sarahmichigan: (Default)
[personal profile] sarahmichigan
Wow, do I see this one in on-line arguments all the time!

If someone is making a universal statement, such as "All Volvos are always reliable" and you can find one counter-example, then that's a valid tack to take. But often anecdotal counter-examples are raised as if they somehow invalidate a generalization, such as "Volvos, on the whole, tend to be reliable, and they're rated highly by Consumer Reports." Merely hearing one counter-example about a lemon Volvo does not invalidate the generalized statement that Volvos, in general, tend to be more reliable than most other makes of car.

Say for instance I make the statement that, statistically speaking, fat and even obese people who exercise regularly have about the same mortality rates and risk for many diseases as thinner active people, and they have much better health than thin, sedentary people. Someone may come along and cite the case of her Aunt Mary who was 350 pounds and could barely get out of bed and died at age 52 of heart disease. This is as fallacious an argument as someone else who comes back and says, "Oh yeah? Well my Grandpa Mortimer weighed 375 pounds, and he was healthy as a horse up until about the last month or two of his life, and he lived to be 90!"

More discussion and examples here:

Date: 2007-02-15 05:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This is why I hate newstories and documentaries (most of them). They find an issue, then find very few people to discuss it, then pull up "statistics" and we are supposed to be swayed.

Its also interesting that in our multicultural relations class, the professor always tells us to take the larger view. Yes, we can all tell stories of individuals that have overcome obstacles, but we need to understand why, overall, things are the way they are.

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