One of my jobs as an admin is to remind people what fallacies are and how you detect them. We're a science forum, and so I thought in an attempt to make lemonade from all these lemons, I'd take an opportunity to discuss some and how they get manipulated at times.
• Faulty use of Authority:
The attempt to bolster claims by citing the opinions of experts without evaluation and comparison of credentials and claims. In her case, she acts as the sole expert on all matters political, just ask her!
One of the things we have always tried to do here at Hypography is to provide a balance against the proliferation of sites that deal in promotion of falsehoods and conspiracies. Several years ago when the Intelligent Design craze was going on, we had to deal with every ID source from Michael Behe and the Discovery Institute https://discovery.org/ to Answers in Genesis https://answersingenesis.org/ .
Now most people who hang out here do consider Answers in Genesis to be a silly site filled with nothing but incorrect information. However we at that time had new members join daily doing their best "Daniel in the Lion's Den" act who basically cited no authorities except Answers in Genesis, whereas the members here simply used the site name as a synonym for "gibberish."
Of course if every post that stated that "Answers in Genesis is not a credible source," was required to provide a full evaluation and comparison of its credentials and claims, it would be very difficult to read much here.
Sources of information build their reputations for better or for worse. When a biased site is mentioned, we certainly encourage members to call out those credentials without having to support it immediately because in fact many such sites do have bad reputations. It's also certainly fair game to respond by requesting proof of that reputation, or to even bypass that and go directly to discussing the merits of the immediate claim.
The fallacy here is both to insist that reputations do not exist, and that thus every reference or claim needs to be justified, as well as to insist that it must be done directly in the post citing the claim or it is invalid, which is impractical. This is a discussion forum, and as such, expansion, clarification and justification play out through multiple posts in a thread.
The most sure sign of a faulty reference of course is if the person citing that source refuses to defend it or defends it solely by calling its detractors "biased" or "prejudiced."
• Post Hoc or Doubtful Cause:
Post hoc, ergo prompter hoc means, "after this, therefore because of this." The arguer infers that because one event follows another, the first event must be the cause of the second event. Proximity of events or conditions does not guarantee a causal relationship. Buffy infers a great deal that is not said or even thought about, then puts those words in the other person’s mouth.
As a science forum we are indeed very tied to notions of argumentation based on Predicate Logic. One of my oft used lines is "Inference is not Equivalence." One should be extremely careful to take cause and effect out of order, and further to verify causation if correllation is detected.
Rhetoric however does not strictly follow temporality in its exposition. It is a frequent conceit that an argument be presented with its conclusion first, followed by a justification. There is nothing wrong with that, in fact from grade school on, Language Arts teachers teach you to do this. They just insist that by the time you get to your conclusion that you tie together your arguments to match and amplify you introduction. They'll also tell you that the best essays/papers are one that still manage to surprise at the end, again, still ensuring that your logical/rhetorical ducks are in a row.
In other words, temporality of argumentation has nothing to do with the requirement that the cause-effect conclusion you make does have a proper temporal justification. Thus, it's perfectly fine to start a thread here that starts with the conclusion or a general statement of an issue, and then provide justification as objections are raised. And it's perfectly fine to reveal a further conclusion later in your thread that you only hinted at or left tacit in your original post. No one should think that they should have to have every point figured out when they start a topic, and moreover, it's actually fine to have an ulterior motive in creating acceptance for an idea not mentioned in the OP in order to build up an argument for ideas that might be unpopular but are nonetheless true.
Now in science it is perfectly valid rhetorical tool to discuss possible implications of arguments, in fact it's a central mechanism of proof. Arguments should withstand scrutiny. Given what I said above, that it's perfectly fine not to explain everything at once, responses of the form "you didn't say whether you believe in B, but if you believe in A, then since '(A and B ) implies C', do you believe B is true?" To keep this from being off-topic, "B" had better be a pretty obviously related premise, but that is often the case.
The point here being, if you're going to make an argument that has obvious implications, refusing to respond to requests to clarify them them will tend to discount the original argument in the eyes of the reader, especially if accompanied by accusations that the question alone was "putting words in someone's mouth." Responding with clarifications and evidence is always a better way to proceed.
• Hasty Generalization:
Drawing conclusion on the basis of insufficient evidence. A prejudice is literally a judgement made before the facts are in. She does this a lot!
This is not really a logical fallacy, but it's a useful issue to discuss in relation to the "Doubtful cause" fallacy, and is really a variation on that. There are a couple of issues here:
Arguments with "insufficent evidence" are fair game, in that as a forum they can be called out as discussed above. However to make the point on how to deal with them, it's best not to simply say "that doesn't support your thesis": in order to move the discussion forward, if you are going to object to this, it's important to demonstrate that insufficiency.
The second issue though is that due to arguments being drawn out, it's often the case that accusations of prejudice are made simply to close off discussion of the proof that may support the argument. That is something we see a lot in discussions of both Evolution and Politics, and it's a good idea not to simply be offended, but to push for proof where it seems not to exist.
• Ad populum:
"To the people"; "most people agree that"; playing on the prejudices of the audience. She always talks about the “other people here” to try and build a false consensus for her own argument.
It should probably be obvious if a consensus is claimed, there should be evidence of it. In some cases the data is right in front of you and all you need to do is count and do the math. But even in those cases, it's fair to ask for the evidence to be explicated. As above, sometimes the evidence is obvious to many, and we allow shorthand of this form, however it can always be called out for proof.
It may be the case that such evidence is confidential or proprietary, and in such cases the argument may be fairly doubted, however in real life, we often find keeping data private is a good thing for individuals to maintain their privacy, and in such cases we do delegate to others the ability to take action on information to which they alone are given access in order to maintain that privacy.
An important implication of that is that a forum is a community, and its members and management define its content and conventions. Like a restaurant or an apartment, it's a private institution so it's not a democracy, but it is market-based and it evolves based on its members. No business succeeds by the management doing anything they want, they do have to respond to the clientele. Neither can any business serve the needs of all people, and it's pretty hard to build a business around something like "both a biker bar and a vegan-oriented teahouse."
Moreover, if you put 3 people in a room, you're going to have 5 opinions. To the extent any forum has biases among it's members that's the nature of forums, or clubs, or restaurants. To the extent that the management makes decisions based on what will keep the current customers and bring in more, does require judgement calls, but no business polls its customers on every decision. If one likes the burgers, one may have to put up with obnoxiously healthy vegeburgers on the menu, but that's a choice that everyone needs to make.
• Non sequitur
"It does not follow." Using irrelevant proof to support a claim. Another of her favorites.
Non-sequiturs are behind "off-topic posts" that are a major source of consternation on any forum. Normally however it's the claim itself that is non-sequitur, and calling the proof by that term is more normally simply referred to as "misrepresentation" or "disproof."
We eschew both of these rhetorical fallacies, with non-sequiturs being deleted either at the request of members or in the judgement of the management, while fallacious claims about citations are left for the members to debate. If you see a non-sequitur, report it, and if you see a fallacious reference, call it out. Plenty of people will argue. However in general if you choose not to debate such arguments, there's not much point in complaining that they exist.
• Ad hominem:
"Against the man"; attacking the arguer rather than the argument; discrediting an argument by trashing the person making it. Need I point out she uses this a great deal?
Ad hominem attacks are very much discouraged as is general name-calling, however it's important to note that name-calling often begets name-calling in response, and to the extent that people do this in real life, there is a certain amount that is tolerated, especially if it is a short tit-for-tat, in which the combattants both get their noses bloodied. Bullies generally start such arguments and are the ones that most often invoke the phrase ad hominem when they get punched back. It's the nature of human interaction: we are a violent species, and sometimes conflict is the only way that certain people learn.
The key fallacy here is that if you call people names or attack their group, and they then call you names back, you don't have much standing to say they deserve approbation for calling you names.
There is also the Straw Man fallacy, which was not mentioned here, possibly for obvious reasons, in which a responder argues that a proposition is false by providing proof against a different proposition that the original proponent never argued. As with the other fallacies above, call it out when you see it, but to be most effective, provide evidence of the difference between the original proposition and the claimed one. It may in fact end up that in some cases the second claimed one is actually an implication of the first, which unfortunately means that all claims of "Straw Man" may in fact not be valid.
I'll add one more fallacy here that I think is important which is the "It's not all about you" fallacy. This has a variety of instantiations, but the most important are to eschew associating disagreements with your arguments as personal attacks, as well as the much lower level notion that all statements in a post that may make references to the OP or other posts are exclusively directed at that poster. As a consequence of the fact that we do request evidence, much of what is referred to in posts are not the literal words in the posts themselves but are from included texts or are quotes from general sources in common knowledge or are searchable. In common usage quotes are often used not as reference to a quote but are used to convey ironic intent ("air quotes" in the current vernacular).
The bottom line is that everyone is advised not to take everything personally. If you're offended, say so. If you offended someone, apologize. If you consistently annoy or offend in an intentional manner, don't be surprised if you get slammed, or ultimately even banned.
The point of all of this discussion is that there is a need for judgement in the view of all arguments, and in a marketplace of ideas and discussion, the goal is really never to convince or vanguish your fellow members: your ideas will have to stand on their own to the *audience* which is viewing the discussion. You may never get any feedback on it, so it's important to recognize that the argumentation needs to be it's own reward. There are no "winners" or "losers" here, only participants.
So to the extent you get angry at discussions, it's always advisable to keep that last fallacy in mind, step back, take a breath, and then dive in with your logic first. We're a science forum, and we try to make it fun. But recognize like any forum it comes "as is" and you have to decide if you fit. If you come in seeking to disprove Evolution or Relativity, we've got a lot of people who will disabuse you of those ideas because they are in general non-scientific. If you've come here to proselytize a religion or a political viewpoint, recognize that the international origins of this site have a distinctly non-denominational and liberal bent in which the range of beliefs is more normally and broadly distributed compared to what is common in the US today, and the same tendencies to argue against the more extreme positions can be just as fierce as you will find being thrown against arguments of Young Earth Creationism or we-didn't-go-to-the-moon theories. Calling those arguments "fallacies" is mostly a distraction and won't be taken seriously, but feel free to do so as half the fun is simply having them on display for what they are.
Some people may not like that, but that's our "brand."
And with that, I'll use my outrageous and unjustified position as admin to declare my judgement that this topic is producing no more useful discussion and is now closed.
Go forth and open new threads!
If everyone likes you, you're not doing your job,