Fallacies from Chapter 3
guilt by omission; a half-truth
failure to bring relevant evidence to bear on an argument; only give evidence to support while omitting negative evidence
How to Explain
state what negative evidence was suppressed
The crime rate at SRJC is down 50% from last year. Thus, it must be very safe now.
1. The fallacy of suppressed evidence can be thought of as exhibiting half-truths or 'guilt by omission'. This is a very common fallacy.
2. Most of the time there is a deliberate intent to neglect evidence that would be contrary to the arguer's claim. Failure to use relevant information we should have thought of or known to look for also counts as suppressed evidence.
3. Zealots who are blinded to arguments from the other side often suppress evidence that is damaging to their side of the issue, as they provide us only with evidence favorable to their position.
4. Most ads are guilty of this fallacy since they rarely tell us the deficiencies of their product.
5. A common type of suppressed evidence is suppressed statistics. Sometimes we are only given percentages WITHOUT giving us additional numbers that make the percentages more meaningful. Sometimes we are given ONLY the statistics which support a point of view, while we are not given those statistics which would be negative to that point of view.
6. The fallacy of suppressed evidence is often very difficult to ascertain because we may not be knowledgeable enough about the issue at hand.
7. Suppressed Evidence on the Internet
1. Crime is down 50% on the JC campus, over last year. Itís much safer here now.
Analysis: What is suppressed is the total number of crimes for last year and this year. When you learn there were 4 crimes last year and 2 crimes this year then you should assume that the JC campus is still just about as safe as last year, that is, it's not much safer.
2. Ben: "So George, how much did you win in Vegas last weekend?"
George: 200 dollars.
Analysis: What George may not be telling Ben is that after he won 200 dollars, he lost it all back and then 200 more.
3. AAA: 23 million people can't be wrong. They joined AAA last year.
Analysis: What is suppressed is that over 100 million people didn't join AAA.
4. Joe (talking to Marie): "Unless Jane's work improves, she's going to be fired."
Marie (later talking to Jane): "Joe said you're going to be fired."
Analysis: What Mary suppresses when she talks to Jane is the part about 'Unless Jane's work improves'.
5. President Reagan: "We've increased the budget by 32 billion dollars. This means the poor will not suffer as much as before.
Analysis: All of the 32 billion dollars went into the military and didn't help the poor at all.
6. People should not complain about $3 per gallon for gasoline. After all, most Europeans pay close to $5 per gallon.
Analyis: What is suppressed is that 75% of the cost of gasoline in Europe goes to taxes which mostly go to better social services, such as universal health care.
7. Treasury Secretary John Snow: "Recent rises in economic indicators clearly prove that the administration's tax cuts are having a positive effect. The number of Americans working is at a record high and net household wealth is climbing. This is translating into prosperity across America."
Analyis: What is suppressed is that the total number of Americans working is at a record high because the population has steadily grown and not necessarily because taxes have been cut. Total wealth is climbing mainly because we're in a housing boom. The fact that NET household wealth is growing does not mean that lower and middle class wealth is growing, since the tax cuts have mostly benefited the wealthy. So, 'prosperity across America' is a dubious claim.
From a survey by the Economic Policy Institute (2/24/06): "Wages not keeping pace with inflation" - 'Even though productivity is up 12% from 2001-2004 and the economy is growing, the profits are not being shared with workers; instead they're going to the CEOs and the people owning stock.'
8. Democrats say that they want to roll back "the Bush tax cuts", complaining that the tax cuts are only a give-away to the wealthy.
Analysis: What the Democrats fail to mention is that the Bush tax cuts included an expensive array of tax breaks for the poor and middle class, including a new 10% bracket, a child tax credit, a refundable earned income tax credit, a savers' credit, a marriage penalty relief, and other tax breaks that Democrats strongly endorse. On the other hand, it should be noted that the wealthy will receive the largest percentage of the tax cuts.
9. President Bush and the Republicans are strongly in favor of all tax cuts.
Analysis: But they usually fail to mention that they have quietly opened the door to a huge stealth tax increase - the alternative minimum tax - that could erase a sizable portion of the tax cuts they defend. The AMT will hit more than a third of all tax filers within four years. Fortunately, for the Republicans, the majority of people who will pay the AMT live in the blue states, such as California and New York.
CATE: Computer-Assisted Teaching Environment
Distance Education office at Santa Rosa Junior College, Santa Rosa, CA USA
Last updated: 8:03 on 5 June 2013
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