Friday, November 27, 2015

Today's Logical Fallacy is... Bandwagon!

(argument from common sense, argumentum ad populum [“appeal to the people”], appeal to the crowd, appeal to the masses, appeal to belief, appeal to the majority, appeal to democracy, appeal to popularity, argument by consensus, consensus fallacy, authority of the many, and bandwagon fallacy, argumentum ad numerum ["appeal to the number"], consensus gentium ["agreement of the clans"])

This fallacy occurs when someone suggests that something is true because it is popular. The flaw here is that the popularity of a position does not guarantee that it is valid. Opinions can be popular for a variety of reasons: cultural custom, religious belief, lack evidence to the contrary, small sample size, and pressures to conform to the norm. Essentially, this is the fallacy of “peer pressure.” It is also often reversed in order to convince people to “step out of the norm.”


Even if everyone agreed on the same thing, it wouldn’t mean that they were “right.” At one point, everyone believed that diseases were caused by evil spirits, that the earth was flat, and that the sun went around a stationary earth. These popular opinions undoubtedly made sense at the time, but they are no longer considered valid. The earth didn’t suddenly become flat just because enough people believed it to be.

This argument can be valid when using inductive reasoning (for example, making conclusions about what someone may likely believe based on what you know about the population), but it is inappropriate for use in deductive reasoning which seeks for proof of a conclusion (drawing the conclusion that the popular vehicle must be the absolute best one). Additionally, there are some instances where bandwagon thinking is appropriate. For example, it is important to follow social conventions (etiquette and manners, though these do change), safety guidelines (driving on the same side of the road with no deference to which one is truly “correct”), and rules of communication (grammar, phrase usage, etc.).

This is a fallacy inherent to democracy. Government policy is determined by the popular vote of the people. However, many democracies are constitutional democracies meaning that they protect civil liberties from being taken away by popular vote. It was once popular to own slaves and deny women rights, but both practices were deemed unconstitutional even against the popular opinion of the day.

One reason this fallacy is common is because people fear rejection of their peers. Group loyalty is a strong motivating factor in behavior, even if they recognize that the behavior itself is wrong. To disagree with the group can have severe repercussions – culturally, socially, religiously, and educationally.

Examples:

"Everyone thinks undocumented aliens ought to be kicked out!"

“Surveys show that over 75% of Americans believe Senator Smith is not telling the truth. For anyone with half a brain, that conclusively proves he’s a dirty liar!”

"C'mon, dude, everybody's doin' it."

“All I can say is that if living together is immoral, then I have plenty of company.”

“Professor Windplenty's test was extremely unfair. Just ask anyone who took it.”

“20 million people own a Ford. Maybe they know something you don't.”

“Ruffles: America's best-selling chip.”

“Tonight, a special episode of ER that everyone will be talking about tomorrow.”

“Nine out of ten of my constituents oppose the bill, therefore it is a bad idea.”

“Fifty million Elvis fans can't be wrong.”

“Everyone's doing it.”

In an American court of law, the jury vote by majority; therefore they will always make the correct decision.

“Many people buy extended warranties; therefore, it is wise to buy them.”

One could claim that smoking is a healthy pastime since millions of people do it. (Knowing the dangers of smoking, we instead say that smoking is not a healthy pastime despite the fact that millions do it.)

“Seamus pointed a drunken finger at Sean and asked him to explain how so many people could believe in leprechauns if they're only a silly old superstition.”

Advocates of heliocentrism, such as Galileo Galilei, were strongly suppressed despite scientific evidence now recognized as factual that supported heliocentrism at the expense of geocentrism.

"Are you going to be a mindless conformist drone drinking milk and water like everyone else, or will you wake up and drink my product?"

"Everyone likes The Beatles and that probably means that they didn't have nearly as much talent as <Y band>, which didn't sell out."

"The German people today consists of the Auschwitz generation, with every person in power being guilty in some way. How on earth can we buy the generally held propaganda that the Soviet Union is imperialistic and totalitarian? Clearly, it must not be.”

"Most people still either hate gays or just barely tolerate their existence. How can you still buy their other line that claims that pederasty is wrong?”

"Everyone loves <A actor>. <A actor> must be nowhere near as talented as the devoted and serious method actors that aren't so popular like <B actor>."

Joe: "Bill, I know you think that 1+1=2. But we don't accept that sort of thing in our group."
Bill: "I was just joking. Of course I don't believe that."

Bill says that he likes the idea that people should work for their welfare when they can. His friends laugh at him, accuse him of fascist leanings and threaten to ostracize him from their group. He decides to recant and abandon his position to avoid rejection.

Bill: "I like classical music and I think it is of higher quality than most modern music."
Jill: "That stuff is for old people."
Dave: "Yeah, only real woosies listen to that crap. Besides, Anthrax rules! It Rules!"
Bill: "Well, I don't really like it that much. Anthrax is much better."

Bill thinks that welfare is needed in some cases. His friends in the Young Republicans taunt him every time he makes his views known. He accepts their views in order to avoid rejection.

“Does god exist? Several billion people can’t be wrong!”

“7 in 10 doctors say acupuncture works, therefore it must work.” (combination of appeal to authority and bandwagon fallacy)