Five Fallacies | Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studios

Here’s a few ideas about how
to argue better on the internet, and also off the internet. [THEME MUSIC] [DING] There is a lot of
arguing on the internet. There’s a lot of
arguing everywhere, but sometimes it feels like the
internet is a place that people go specifically to argue. And that’s great. Heated debate is how we move
issues forward, generate knowledge, and
reach understanding, because that’s the
point of arguing, right? To reach an understanding. Right? Right? Why are you looking
at me like that? Anyway, for obvious reasons,
we here at Idea Channel want everybody arguing at their
full capacity all the time. So what follows is a
kind of Audubon field guide for bad arguments. A list of some of
the most common fallacies– flaws in logic
that can appear airtight even though they’re not. Sometimes they’re
used intentionally to distract, derail, deflate. But lots of times, even the ones
called intentional fallacies, are deployed because
by their very nature, they seem appropriate. When an interlocutor feels
as though they are out of logical road,
they sometimes appear under the less-than-solid
fallacy shoulder. The following are not nearly
all or the most interesting fallacies, but rather, the
ones that I see the most often. The goal of this
video is to assist you in assisting your fellow
conversationalists in identifying their
unintentionally faulty logic. This is one long video,
but in the doobly doo and in a playlist on Idea
Channel’s channel page, you will find one
video for each fallacy. This way, when you do locate
a fallacy out in the wild, you can direct the
person who’s deployed it to a source letting them know
the faultiness of their ways and encouraging them to
do better, because we know that they are capable. We believe in them. So with that being said,
on with the fallacies. The straw man fallacy. Contrary to what many people
would have us believe, a straw man is not simply
an argument that you dislike or find inconvenient. Rather, it is a version
of an argument that is misrepresented, simplified
so that it is easier to knock over. Just as an actual
man made of straw is a less solid version
of a man made of flesh, a straw man argument
is a less solid version of a fully fleshed out argument. A straw man replaces
or represents whatever actual argument is being made. Straw manning can come
in many different forms. It’s not even
always intentional. You might accidentally
construct a straw man if you don’t fully understand
the depth of an argument. And that is fine. It happens to the best of us. However, to intentionally
misread or misrepresent an argument to simplify the
process of discrediting it– that’s a little bit
less forgivable. To take nuanced
points out of context, to ignore crucial information,
to even exaggerate claims to the point of absurdity,
which is then easier to refute, these are all straw man tactics. For example, Mike
and Straw Mike are having a conversation about
how to responsibly depict awful stuff in media. I don’t think it’s
too much to ask that when a media creator wants
to show heinous or awful stuff, they do so in a context that
shows that that stuff is heinous and awful. Oh, so now we’re not allowed to
show violent or terrible things unless we include some
long-winded sermon about how bad things are bad? I think creators should
be able to show or do whatever they want. The original argument states a
preference for what Mike thinks constitutes the
responsible use of media. The straw man argument
recasts this as something much simpler and
easier to agree with. Freedom is good. Censorship is bad. But now Mike and Straw
Mike are no longer arguing about the same point. And so the conversation
will quickly become unfocused and
aggressive, which is never fun. If you’re going to
win an argument, you want to win against what
the other side actually thinks, don’t you? A straw man argument
keeps that from happening. I hope this description
of the straw man fallacy has been helpful. Happy conversing. The ad hominem attack. Ad hominem criticism is
where instead of criticizing the argument or
ideas of the person with whom you are
conversing, you criticize the person
themselves, and in so doing, claim you have also
criticized their argument. And, boy, is this one popular. Ad hominem criticisms
are not always, but are very
frequently fallacious. Wrong! Unless the character or
actions of the person making an argument are directly
related to the matter at hand, criticizing them and not
their ideas is a fallacy. Ad hominem attacks are
the bread and butter of political advertising–
criticizing a candidate and saying that because
their character is bad, their ideas and
policies are also bad. (DEEP VOICE) John
Smith literally hates little children,
and so his ideas about salmon fishery
safety regulations are wrong– dead wrong. (NORMAL VOICE) A related
fallacy is tu quoque, where it is argued that a
person making an argument has behaved in a
way inconsistent with that argument. Their behavior might
be inconsistent, but it doesn’t necessarily
make their argument wrong. For example, it’s really
important for fast food restaurants to be clear
about the salt, fat, and sugar content of
their food– doubly so because of how cheap it is. Obesity is a real
problem in America. What business do you
have asking companies to disclose this stuff? I saw you eat two Big Macs and
drink 34 ounces of Hi-C Orange Lavaburst yesterday. [GROANS] This is an ad hominem
tu quoque attack. Mike argues for the presence
of certain dietary information. And Straw Mike says that
based on his behavior, he lacks the authority to do so. Straw Mike’s response
doesn’t at all approach the point
Mike is making, though. Mike is arguing that if certain
dietary information were widely available, it’s possible that an
effect on obesity would occur. Ad hominem attacks make it
so the person being attacked suddenly has to defend their
character and not their ideas, when in fact their character has
no bearing on the conversation whatsoever. And also, it’s mean. You seem like a nice person. No need for insults. I hope this description
of the ad hominem attack has been helpful. Happy conversing. The black and white fallacy. A black and white
fallacy is where you present limited choices as
the only choices, when in fact additional options do exist. It’s time to choose. Sometimes called the false
dichotomy or false dilemma, the black and white fallacy
is a really easy way of eradicating
complexity and nuance. The most common black
and white fallacy is the old saying, “either
you’re for us or against us,” when, in fact, it’s highly
likely one might find arguments on either side of a
position appealing, and therefore occupy
some previously unannounced space on a continuum
between the two positions. Much of governmental and
gender politics, for example, operate on a very
widely spread adoption of a black and white fallacy. Sometimes the black
and white fallacy presents a dichotomy between
two things that are not actually opposites or mutually exclusive. No continuum exists
between those two things because they are not related
to each other in the way that the black and white
fallacy presents them to be. For example, it would be nice
to have more well written, playable female
characters in video games. If you want more playable
female characters, that means you must want
fewer male characters. And those are the ones
that I like the most. Are you trying to ruin games? In this situation, Straw
Mike’s black and white fallacy is that in games,
either specifically or generally, there can only
be male or female characters. Having more of one
automatically means that there is less of the other. That is not the case. More of something is not
always automatically less of its opposite. And so this dichotomy is false. The black and white fallacy
presents nuanced arguments as being, well, black and white,
and presents only extremes as being available for further
discussion, even when that’s not the case. What are you doing? Are you backing down
from a challenge? That’s not like you. I hope this description of
the black and white fallacy has been helpful. Happy conversing. The authority fallacy. The authority fallacy
holds that because someone in a position of assumed
authority has said something, that thing must be true. However, the authority fallacy
is just as important for what it isn’t. It isn’t meant to defeat
statements made by experts or by scientific consensus. Saying that global warming
is true and man-made because the vast
majority of scientists that study it produce evidence
that support this claim is not an example of
the authority fallacy. Neither is stating,
for instance, that all medical
technology is blind to race based on Lundy Braun’s
exhaustive research of the spirometer. The scientific community and
experts in their field of study are authorities. The authority fallacy
applies this level of respect for
authority to people who don’t actually possess it. The firsthand accounts of
our friends, family members, and coworkers do not constitute
authority, and therefore truth– unless, of course,
they also happen to be experts. For example, Mike and
Straw Mike are talking about automobile manufacturing. Whoa. Korean cars in
America are so cheap. I wonder how they do that? Well, my uncle is a
mechanical engineer, and he says that it’s because
they use terrible, cheap parts. You are literally
trading money for safety. Straw Mike’s uncle might be an
engineer, and that’s awesome. But it doesn’t necessarily
give him the authority to talk about the construction
of certain parts in vehicles. This is an authority
fallacy, unless it turns out Straw Mike’s uncle is an
independent researcher conducting a peer-reviewed study
on the international automobile industry and its
effects on safety. The authority fallacy
trades actual points for external,
non-expert anecdotes– the plural of which, you
might have heard, is not data. Your uncle seems like
a really cool guy, but I bet you can win
this argument without him. I hope this description
of the authority fallacy has been helpful. Happy conversing. The no true Scotsman fallacy. The no true Scotsman fallacy
calls into question the purity or actualness of something as
a way to refute an argument. Usually it works like this. You claim some set of things
has a universal characteristic. Someone then provides an
exception to the rule, making your claim
universal no longer. And then you respond
by saying, well, only true things in that set
possess that characteristic. The no true Scotsman
user defends their claim based on a reactionary,
subjective notion of what category
something belongs in or to what degree that thing
truly belongs in that category. Classically, no true
Scotsman is used to exclude bad
actors from a group. Anthony Flew, who
coined this fallacy, described a Scotsman
who, upon learning that one of his countrymen
committed a violent act, said, no true Scotsman
would do such a thing. However, there are a
couple, what you might call, “versions” of no true Scotsman. One of them has to do
with in-group maintenance, claiming that no true gamer,
comic book reader, Republican, or feminist would say or
believe a certain thing. This tactic avoids
confronting a counterargument by saying the person
who exhibits it is not truly the thing they claim. And so the exception they
provide is null and void. No true Scotsman also works to
exclude ideas and objects, not just people. For example, Mike and Straw Mike
are talking about video games. All video games must
have clearly stated goals and a win-lose condition. “Gone Home” doesn’t have
either of those things, and it’s a video game. Right. But “Gone Home” is
not a true video game. The more productive
conversation would be, what happens to the
category of video game when we consider “Gone
Home” part of it? Or to discuss what
about the category of video game– for Straw
Mike, at least– absolutely requires that it
have clearly stated goals and win-lose conditions. Instead, the conversation is
stopped dead in its tracks because the entire point
hinges upon one side’s subjective sense of what is
and is not truly whatever. And now we’re just
arguing opinion, which will only ever
end in Godwin’s Law. You Scots sure are
a contentious people. You just made an
enemy for life. I hope this description of
the no true Scotsman fallacy has been helpful. Happy conversing. And with that, we come to the
end of our set of fallacies– though, as it turns out, not
the end of all fallacies. There are a lot of
fallacies out there. And if you like
this kind of thing– if you want to see us make
more videos in this style, where we describe fallacies and
put them in tiny videos for you to send to other people==let us
know, and maybe we’ll do more. There are plenty. We’re going to be doing full
comment responses for the Game Mechanics episode at the
end of next week’s video. But there is one thing I wanted
to talk about for a second, just as a closing
thought for this video. There were some people
who wrote comments on last week’s video, which was
a collab with Extra Credits, saying that they
weren’t going to watch the episode because
Dan from Extra Credits has come out as being
vocally anti-Gamergate. And I just want
to be super clear. I know we haven’t made
a video about this, and I’m struggling with
whether or not we will. But if a necessary precondition
for your continued viewership of Idea Channel is that we
are in any way pro-Gamergate, I have some bad news for you. I understand that
the party line is Gamergate has ethical
concerns at its forefront and that it is about
games journalism. But for me, Gamergate
is very much defined by the
harassment of women and it’s just terrible
exclusionary tactics to keep people out
of gaming, to keep people talking about gaming. You can tell me all day long
that social justice warriors engage in the same tactics
or that Gamergaters set up a campaign to donate to
an anti-bullying charity. It kind of doesn’t
matter because Gamergate has become so connected
to, so defined by harassment and vitriol. There are ethical concerns in
gaming and games journalism. We’ve made videos about them. Leigh Alexander wrote a
very helpful list of them. But none of them are
worth the terrible things that are happening in the name
of ethics in games journalism. And so for that reason
and many others, I am not pro-Gamergate–
not even a little. And if that’s a problem
for you, so be it. [THEME MUSIC] [DING]

Maurice Vega

100 Responses

  1. I see this is an older video so comments may not be read, but besides learning about fallacies, what would be most interesting are techniques to respond to them and ways to practice responding to them. I don't know how to do this and for this reason avoid discussions on many topics. But I'm sure it's a skill I could develop if I knew how to do this. Tnx.

  2. Creating awareness for good argumentation is critical. But don't you think that, if your goal is to maximize awareness and education, you'd might use examples that are a little less… loaded?

    I myself personally agree with many of your examples, but, Mike, that's still not the correct way to create a dialog in which to teach and learn universally between all sets of viewpoints.

    Mike, not to poison the well, but I can see that many people would see this video coming off as less genuine, and more as if you have an agenda that you're pushing.

    Maybe it's time to rewrite and remake this video.

  3. What is it about today? Every youtube video I watch has some fast-talking guy who has an almost diabolical (aka creepy) expression when the video is paused! I'm reading a book.

  4. The stream of thumbnail clip videos is both annoying and distracting. They don’t make this video more interesting and they don’t make the information more clear. Animations or illustrations should enhance understanding of the message being delivered; otherwise, it’s little more than decoration, but I found myself watching the clips more than listening to the narration.

    The straw man Mike character was OK. He isn’t distracting.

  5. Nice try Cheif. You seem genial enough, so I'm going to forgo the ad hominem. Also, nice injection of politics into your examples, while begging the question about global warming while simultaneously appealing to authority. Brilliant! I would suggest Peter Kreefts Logic Text using Socratic, Platonic and Aristotelian Principles. It's about $50.00. Cheers.

  6. I highly recommend Carl Sagan's The Demon Haunted World. In it he outlines some of the logical tools we should have in our bull shit detector kits. Keep up the your great videos!

  7. The straw man wasn't really clear, but what I understood is replacing the argument with a simpler one to knock it over.

  8. Oh boy, big issue with your argument from authority analysis. IT IS an argument from authority when you say that 99% of scientist think that global warming is true therefore it is true. What makes it true is their evidence. The whole issue with arguments from authority is believe people based on their credentials over their results. Arguing peoples position and credentials is pointless, you argue their evidence and results. I don't know if this was you rationalizing personal bias, my misunderstanding of you, or a narrative play, but you gave a distinct example of an argument from authority and said it wasn't. An argument from authority is not, however, when you say PHD in Material Science person A will most likely provide better material specification results than BOS Gender Studies person B.

  9. Could this guy be anymore one sided and incorrect in his explanations? Gamergate? Really? Tax $$ hard at work to create crap like this. This is what we are paying for.

  10. Notice how he turned Straw Mike into a staw, almost like Mike is making a Straw Man fallacy. #NotAllStrawMenAreFallacies

  11. Wait…are you saying that someone's character does mot mean they are a bad….idunno, senator, congressman,or lets say PRESIDENT?

    You mean to tell me that calling someone names and such is a disengeneaous and invalid attempt to discredit someone's, lets say policies??

    Hmmmmmmmmmmm where have i seen that???

    The left, 99.9% of anti trump retharic is an ad hominem

  12. "ethics in gaming journalism" is hilarious
    If it weren't obviously just a vehicle for misogyny, I'd be concerned that y'all were taking yourselves so seriously lol

  13. I went to a Catholic middle school. The nonsense they use in that school is one of the main reasons why I no longer believe in God. I remember one time when my religious studies teacher used the black and white fallacy. I was in the 6th grade. We were in class in the middle of a lecture. Fifth grade had a lesson for the DARE program, you remember the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program? One officer came in with a police dog that we could see from our room, because our door was open. We asked our teacher permission to go see the dog. She said, "fine, if that dog is more important than God, go ahead." Us wanting to take a break to go see that dog does not mean we think that it is more important than God. We can and do, learn about God every day in class. However, this is our one opportunity to go see this dog.

  14. Here is an interesting story about a time when my father employed the fallacious appeal to authority. We were discussing the death penalty. I made the argument that it costs the tax payers more than life in prison and the fear that a falsely accused person may be wrongfully executed. He completely ignored the intelligent logical points that I made and instead he brought up the desire for revenge that he would feel if I or one of my brothers were murdered. I refuted this fallacious appeal to feeling by pointing out that killing a murderer does not bring the victim back. He continues to try his hardest to avoid meaningful discussion at all costs and goes off on a tangent about the need to avenge the demise of a loved one and a lot of other nonsense macho alpha dog shit. He said to me "When you are a father, you will understand." He said this, operating under the fallacious assumption that him being a parent means that his opinion on the death penalty is more relevant than mine.

  15. And there it is. But But But, there is a rainbow of gender options. And screenshot of Anita Sarkeesian. Nice the Soy is strong with this one.

  16. Yes and no. If you refer to the "scientific community" that is often a misleading argument since there is no single person who speaks for the entire scientific community. In many areas of science there are ongoing debates within the scientific community. When I hear a politician use the word community preceded by an adjective I know the bull muffins will come next.

  17. summary:
    1. strawman fallacy hominem
    >ad hominem tu quoque and white fallacy/false dichotomy
    4.authority fallacy
    5. no true scotsman fallacy

  18. It seem people in comments section are less arguing about whether something is fallacious or not. and is seem to be arguing about language instead of fallacy. in other words people are less talking about rhetoric and more talking about linguistics?

  19. 6:58 it's the same thing. if you have more of x, there is less of y. there is no z because there is no third gender. therefore, there will be less of y if there is more of x. your straw man character was actually correct.

  20. You suffer from the fallacy that the point of a debate in the real world should be to win instead of finding the truth of the matter.

  21. "The plural of anecdote is not data". The original incarnation of this quote stated the opposite. This was in the context of a seminar on qualitative research methods.

  22. Good video, but you're making a strawman argument against gamergate. Yes, there is douchebaggery associated with both sides of it, but the original basis of it was in fact one of ethics. Unfortunately, every ship in the sea collects barnacles. One can support the view argument while rejecting the bad actors, and can do so without committing a No True Scotsman fallacy.

  23. Which fallacy is the following? When a person claims you can't criticize someone because you can't do it better than them. The most common example I've seen is when people criticize guitar covers on YouTube and there are these snowflakes who retort by saying, 'I'd like to see you play it better.' That irritates me too much. I once saw a very witty reply to this: 'You don't have to be a baker to criticize the bread.'
    Is there a name for this all too common fallacy?

  24. 6:25 This is why voting is frustrating being a pro 2nd Amendment, pro choice, pro gay, anti racism, small government theist.

  25. Hol’ up.

    What “majority” of scientists are you talking about? I certainly hope it isn’t “the 97%”. Because that is demonstrably false.

  26. PBS. Trojan Horse for putting lipstick on the pig of fast talking, fallacious metropinko dogma. Must politicize everything! Barf!

  27. I agree with what I could hear comprehend & form an opinion about in your mind bending auctioneer like cadence of speech. There is such an enormous amount of information on the internet people ( I'm sure I'm guilty of it too) repost gram tweet share without proper facts. That's as far as I got because dude slow down!

  28. Ok I finished. So fast! I agree with all of it. I'd love to share this with well the nation /world. I am concerned that your speed in which you point out these facts is frustrating

  29. The Strawman Fallacy is called that because it is like a strawman is being attacked instead of the person not your explanation. Imagine people on a stage to debate. One debater crosses the stage and attacks a strawman set up near his opponent. The opponent isn't touched. In the same way a person's real arguments are untouched when the Strawman Fallacy is used because destroys something the debate doesn't believe.

  30. Authority isn't proof. Appeal to Authority acts as if the authority of a person proves something. If something has been proven a debater should describe the thing that the person in authority saw or said, instead of only citing their position of authority. Scientists with degrees can have biases.

  31. The Ad Hominem was incorrect. In order to be ad hominem there needs to be an attack, "you are wrong because you are stupid" for instance. The idea that one is wrong because of extraneous matters concerning the individual (e.g. John hates children so his ideas are wrong) is known as POISONING THE WELL. Sometimes there is a fine line between one and the other.

  32. I love that you´re trying to help but the whole point of you making this video was to help people understand fallacies but I couldn´t understand a single F**KING thing you said. Dumb it down.

  33. Wouldn't tu quo que be relevant if someone says "I think we should have more labeling in fast food," but that person paid lobbiests to fight against labeling?

  34. Gone home is a game if you consider a walking simulator to be a game. Gone Home is similar to visual novels so it would be more like an interactive visual novel than a video game. Just because you can move around in 3d space, read things, and the game ends doesn't make it a game. So yes, Strawman Mike is correct. It isn't a true Scotsman situation.

  35. It seems to me your argument by authority "fallacy" is being confused with anecdotal "evidence". In the Toulmin Model of Argument, authority is not a fallacy at all, simply a warrant (or justification). It can be debunked if the authority can be discredited and it can be supported through additional authority. Even anecdotal evidence is not really a fallacy. In courts, anecdotal evidence is called testimony. Testimony can be debunked if you can call into question the credibility of the witness or strengthened through corroboration by other witnesses.

  36. ….. is he talking about another authority argument because the definition in this site and a lot of people in the comments say it's different.

  37. This first fallacy is not a Strawman. It's a slippery slope fallacy. The opponent assumed a question based on the argument. The assumption was a slippery slope. The opponent did not asses the opposing argument.

  38. What a pointless video this turned out to be lol. Twitter is still as huge a cesspool of logical fallacies as ever.

  39. If anyone would like to know the most uncomfortable I was in that entire situation. It was actually when I was asked if my parents deserved money if the state killed me or I killed myself

  40. Ik im real late but Where is the position of ad hominem contextualised by arguments dealing with personal experience and power dynamics; such as, in arguments over sociological minority right or the scope of oppression felt by a group

  41. I can’t believe they didn’t reach us about the logical fallacies at elementary school. I only learnt about this a couple years ago otherwise I could have avoided so many pointless conversations throughout the years ??

  42. The fact that the political bias in this video is so palpable and I'm being directed to watch it through my school's curriculum is a decent example of the teachers in our public school system pushing a left-wing agenda.

  43. I think using science as examples on argument on authority isn't good idea science don't relied on authority they relied on evidence and experiments?

  44. The memes in this video are distracting. I find myself unable to focus as I start watching the memes… LOL

  45. So you're saying strawmanning doesn't work because you don't EXACTLY say the argument
    in the same way as someone else.

    Well other people have different vocal cords so that requirement is impossible to meet, therefore
    strawmanning works.

  46. Couldn't choose a sub so this'll work

  47. But gone home does have an "end", be it does have conflict in the form of the story pieces on the scattered notes

  48. You make a straw man of ad hominem fallacy. hehe joke aside. There is no logical falacy in insulting anyone, it's just bad etiquette in a discussion. Ad hominem fallacy is when one believes that a person's arguments are wrong on the basis of his character, personality or anything else that has to do with the person and not the arguments themselves. For example, it is an ad hominem fallacy to assume that a person's arguments are wrong because they also, as they uttered them, offended you or someone else. This is the most misrepresented falacy of all of them. eg your arguments are wrong because you are a leftie, or rightwing, or think that one who curses has lost the discussion. It is a good rule to ban personal attacks in a formal debate, but it has nothing to do with logic. sry.

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