False Equivalence: The Problem with Unreasonable Comparisons - Deepstash
False Equivalence: The Problem with Unreasonable Comparisons

False Equivalence: The Problem with Unreasonable Comparisons

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False Equivalence: The Problem with Unreasonable Comparisons

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It is a logical fallacy and it occurs when someone incorrectly asserts that two or more things are equal because they share some characteristics, regardless of the notable differences between them.

For example, saying that cats and dogs are the same type of animal because they're both mammals and have a tail.

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  • The equivalence exaggerates the degree of similarity. I.e, stating that two people share a specific personality trait, but ignoring that they differ in other aspects of this trait.
  • The equivalence exaggerates the importance of the similarity. I.e, focusing on a personality trait that two people share while ignoring that many other people also share this trait.
  • The equivalence ignores important differences.
  • The equivalence ignores differences in orders of magnitude. 

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  • Show that the similarities between the things being equated are exaggerated, overemphasized, or oversimplified.
  • Highlight the differences between the things being equated. 
  • Explain why these differences are more significant than related similarities.
  • Provide counterexamples.
  • Ask your opponent to justify why they believe that their equivalence is valid, and then demonstrate the issues with the reasoning they provide.

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  • Not every comparison is an equivalence; it’s possible to compare things without suggesting that they are equal to one another.
  • Not every equivalence is false and can even be reasonable.
  • Not every false equivalence is intentional.
  • Equivalence is subjective; it’s not always possible to clearly determine whether a specific equivalence is false or not.

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If you’re unsure about whether an equivalence that you’re thinking about is reasonable or not, try to highlight the differences between the things that you’re equating, and ask yourself whether the equivalence still holds.

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It happens when there are two or more opposing positions on a certain topic, and you assume that the truth must rest somewhere in the middle. False balance can be a result of a false equivalence when two sides are presented as being equal, and the terms are used interchangeably, even though they are not.

For instance, in a group interview, equal weight is given to the opinions of two opposing interviewees, one of whom is an established expert, and the other a false authority with no valid credentials.

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