False equivalence

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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Problem Solving

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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. 
  • 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.
  • 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.

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.

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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RELATED IDEAS

  1. Explain why this sort of reasoning is fallacious: namely the fact that your opponent’s inability to explain a certain phenomenon or to understand a certain theory, does not invalidate current explanations for it.
  2. Shift the burden of proof back to your opponent: ask them to support their initial assertion, and explain why they are incredulous, and why they think that this validates their position.
  3. If possible, you should show that there is scientific evidence that can be used in order to explain the phenomenon that’s being discussed. 

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IDEAS

This fallacy involves arguing against a position because you think the ideas would start a chain reaction of bad things, even though you don't have evidence to support your claim.

Common phrase: "If we do that, then what's next?"

  • Ask yourself: “Is there any additional evidence or possible interpretations of existing evidence that I should be considering?
  • Avoid forming a hypothesis too early on, before you’ve had a chance to look at all the available information.

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