Logical fallacies are essentially errors of reasoning in making an argument – identifying them is an excellent tool in debunking pseudoscience and other junk science. When logically fallacious arguments are used, usually based on bad reasoning to support a position (or to try to convince someone to adopt the same position), it is considered a fallacy.
Most of you didn’t know, because I didn’t promote it much, but I had a link in the menu for a list of logical fallacies. It lay fallow, barely read by me or, apparently, anyone else.
Updated 4 November 2014 to add some ironic analysis of Doshi’s “not-an-epidemiologist” background.
A few months ago, I wrote an article about Peter Doshi, a Ph.D. who is doing some postdoctoral work at Johns Hopkins University, one of the leading institutions of higher learning in the USA. Doshi is truly not very notable in science, except last year, he wrote an article about flu vaccines, basically employing the Nirvana Fallacy that because flu vaccines aren’t 100% effective they are worthless. Since vaccines are fundamentally a medical procedure to mitigate risk with a very low risk of adverse events, even 50% effectiveness will save thousands of lives. But we’ll get back to that.
The article he wrote is not actually based on real research, but appears to be an opinion paper–kind of like the opinion papers written by creationists who want to convince anyone who will listen that dinosaurs lived with humans. Doshi denies that most flu’s are even caused by the influenza virus. I guess the CDC’s high tech diagnostic tests for influenza are all wrong. But then again Doshi presents no evidence.
One of my favorite science websites is at Science or Not, the author of which, Graham Coghill, claims that “this website will help you separate real science from nonsense that’s masquerading as science.” Most real scientific skeptics have that goal, but Coghill does a great job in formalizing science into a readable, logical format. If I had to only read one science blog, it would be his, since his logical methodology to critically evaluate scientific claims would help me evaluate anything I read.
Coghill has two ongoing series of articles, one, the “Hallmarks of Science,” which endeavors to describe what makes good science, and it’s evil twin, the “Red Flags of Science,” which establishes the key indicators of bad science, pseudoscience or plain nonsense. With these two powerful tools, one could, through an openminded analysis, determine the the strength of evidence supporting a claim.
I frequently employ the term Logical Fallacy to demonstrate a logical or rational failure of a particular argument, especially those who adhere to anti-science or even pseudoscience points of view, like antivaccinationists. Logical fallacies are used to win arguments, despite the merits of said argument. It’s also used to divert the reader (or listener) to a totally irrelevant point, but has the illusion of being logical.
There are several definitions of what constitutes a logical fallacy:
A logical fallacy is, roughly speaking, an error of reasoning. When someone adopts a position, or tries to persuade someone else to adopt a position, based on a bad piece of reasoning, they commit a fallacy.–Logical Fallacies
An argument that sometimes fools human reasoning, but is not logically valid.–Fallacious Argument
In logic and rhetoric, a fallacy is usually an improper argumentation in reasoning resulting in a misconception or presumption. By accident or design, fallacies may exploit emotional triggers in the listener or interlocutor (appeal to emotion), or take advantage of social relationships between people (e.g. argument from authority). Fallacious arguments are often structured using rhetorical patterns that obscure any logical argument.–Wikipedia
Generally, in discussions or debates, those who lack scientific evidence (which is based on the logical scientific method), have only one choice–resort to one of many logical fallacies. Over time, distinct types of logical fallacies that help define a failure of a pseudoscientific argument. Let’s look at one that is popular with the antivaccination crowd. Continue reading “Vaccine deniers use logical fallacies to prove superiority”
I’m writing this opinion piece not for those who vaccinate themselves or their children, because they accept the science either because they reviewed it and accepted it, or they just know that vaccines work and are relatively safe.
On the other hand, this article is not written for the antivaccinationists, because they don’t listen to logic anyways. They ignore real science to invent their own, based on lies, pseudoscience, and logical fallacies.
No, this article is written for those who may be on the fence about vaccines, and thinks there’s some sort of balanced discussion or debate about vaccines. It’s time to dispel the false-balance discussion pushed by pseudoscience for the simple reason because they lack the intellectual and scientific evidence.
Those lies from individuals who push pseudoscience can be likened to zombies. The lies seems to arise out of unscientific, ignorant, and brainless nonsense. The lies keep arising even after scientific skeptics bury them. Of course, the lies are so loud, it really sounds like the groans of the living dead. Oh, and we can’t forget that the goal of these lies is to eat the brains of the innocent people who are trying to understand the real facts about vaccines. Of all of the pseudoscience zombies out there, the vaccine deniers are the worst, because people die from the zombies, much like what happens from vaccine preventable diseases.
There is a particularly annoying and obnoxious vaccine-denying zombie liar who goes by the handle of The PatriotNurse. Now, as you would expect from her name, she is a nurse, but she runs with the anti-government, conspiracy theory loving, pro-gun (and I don’t mean just owning one gun, but having a full armory because of the government and conspiracies) crowd. And she is antivaccination, as you may have guessed. She posted a crazy video on YouTube, which lists out all of the canards and lies of the antivaccine zombies.
Amusingly, she has disabled comments to this video by stating, “The comments are OFF for many reasons. Foremost is that I refuse to be abused for a contrarian viewpoint that goes against mainstream “Sickcare.” One of the fun things about YouTube is the comments section, where you can cheer for a good music video, or attack someone who posts dumb stuff. But The PatriotNurse refuses to allow her zombie ideas to be shown in the bright light of the day. After watching some of her other videos, I cannot believe someone actually gave her a degree in nursing.
In her vaccine denying, anti-science video, The PatriotNurse uses the standard repertoire of unsupported claims, myths and fairytales that most antivaccinationists use to make their ignorant cases. So, in order of the stupidity of her zombified argument, let me try to chop of its head, and hope the argument doesn’t come back again. Maybe I’m naive about that. Continue reading “The Zombie Apocalypse of antivaccine lies–they just won’t die”
Science denialism, a form of pseudoscience, is everywhere these days. There’s the oft-discussed vaccination denialists who refuse to vaccinate children because they believe that vaccines cause some condition (usually autism), and Big Pharma hides evidence. Or AIDS denialists who believe that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS. Or global warming deniers who think that either global warming isn’t happening or, if it is, it’s not caused by human activities. Or evolution denialists, like Ken Ham, who think that one hundred years of scientific research can be ignored for a book that was written 5000 years ago to help illiterate pastoral farmers understand the natural world. It’s not just science, of course, there are Holocaust deniers, who think that no Jews were killed by the Nazis. There are even 9/11 deniers (usually called truthers) who think that Big Government (probably in league with Big Pharma) is hiding the truth about what really happened on 9/11. Continue reading “Identifying science denialism and pseudoscience”
There have been a couple of significant changes to this website to provide more information to the reader in the ongoing discourse of skepticism vs. irrationality. And by irrationality, of course, we mean anything pseudoscientific.
First, the Logical Fallacies FAQ has been thoroughly updated to make some sections more easy to read, add some better examples of the fallacy, and new external links. Also, in the sidebar, you can download the whole FAQ into a pdf file for use later. There are more detailed descriptions of logical fallacies out in the internet, but most of them are intense and detailed descriptions of the logic behind the illogic. Most of us, as readers of blogs, tend to have a limited amount of time, so having a quick reference on various fallacies should help get through various articles quickly. Continue reading “Housekeeping notes: Logical Fallacies and RationalWiki”
As I discussed a few days ago, Meryl Dorey, the anti-vaccination crackpot, used her vaccine denialist Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) to set up the Real Australian Sceptics in a laughable and amateur attempt to co-opt the word “skepticism” by starting a website that is pure, unadulterated pseudoskepticism. In case you’re wondering, a pseudoskeptic (using the term as defined) refers to those who declare themselves merely “skeptical” of a concept, but in reality would not be convinced by any evidence that might be presented. Global warming “skeptics” are in fact pseudoskeptics who deny the evidence for global warming. Vaccine skeptics are really just pseudoskeptics who deny all of the evidence that shows vaccine’s benefits far exceed the small risks. And that there are no risks of vaccines causing autism. Continue reading “Pseudoskepticism from Australian vaccine denialists”
If you ask any biologist or medical researcher about pseudoscience, they would probably talk about creationism, most of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), homeopathy, sasquatch, and a few other things not so much in the public eye. In the physical sciences, we hear about the global warming denialists, the Theory of the Big Bang denialists, and, again, a few other things that aren’t really famous. But in the total world of pseudoscience, it always seemed like medicine gets the bulk of it, but that just may be a matter of perspective rather than reality. Continue reading “Pseudoscience and logical fallacies in geology”