Monday, August 31, 2009

Doggerel #195: "You're Just Denying the Facts!"

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

I've seen it all too often: Someone claims I'm denying some fact a person is citing to support their position when I'm not. It may be an altie claiming I'm denying a person's improvement, a believer in parapsychology claiming I'm denying a "psychic" prediction came true, or a racist who claims I'm denying some economic statistics about certain countries. All too often, my trivial concessions fall on deaf ears who remain unaware of my true objections.

The reality of the debates I get in is typically this: My opponents' arguments are invalid because they rely on logical fallacies. Therefore, their conclusions do not follow from the facts they use in their premises.

Alties have claimed that I denied someone got better after a quackery treatment. I seldom have any reason to doubt the improvement: My argument is usually that there are other causes for improvement, therefore, they need to rule these other explanations out before they can claim an anecdote supports their case.

Parapsychology fans have claimed that I denied that a psychic prediction came true. Usually, I have instead argued that there are other, unremarkable explanations for their accuracy.

A recent commentator has claimed that my friends and I deny that some countries are in a poor economic state. We did not. We simply argued that there are many possible explanations for that poverty other than the DNA of the citizens.

Just because A is true, doesn't mean your conclusion follows from it. A sound conclusion requires both that the premises be true AND that the steps from premises to conclusion be logically valid.

Of course, there are cases where we do deny the premises of someone's argument. In such a case, we're willing to hear evidence to support the "fact" they're arguing. Usually, this results in a microcosm: The evidence they use to defend their larger argument's premise doesn't actually support it.

1 comment:

Valhar2000 said...

Well, pseudocientists and cranks have no specific aversion to false facts, so you will often find yourself denying the so-called facts they bring up.