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Thread: Logical Fallacies in Physics Discussions

  1. #1 Logical Fallacies in Physics Discussions 
    pmb
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    In all my time discussing physics I've seem many kinds of logical fallacies used in physics arguments. I'd like to discuss this subject with everybody. I'llpost a few examples of fallacies that we all probably ran into in physics forum discussions.

    I'll start off with the Fallacy of Popularity, which is defined as
    The fallacy of popularity is an argument that tries to justify something strictly by appeal to numbers.
    Then there is the Straw Argument which is defined as follows
    The fallacy of a straw argument occurs when a weakened imitation of an opponents argument is attacked instead of the opponents original argument because the immitation is easier to refute,
    The logical of Personal Attack (aka ad hominem) is defined as follows
    Whenever we attack a person instead of his or her argument, we commit a form of fallacy known as [i[personal attack[/i]. Historically, this fallacy has been known as argumentum ad homninem or ad hominem.
    This is a touchy subject that has already been discussed so perhaps we can gloss over it rather than get into details or examples.

    The Fallacy of False Authority which is defined as follows
    The fallacy of fals authority is an argument that violates any of the crieria for a legitimate appeal to authority.
    Example, someone who is an expert in physics attempting to give an artument in the field of evolution and expecting that to be a legitimate appleal to authority.

    I was wondering what kind of experiences you might have had with such logical fallacies in physics arguements. Is there something that has been irritating for you which seems to keep popping up?

    Thank you all in advance.


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  3. #2  
    Quagma SpeedFreek's Avatar
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    I find the most annoying fallacy to be the argument from incredulity.

    "I can't believe the universe works like that, there must be some mistake".


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  4. #3  
    pmb
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    Quote Originally Posted by SpeedFreek View Post
    I find the most annoying fallacy to be the argument from incredulity.

    "I can't believe the universe works like that, there must be some mistake".
    Very iteresting. I haven't gotten to that section in my book opn criical thinking yet.
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    Brassica oleracea Strange's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SpeedFreek View Post
    I find the most annoying fallacy to be the argument from incredulity.
    Closely related to argument from ignorance: "I don't understand this theory so it must be wrong". Both of these are frequently supported by straw man arguments ("if it is true that black holes have infinite mass ...").
    ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat
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    Administrator KALSTER's Avatar
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    Yes, that must be the most common fallacy I have come across and not just in physics. Generally though it is rare to come across deniers of modern science that do not make extensive use of a variety of logical fallacies. Very difficult to argue against, because, even though the fallacies are usually obvious, the use of them by the denier usually means they are not receptive to logical arguments. It is very difficult to argue against someone seemingly incapable of understanding your argument.
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

    "Gullibility kills" - Carl Sagan
    "All people know the same truth. Our lives consist of how we chose to distort it." - Harry Block
    "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle
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    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    We need to distinguish between the Fallacy of Popularity and an appreciation of the consensus view. The vast majority of practicing biologists support the Modern Synthesis of the theory of evolution. Pointing this out is not illogical, but rightly imposes on anyone who challenges the TOE the requirement that they provide evidence to support their position. In contrast, the accepted, prevalent view need not be so defended.
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    Ascended Member Ascended's Avatar
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    Very few scientific discoveries are made by those who reject consensus views of science, they usually tend to be ignored even if they're later proved correct. However it those who take science forward that build on the work of others that are remembered for some of our greatest discoveries. It is our collective intelligence as a species that enables us to make new discoveries, very rarely it is solely down to the intelligence of one person alone that a discovery is made.

    It is not only our ability to learn that enables us to go further, but our ability to pass on our knowledge to new gerations that then have a chance to solve the problems and answer the questions.
    Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it. - confucius
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    We need to distinguish between the Fallacy of Popularity and an appreciation of the consensus view. The vast majority of practicing biologists support the Modern Synthesis of the theory of evolution. Pointing this out is not illogical, but rightly imposes on anyone who challenges the TOE the requirement that they provide evidence to support their position. In contrast, the accepted, prevalent view need not be so defended.
    This is doubtful, the prevalent view need always be evidenced if challenged...Just saying "we all think the Earth is flat" was no evidence of being correct. Scientific truth is supposed to be reached by testing a view and if the view cant be proven wrong it is accepted. But that doesnt mean no further testing is needed! The idea that the prevalent view needs no testing seems very unscientific to me.
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