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Clear Thinking: Use and Abuse of Reason--JK



In comparing this work to that of Logical Fallacies, the next article at this web address, you will notice that I have organized my terms around 4 headings (Terms & Useful Ideas, Formal Logic, Scientific & Sociological, and Arguments & Fallacies).  The main difference from that collection is that I emphasize the kind of logic and abuse of logic that one is likely to encounter in the press when reading articles on health, science, anthropology, and sociology.   My purpose is to promote reasoning skills through practice--a recurrent motif throughout the vast collection of essays at Skeptically.org    A brain that reasons poorly is like a car running of 3 out of 4 cylinders. Ben Johnson said that of women, only his comparison to to a dog walking on its hind legs.



T E R M S    and     U S E F U L    I D E A S


Audience ignorance/ bias

Bold statements

Category mistake

Complex argument/analysis

Constant dollars

Convenient anecdote

Convenient  conversation

Convenient facts

Convenient knowledge

Convenient Numbers

Convenient probability


Emotive language



Group thinking

Impossible standard


Obfuscation through abstraction









Spirit of Philosophy

Story theory

Subjective probability


Trivial knowledge

True-believer syndrome


F O R M A L    L O G I C





Contributing cause

Deductive argument

False assumption

Inductive argument




Necessary cause

Prima facie




Sufficient cause






Case history study

Chaotic phenomena

Collecting Data

Comparison bias. Method, Sampling

Complex argument/analysis


Contravening variable

Control group

Data mining

Deliberate bias

Double-blind study

Empirical law

Evolutionary argument



Hypothetico-deductive model

Impossible standard

Information skewing

Matching study

Method bias

Modus Operandi

New results


Occams razor

Operational definition

Participants lying

Peer review

Placebo effect

Practitioner bias/ Experimenter effect


Questionnaire bias

Random sampling

Sample size

Statistical fallacy

Scientific theory

Survey slanting

Tweaking the variables

Vector Argument


A R G U M E N T S     and      F A L L A C I E S

Ad hoc argument (after the fact)

Ad hominem argument (at the person)

Appeal to force, numbers, authority


Argument from analogy

Begging the question

Burden of proof

Circular demonstration/argument

Compressed argument

Confluence of sophistry

Deductive fallacy

Definition error

Econometric modeling

False premise

False reporting


Horns of a dilemma

Impossible standard

Inappropriate frame of reference

Infinite regress

Ignorance criticism

Non sequitor (it does not follow)

Ostrich argument

Post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this because of that, post hoc argument)

Reductio ad absurdum

Selective reporting

Straw man

Trivial truth

Unstated premise (Audiatur et altera pars)

Vacuous explanation/ theory










Propag   Propaganda--(from Latin after an organization established by Pope Gregory XV for propagating the faith)the dissemination of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an insti­tution, a cause, a religion, a belief, an idea or theory, a person, or group.  For those using propaganda the truth is only of secondary importance.  Propaganda often contains emotive language.



Emotiv   Emotive Language--statements which contain word or words which appeal to emotions: the use of evocative language; e.g. , bad instead of incorrect, bitch instead of woman, garbage instead of cheaply made, etc.


Advocacy--a brother of propaganda, often relying upon audience bias to arrive at a conclusion contrary to what the evidence and reason would justify.  Done by lawyers, politicians, priests, and like.


Bold statements--like emotive language is a red flag warning the audience to be cautious.  A classic example was professors Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmanns press release that they had discovered cold fusionthe claimed results would have violated quantum me­chanics.


Sophist--one who lacks the spirit of philosophy, who places success before truth and thus often relies in argument upon subtle, specious reasoning. 


Sophistry--specious reasoning.


Spirit of philosophy--(a phrase used by Plato) the love of truth and wisdom before all other things, and thus the use of logic and rational inquiry to arrive at the truth, as distinguished faith, and group thinking. 


Theology--the quasirational study attempting to arrive at justifications for mans belief about the gods and the ethereal, his religious practices, and his religious experiences.


Category mistake--a type of nonsense, to ascribe to a thing, concept, or re­lationship an attribute that is inappropriate, such as fast apple, hard anger, and  fastidious numbers.  Frequently found in existentialism and theology.


Deism--starting out assumed that there are gods, the application of philosophical inquiry to all other areas of theol­ogy and all other religious questions.


Skeptic--one who believes in each thing in proportion to the body of evidence in support thereof.


Faith--the affirmation of something as true and beyond dispute even though the evidence does not support that affirmation (Thomas Aquinas definition).  Among the common example are:  the divinity of Christ, the superiority of our political system, astrology, that retribution is morally right, abortion is a sin, and that the fetus has a soul.


True believer syndrome--the generalized faith phenomena: the inability of a person to critically evaluate a pet belief, but rather accept it has true and beyond refutation.  This occurs with all beliefs that are held with the tenacity of religious faith.  Common areas for such faith include astrology, psychic phenomena, Freudian analysis, holistic medicine, religion, and environmental and political causes. 


Semantics--the study of the relationships between words and meaning.  Also used to mean that the person has plucked the word or phrase from its meaning and given it new meaningwhich they shouldnt.  Christians for example use of the phrase one god.  What is Jesus?  Was Jesus in their Gospels praying to himself when he invoked the name of his father?  To call Jesus a manifestation of the one god is semantics.  Moreover, what are angels, archangels, saints, the holey spirit, and devils?  Are not demigods, gods?


Audience ignorance--a very common form of specious argument treads upon the fact that the audience will lack sufficient factual background to recognize the false premises.  Often a talk/paper given by a true believer to an audience of like, such as those who believe in UFOs, parapsychology, and special creation.  For example, though the results of the experiments in card reading done during the l940s by Reinhardt and his assistant have been dismissed as unreliable, his assistant was subsequently caught cheating and fired.  Moreover, Reinhardt was unable to duplicate those results.  Yet those results are still cited in articles supporting remote viewing. These articles rely upon the ignorance of the audience as to the fraud in obtaining those experimental results.


Audience bias--where the statements in a book, lecture, film, etc. are blatantly false, yet from the audience there is praise, as with creationism. 


GROUP THINKING--suspension of critical judgment when there is a conflict with the beliefs of the peer group (an example of conditioning being stronger than reason).  Such group can be as small as the family or friends, or as large as the Catholic Church and the nation.  The conclu­sion rests upon social environment rather than reason.  The phrase, group thinking, is often used to indicate spurious and wrong conclusion, one made without fair consideration of alternatives.  For example, few American in 1942 would have compared the Japan­ese conquest of the Philippines with U.S conquest following the close of the Spanish American War. Often the conclusion exists in spite of the evidence; such as the Gospels containing an his­torical account of Jesus.


Obfuscation through abstraction--a way of avoiding criticism by not being understood.  The use of generalizations, theories, and special definitions to lead the reader down a labyrinth.  Applied to certain schools of study, such a Freudian theory and Catholic theology.  The writer should attempt to avoid unnecessary abstractions.


Obscurism--the general failure to communicate because of (a) vagueness of meaning of key words or their usage, (b) jargonism, for which only a select few can understand, (c) the writers own confusion, (d) obfuscation through abstraction, (e) failure to delineate key terms.


Convenient numbers--the pulling of numbers out of the air to fit the ex­ample or proof.


Convenient conversation--in a historical or news reporting article or book, the invention of appropriate conversation. 


Convenient anecdote--in a historical or news reporting article or book, the invention of interesting or humorous incident.


Convenient facts--like anecdotes used to illustrate and like numbers support, when the pieces fit too perfectly, the critical reader will suspect invention, even when there are references, unless there has been peer review.


Trivial knowledge--knowledge, facts, statements that are pumped up as important, but signify little.


Subjective probability--remembering favorable or unfavorable events to support an assumption while failing to recall accurately the magnitude and frequency of those events contrary to the assumption:  a distortion of sample size.


Constant dollars--the adjusting in a comparison of costs for the fluct­uation of the dollar. This failure to adjust for this contra­vening variable in financial comparisons is so common that it merits a separate heading.


Fuzz--the failure to closely scrutinize the issue.  A common test of remote view by believers in this ability is so designed as to permit experimenter bias.  The viewer looks at a photograph of a scene and the subject in a separate room makes statements as to what he visualizes the viewer as seeing.  The experimenter than grades the closeness of the subjects statement to what the viewer observes.  The complex picture, the limitless umber of possible responses by the subject and the imprecise method of evaluation by the experimenter are the fuzz in this experiment.  The broadsweeping claims of Freudian theory have not been subject to rigorous testing by Freudian practitioners.  It is as though those who hold to unscientific beliefs know that their beliefs if rigorously tested by the methods of science will fail the test, and they dont want to fail. 


Story Theory--unscientific suppositions organized into theory which resemble stories, and therefore are embroiled in endless dis­putes. They have objective facts to support the theory; however, their conclusions go beyond the evidence.  One example is the Out-of-Africa theory of origins of modern man.  While the first wave of ape men came from Africa, fossil evidence for a second wave from Africa does not exists and the evidencebased on DNA diversity--can be read in several different ways, depending on which raced is considered oldest.  The story of Homo Erectus coming from Africa fails because there is similar fossil evidence to support him as developing also in Asia. 


Alternative Explanation--one proffered as a replacement for the standard explanation.  It offers a new way of accounting for observable, usually through the addition of new facts and theory.  Demons are an alternative explanation for disease.


Rhetoric--the use of language where style comes before content.  Also used (but not in this context) to mean the study of the elements of written style.  


Science--a branch of studies that is founded upon observations and classification, especially using mechanical and mathematical means of quantification, and also generates theories that are testable, and excludes the social behavior of man.  


Pseudoscience--a branch of studies purportedly forming a body of know­ledge by use of scientific methods and having general theories, but which in fact flagrantly violates those standards; a parasite upon the good name of science.  Examples of such are chiropractics, parapsychology, and naturalistic medicines and treat­ments.


Oversimplification--the stripping of a topic of an essential element(s) the result of which makes the analysis/explanation misleading, what then remains is as a consequence overstated.


Overstatement/verbosity--to be out of balance by assigning excessive significance to derived the desired conclusion.

 Menes--a unit of verbal behavior whose existence is explained by social phenomena rather than by logic--a type of mind virus.  (A term coined by sociologies within the last 10 years).  People, much like a traditional song (Row, Row Your Boat) have learnt certain packages of verbal behavior that are passed on to succeeding generations, such as to praise our democratic government.


Verbal behavior--the analysis of statements primarily by their behavioral vectors; used frequently to evaluate statements that are clearly false, including those of self-ascription.  The claim that his abuse of alcohol is because of pressures at work can be examined as verbal behavior based upon the responses (reinforcements) of his audience.  The same to for a person saying Jesus so loved mankind that he came to earth and died for the original sin of Adam and Eve.  Statements such as this exist not for their logic, but because of the reinforcers used upon the speaker. 


Mental filigree--the doodling of the analytic portion of the brain using an assortment of related facts, but never sufficiently organ­ized as be logically rigorous.  At best, such an­alysis can be on a topic of interest, contain many interesting facts, contain some insightful statements, and stimulate thought.  Much of the philosophical works of Fredrick Nitshze are examples.  At worst, it is a pointless quagmire of data mining, vagueness, triviality, overstatements, and assorted logical fallacies.


Market orientation--the process whereby the contents is dictated by the perceived audience response (including advertisers).  An example of chasing the dollar.  The slant given to an article based upon advertisers and the need to maintain a specific audience. 


Slovenliness (slovenness)--a comment upon the overall argument in which there is found fuzz, factual errors, selective reporting, straw man, false premises, statistical fallacies, emotive language, obscurism, and like.





Proposition/statement--may be true or false.


Argument--a series of statements made to confirm or prop up a conclusion.


Premise--a proposition found within an argument as distinguished from the conclusion.


Inference--is a new proposition/statement derived--either validly or in­validly--from one or more prior propositions/statements.


Conclusion--final inference in an argument.


Deductive argument--is one in which the conclusion is contained in the premises.  For example, all women like sports; Tina is a woman; therefore, Tina likes sports.


Inductive argument--is one in which the premises provide support for the conclusion but does not contain the conclusion. For example, Tina, Barbara, Helen, Ruta, Connie, et al are wo­men.  They all like sports. Therefore, all women like sports.


Variable--capable of change; said of a feature, such as the attendance at operas varies according to education. Education is a variable to be considered when studying the background of people who attend the opera.


Constant--that which does not change within the parameters of the study.  If for example the ratio of men to woman remains nearly the same for education as to attendance at operas, that it would be a constant.  But if the ratio increased with income for men, then it would be a variable. 


Universality--the requirement that a principle/rule be applied in all similar situations.  The argument from claimed personal-divine revelation of a particular person would permit all such claims to be on an equal footing.  Limits could be set by arguing divine preference of the particular faith, of the clergy of that faith, of certain priests, and of certain content bounds.  If those arguments fail, then all revelations are on an equal footing.  Since they do, each faith has its set of sacred revelations, and there are those outside of faith, such as produced by channeling.  Universality opens the door for all divine revelations.


Necessary cause--a series of two or more events such that B will occur if and only if A occurs (A could be lightning and B thunder).


Sufficient cause--one in which A will follow B, or C, or D, or a combin­ation thereof.  B, C, and D are said to be sufficient causes.  A could stand for war in this century, & B would be the invasions of Poland, C the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand, and D the failure of the South Vietnamese government to have the unification election as specified in the Geneva Accord. 


Contributing cause--one which by itself is not capable of producing A, but must occur in conjunction with other causes.  Mere reading the Old Testament is not sufficient to produce Jewish conversion; there must also be a belief in gods and gullibility.



False assumption--the very foundation of a theory is false of the pro­spective is incorrect.  Astrology has the false foundation of slight variations in gravity at birth as being determinate upon personality.  Freud had a fruitless perspective on the cause of neurosis, namely, an imbalance of the subconscious0


Prima facie--in-philosophy, plain, clear, self-evident.  To stand be­fore other considerations, to be more important.


Tautology--redundancy, to state twice as when the meaning of the subject encompasses the predicate.  The patriotic soldier loves to serve his country.  In Logic, a statement that is true by virtue of its form:  Either it will snow tomorrow or it will not.


Analytic--relating to a truth, a proposition, or a statement that is true for all possible worlds; viz., true independently of facts, by reference to meaning alone, or is logically true or true by definition.


Synthetic--relating to a truth, a proposition, or a statement that is not necessarily true, but is determined by the facts:  President Buchanan was a bachelor.


Intuitionism--the reliance upon the gut reaction for determining what to oppose or support; and similarly for determining right or wrong in ethics.  It is the objection to or affirmation of an proposition, theory, or statement that is not based upon the logical analysis, but rather upon the existing personal prejudices; relied upon by people with little logic.


Teleological definition--from the Greek teleio meaning ends, in the sense of purpose.  The kidneys are for the removal of wastes from the blood.



     Control group--a group selected for comparison; e.g., in a study of the effects of smoking, nurses that didnt smoke were the control group.


    Matching study--one where the control group is paired with the group being studied for listed contravening variables.  A 1980 study of over 35,000 veterans who smoked cigarettes was paired with a con­trol group for nine contravening variables, including alcohol, diet, blood pressure, and stress.

 Practitioner bias/Experimenter effect--a type of imperfect gathering of data by the one involved in generating the data.  Often done unintentionally due to a belief in the outcome.


Delibe    Deliberate bias--manipulating the data gathered in a study so as to arrive at the desired conclusion.  For example, Sidney Cohen (a well known antidrug researcher funded by the U.S. government) manipulated the control group so that his study demonstrated that LSD caused chromosome break­age.  He did this by dropping from the control group those whose chromosome breakage was attributed to coffee drinking or viral infec­tionnone were dropped from the LSD users.  This bias as to the selection of the control group was listed in a footnote of his study.  Moreover, the sampling size was 9 LSD users.  The results of the study made headlines reading LSD Causes Chromosome Breakage (another example of how unreliable a source of information the press is).  The testing of drugs for pharmaceutical companies is done with a purpose.   


Place  Placeboo effect--where a medication (such as sugar pill) or treatment known not to be in itself capable of causing a physical improvement is reported as so do.


Doubleblind study--A study in which the experimenter and subject remain ignorant of who is receiving the placebo and who the actually medicine.  This prevents the caregiver from inadvertently indicating to the subject whether he is being medicated or not.  Across a wide spectrum of treatments, there of those receiving a placebo, 30% will report significant improvement.  Furthermore, to avoid the placebo effect, the placebo must in essential ways mimic a medication.  Studies of Prozac, a mood-altering drug, have been criticized because of the inert placebo used. 


Contravening variable--a factor that has an impact upon the results of a statistical study because of being more (or less) present among the group studied than the control group.  In studying the health consequences from cigarette smoking, it was found that smokers were more likely to be heavy drinkers (a contravening var­iable).  And in the study of vegetarians, it was found that their increased length of life is for the main part attributed to their lower incidence of smoking and percentage of fat in their diet-- the significant contravening variables.


Sampl   Sampling size--the statistical significance (confidence) of a study increases with size.  For example, a study of LSD users showed that they had about twice the rate of spontaneous abortions as the gen­eral public; however, the sample was only 72 women.  One LSD user had 6 spontaneous abortions.  If she were dropped from the study, then the rates would be comparable.


Peer    Peer review--where a body of experts in the field review and edit articles submitted for publication.  This is done to assure that the article will not be slanted, and all speculative parts are clearly and accurately stated to be speculative, and often, conflicting evidence is developed within the article so that the reader comes away with a balanced view of the topic.


New results--They dont prove the old results or theory false, but rather in proportion to its certitude, it makes the old results less certain.  David Hume, the best of English philosophers, elo­quently stated this for when examining miracles: No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavours to establish; and even in that case there is a mutual destruction of arguments, and the superior only gives us an assurance suitable to that degree of force which remains after deducting the inferior.


Occams (Ockams) razor--If two ex­planations are offered that are both equally adequate, the simpler one is preferred.  After William of Occam, a 13th century theologian and philosopher who was burnt by the Church.  Keplers mathematical account of the motion of the planet Earth and the sun was simpler than Ptolemys mathematical account, where Ptolemy held that the sun traveled around the Earth.


Modus operandi--mode of operation; an explanation of how something happens, such as how muscles contract.  A purported causal relationship which lacks a plausible modus operandi is suspect. For example, how does the position of the planets and sun at the time of birth de­termine ones personalitythe explanation of gravity is not plausible, the gravitational pull of the nurse standing next to the neonate is greater than that of the moon.  The moons effect upon tides is visible because of the size of the body of water.  Moreover, is there a special section of the brain receptive to gravity? what evolutionary advantage would this confer? and why at birth?



Impossible standard--in a criticism, to make unreasonable demands.  For example, that there be a complete fossil record of the development of man from apesnearly complete does not suffice.  Moreover, the critic will rely upon audience ignorance as to how close to complete the fossil record is.  An example is to point at that Evolution is only a theory, and thus not proven.  Here they use the ordinary meaning of theory, as a thing that is tentative.  However, scientists have amassed such a large and varied body of evidence so as to amount to a proof.


Complex argument/analysis--one where a number of premises give support to a particular conclusion X, often inconclusively.  The form resem­bles that of econometric modeling but without the numerical quantification of each premise and factor, and just like in econometric modeling not all factors necessarily support the conclusion are listed, but the key one should be. 



Survey slanting:

Questionnaire bias--in the gathering of data through questioning of people, the question is slanted so as to favor a particular result, such as belief in God.  For example asking Do you believe that a God could exist rather than Do you believe that God exists. 


Method bias--defects in the sampling method which favor a particular result, such as having police officer give out and collect a questionnaire on drug usage. 


Comparison/sampling bias--where a variable of the study has changed yet the results are reported as the same.  The comparison to prior surveys where the questions are different.  If a current survey asks  Have you smoked marijuana in the last week? and its results are compared to a prior survey that asked Have you smoked mar­ijuana in the month year?  Or the groups differ, such as in one study doing it only at public schools and the next year at Parochial and public schools. 


Reporting bias--where the standards of reporting vary over time, for example; the number of police stations reporting crimes to the national agency gathering such data.


Participants lying--with certain issues, such as drug usages, homosexuality, and theft the participant is likely to lie.  In a Danish study of abortion in Demark, where the State provides it for free and keeps a tally, a phone survey revealed that fully 30% of the Catholics denied their abortion. 


Data mining--the technique for building predictive models (including the effects of drugs, diet, etc.) by searching for patterns.  The more variables included in the search by the computer the greater the chance to find an odd pattern.  The method is subject to abuse.  For example, it was found that there was in a few communities a high incidence of leukemia among those who lived within 100 yards of a high-tension power line.  For all communities, however, the average was within the norm.  Measure­ments of the Egyptian pyramids has been mined successfully for recurrent numbers supposedly indicating their knowledge of certain principles of mathematics and knowledge of astronomy. 


Evidence--the data upon which a conclusion or judgment is based.


Collecting Data--Much of science proceeds by first by co11ecting a body of facts, which are then later organized. The classic example of that is the work of Carolus Linnaeus (17071778), a Swedish naturalist who categorized plants by their flowering parts.  His taxonomy of plants and animals, based on Aristotles idea of essential features.  His work pro­vided the orderly groups which permitted Charles Darwin to recog­nize the plastic nature of class, order, genus, and species.


Experimentation--the artificial manipulation of variables to either see if it will produce a predicted result or simply to observe the effect of the manipulation.  A classic example of such experimentation is the bombardment of a target within a detector with high energy beta particles to both produce predicted and unsuspected subatomic particles.


Empirical law--based upon numerous observations (which can include those from experimentation) a relationship between two or more variables that is expressed as being lawlike.  Such law can be as mundane as the relationship of lightning to thunder or as arcane as BellS Exper­iment that shows the relationship between observer and results.  Light has both the properties of a particle and a wave which bizarrely is affected by the method of observation; it will appear as either a wave or particle. 


 Vector Argument--the summation of forces acting upon an object/person/group will have a particular unique outcome (result).


Scientific theory--a general theory--distinguished from empirical lawthat unifies the relationship between various empirical laws and predicts certain conditions.  They may be expressed essentially in mathematical terms, such as Quantum mechanics, or in observational terms, such as the theory of evolution. 


Hypotheticodeductive model--arises when a theory/proposition is set down and then a series of observations are made either to confirm or challenge the theory/proposition.  Popularized by Isaac Newton.


Niche---the environment in which a plant or animals has adopted to for survival. Some like the beaver have a small nichewoodland streams in temperate climate, others like seagulls inhabit different climates and different geographic regions.  This concept also applies in describing groups within a society, and societies.


Evolutionary argument/analysis--a casual argument outlining the causes of change over time.  Competition for survival molds by selecting those which best exploit the niche to reproduce more and thus to in time replace the less suited. In a social context, for example. The schools of art (types) and the number for each school is determined by the market place which supports them. Between societies (and tribes); for example, the Bantu peoples, because they developed farming, which supports a tenfold denser population, they replaced the huntergathers throughout most of southern Africa. Evolutionary arguments assume the form of vector analysis about a nucleus, such as nutrition of a species, development of the stock market, development of the British Parliamentary system, the distribution of sizes of Mandrel baboon, development of obesity in an individual, and like.  One topic would be the development and future of the stock market in Mexico.  Vectors would include government regulatory role, public confidence, and media support.


Operational definition--the defining of a term by its observable function: a positive reinforcer is the event following the behavior, which increases the frequency of the behavior.  In an experiment in which food follows the pressing of a lever by a mouse.  The rate of lever pressing increases, thus food is the positive reinforcer in that experiment.


Chaotic phenomena--events for which there are causal antecedents, ­thus predictable in principle--but given current technology or science prediction is at best a gross approximation.  The understanding of the causal relationships are inadequate, as with human behavior; other times the information is not accessible, as events deep within the earth causing earthquakes; and other times it is the very math which becomes too unwieldy, as with long term weather forecasting to yield precise predictions.


Prediction (supported)--the test of a theory, law, observational hypothesis is not merely the ex­planation, but also its ability to predict events.  They can be in the future, or merely using the scientific model to account for events that have occurred--both of course must be done with a high degree of consistency.


Consistency--the use of the same standards, applied to all like situations. 


Random sampling--done to avoid an unrepresentative population being studied.


Matching studies--where the population being studied is paired with a population identical in all of the major variables which could effect the results of the subject matter.


Case history/studies--either the reporting of a single case or a group of cases which are touted to be significant because they are re­vealing of a certain thing such as the typical course of a disease, the success of treatment, or they are used as evidence for an hypothesis, such as about the subconscious.


Statistical fallacy--to couch in number of results that upon scrutiny reveal one or more of the following flaws: (a) contravening variable(s), (b) undefined terms, (c) shifting measurements, (d) data omission, (e) far-fetched estimates, (f) changing charts, (g) small sample size, (g) selective sampling. 




Non sequitur (it does not follow)--concluding more than what is supported by the premises.  For Example, because all Bible prophecies come true, the Bible is the word of Yahweh.  Assuming the premise, other causes are pos­sible; among them other gods, devils, psychic vision, naturalistic.


False premise--All bible prophecies come true is false.  From a false prem­ise does not support/prove the conclusion.  The conclusion might or might not be true.


Straw man--to understate or in other ways misrepresent the position being attached. 


Unstated premise (audiatur et altera pars)--the conclusion does not follow from the premises, but follows from the entire argument.


Compressed argument--one where the conclusion doesnt follow from the premises, but might if all of them were expressed.  Because Christ performed many and fabulous miracles, he is the son-of-God.  This contains the premise that the Bible contains an accurate account of those miracles and that only the son-of-god has ever performed so many fabulous miracles. 


Post hoc ergo propter hoc (post hoc argument)--after this because of this.  I took aspirin this morning; and by noon, my headache was gone.  Therefore, aspirin cured my headache.  I did a rain dance and I made it rain. 


Selective reporting--only those instances where rain followed the rain dance are recorded.


False reporting--the rain came 3 days after the rain dance; however, it was reported have occurred within 3 hours.


Vagueness--a quality of terms, theorems, axioms, propositions, theory.  Freudian psychiatry is replete with examples.  Examples include the id, superego, ego and their relationship to behavior.


Trivial truths--facts, explanations, definitions etc. which are touted as informative and significant, but arent.  For example, He drinks because he is weak willed.  Does any who is strong willed have an alcohol problem, except when they become weak as under the stress of a death in the family or a stockmarket crash.  Also, the Freudian assertion that schizophrenics are either homosexual or latent homosexual is trivial, because latent homosexual turns out to mean has the potential to become homosexual, and no amount of denial will dissuade a Freudian psychiatrist.  There is no condition under which the assertion could be false.  Pantheism has the same problem for upon analysis of everything is one with god turns out to entail no possibility of falsification.


Begging the question--when the proposed answer fails to answer the question.  If a causal explanation is sought, and the answer is essentially uninformative, then the reply begs the question.  Example of the first is when one asks Where did god come from? the answer He always was begs the question, as does His nature is existence.  An example of the latter is to the question How did God create man? the reply, He willed it.  This is an example of a Blackbox reply: the process occurs within the mysterious black box which we dont have access to (black box comes from several examples of quack cures using an electrical ap­paratus housed in a black box).


Infinite regress--where the answer/solution merely removes the answer to a location or time; the chickenandtheegg being a classic examplewhich came first?


Appeal to force--an argument from consequences rather than logic or ethics.  It is wrong to do LSD because one might go to jail.  If you dont accept Christ, you will burn in hell.


Ad hominem argument(at the person/group)--directed against the man.  Nietzsches philosophy need not be rebutted because he was crazy.  One ought not study Greek philosophy because it is the product of pagans.


Appeal to numbers--arguing that acceptance assures truth.  For example, The vast majority of Americans believe that democracy is the best way to guarantee their interests.  However, when one is questioning the correctness neither an appeal to authority or numbers answers the question, Why is that right?  At one time the vast majority of Americans believed that slavery was right.


Appeal to authority--arguing that their acceptance assures truth.  Isaac Newton was a genius and he believed in God.  This is an example of a position taken by Newton outside, his field of expertise.  However, it is a prima facie argument for acceptance if a con­sensus of experts within their field agree with the position being argued for.  But when the quest is for reasons, then the answer should show why the experts agree. 


Confluence of sophistry--a larger group of defective proofs is better than a smaller group.  Rene Descartes presented six flawed proofs for the existence of God.  In courts, prosecutors know that five people who perjure themselves are better than just one personand the juries nearly always agree.  Conversely, an inductive argument consists of a confluence of assorted evidence, as for the theory of evolution.


Circular demonstration/argument--this occurs when the conditions of the premises cause the conclusion and the conclusion causes the premisessim­ilar to the viscous circle in psychology.    Consider,  Homosexuals are prohibited from being in the military. If exposed they will be discharged.  Because they fear being discharged, they can be blackmailed.  Because they can be blackmailed they are excluded from the military.  This is circular, because if the policy was established to prevent blackmail, it fails for it provides a cause for blackmail.  The ban has not promulgated to prevent espionage, creates the very problem it is designed to prevent and then cure it.


Argument from analogy--arguing that because a certain relationship be­tween premises and conclusion exists in one situation it must also exists in this other situation.  However, this may or may not be the case.  Nevertheless, this form of argument is often an excellent heuristic tool.  Saint Thomas Aquinas argued: An insult to a king is far more grievous than the same insult to an ordinary cit­izen. Thus by analogy an insult to God, who is infinite, is infinitely more grievous.  And if a king should rightly punish more for the insult, then an Infinite Being should punish infinitely; viz., eternal damnation.  Only a theologian or a fool could straight-faced tell you that Yahweh is also infinitely beneficent.


Deductive fallacy--type of non sequitOr where conclusion does not follow from the premises.


Impossible/high standard--in a criticism to make unreasonable demands.  For example that there be a complete fossil record of the development of man from apesnearly complete does not suffice.  Moreover, the critic will rely upon audience ignorance as to how close to complete the fossil record is.  An example is to point at that Evolution is only a theory, and thus not proven.  Here they use the ordinary meaning of theory, as a thing that is tentative.  However, scientists have amassed such a large and varied body of evidence so as to amount to a proof.


Reductio ad absurdum--a refutation by showing the form of argument or premises can lead to an absurd result.  For example, the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) leads to this result: I can commit adultery by sleeping with my former beloved Sherry because I know that Lisa, my present wife wont sleep with her impotent former beloved John. 


Counter example--where within the standards being applied an example supports a different result.  Jehovah protects the Jews.  Counter example, was He away on vacation during the holocaust?


Burden of proof--the person making the claim has the burden of proving to the experts and skeptics that his belief has a greater probability of being right than the generally accepted one or ones.  A person who argues that egg-eating mammals wiped out the dinosaurs has the onus on him to prove his case.  The same burden is upon those who claim that unicorns or Yahweh exist.


Inappropriate frame of reference--the failure to quantify pertinent conditions.  The Bermuda Triangle is a heavily used shipping corridor; the rate of mishaps fall within the norm.


Falsifiability--if a synthetic argument cannot be proven false, then it is defective or trivially true.  The argument can be defective because of a category mistake or vagueness (supra).  While an argument may be true, then of course it cannot be proven false; it can, however, be in principle proven false.  The test is normally applied to theories by posing the question, What conditions would prove it to be false.  The test is not applied to those theories in which the proponent has not met the burden-

       of-proof requirement; such as unicorns reside in Norway.  It has been used effectively as a criticism of psychiatry, especially of the theories of Jung and Freud, in ethics of psychological egoism, and in religion of pantheism.


Definition error--to ascribe a property by definition (analytically) which must be shown by experience (synthetically).  Yahweh always existed.  Entities (and gods, if there be any) occupy space, last for a time, have mass & motion; however, none of these properties are established by definition.  Assuming there is a Yahweh, his properties must be proven by evidence (synthetic), not by definition.


Econometric modeling--the predictive application of statistical method derived from the past performance of the controlling variables.  The method permits a value to be established as to effect for each of the variables in the model as to its impact upon the final predictive value being derived.  For example, econometric modeling is used to predict say 6 months out the gross national product.  A limited list of variables effecting the economy are selected and viewed historically to determine how closely monthly changes in each predicts overall economic productivity 6 month out.  Variables A, B, C, D, and E could be housing starts, prime interest rate, Ml (monetary measurement), factory inventories, unemployment rate, and consumer debt, and cash reserves of the citizens.  Each variables, A through E, would be evaluated over hundreds of months to see how often and closely their changes in value over one month predicts economic activity 6 months out.  For example housing starts in June 1968 compared to May of 1968 rose seasonally adjusted 2%, would be compared to change in the GNP in December of 1968.  From this a mathematical value to the change in housing starts would be derived as to its predicting the GNP 6 months out.  If the expansion and contract of housing starts more closely mirrored the GNP 6 months out than unemployment rate changes, housing starts would in the model be given a greater vector algebraic value.  All 5 variables, in this example, would then be used to make for today a prediction of the expansion or contraction of the GNP 6 months hence.  Such modeling enables one to argue the direction of a stock, the stock market, a given commodity, or the economy.  Social phenomena too are a result of the variables.  The spread or contraction of religion in a state, the success or failure of a political movement are the result of its variables, only there is no neat table of values as with economics from which an economic metric model can be made.  Economic metric modeling is at the heart of the causal analysis of these complex changing phenomena, even when there isnt a table of values. 


Fantasy argument--one in which key elements of the theory, proposition, or hypothesis is invented to fill in the missing link and this supposition comes from the dream portion of the mind.  To ex­plain the engineering needed for the Pyramids of Egypt, Van Dan­iken hypothesized space aliens, and to supply a reason for their assistance, Van Daniken hypothesized that the Pyramids were navigational markers for the aliens.  Thus aliens who could find this planet needed help in finding a few special spots along the Nile River; yet in the last century the first pilots navigated by land markers and compass.  Fantasy arguments are so fanciful that they are not even false.  They differ from story theories in that they do not piece together facts into a story about why something is so, but rather make fanciful flight, such as the gravity of the planets effecting be­havior.


Ad hoc argument--after the fact, contrived for a specific situation, and therefore at best unconvincing, at worse absurd.  For ex­ample, Paul to skirt the obvious contradiction of the allpower­ful, beneficent, all-knowing Yahweh having to send his son to suffer on earth for the original sin of Adam and Eve:  For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom.  I Corinthians 1:24.  But this excuse fails for even the dimwitted realize that the qualities of beneficent, all powerful, and all knowing would entail a god to take another course of action.  Another example is provided by fundamentalist Christians, Moslems, and Hebrews who believe in recent creation (4,004 BC) of the world, they argue against the evidence of carbon dating which proves the world to be older than they hold.  These fanatics hold that the rate of radioactive decay has changed over time, but not until about 3,500 years ago, when the written record of the reign of kings became unreliablean ad hoc adjustment.


Horns of a Dilemmaa rebuttal of a proposition in which the propositions when accepted produce results that refute the general thesis. For example, those who argue that the Bible is an his­torically accurate account of the creation often also hold that god is not a deceiver. But given the fossil bones of ancient life forms and also the various scientific means of dating the fossils, it follows that either the world is much older than the biblical account (Bishop Ussher calculated the world to be created in 4,004 BC, and others have a similar date based on the list of generations and kings).  But this would make God a deceiver given the fossil record and carbon dating.  Thus the conjunction of the proposition that God is not a deceiver and that the Bible is to be interpreted literally produces a dilemma for both cannot be true. 


Ignorance criticism--to ask in debate for evidence or knowledge which the disputant will not know or have immediate access to.


Ostrich argument--to find a few examples that support the conclusion and then ignore all that is at variance.  Erich Fromm would comb history for examples to support his analysis about alienation and then like an ostrich with its head in the sand fail to notice the many cases that dont fit his paradigm.


Arbitrariness--the application of a complex set of rules without consistency.  The reported successes of predictions are based upon selective reporting and application with hindsight.  In medicine, it is called practitioner bias.  A popular way of predicting a stocks performance is by use of Prichard Wave Theory or similar approach.  The prediction is based entirely upon their past performance by application of a complex set of rules; however, there is no clear rule as to the application of each facet of analysis, thus results vary from person to person applying the same analysis. 




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