Saturday, March 21, 2009

Episode 36 Get to Know a Fallacy

On this episode we introduce a new segment called "get to know a fallacy." For the first installment we examine false analogies in the design arguments of William Paley and Dinesh D'Souza. But first join us for a new installment of God Thinks Like You where we explain why, to the brain, God is just another guy.

To download this or any previous Reasonable Doubts episodes click here. Find the episode you want and right click the "play now" link and select "save target as..."


Taylor said...

I don't really buy this concept of a "false analogy". Analogies are either useful or not, and you can't tell that fact by picking them apart. The only measure of the aptness of an analogy is whether it leads to new knowledge, the truthfulness of which is determined by methods outside of the analogy itself, such as via empiricism.

What I think leads you into thinking your can spot a false analogy from its formulation is that you incorporate a circularity into your definition of "false analogy". You define it as one where the objects being compared differ in some "significant" way; however, you cannot know what is significant until the analogy has failed. If the analogy succeeds, then clearly your criticism did not identify a "significant" flaw in the analogy. This suggests that an analogy can only be rejected via empirical means, rather than reasoning alone.

So my view is that Paley's analogy was only shown to fail with the advent of Darwin. Even though Hume pointed out many flaws in the watch analogy, that wasn't enough to show that it was false, but only less persuasive than it at first appeared. Except, in the end, Hume was persuaded by it.

D-Notice said...

Thanks for mentioning that the Theos pol (episode 33) was flawed.

Jeremy said...


You said

"This suggests that an analogy can only be rejected via empirical means, rather than reasoning alone."

Thats right, because arguments from analogy are inductive arguments. You usually go about looking for a flaw in the content of the analogy. You cant spot a false analogy from its formulation alone, because arguments from analogy are never deductively valid. Still, would that mean we shouldn't pay attention to how the argument is formulated?

Also, showing something to be "less persuasive" is exactly what you'd want to do with an inductive argument. Remember the burden of proof is on the person making the claim. It wasn't Humes job to prove Paley was wrong 100%

J Wood said...


I've been listening for... ever it seems, but I almost never send in comments to any podcast I listen to.

However, I wanted to just let you guys know about an Australian podcast that's strictly about logical fallacies -- called Hunting Humbug.

It's two academics, a father and son (both work in education at the collegiate level, designing science curriculum and the like), and they published a book all about logical fallacies. The book is available in print, but they've also made it available to download for free as a .pdf. (I teach an argument and writing class at the U. of Virginia, and I've used it for my students.)

The book itself might be a little too British in some of its language and humor (humbug, names and situations that remind me of the SAT/ACT study guides, etc.), but it's pretty useful. As for the podcast, again, it's a bit of a matter of taste; some of the humor and dialog may be lost on someone not familiar with some Australian culture, and the two can be a bit talky sometimes and wander, but overall it's useful.

The podcast/book/homepage is at

oneManArmy said...

Thanks for another great show. But could you pump up the volume. I have my speakers on 11 and it's still to low to hear at work. Thanks.

Jefe said...

The logical fallacies thing has already been done by other podcasts, I don't think you guys need to do it as well. In addition to Skeptoid, SGU 5x5 did a series of Skepticism 101 you can look up in their archives.

Brandon T. Bisceglia said...

Hey guys. Great show!

Just for reference, the the LSAT podcast you mentioned is actually called "LSAT Logic in Everyday Life." It's produced by the Princeton Review.

Here's a link:

Dan Jacobs said...

This show was so quiet that on my European (i.e. volume limited) iPod, I couldn't even hear you guys talking. Please please please consider us oppressed Europeans when deciding on the loudness of your show -- if it's too quiet, we simply won't be able to hear it because the EU doesn't allow MP3 players to output very high volumes.

Jeremy said...

The low volume problem has been fixed. Sorry all for the mistake. You should just be able to delete the old track and re-download it, but if your podcatcher doesnt work that way here's the link

Luke said...

I have the same problem with the "spot the fallacy" approaches of many other critical-thinking-intro courses, and I appreciate the approach you've taken here. Very good examples!

I do like the old podcast "Logically Critical." Recommended.

Andrew said...

You haven't made a new podcast in a long time. What's up?

Anonymous said...

I want more podcasts. MORE!

Hey could you do a podcast on Atheists on the DL? I, for example, spent a whole year "in the closet".

Bryan said...

Just listened to this episode and want to echo Luke's comment that the way you discuss logical fallacies in such depth is great. Hope you'll do more of this segment in the future.