Crimes against logic (Lifehacker edition)

Patrick Allan, a writer at Lifehacker, has just posted a nifty little essay ambitiously titled “The Definitive Guide to Winning an Argument.” One fun tip is to let the other side present his or her arguments first: “The more you talk, the bigger the chance you’ll say something that can be used against you. So let them talk first to see if they can even support their own argument.” In addition, Mr Allan identifies a number of logical traps that people often fall into. Without further ado, then, here are some of the most heinous “crimes against logic” that people often commit:

There are more ways to lose an argument than win one, so it’s important to be aware of the many logical fallacies that can incriminate you. Here are some of the fallacies that will lose you the argument before it even starts:

  • Anecdotal Fallacy: Using a single personal experience as the foundation of your argument or your big piece of evidence. For example, your phone may have broken right after you bought it, but you can’t use that to argue that those phones are not worth the purchase by others.
  • Confirmation Bias: Ignoring certain facts because of personally held beliefs. For example, you can’t cherry pick evidence that supports your claim and deny the evidence that doesn’t.
  • Correlation vs. Causation: Assuming something is caused by something else just because they happen to correlate. For example, the number of homeless people in an area might correlate to the crime rate for the same area, but crime doesn’t necessarily cause homelessness and homelessness doesn’t necessarily cause crime. For more examples, check out Tyler Vigen’s Spurious Correlations to see how absurd these types of arguments can be.
  • Straw Man: Making up a scenario to make the opponent look bad. You’re assuming because they think one thing they must think another. For example, if they don’t like orange juice, they must think oranges are bad for people.
  • Omniscience: Using statements that imply “all” of something or “every” thing are a certain way. For example, saying something like “all dogs pee on fire hydrants.” This would require you to be omniscient to make such claims, which is not possible.
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