Scales of Justice Fallacy

Created by PeerInfinity at 4y

The scales of justice fallacy refers to the error of compressingusing a simple polarized scheme for deciding a complex empirical issue into a binary question. Sometimesissue: each piece of evidence about the question is individually categorized as supporting exactly one does need to consider a binary question, where the answer is yes or no, and evidence for the affirmative side is evidence against the negative. But a lot of real-world questions are much more complicated than this and involve questions that don't fit on a one-dimensional scale. For example, it might be tempting to argue whether some developmental feature of an organism is due to nature or to nurture, but the details of the true causal mechanism might not fit neatlytwo opposing positions. This scheme distorts the conclusions that can be drawn from each piece of evidence, doesn't allow to take into account the dependencies between the pieces of evidence in either category.the context of the issue, and biases perception of individual pieces of evidence, making the ones that fall into the same category seem to support each other, and ones falling in the opposite categories to seem to oppose each other. In reality, individual pieces of evidence may be separate factual claims, arrived at independently, with the issue depending on specific combinations of facts.

The scales of justice fallacy refers to the error of compressing a complex empirical issue into a binary question. Sometimes one does need to consider a binary question, where the answer is yes or no, and evidence for the affirmative side is evidence against the negative. But a lot of real-world questions are much more complicated than this and involve questions that don't fit on a one-dimensional scale. For example, it might be tempting to argue whether some developmental feature of an organism is due to nature or to nurture, but the details of the true causal mechanism might not fit neatly in either category.

Lady Justice is widely depicted as carrying a scales. A scales has the property that whatever pulls one side down, pushes the other side up. This makes things very convenient and easy to track. It's also usually a gross distortion.

In human discourse there is a natural tendency to treat discussion as a form of combat, an extension of war, a sport; and in sports you only need to keep track of how many points have been scored by each team. There are only two sides, and every point scored against one side, is a point in favor of the other. Everyone in the audience keeps a mental running count of how many points each speaker scores against the other. At the end of the debate, the speaker who has scored more points is, obviously, the winner; so everything he says must be true, and everything the loser says must be wrong.

--EY

Footnotes
Less Wrong Articles
Other Resources

Lady Justice is widely depicted as carrying a scales. A scales has the property that whatever pulls one side down, pushes the other side up. This makes things very convenient and easy to track. It's also usually a gross distortion.

In human discourse there is a natural tendency to treat discussion as a form of combat, an extension of war, a sport; and in sports you only need to keep track of how many points have been scored by each team. There are only two sides, and every point scored against one side, is a point in favor of the other. Everyone in the audience keeps a mental running count of how many points each speaker scores against the other. At the end of the debate, the speaker who has scored more points is, obviously, the winner; so everything he says must be true, and everything the loser says must be wrong.

--EY

See Also

References

Footnotes
Overcoming Bias Articles
Less Wrong Articles
Other Resources