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False Equivalence: The Problem with Unreasonable Comparisons

The problem with false equivalence

  • 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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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

False Equivalence: The Problem with Unreasonable Comparisons

False Equivalence: The Problem with Unreasonable Comparisons

https://effectiviology.com/false-equivalence/

effectiviology.com

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Key Ideas

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.

The problem with false equivalence

  • 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. 

Responding to a false equivalence

  • 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.

Comparisons and equivalence

  • 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.

Avoiding false equivalences

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.

False balance fallacy

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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Fallacies

A fallacy is the use of faulty reasoning in an argument.

There are formal and informal fallacies:

  • A formal fallacy describes a flaw in the construction of a deductive ar...
Appeal to privacy

In this fallacy, someone behaves in a way that negatively affects others but then gets upset when others criticize their behavior. They will reply with a "mind your own business."
For instance, someone who doesn't see a reason to bathe, but then boards a full 10-hour flight.

Sunk cost fallacy

It happens when someone continues in a course of action, even if evidence shows that it's a mistake.

Common phrase: "We've always done it this way, so we'll keep doing it this way." "I've already invested so much..."

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Jumping into Conclusions
Jumping to conclusions is a common phenomenon, where people prematurely decide and finalize something, without having sufficient information or choosing not to consider it.
Jumping into Conclusions: Examples
  • Inference-observation confusion: An assumption made that may or may not be correct. Example: Concluding that a guy is rich, based on the car he drives.
  • Fortune-Telling: Assumption of knowing exactly what will happen in the future.
  • Mind Reading: Assuming based on how to have read someone's mind and concluded something which may not be true.
  • Extreme Extrapolation: Finding a minor clue and making something major out of it.
  • Overgeneralization: Copy-pasting a piece of knowledge over something that you think is related, but is not.
  • Labeling: Stereotyping a set of people based on their likes and dislikes.
Why We Jump to Conclusions

The reason people jump to conclusions is the fact that they find it easy.

Fact-checking and 100 percent accuracy on everything they see or observe consume way too much time for a normal person.

Taking mental shortcuts is the path most people choose to jump to conclusions.

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The argument from incredulity

Is a logical fallacy where someone concludes that since they can’t believe that a certain concept is true, then it must be false and vice versa.

Its 2 basic forms:

I c...

Basic structure of an argument from incredulity

Premise 1: I can’t explain or imagine how proposition X can be true.

Premise 2: if a certain proposition is true, then I must be able to explain or imagine how that can be.

Conclusions: proposition X is false.

It’s ok to be incredulous

... and to bring this up as part of an argument. The issue with doing so occurs when this incredulity isn’t justified or supported by concrete information, and when this lack of belief is used in order to assume that a preferred personal explanation must be the right one, despite the lack of proof.

At the same time, it’s also important to remember that it’s possible that the person using the argument from incredulity is right, despite the fact that their reasoning is flawed.

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