|Photo by Mark Klotz|
Example: “Greg Glassman published a paper on a superior way to increase conditioning, but Greg Glassman is overweight and unhealthy, so why should I listen to him?” Whether it is true or not, Greg Glassman’s appearance has been characterized in a less-than-desirable way, and has nothing to do with the strength of his argument, so using it as a rebuttal to his argument is fallacious.
How To Avoid It: Stay focused on the argument, rather than than the arguer’s personal character, unless the personal character is relevant. This one is the easiest to fall prey to, and I have to remind myself constantly to avoid this fallacy, but it doesn’t always work.
Example: “I talked to a bodybuilder who seemed to be full of himself. My friend also met a bodybuilder who seemed conceited. All bodybuilders must be conceited!” In this case, two people’s experiences are hardly enough to base a conclusion on.
Appeal to Authority
Example: “Natalie Portman says that eating meat is not only unhealthy for our colon, it is also immoral. We shouldn’t eat meat either.” While Natalie Portman may know how to play a schizophrenic swan in a movie, there is no particular reason why anyone should be moved by her dietary preferences. She is probably no more of an authority on this topic than the individual who quotes her in an argument.
How To Avoid It: There are two easy ways to avoid committing the appeal to authority: First, make sure the authorities you are citing are experts on the topic you are discussing. Second, rather than just saying “Natalie Portlman believes in Veganism, so we should too,” try to explain the reasoning that the authority used to arrive at their opinion. That way, your audience will have more to go on than just a reputation. Pick someone who is neutral, rather than someone who will be perceived as biased.
Example: “I had a bite of a bagel before I worked out, and I didn’t PR in my workout. It must have been because I had a bite of bagel.” This fallacy shows up a lot in the Paleo community: A lot of negative life events somehow are attributed to the consumption of grain or sugar. While the consumption may or may not have had one factor in the bad workout, the argument doesn’t show us what actually caused it.
How To Avoid It: To avoid this fallacy, you should give more explanation of the process by which the consumption caused the bad workout. If you say that A causes B, you should have something more to say about how A caused B instead of just saying that A came first and B came later.
Example: The Sumo Deadlift High-Pull is a safe movement, I mean, there are hundreds of thousands of people doing it in gyms all over the world!” While it’s great that there are so many people exercising, it has no bearing on whether the movement is safe or not. The arguer is attempting to convince the audience to accept the conclusion by appealing to our desire to fit in with the rest of the fitness community.
How to avoid it: This fallacy is especially prevalent in marketing and advertising (50 million Americans can’t be wrong!). Make sure that you aren’t recommending your audience to believe your conclusion simply because everyone else does. Keep in mind that the popular opinion isn’t always the right one.
And there you have a short synopsis of 5 major logical fallacies. It may appear to have nothing to do with lifting big or eating big, but if you can’t even argue your position correctly, how can you expect anyone to accept your argument and become a believer?
3 tips for spotting your own fallacies:
1. Pretend you disagree with the conclusion you are defending to see if your point is valid.
2. List your main points, and the evidence you have for it.
3. Learn which types of fallacies you are especially prone to.
Thanks to Dr. Igrek for helping me in my understanding of logical fallacies.