Belief In False Arguments Is Costly

How many people must agree before something becomes a fact?  When you see it that way, it is an absurd question.  Facts are facts, they are not opinion.  A show of hands does not make truth.

Argumentation theory holds the idea to be a false argument.  Argumentum ad Populum.  We know that, but sometimes fail to heed the warning.  “If everyone says it is so; then it must be so.” is invalid and the expertise of the “everyones” adds little value.  “Argumentum ad verecundiam” or appeal to authority has the flaw that even experts are not right all the time.

Evidence is a better footing for seeking truth.  A good example of how that works is from Albert Einstein. In the early 1930s, his theories were attacked in a pamphlet by some with anti-Jewish leanings. “100 Authors Against Einstein.” His reply,  “Why 100 experts?  If I were wrong, one would be enough.”

Be careful of bandwagons.  Most are based on the flaws above.  Their defence seems to be that no one can prove them wrong, but as is well known, you cannot prove a negative.  It is like Hume’s argument that no matter how many white swans you see, a single black swan will destroy the theory that all swans are white.

There are many societal situations based on false arguments.  Many don’t matter.  Some do.  Look for logically valid and testable truth.

When investing, learn to spot false arguments.  It is a money saving investment of your time.

Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is now with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.


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