Thursday, September 13, 2007

Doggerel #122: "You'll Be Sorry!"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

When I think of it, just about everything is an appeal to consequences. If you get into a car accident while not wearing your seatbelt, you're more likely to get injured. Therefore, you should wear your seatbelt. Unfortunately, woos like to use fallacious appeals to consequences.

Exaggerated example: If you don't wear a tinfoil hat, the government will read your mind. Therefore, you should wear a tinfoil hat. Where the fallacies come in, of course, is the first part of that statement: What evidence do they have that the government can read your mind, and furthermore, what evidence do they have that tinfoil can prevent it?

Alties are particularly fond of this, since they can try to use it to discourage people from seeking real medicine, generate fear about what'll happen if people choose not to use their product, just doing a normal, health-neutral action, and so forth. Such efforts involve a lot of other doggerel and mistaken "common knowledge."

Conspiracy theorists love this one because they can portray critical thinking and honest questioning of their crankery as complacency in the face of the MIB black helicopter invasion that's due at 4 o' clock tomorrow.

I could go on (and I will, in the next Doggerel entry, "Better Safe Than Sorry!"). They key problem is that they have to show good evidence of that, not just chant the mantra. If we question the premise, they have to defend the premise.

4 comments:

Skeptico said...

Re: When I think of it, just about everything is an appeal to consequences. If you get into a car accident while not wearing your seatbelt, you're more likely to get injured. Therefore, you should wear your seatbelt.

In that case you’re considering a plan. An appeal to consequences when deciding on a plan is not fallacious. An appeal to consequences is fallacious when it’s a truth statement – the truth of something is not determined by the consequences of it being true or not.

Bronze Dog said...

Good point. May edit it a bit later, since I was largely referring to the use of "You'll be sorry" to refer to made-up consequences of a sensible plan, or failure to go by the woo plan.

Wes said...

If you don't wear a tinfoil hat, the government will read your mind. Therefore, you should wear a tinfoil hat. Where the fallacies come in, of course, is the first part of that statement: What evidence do they have that the government can read your mind, and furthermore, what evidence do they have that tinfoil can prevent it?

It's not the lack of evidence, per se, that makes it a fallacy. The way you have it worded there does make it sound like it's implying a Denying the Antecedent fallacy, though.

The informal fallacy of Appeal to Consequences might look something more like this:

Darwinism leads to immorality.
Accepting Darwinism will make people bad.
Therefore, Darwinism is false.

Or maybe:

Those who don't accept Christ go to Hell.
Hell is a place of eternal suffering.
Therefore, the Gospels are true.

Your "You'll be sorry" doggerel also sounds a bit like the argumentum ad bacculum fallacy (argument to the stick):

Everyone who does not accept X will be hurt.
Therefore, X is true.


Eternal punishment in Hell is also an argumentum ad bacculum fallacy in addition to being a fallacious appeal to consequences. The two are pretty closely related.

Bronze Dog said...

I tend to think of the appeal to consequences and the appeal to consequences of belief to be somewhat separate.

But don't worry, the latter will be covered in the next Doggerel entry. I suppose what I was going for was appeal to consequences of action, rather than of belief. Might end up reorganizing both.