Monday, December 30, 2013

The Tu Quoque Fallacy Fallacy

One of my favorite pastimes is saying to people, “Hey, when you criticize so-and-so for X, isn’t that just like that time you didn’t criticize a so-and-so for Y?” Philosophically, this is known as the tu quoque fallacy, explained thusly:

Tu quoque (Latin for "you, too" or "you, also") or the appeal to hypocrisy, is a logical fallacy that attempts to discredit the opponent's position by asserting the opponent's failure to act consistently in accordance with that position; it attempts to show that a criticism or objection applies equally to the person making it. This dismisses someone's point of view based on criticism of the person's inconsistency and not the position presented whereas a person's inconsistency should not discredit the position. Thus, it is a form of the ad hominem argument. To clarify, although the person being attacked might indeed be acting inconsistently or hypocritically, this does not invalidate their argument.” – from Wikipedia

The thing is, when I invoke this supposed argument, my opponent never takes the time to see whether or not I actually disagree with their original assertion. Thing is, I always do, which doesn’t allow the tu quoque fallacy to be invoked, not if I agree with your original assertion. For example, when New Atheists point out that theists have no evidence for their beliefs, I agree, but THEN point out, “Hey, as long as we’re on the subject of having evidence for beliefs, where is your evidence for such-and-such belief?” Predictably, my opponents are quick to utilize the tu quoque fallacy as a means of defense – its one’s only defense when caught up in their own bullshit. And their bullshit is usually the color of cherries, meaning that whatever New Atheists have as evidence for any given belief that isn’t a scientific fact is often cherry-picked…

Cherry picking, suppressing evidence, or the fallacy of incomplete evidence is the act of pointing to individual cases or data that seem to confirm a particular position, while ignoring a significant portion of related cases or data that may contradict that position. It is a kind of fallacy of selective attention, the most common example of which is the confirmation bias. Cherry picking may be committed intentionally or unintentionally. Cherry picking can be found in many logical fallacies. For example, the "fallacy of anecdotal evidence" tends to overlook large amounts of data in favor of that known personally, "selective use of evidence" rejects material unfavorable to an argument, while a false dichotomy picks only two options when more are available. Cherry picking can refer to the selection of data or data sets so a study or survey will give desired, predictable results which may be misleading or even completely contrary to actuality.” – also from Wikipedia

It would be great if people took the time to understand their opponent’s actual position before invoking some fallacy as a defense. Such defensiveness often serves to show how feebly one is clinging to their argument. Like reading the Bible, anyone can quote or invoke a fallacy defense. Why, because damn near any statement is vulnerable to a fallacy. Even, “One plus one equals two.”

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