User:Student7/Sandbox 26

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Identifying a fallacy by name[edit]

I would like to label what I believe to be a fallacy by name.

(I've altered the terms below for neutrality)

I have mentioned in an article that 35,000 people have been killed each year on American highways. Another editor has inserted an equally valid and footnoted entry which says that 100,000,000 US motorists were not killed (survive) on the highway each year.

The implication is that since only a tiny number die, it is no big deal. That is, the second statement, coming right on the heels of the first, soundly diminishes the impact.

I'm pretty sure this is a fallacy of some sort, but can't put a label to it.

(For the editorial record, I agree that his statement on number of drivers should go somewhere).

(Also, again for the record, this is not about cars or US driving deaths. It is another subject entirely! I worded it this way for ease of understanding)


Thanks. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Student7 (talkcontribs) 22:37, 31 March 2009

I don't think that's really a logical falacy. There is no conclusion, certainly not a false one. If you were to conclude that driving on US roads is safe then that's not really falacious, it just depends on your definition of "safe". 0.035% of US motorists die each year, that's a perfectly valid statistic and you can decide for yourself whether you think that makes cars safe enough to use or not. (It would be better to use something like people-miles rather than just people, though - not all of those 100 million people drove the same amount. Also, 100 million seems a bit small - that's less than a third of the population, do two thirds of Americans really go an entire year without getting in a car?) --Tango (talk) 00:10, 1 April 2009 (UTC)
We have an article titled Fallacy and a List of fallacies. This could be an implied Ignoratio elenchi arguement, or more likely could be classified as a simple Red Herring; i.e. an irrelevent fact meant to steer the direction of the arguement off course. He could be Cherry picking statistics which fit his arguement, or perhaps the Texas sharpshooter fallacy. Since you have not pointed us to the exact situation, it is hard to tell if any of these, or others, may fit the situation. --Jayron32.talk.contribs 00:23, 1 April 2009 (UTC)
If the numbers are true (and they seem pretty reasonable to me) - then it's not a fallacy. What's significant is that people are very bad at comparing probabilities. So an 0.03% chance of dying in a car wreck doesn't get people's attention as much as the vastly smaller probability of dying from a shark attack or being struck by lighting or whatever. Failure to reasonably estimate risks and consequences is a major failing of the human race. SteveBaker (talk) 02:27, 1 April 2009 (UTC)
And indeed there are whole fields built around trying to make sense of numbers like these... see probabilistic risk assessment, for example. --98.217.14.211 (talk) 02:41, 1 April 2009 (UTC)
True information, presented in a context which twists it into a new relevance:
Ship's log, Monday: "The First Mate was drunk today." Signed, the Captain.
Ship's log, Tuesday: "The Captain was sober today." Signed, the First Mate.
True but twisted. BrainyBabe (talk) 10:52, 1 April 2009 (UTC)