Skeptico’s Misconstruction of Basic Logical Fallacies – while Spreading his own Fallacy Fog

Fencing

Fencing – Another Way to Solve Disputes

This is an article about several Logical Fallacy disputes.

On one side is me, describing my Analysis of more than two dozen logical fallacies found in a blog article by Michael Eisen favoring Genetically Modified food.

On the other side is an anonymous blogger hiding under the name “Skeptico” who disputes my Analysis. (and No, I don’t suspect Eisen and “Skeptico” are the same person.)

No matter which elements of this debate you end up agreeing with, when you complete this article you should come away with a better understanding of several important, deep and sometimes subtle or confusing logical fallacies. So here we go.

Opposite of Correct Isn't Wrong - Credit: Non Sequitur Comics

Opposite of Correct Isn’t Wrong – Credit: Non Sequitur Comics

I wrote an introductory article called “New World Record? Six Logical Fallacies with a Single Sentence promoting Genetically Modified Food” to outline an Analysis of the two dozen Logical Fallacies made by Michael Eisen defending Genetically Modified food.

“Skeptico” disputes five of them using arguments about logical fallacies that superficially appear as though he knows what he is talking about. However, under calm analysis, while he commendably understands some fallacies correctly, Skeptico’s logic is often exposed as mistaken, myopic, tortured, rushed, and sometimes directly contradictory. 

Skeptico fundamentally misconstrues, confuses or misunderstands highly important fallacies including Self-Contradiction, Burden of Proof Reversal, and Ambiguity Assertion.

Skeptico claims expertise at logical fallacies, so its a mystery why he employs them so often here including Contradiction, Straw man, Distraction, Guilt by Association, and Appeal to Hypocrisy / You Too / Tu Quoque. I wonder if he even realizes he does this? 

Further damaging his arguments (and credibility), he unreasonably implies that I (as a reader of Eisen’s article) am responsible for defining words used by the original author, he enigmatically fights for obscuring language / against agreeing on the meaning of key terms, and he refuses to answer respectful clarifying questions.

Strawman. Credit Union of Concerned Scientists

Strawman. Credit Union of Concerned Scientists

This doesn’t mean all of his arguments are fallacious, conflicting or wrong. Some of his arguments are worthwhile, two made me curious to do further enjoyable research to discern if I had made an error, and some of his errors might be forgivable because they involve subtle or complex analysis. 

The problem is Skeptico’s opinions about, and understanding of, logical fallacies are so erratic and superficial they are unreliable. I suspect his errors impair others trying to understand logic. However, his work does show a much better familiarity with fallacies than an earlier critique, which couldn’t even demonstrate a starting ability to understand, diagnose or apply logical fallacies.

“Skeptico” is like a Neutrino – Interacts Only Rarely and Weakly

Skeptico’s refusal to read the primary document he disputes (my Analysis), much of what I’ve written directly responding to his comments, or to answer respectful clarifying questions is why I have decided to write this article instead of responding to his fallacy-filled Blog replies awash with incorrect and misleading claims.

Responsible Discourse vs Plain Arguing

When he has responded to something I’ve written, Skeptico has demonstrated he doesn’t often even try to understand how my points could be valid. That’s not responsible discourse trying to reach a rational or reasonable conclusion, that’s just arguing.

Its also contrary to the Principle of Charity, which means roughly – giving your opponent’s work the full chance to be understood as valid. (Note: abusing this principle is not a logical fallacy. Following it is just responsible discourse.)

1. Contradiction Fallacy
Here’s an example of a Skeptico logical fallacy – while refusing to answer a directly relevant clarifying question.

Contradiction-fallacy

Contradiction-fallacy

Skeptico claims all meaning in Eisen’s GMO article is “crystal clear” (January 2) –

Skeptico: “What [Eisen] says, to me, [about all meanings in Eisen’s article, including the terms “Safe and “Science] is completely unambiguous and crystal clear

Yet later he writes (January 8) –

Skeptico: “No. I didn’t “claim to know what [Eisen] means by those terms “Safe” and “Science”,

Unfortunately for all of us, those two Skeptico claims directly conflict.

How can anyone claim all meaning in an article is “crystal clear” (including the terms “Safe” and “Science”) – yet deny understanding “what [author Eisen] means by those terms ‘Safe’ and ‘Science.’”

Thats probably the most elementary formal logical fallacy called Conflicting Conditions or Self-Contradiction. Skeptico disagrees, making the stunning assertion that there is no such thing as a contradiction fallacy.

Skeptico: “Contradiction is not a fallacy, otherwise you’d never be able to disagree with anyone…”

(I accept part of the blame for that, as the reference fallacy link I provided for further reading on logic was, while a good start, somewhat less than comprehensive and adequate. I have provided much better links at the bottom of this article.)

I’m Willing to Correct Errors – Are they (Eisen and Skeptico)?

I value rationality based on experiment derived evidence and helping others understand how to do so. I’m not (very) emotionally attached to being right as evidenced by my willingness to acknowledge I make errors and to correct my own errors.

I wish Eisen and Skeptico could claim that. But both seem more interested in arguing than in reaching rational conclusions. Of the two (except for his contradictions) Skeptico generally commits slightly fewer and less severe logical fallacies.

Disabled Hypocrisy Appeal: Two Wrongs Don't make a Right, but Three make a Left

Disabled Hypocrisy Appeal

Using a Distraction logical fallacy called Appeal to Hypocrisy (or Tu Quoque), Skeptico claims that just like the article I analyze I don’t always define “science” when I use it. He’s technically correct. 

However, the difference between me and Eisen and Skeptico is that I am always happy to correct my errors; to help define and explain any terms I use that are unclear. (My use of the ambiguous term “science” is now available here.) By contrast, the anonymous Skeptico flat out refused to clarify or define two key terms he is asked about. Eisen was even less responsible. He just ignored it.

Lets examine Skeptico’s overarching errors, one of which is a Burden of Proof Reversal Logical Fallacy and why this misunderstanding invalidates his argument about Ambiguity.

2. Burden of Proof Reversal Fallacy

Responsibility Reversal

Responsibility Reversal

Defined: “Burden of Proof [Reversal] is a fallacy in which the burden of proof is placed on the wrong side.” 

usually(1) one who makes an assertion must assume the responsibility of defending it. If this responsibility or burden of proof is shifted to a critic, the fallacy of appealing to ignorance is committed.

In many situations, one side has the burden of proof resting on it. This side is obligated to provide evidence for its position.

The burden of proof is always on the claim that X exists . . .”

Sometimes it is difficult to correctly decide which side the burden of proof rests on. Let me explain this burden of proof dispute so you can make up your own mind.

The two disputes involves four claims:

1) Eisen’s original claim that Genetically Modified food is “safe,” and
 2) My subsequent claim that “safe” as he uses it is ambiguous.

3) Eisen’s original claim that there is a “War on science,” and
 4) My subsequent claim that “War on science” as he uses it is ambiguous.

[t]here is no point in venturing to resolve a difference of opinion through an argumentative exchange of views if there is no mutual commitment to a common starting point“ 

This means the original argument is meaningless until both sides fully understand and agree what the dispute is.

Because Eisen’s use of “safe” or “war on science” has so many possible widely differing and even contradictory meanings I cannot understand which one Eisen intends. This means Eisen still has the burden of proof until he clarifies or “disambiguates” the terms he used.

AmbiguityEisen makes the original claims of existence of a “war on science” and “safe” Genetically Modified Food. Even though it is not my responsibility, I point out multiple conflicting and confusing meanings for Eisen’s use of the terms “safe” and “science” which, as we will soon see, is all that is needed to establish an Ambiguity Assertion Fallacy.

Skeptico wholly ignores how Eisen made the original claims, and then (without acknowledging the original claims) claims that Eisen made his terms clear enough. However, Eisen agreeing with Skeptico is not a mutual agreement; other readers need to agree as well.

With that Skeptico tries to reverse the Burden of Proof to a questioner, me, …

Me – “How can anyone ‘demonstrate that Eisen wants you to accept [a] definition’ when he doesn’t explain which definition he is using ?”

Skeptico: That’s not really my problem, is it? You claimed it was a fallacy – it’s your burden to demonstrate it is.

and

Skeptico: The burden is with you to demonstrate that Eisen’s use of these words was fallacious.

… when the responsibility for clarity remains with the original author (Eisen), until he explains what he means by those terms.

After Eisen has defined his terms adequately and presented evidence of some kind, then and only then is the burden correctly put on questioners and skeptics.

3. Applying Burden of Proof

Skeptico strongly implies the readers (you and me) are responsible for defining the terms the author (Eisen) uses because Skeptico refuses to make the author responsible for the definitions. Eisen’s wording is good enough for him: “completely unambiguous and crystal clear.”

Implying that it is anyone else’s responsibility to define ambiguous terms that Eisen uses is laughable in its absurdity. No possible rational analysis can make that reasonable.

Skeptico is simply wrong to prematurely reverse the Burden of Proof because Eisen made the first claims “there is a war on science” and that Genetically Modified food is “safe.”

Next, we’ll see how I first identified Eisen’s key terms as ambiguous, and then correctly concluded they are logical fallacies because their use is ambiguous.

4. Ambiguous Assertion Fallacy Distinguished from Equivocation

Ambiguity - Not What You think it Is

Ambiguity – Not What You think it Is

An important fallacy identified at least four times in my Analysis of Eisen’s article is called an Ambiguous Assertion Fallacy.

Ambiguous Assertion: “An unclear statement is made that could have multiple meanings, but is not used multiple times like amphiboly.”

All that is necessary to trigger this fallacy is the use of one term that can give a sentence multiple meanings. It is more obvious when a core term is ambiguous, and stronger yet when you can show intent. However, neither intent or core-term ambiguity is strictly required. All that is required is potentially different meanings for the sentence.

Though words are frequently ambiguous, few words invoke this fallacy because ambiguous words do not often result in potentially different meanings of a sentence.

All that is necessary to identify this fallacy is to show how “safe” or “science” has multiple meanings in the sentence as it is used. That’s easily done with this embedded Monsanto quote. 

Politicians and Industry Putting the "Mis" in MisInformation

Politicians and Industry Putting the “Mis” in MisInformation. Credit: Union of Concerned Scientists

“Monsanto once advertised its pesticide Roundup was ‘safer than table salt.’”

Of course we could also illustrate how “safe” means “not harmful to Monsanto’s profits.” This illustrates how the term “safe,” as Eisen used it, not only has multiple meanings, it has multiple, related and conflicting meanings. But Skeptico even refused to acknowledge that the word “safe” as used by Eisen can give a sentence multiple meanings.

Aristotle - Earliest  Known Study of Logic

Aristotle – Earliest Known Study of Logic

He goes on to claim that for Ambiguity to be a fallacy it must provide a “debating advantage” but provides no evidence, quote, citation or reference to that novel claim. He pretends / imagines I meant Equivocation, which has a different set of rules, rather than Ambiguity which I was using, and which takes many forms that he fails to recognize.

Skeptico’s definition is far narrower than Aristotle’s(2) and is amusingly close to an ad hoc fallacy. The ancient sage wrote that if a sentence can be understood in two ways because of a homonym it is a logical fallacy.

(Skeptico’s error is confusing an Ambiguity Assertion Fallacy with Equivocation, so he insists on using criteria for equivocation, while he ignores or rejects the correct and easier to meet criteria for Ambiguity Assertion fallacy. Substituting an easily refutable idea for difficult one is called a Straw-man Fallacy.)

5. Intent Not Required for Ambiguity Fallacy: Skeptico claimed to have accepted my evidence and rationale that Intent is not required for a logical fallacy.

Touch !

Touche !

The logical nature of a fallacy is independent of the intention of the party using it., Peter Coffey, “The science of logic”

Sophistry is the intent to deceive with logical fallacies, while Paralogism is a logical fallacy that deceives un-intentionally.

But then in his very next paragraph Skeptico resumes insisting intent is required to establish an “Equivocation” fallacy (it is required, but that’s irrelevant because Equivocation is a different fallacy), and then insists any Ambiguity fallacy must meet those criteria.

Skeptico: “Maybe you’re correct in that they don’t have to be intentionally using fallacious logic. However, for it to be equivocation, the arguer has to intend you to agree with a false version of the argument (ie using one definition of the word), while in reality you only agree with the correct version of the argument (ie another definition of the word). You haven’t demonstrated this.”

Don’t his two contrary assertions about intent make another Inconsistency fallacy?
And how about wrongly equating Equivocation with Ambiguity Assertion?

6. Responsible Debate Refused

What makes Skeptico’s credibility fall to pieces is his refusal to help clarify what Eisen meant – especially since he claimed to know completely “unambiguously and crystal” clearly  what Eisen meant.

7. Principle of Charity
 The Principle of Charity means roughly – giving your opponent’s evidence and rationale a full chance to be understood as valid. (I try to take my own responsibility for this a bit further and try to explain their arguments in my own words.)

The principle of charity is a methodological presumption made in seeking to understand a point of view whereby we seek to understand that view in its strongest, most persuasive form before subjecting the view to evaluation.- Wikipedia

Skeptico doesn’t even try to use the Principle of Charity to try to understand how my points could be valid.

While I read Eisen’s article (many times) and all of Skeptico’s arguments, Skeptico admits not reading my Analysis. He didn’t even read the original article by Eisen.

Skeptico “I just haven’t been able to find it [Analysis of the sentence with six logical fallacies] and I don’t fancy reading Eisen’s entire article.”

Skeptico chose to first shoot at my logic while admitting ignorance of  explanations and evidence, and now hangs on to his mistaken first impression in spite of overwhelming evidence of his errors.

He claimed to be interested in reading about “Six Logical Fallacies with a Single Sentence” but Skeptico never read the actual Analysis of the sentence before criticizing my logic. This is even though the blog article he did skim had at least four (4) direct links to the Analysis, and explained in the first sentence that the Blog article was only “an article about an Analysis” and even had the full award winning sentence in the notes at the end of the article.

8. Steps to Considering a Logical Fallacy

Here is my step-by-step method to determining a logical fallacy. For an  example, lets use the first part of the infamous award winning sentence which claims a lie was committed. 

“For the backers of the initiative to claim [ Genetically Modified food might be harmful ] as a finding of fact is an outright lie…”

I identified Eisen’s “lie” claim as a logical fallacy. Here’s how I evaluated the claim.

1) If the “lie” claim is true, it means that Food Safety people have falsely and publicly asserted the Genetically Modified food is harmful when they know it is safe.

That’s a serious claim, but lets take it just as seriously that someone has asserted false information. If it is true, how do we check? 

2) It must meet the minimum for all the criteria to establish a lie. So what are the rational criteria for a lie? (The claim must meet the minimum for all the criteria without any missing links.)

A. A Lie has four criteria: Asserting something that is (a)provably (b)false, and the alleged liar (c)knew it was false (d)when asserted.

“To lie is to deliver a false statement to another person which the speaking person knows is not the whole truth, intentionally.” – Wikipedia

This means unless all four criteria are met, no lie is committed. Here’s an analysis of those criteria.

3) a. Is there any evidence that Genetically Modified food is “safe?”

(There must be some evidence, not just a bald assertion. The evidence should be potentially provably true.)

A. Even though all Eisen’s claims about this can be refuted, I need to ignore all counter arguments for now.

The only question is – is there any evidence at all, no matter how faint or contra-logical? Even though the rationale and evidence collapse under deeper review (and simple logic), by ignoring all refuting arguments and defining “safety” the way Monsanto wants, Eisen has argued enough to meet the bare minimum that there is potentially some evidence of “safety.”

3) b. Is there any evidence that Food Safety people said Genetically Modified food is not harmful?

A. Yes, there is enough evidence to start. Eisen’s article does provide some evidence of some Food Safety people asserting that Genetically Modified food is harmful (contrary to Eisen’s beliefs), in the reference to a public Initiative that potentially could be reviewed.

5) Does the claim fit the third criteria for a lie – known falsity?

A No. There is no evidence, reference, quote or even mention of Food Safety people knowing that Genetically Modified food is safe. We can stop here, because of this failure to meet one of the required criteria.

Conclusion: This makes the claim of a lie unproven.

6) Is an unproven claim of a lie a logical fallacy?

A. Yes, it is a standard Proof by Assertion fallacy: “Proof by Assertion is an argument that states something as true without offering supporting evidence or attempting to construct a valid argument.”

B. It can also be described as Begging the Question (Petitio Principii ): “where premises that are passed on as being valid without supporting evidence.”

C. Abusive ad Hominem: a direct attack on a person’s character rather than focusing on his or her arguments. Is falsely calling an argument a “lie” a character attack ? It might seem like that, but no. If he had called them “liars” that would have been a character attack. By correctly confining his (unproven) attack to their actions he did not invoke this type of fallacy.

In this case, Skeptico grudgingly agreed that this might be a fallacy. While I correctly identified the false claim of a lie as a logical fallacy, I erred in identifying it as a Non-Sequitur, when it is really a Proof by Assertion fallacy. 

Summary

For the three logical fallacies we’ve revisited so far of which Skeptico disputed two – all three identifications of Eisen’s fallacies solidly withstood scrutiny. One was mis-categorized, but it was still correctly identified as a similar logical fallacy. 

In failing to overturn any of those fallacies Skeptico committed a bit more than three logical fallacies of his own. Neglecting to read anything but the “book cover,” ignoring reasonable rationale and evidence, making incorrect snap judgments while committing numerous fallacies might reasonably be described as “Hit and Run” arguments.

__________________

End Part 1

I hope you have benefited from and enjoyed this analysis. I’m always happy to discuss or debate logical fallacies with responsible discourse when the mutual goal is to respectfully reach a rational, reasonable conclusion.

Please stay tuned for Part II

References :
1. “In some cases a reversed burden of proof may be appropriate: for example, when an empirical relationship has been observed but the underlying mechanism is unknown, it may be reasonable to infer from the lack of conflicting evidence that the empirically observed relationship is most likely causal. However, according to the scientific method the relationship is not formally proven in this instance.

2. In his Sophistical Refutations (the earliest known formal study of logic), in chapter 17, Aristotle has this to say about fallacies of homonymy (thanks to Susanne Bobzien):

“If nobody ever made two questions into one question, the fallacy based on homonymy and ambiguity would not have come about, but. Steps to Considering a Logical Fallacy either a refutation or no refutation. For how does asking whether Callias and Themiscodes are musical differ from if bemoth, though being different people, shared a single name? For if the name signified more than one thing, had asked more than one question. Now, is there any evidence that it is not right to ask to be given without qualification one answer to two questions, it is clear that it is not proper no answer without qualification any homonymous.

_______________________
Further reading :

Logically Fallacious, by Bo Bennett

A List Of Fallacious Arguments by Don Lindsay 

B-List Fallacies, by Bo Bennett

Share
This entry was posted in Education, Irony, Logic, Making Good Decisions, Media Gets Science Wrong, Significant Secret. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Skeptico’s Misconstruction of Basic Logical Fallacies – while Spreading his own Fallacy Fog

  1. Skeptico says:

    I tried to explain your errors David but I see you are determined to miss the point, look for loopholes and prematurely and pompously declare victory. You as wrong than ever, as I will show. I also caught you out dishonestly trying to cover your tracks and then lying about it. More on that further down. Previously I tried to help you, tried to explain where you were going wrong in an attempt to get you to realize your mistakes. As you are obviously not honestly trying to determine what is true and what is not, I’m going to be less forgiving of your nonsense from now on.

    I’ll take your article paragraph by paragraph. You start off especially badly:

    On the other side is an anonymous blogger hiding under the name “Skeptico” who disputes my Analysis.

    That is attacking me personally rather than my arguments. That’s ad hominem. Probably a poisoning the well ad hominem, since you start your post with it in an attempt to smear me in the eyes of a new reader. Not a great start in an article about fallacies.

    No matter which elements of this debate you end up agreeing with, when you complete this article you should come away with a better understanding of several important, deep and sometimes subtle or confusing logical fallacies. So here we go.

    No you won’t. Not until you’re read my rebuttals.

    “Skeptico” is like a Neutrino – Interacts Only Rarely and Weakly

    What a lame, low blow. Pathetic. And you paint yourself as the honest debater, valuing rationality and being willing to accept where you are wrong? Who do you think you are fooling?

    It is because of Skeptico’s refusal to read the primary document he disputes (my Analysis),

    Not refusal. I did read it and it was even worse than the “six fallacies” post. I identified three additional falsely called fallacies in my post where I wrote how you Incorrectly Call Logical Fallacies.

    much of what I’ve written directly responding to his comments, or to answer respectful clarifying questions — that I have ceased responding to his fallacy-filled Blog replies awash with incorrect and misleading claims.

    When he has responded to something I’ve written, he has demonstrated he doesn’t even try to understand how my points could be valid.

    Vacuous assertion – you are just describing yourself.

    That’s not responsible discourse trying to reach a rational or reasonable conclusion, that’s just arguing. Its also contrary to the Principle of Charity, which means roughly – giving your opponent’s work the full chance to be understood as valid.

    Again describing yourself.

    Here’s an example of a Skeptico logical fallacy while refusing to answer a directly relevant clarifying question.

    Contradiction-fallacy

    Skeptico claims all meaning in Eisen’s GMO article is “crystal clear” (January 2) –

    Skeptico: “What [Eisen] says, to me, [about all meanings in Eisen’s article, including the terms “Safe and “Science] is completely unambiguous and crystal clear

    Yet later he writes (January 8) –

    Skeptico: “No. I didn’t “claim to know what [Eisen] means by those terms “Safe” and “Science”,

    Unfortunately for all of us, those two Skeptico claims directly conflict.

    You’re just being silly. I felt his sentence was clear enough. That doesn’t mean I know for certain exactly what definition he gave to each word.

    Using a Distraction logical fallacy called Appeal to Hypocrisy (or Tu Quoque), Skeptico claims that just like the article I analyze I don’t always define “science” when I use it.

    Er, no.

    Did you really think you could catch me out that easily? Funny thing is, I knew you would fall into the trap of calling a Tu Quoque. Another fallacy name learned but not understood. And so again, instead of trying to understand what I was trying to teach you, you jumped on Tu Quoque as another way of arguing, trying to win. But you failed, as I will now explain.

    I know you like references, so look at the Tu Quoque:

    This fallacy is committed when it is concluded that a person’s claim is false because 1) it is inconsistent with something else a person has said or 2) what a person says is inconsistent with her actions.

    The fallacy is to say ‘I’m not wrong because you do the same thing’ – ie two wrongs don’t make a right. An example they give:

    Peter: "Based on the arguments I have presented, it is evident that it is morally wrong to use animals for food or clothing."

    Bill: "But you are wearing a leather jacket and you have a roast beef sandwich in your hand! How can you say that using animals for food and clothing is wrong!"

    See? The fallacy is to say ‘it’s not wrong because you do it too.’ If I’d said Eisen didn’t commit a fallacy because, look, you do the same thing, that would be Tu Quoque. But that’s not what I said. I was trying to get you to see that IF you were correct (ie that using “science” was a fallacy) THEN you were committing the same fallacy. I was trying to get you to see that neither of you is using fallacious logic by using the word “science.” And you know that because I wrote:

    Do you really want to go down this route, or do you want to consider that maybe this was not fallacious at all? [bold added]

    Also, on my own blog post I wrote:

    That’s five uses of the word “science.” So Dilworth, according to his own reasoning, employed at least five Ambiguity Fallacies in this one post. (Of course they’re not fallacies, as I explained earlier. But Dilworth must think they are.) Dilworth doesn’t apply the same microscope to his own writing that he applies to the writings of someone he disagrees with. If he did, he might realize no fallacy had been employed by Eisen. [Bold added]

    I was trying to get you to see that it’s not a fallacy. You see, if you had really been out to learn, really out to admit any mistakes, if you had really applied the “principle of charity” that you like to quote, you would have seen that. But you’re not and you didn’t. And so you FAIL again.

    However, the difference between me and Eisen and Skeptico is that I am always happy to correct my errors

    Haaha – as I have shown, and will continue to show below, completely false.

    ..to help define and explain any terms I use that are unclear. (My use of the ambiguous term “science” is available here.)

    First, there were no links to that explanation in your post. It’s a bit much to expect someone to search your site every time a word is ambiguous – if it’s ambiguous, define it right there.

    Second, even with that explanation, it’s not clear which definition you are referring to on each occasion. When you say “Eisen’s article attracted me because I’ve been helping work for good science for a few decades” do you mean “science” related to facts or methods or do you mean ““science” related to science as a mode of thinking”? You don’t say and so your page doesn’t help one bit. FAIL.

    That’s not the best bit though. This is:

    You only just wrote that page, didn’t you David?

    Haven’t you heard of Google cache? It lets people see what your site looked like the last time Google crawled it – in your case a week ago. Check the Google cache of David Dilworth’s blog. The narrative is: This is a snapshot of the page as it appeared on Jan 25, 2013 04:29:27 GMT- that’s ONE WEEK AGO. And guess what – as recently as a week ago there was no “References” section where science is defined. David Dilworth wrote that in the last week. Your original “fallacies” post was there for almost six months with no explanation of the ambiguous term science. So it wasn’t “available” as you lied. Caught you David, LYING. And that’s not an assertion as I have the proof.

    As Google cache gets updated eventually that page without the “References” tab will soon be gone. So I saved the screenshots.

    Here is a current screenshot – note the references tab with the “what do I mean by science” sub tab.

    Now look at the screenshot of that 1.25.13 cached blog page here. No “References” tab. Oops! You added that page less than a week ago and then  implied was there all along.

    Is this really you being “not (very) emotionally attached to being right as evidenced by my willingness to acknowledge I make errors and to correct my own errors”? Or is it you being more interested in arguing than in reaching rational conclusions? Would an honest debater, one genuinely striving for the truth, doctor the evidence the way you just did? Or is that the action of a dishonest person, not interested in what is right but just determined to “win” an argument? This is why you keep making these errors David. You don’t listen to learn. You listen to try to win. And yet you still fail because you are still wrong.

    is not my responsibility, I point out multiple conflicting and confusing meanings for Eisen’s use of the terms “safe” and “science” which, as we will soon see, is all that is needed to establish an Ambiguity Assertion Fallacy.

    As I have shown, and will show again below – absolute nonsense. Once again, your own cited link even says this:

    Because of the ubiquity of ambiguity in natural language, it is important to realize that its presence in an argument is not sufficient to render it fallacious, otherwise, all such arguments would be fallacious. [My bold.]

    Your own link specifically states that ambiguous meanings are NOT sufficient to establish a fallacy. Why do you keep ignoring your own link? Aren’t you demonstrating here that you are the one who is more interested in arguing than in reaching rational conclusions?

    … when the responsibility for clarity remains with the original author (Eisen), until he explains what he means by those terms.

    Yes, it’s his responsibility for clarity. But your responsibility to demonstrate that a fallacy has been committed. That was your claim; your burden to demonstrate it. Lack of clarity by itself is not a fallacy.

    Skeptico is simply wrong to prematurely reverse the Burden of Proof because Eisen made the first claims “there is a war on science” and that Genetically Modified food is “safe.” Next, we’ll see how I first identified the terms as ambiguous, and then correctly concluded they are logical fallacies because their use is ambiguous.

    No, you incorrectly concluded they are logical fallacies. Eisen may not have demonstrated “there is a war on science” and that Genetically Modified food is “safe.” Not in that one sentence anyway (which would be ridiculous). But so what? That isn’t what I was saying. What I was saying was: you are claiming a fallacy, so it your burden to demonstrate a fallacy.

    All that is necessary to identify this fallacy is to show how “safe” or “science” has multiple meanings in the sentence as it is used. That’s easily done with this embedded Monsanto quote.

    Not according to your own cited link. Repetition doesn’t make it right David.

    He goes on to claim that for Ambiguity to be a fallacy it must provide a “debating advantage” but provides no evidence, quote, citation or reference to that novel claim. He pretends / imagines I meant Equivocation, which has a different set of rules, rather than Ambiguity which I was using, and which takes many forms that he fails to recognize.

    Well we’re discussing logic so I was using logic to try to show you where you were wrong. But of course, to do that you have to be interested in trying to understand. But if you want a link, I see you like Wikipedia:

    …equivocation is ambiguity arising from the misleading use of a word…

    Aren’t you talking about misleading uses of word? If so, how is that not equivocation?

    Also, this is a pretty reliable site:

    The following are fallacies of ambiguity:

    Equivocation (The same term is used in two different ways)

    Amphiboly (The structure of a sentence allows two different interpretations)

    Accent (An emphasis suggests a meaning different from what is actually said)

    If you didn’t mean equivocation, did you mean amphiboly of accent? (Hint: neither of those work either.) Here’s another site that adds composition and division. Neither of those fit either. What did you mean then?

    Here’s another link that may help you understand where you are wrong. Here’s one example they give of the fallacy:

    It is said that we have a good understanding of our universe.  Therefore, we know exactly how it began and exactly when.

    Do you see what is different from the structure of Eisen’s sentence? If it was just “It is said that we have a good understanding of our universe” then we would still have ambiguity (ie what exactly does “good understanding” mean?) but no fallacy. What makes it a fallacy is “Therefore, we know exactly how it began and exactly when.” With Eisen’s quote there is no “therefore…” leading to a different meaning of the word. THAT MEANS THERE IS NO FALLACY. Which is what that link goes on to say:

    Ambiguous phrases are extremely common in the English language and a necessary part of informal logic and reasoning. As long as these ambiguous phrases mean exactly the same thing in all uses of phrase in the argument, this fallacy is not committed. [My bold]

    Don’t you see? Eisen only used the word once in the sentence. Therefore it would be impossible for him to use the word with more than one meaning. It’s only if there is the “therefore…” (or equivalent wording) with a lead to another meaning, that there is a fallacy. That’s why Eisen’s use is not a fallacy.

    That enough citations or references for you yet?

    Skeptico’s definition is far narrower than Aristotle’s(2) and is amusingly close to an ad hoc fallacy. The ancient sage wrote that if a sentence can be understood in two ways because of a homonym it is a logical fallacy.

    Aristotle now? I see we’re on to argument from authority.

    While I read Eisen’s article (many times) and all of Skeptico’s arguments, Skeptico admits not reading my Analysis.

    The analysis was not in the post where you claimed there were the six fallacies. Your claim; you did not justify it in the article. Even when I found it, the so called fallacies were not clearly laid out. Not my fault if you don’t know the first thing about writing. But I have read it now. And it is appalling. Terrible, long winded pompous writing. And wrong through and through. As I have shown.

    He didn’t even read the original article by Eisen.

    Another misleading statement. In your original post you wrote “If you enjoy a logical puzzle – before you read my analysis, see if you can identify the sentence with the six logical fallacies.” When I wrote my original comment I meant that wasn’t going to read a 3500 word article just to search for one sentence that you couldn’t even be bothered to quote. I have read it since. So what? We are talking about this one sentence that does not contain six fallacies. But again, you have to try (and fail) to score points rather than understand.

    Skeptico chose to first shoot at my logic while admitting ignorance of  explanations and evidence, and now hangs on to his mistaken first impression in spite of overwhelming evidence of his errors.

    Describing yourself again.

    I identified the “lie” claim as a logical fallacy. Here’s how I evaluated the claim.

    Not sure why you are writing about this, or why you wrote 1000 words of so that followed. I agreed that “lie” was an assertion. Seems like you can’t even take yes for an answer.

    In this case, Skeptico grudgingly agreed that this might be a fallacy. While I correctly identified the false claim of a lie as a logical fallacy, I erred in identifying it as a Non-Sequitur, when it is really a Proof by Assertion fallacy.

    I agreed it was a fallacy. What I said was (1) it is only one fallacy in a sentence, not six, and (2) it wasn’t part of Eisen’s main argument about the proposition, so it was not really worth making an issue of this one unimportant assertion.

    For the three logical fallacies we’ve revisited so far of which Skeptico disputed two – all three identifications of Eisen’s fallacies solidly withstood scrutiny.

    Only in your fevered imagination.

    You ignored the substantial part of my last comment, so I’ll repeat it.

    Look at the “you have faith in science” example that you liked so much. A person might read that and go, “yes he does have faith in science – science is a religion.” Now look at “GMOs are safe.” No anti-GMO person is going to look at that and go, “you know, he is right, GMOs are safe.” Why would they? What would be the thought process? It doesn’t make sense.

    Show how someone could actually be fooled into believing GMOs are safe when they were not, due to the ambiguity. If you can’t demonstrate that, you have not demonstrated a fallacy. Your claim; yours to demonstrate.

    Stop avoiding the issue. Answer my actual  arguments.

    Questions For David Dilworth

    Questions arising from your arguments:

    1) If you really are willing to correct your errors as you claim, why did you try to cover up your use of the undefined word “science” by writing a “What do I mean by “Science?” page and pretend it had been there all along? Isn’t that a sign of someone trying to hide errors, rather than correct them?

    2) Now that we know you hadn’t defined what you meant by “science” the numerous times you used it, will you now either (a) admit that your article was full of logical fallacies too, and apologize to Eisen for calling him a hypocrite, or (b) agree that just using the word “science” without defining it is not a fallacy, and admit your fallacies # 1 and 2 are incorrect? Pick one. (Hint: the correct answer is (b).)

    3) You claimed that the ambiguity fallacy is not equivocation. But according to Wikipedia, equivocation is ambiguity arising from the misleading use of a word. Aren’t you talking about misleading uses of word? If so, how is that not equivocation?

    4) If you didn’t mean equivocation, what did you mean? Alternatives include amphiboly, accent, composition and division. Explain what you meant and how it applies to this case.

    5) Why do you insist that all that is necessary to identify this fallacy is to show how a word has multiple meanings, when your own cited link, plus this one and this one disagree.

    6) Show how someone could actually be fooled into believing GMOs are safe when they were not, due to the ambiguity. Explain exactly how this could happen. What would be the thought process? If you can’t show that you can’t claim a fallacy.

  2. Nicole G says:

    Wow. That was so funny. Love your cartoon three rights make a left. Never would have believed if you’d told me logic could be entertaining. I am going to have fun and pay a lot more attention to my words. Thanks David.

  3. Becka Eberstark says:

    Very gently explained for such a complex topic. I got most of that. I want to read it again though.
    I’m wondering if that skeptic fellow has a bit of the Dunning Kruger effect ? His fierce denials in the face of such strong facts. OMG.

  4. David says:

    Skeptico Banned: The anonymous blogger hiding under the name “Skeptico” is now banned from this blog for making defamatory and false statements anonymously.

    Wikipedia was forced to do the same thing “Wikipedia bans anonymous contributors to prevent libel”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>