certain explanations for events that have occurred of "incredible" nature.

Your hypothetical example is okay, but here is a clear cut real event example that demonstrates the Appeal to Incredulity very clearly.

(1) WTC building 7 was not hit by a plane yet collapsed in its own footprint at the speed of gravity with visible ejections of pulverized debris coming out along the vertical support column areas. -- Controlled demolition is the only explanation for this.

(2) It is incredulous that those in some realm of authority would do such a thing. (how, why, for what reason would someone do this - I just cannot believe it) -- [yet it happened.]

(3) Because this is incredulous, "they" (whoever is being accused) therefore did not do it. (even though if one views the collapse there is no other explanation)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mamvq7LWqRU

Study finds fire did not cause the collapse:
“The principal conclusion of our study is that fire did not cause the collapse of WTC 7 on 9/11, contrary to the conclusions of NIST and private engineering firms that studied the collapse. The secondary conclusion of our study is that the collapse of WTC 7 was a global failure involving the near-simultaneous failure of every column in the building.”
https://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2019/09/06/the-official-story-of-the-collapse-of-wtc-building-7-lies-in-ruins/


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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 Sat, Sep 21, 2019 - 05:53 AM
With just the information you presented, the defense lawyer's claim "your claim is unfounded" is accurate. The insider simply made a claim and has not provided support for the claim, so the defense lawyer has every right to be incredulous.
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William Harpine, Ph.D.

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William Harpine, Ph.D.


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Print Sat, Sep 21, 2019 - 08:33 AM
Dr. Bo is exactly right about this.

As an aside, I am always suspicious of the argument from incredulity. The argument assumes that the defendant isn't stupid. Hate to delve into politics, but in the 1972 election, people asked, "why would Nixon cheat when the polls showed that he was already winning by a landslide?" The question is valid: Nixon was winning by a landslide and didn't need to cheat. But he cheated anyway and tape-recorded himself doing so. For a US president who had a successful career as a lawyer to tape-record himself committing a felony was very, very dumb. But Nixon did it. American's dumbest criminals, of which Nixon was one, are, well, dumb.

We hear arguments like, "why would Joe commit adultery when he has such a charming wife?" But, sadly, Joe foolishly did commit adultery. Why would giant company X cheat its customers when they have such a huge profit? But, what a shame, sometimes giant companies cheat just for the fun of it. Why would Boeing take shortcuts with the 737MAX when their sales were so good and their reputation means everything? But you've read the news about the MAX, haven't you?

Dr. Bo is spot-on right about your example, but the argument from incredulity is often unconvincing.


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Jim Tarsi

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Print Wed, Sep 25, 2019 - 10:06 AM
In legal proceedings, for the defense, there doesn't need to be certainty, only reasonable doubt. If the statement about the Italian Mafia is unfounded, saying it is unbelievable is not even necessary. All the defense needs to do is present a reasonable alternative explanation of the facts.

I know you said the situation was made up, and it is a bit contrived. If the firearms are illegal, it doesn't matter where he acquired them. If the whistleblower doesn't have evidence to support his claim, it also doesn't matter whether or not the defense believes the whistleblower's explanation is incredulous.


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Registered User Comments

JohnWilson
Sunday, September 22, 2019 - 02:08:32 AM
@Steven Hobbs, PhD: Well there were whistle blowers in the 911 WTC attack. A number of books have been written and the FBI and the Bush admin has been criticized but their positions ridiculed as "incredulous" as you say. I.e., books by David Ray Griffin.

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Steven Hobbs, PhD
Sunday, September 22, 2019 - 02:19:21 AM
Yep!

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Anon
Saturday, September 21, 2019 - 11:53:10 AM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: Thanks for your reply. My question was more geared towards whether the argument of, "why would he do it like X, when he could've done it like Y" is incredulous, even though Y is in fact a true statement.

But since you stated that the witness doesn't have any support for his claim, let's now assume that there is corroborating indirect evidence such as; Bob working for organization which typically had close connections and dealings with the mob and with Bob usually acting as a representative of that organization. Let's also change the testimony from an insider to a confession, with the witness admitting that his group was directly involved or would be in a place to know about such an arms sale.

Surely now, the Defence Lawyer is committing an argument incredulity. Right?

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Bo Bennett, PhD
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Saturday, September 21, 2019 - 12:08:19 PM
My question was more geared towards whether the argument of, 'why would he do it like X, when he could've done it like Y' is incredulous, even though Y is in fact a true statement.

The fact that Y is true is irrelevant in this case (did you mean X)? Anyway, both irrelevant. First, we are dealing with a question rather than an argument. Let's say we know Billy jumped out the window and we asked, "Why would Billy jump out the window when he could have taken the stairs?" No fallacy here, just curiosity. Now let's look at what might be the IMPLIED argument in your example:

1. There is strong evidence that the Italian Mafia helped arm Bob by selling him weapons for dirt-cheap.
2. The defense lawyer doesn't believe it (he finds it incredulous) and cannot provide adequate evidence against the claim.
C. Therefore, the defense lawyer claims it is false.

Yes, this is the crux of the Argument from Incredulity. Keep in mind, however, if the lawyer finds in unbelievable because of stronger evidence in favor of a competing hypothesis, then no fallacy.

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