Originally posted September 24, 2013
The latest Irreligiosophy, that atheist podcast that cannot be easily pronounced, contains a very good primer on logically fallacies. While this is an atheist podcast, the topic of the podcast is skeptical bread and butter material. Matt and Chuck cover all the basic logical fallacies giving a basic definition of each, and example followed by little test section at the end of the episode. As important they also discuss that just picking out one's opponents logical fallacies in their argument is not enough to win the point. One must also explain to one's adversary why their argument is flawed, and not just blurt out the term for flawed reasoning. Chuck and Matt also point out that just because one's line of reasoning is flawed does not automatically mean the conclusion is false. I for one get tired at looking at skeptical and rationalist comment threads, twitter feeds, forum threads of people going back and forth pick out the named fallacies in the other side's argument as if that proves the point. Knowing the definitions of fallacies is a useful tool, but not the end all be all of a debate.
My only complaint about the episode is in my estimation the incomplete definition of the argument from authority. Matt and Chuck seem to indicate that citing an authority who specializing in the relevant field is sufficient to escape this fallacy. Therefore, if one is arguing that cigarettes are good for your health and you cite celebrity chef that is a fallacy, but if you cite a pulmonologist that is sufficient to escape the fallacy. While citing a physician is better than citing a chef is better in this type of situation, the better item to cite is to the medical consensus. One can cite an individual physician relying upon the consensus, but this also stops peopling from citing a rogue doctor in their argument to support a fallacious point. It is a nitpick, but it bothered me while listening to the episode.
As always with Irreligiosophy Chuck and Matt's humor and style is blue. If one is easily offended or enjoys a polished style this podcast may not be for you. However, this episode contained a nice refresher course on the definitions and proper use of logical fallacies for skeptics and rationalist, and it is a useful and entertaining listen.