The Baloney Detection Kit – Part 2

In Part 1 we highlighted some excerpts from Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World on what to do when evaluating a claim. In this post we look at what NOT to do and fallacies to avoid. My favorite excerpts:

Ad Hominem: Attacking the arguer, not the argument

Argument from Authority

Appeal to Ignorance: the claim that whatever has not been proved false must be true, and vice versa. Absence of Evidence is Not Evidence of Absence.

Observational Selection: as Francis Bacon described it, “counting the hits and forgetting the misses.”

Non Sequitur: Often those falling into this fallacy have simply failed to recognize alternative possibilities.

False Dichotomy: considering only the two extremes in a continuum of intermediate possibilities. Also known as “excluding the middle.”

Confusion of Correlation and Causation [Cinema says: Allen Besselink’s article on Pathoanatomy provides a perfect and current example of this in the medical world]

Carl Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit is a fine tool for evaluating any claim. And, you are now better equipped to filter out ambiguous and vacuous statements or arguments and focus on what matters.

Refresh yourself on Part 1 of The Baloney Detection Kit here.

Sources: Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World,                                                        Allan Besselink’s Blogpost “In Pathoanatomy We Trust – But Should We”

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