Avoiding Failure: Fallacy Finding

by Patrick 1 min read3rd Jul 200919 comments


When I was in high school, one of the exercises we did was to take a newspaper column, and find all of the fallacies it employed. It was a fun thing to do, and is good awareness raising for critical thinking, but it probably wouldn't be enough to stave off being deceived by an artful propagandist unless I did it until it was reflexive. To catch the fallacy being, I usually have to read a sentence three or four times to see the underlying logic behind it and remember why the logic is invalid, when I'm confronted by something as fallacy ridden as an ad for the Love Calculator, I just give up in exhaustion. Worse, when I'm watching television, I can't even rewind to see what they said (I suspect the fallacy count is higher too).

To counter this, (and to further hone my fallacy finding skills), I've extended the fallacy finding exercise to work on video. Take a video from a genre that generally has a high fallacy per minute ratio (e.g. Campaign ads, political debates, speeches, regular ads, Oprah) and edit the video to play a klaxon sound whenever someone commits a logical fallacy or gets a fact wrong, followed by the name of the fallacy they committed flashing on screen.

EDIT: I've made one of these and uploaded it to Youtube. Thank you Eliezer and CannibalSmith for the encouragement. You can find other debates at CNN, and youtube lets you do annotations so no editing software is technically required. I'll be posting further videos to this post as I make/find them.