Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Logical Fallacies - A fallacious argument does not make the conclusion false.

This post is used for reference to my breakdown of the book "I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist." Related posts can be found by clicking here.

One thing that I need to make clear is that, when I point out a logical fallacy, it does not mean the conclusion is necessarily false. Looking at my various breakdowns of the book IDHEF, I have pointed out numerous strawmen or arguments from ignorance in their "proofs" for god. The fact that these arguments for god are fallacious does not then mean that there is no god. There could be a god but that these are just bad argument. The key point is that there is no reason for me to believe there is a god via such arguments. Essentially, seeing a fallacious arguments can at best lead to the statement, "Your argument is fallacious, therefore I cannot accept your conclusion as true." It does not lead to the statement, "Your argument is fallacious, therefore your conclusion is wrong." Such a statement is itself a logical fallacy known as the "fallacy fallacy."

I bring this up because I have started to get annoyed with the authors' "Roadrunner tactic" that was introduced in Chapter 1. This tactic is occasionally committing the fallacy fallacy when it is used to essentially dismisses any claim out-of-hand due to some perceived flaw in the argument. Worst of all, sometimes the flaw is not in the argument itself, but in a shorthand of the argument. In Chapter 7, they point out that saying "One must never say 'never'" (p173) is flawed because it involves saying "never." Twice, actually! But "never say 'never'" is really just catchy phrasing to make a concept easier to remember — a concept that is saying it is unwise to say "never" because it is impossible to truly know that something can never happen. (Or for whatever reason one might say "never.") To know this would require absolute knowledge, and I would think the authors of IDHEF would agree that humans have no such knowledge based on statements made in Chapter 2. So for them to blindly dismiss this concept because they don't like the phrasing is borderline absurd.

It's one thing to point out argumentative flaws. I'm fine with that as I've done so myself. But concluding that a person is false due to bad arguments is incorrect. This started happening a lot in Chapter 7. Essentially, they point out people making bad arguments for a relativistic morality and conclude that morality cannot be relativistic because of these bad arguments. Sorry, but the best conclusion that can be made when exposing a bad argument is that the argument was bad.

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