This is the last part in the series in logical fallacies. I hope it has been enlightening for you. I know for many of my regular students this was their first exposure to these concepts (even if they don’t like my examples). To me this should show you the state of critical thinking and how what was once basic knowledge amongst the general public is no longer considered important in the education system. This is very much the fault of our “thought leaders,” educators, and the system in general, as they try to cram the entire population through an overcrowded education system. This has resulted in a shoddy patchwork of subject matter that they have selected as a core curriculum, and an approach that assumes it should be taught to everyone equally no matter what their interests or learning style. Unfortunately basic ideas surrounding critical thinking and how to live life through good problem solving has fallen the way of the dodo.
Perhaps this is why so many people are not content in the modern world, as through the Internet the monopoly on information, once limited to only a handful of people, has ended and the attempt to remove critical, freethinking individuals from society has failed; some people are a little tired of being talked down to by those who have found themselves at the top. This is also a big part of the reason the internet favorite Elon Musk has done so well, because he tackles most problems by way of freethinking and critical thinking (that and his alien-like intelligence). He doesn’t just do what was done before, he tackles everything from a true problem solving approach with first principles. While we can’t all be Elon, we can, in our own limited fashion, still tackle our own problems in the same way. The “one size fits all” model will only lead us off the edge, but it can be stopped with more critical thinking.
As I have discussed many times, the solution to many of our world problems is an independent and open society, empowered by better education and critical thought skills, in which those who can are allowed to do. (tempered by what I call “don’t be an asshole” laws.) And everyone else is given the skills to solve their own problems as much as they are able.
This, of course, is only possible if you start at the bottom with first principles, of which the base is very much critical thinking; as these principles will mean nothing if you do not understand them and how to apply them.
This is the approach I take to self-defence, and at least try to in life, though it may be annoying to so many of you I truly believe it is a better way to approach life.
But back to the matter at hand the last two logical fallacies to be covered in this series.
- Hasty Generalization Fallacy
- Appeal to Popular Opinion (Argumentum ad Populum) Fallacy
Hasty Generalization Fallacy
A Hasty Generalization Fallacy is making a claim about something as a whole simply because the claim is true in a small set of instances or samples, without sufficient or unbiased evidence. If you have some evidence or a body of evidence that is being applied to a wider subject, then it may just be a generalization; which in themselves can be good or bad depending on the application.
A Hasty Generalization is really a matter of laziness (and perhaps even a lack of curiosity). You could simply be guessing or not bothering to ask follow up questions, and then making a quick assumption regarding a person, a situation, what was said, or an idea, without any real investigation or follow up.
The example I have has been an exceptionally common one of the the last few years:
Person A: I have some questions about the recent vaccination, the policies around it and the information being given to us by our leaders.
Person B: Ok, So you are an Anti-Vaxxer.
This thinking is lazy, and absurd, because the fact that Person A is questioning the current situation in no way indicates their stance on all other vaccines. It should be noted that skepticism is one of the most important aspects of good science and truth seeking. Person A could have very well had most previous vaccines at the appropriate intervals their life, however they are questioning this one based on the current circumstances surrounding it.
Person B is just hastily generalizing their assumption about Person A’s motive into a judgement that they are and have always been against vaccination in all forms, thus an Anti-vaxxer. Person B may even not understand the science behind of the vaccines, or the virus, or the polices and thus just thinks what they are told (which leads to the next fallacy), and makes judgments based on that. Of course, Person B’s statement could be informed by their own a hasty generalization regarding the science and is acting on a “the rewards are worth the risk” stance. Which is an okay position if you have assessed the risk, but I still believe on this subject is an intellectually lazy approach but hey that’s me.
The thing is, nothing is black and white, and on the topic of vaccines people forget they are not always needed. After all in, the Western world a person often does not get the vaccine for a variety of diseases and ailments because they are not an issue (for example Yellow Fever). Yet if you travel somewhere that a particular disease or virus is still a threat you may opt into getting vaccinated against illness. Or how many people under a certain age get the flu shot every year? Its certainly not a large majority.
This idea should already leave you with questions because if the answer always was “everyone must get vaccinated for everything always” then we would always get the vaccines for everything. Just some food for thought.
The thing is if a person makes a claim like person A does, Person B should ask why that is. If Person A starts talking about some subreddit chat group, or references the notorious Wakefield paper, then the original hasty generalization may be now a reasonable generalization based on additional “evidence samples” of their stance. But if Person A starts to site various credible scientific studies and literature (you know, research) and then makes a case as to why they feel the way they do, then their questions are very much warranted.
So to avoid Hasty Generalization all you really have to do is keep an open mind, do a little bit of digging and ask questions.
Here’s a video with an example from the Simpsons for some extra fun explaining this fallacy
Appeal to Popular Opinion Fallacy (Argumentum ad Populum)
Enter groupthink! This is the classic “Everyone is doing it!” fallacious argument, aka the Bandwagon Fallacy. Consider the favourite of parents; “if everyone else jumped off the bridge would you do it?” If your answer is “yes, because they are all doing it, so it must be a good idea” then this is Appeal to Popular Opinion and could possibly lead to quite a disasters outcome for you. If your answer is “no, that is stupid,” then you also may survive… unless, of course, the reason for jumping off the bridge was actually a matter of survival to avoid a more dangerous situation (always ask questions).
Groupthink and Appealing to Popular Opinion are very much evolutionary in origin, as the group (small tribes) needed to work as a unit, much like a military unit, to survive. If one person does something stupid or outside the group it could get everyone killed. This is an important survival mechanism that has in many ways become increasingly less needed (due to technology) and has lead to more and more people being social pariahs, as they no longer fit into “the group.”
Ironically, I can make the argument that current climate change issues are actually largely due to groupthink. How? you may ask, well it’s largely due to Consumerism. Corporations, the media, and your own governments often decided that progress comes through consumption. Because the more you consume the more they can make money and thus the more they can invest in new things and technologies, thus the more we can move on to the next phase of humanity.
Often people blame the people at the top and never their own behavior. The people at the top simply convinced you and your friends that you “NEEDED” something, and because your friends had it you needed it. Meaning, because it’s a popular thing to have, it must be good and therefore you must have it. Yet a year later that thing you “needed” is no longer popular in the group and thus its need wasn’t really an actual need, just a need for your own desire to socially belong.
This predicable human behavior is easy to hack by those who know how to manipulate it and it takes a very strong-willed, stubborn, or content individual to resist these Appeals to Popular Opinion.
A good example is the fact that it is well documented that developing minds of children and teens should not be on social media, have unfettered access to the Internet, or have smart phones, because it negatively impacts their development and emotions.
It is much better for them to have access to such things later in life, after they have really developed into their own person with a strong sense of self. Yet most parents with a child in public or private education will tell you what a nightmare it is to prevent their child from having a smart phone, Facebook, Instagram, or Tik Tok, as, at that age, one of the most important groups is their peer group.
A child, after all, that is the only one without these social media platforms or a smart phone will be a social pariah and probably suffer without meaningful human interactions with others in their peer group. It will probably then spiral into a poor relationship with their parents and even more dangerous rebellious behavior, thus potentially causing further harm.
It’s a Catch-22 of the worst magnitude, yet we continue to allow this problem to exacerbate the teen mental health crisis because the need to fit in and do as the group does, via appeal to popular opinion, is so strong it is almost impossible mitigate.
Even if we know something to be good or bad, better or worse, most of us will simply look to what the majority of the group is doing even if its not ideal. The examples of this are so numerous and everywhere that it wouldn’t take much research on your own to find more examples of it.
I challenge you to take a few minutes of your day and think to yourself “how many bad decisions have I made in my life simply because ‘the group’ was doing something and I went along with it?”
Here is a better explanation of this annoying social fallacy.
So this is the end. For those of your who only partially read this it is possible you made some Hasty Generalization about me. Simply because I stated at the start of this series that I would be using controversial, but very current and relatable, examples you chose to put me into a box and wrote me off. Then again, if you made it this far or still read my posts regularly, you probably have found some merit in the things I put out there.
To me, everything that helps you walk in peace, physically, mentally, or emotionally, is self-defence, because the human experience can be a difficult one and we need a variety of tools in order to survive this weird and confusing existence. Unfortunately for most, this means shutting themselves in a groupthink bubble where only those who agree with them are around and nothing that counters that groupthink is allowed in; because the “other” is cast as dangerous.
I cannot tell you how many times someone has openly disagreed with me, but refused my offers of a real conversation in person, my treat, or a conversation on my podcast. They could have many reasons for this, but unless they or you are willing to really try to explore why I or anyone thinks what they think, it is more likely that they are using some kind of logical fallacy in their own logic or mental math to justify their stance.
Remember, if others can use logical fallacies without realizing it, so can you. So always check your logic and ask yourself if your argument, stance, or position is free of personal biases and emotional baggage.
I hope this series has been helpful for you in your own path to learning to walk in peace.
If there are anyother topics you want me to discuss please feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org Re: Blogpost topics.
Written By Jonathan Fader