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Critical Thinking: Discussion of Fallacies

Critical Thinking: Discussion of Fallacies
Suppose that you are attending a conference for physical therapists. You listen to a speech by Dr. John
Russell, an orthopedic surgeon. Dr. Russell is speaking about a new, experimental procedure to repair
torn ligaments in the knee. After listening to the 30 min. conference talk, one of the attendees sitting next
to you, Harold, tells you, �Dr. Russell claims that the procedure is effective at reducing pain 3 months
post-surgery. Dr. Russell would, of course, hold a favorable view of this new procedure because he only
recently finished his orthopedic surgery fellowship, and plus he went to medical school on the West
Coast. Therefore, this procedure could not be as effective as Dr. Russell claims it is.�
This is a two-part assignment:
A. Identify the type of logical fallacy in the argument that Harold just made. Justify your selection.
B. Respond to Harold with a different set of statements containing a separate fallacy. State the type of
fallacy that you committed in responding. Then, justify why the fallacy you made is of the type that you
purport it to be.

Question 1
The type of logical fallacy that Harold made was a fallacy of Hasty Generalization. In this type
of fallacy, the individual makes a conclusion that is advised by insufficient evidence or evidence
that is biased. The first sign of hastiness in his argument is the fact that he makes his comment
after only 30 minutes of listening to the doctor speak. It is impossible for Harold to have
gathered all the information about the doctor’s bias in favor of the procedure being discussed
within 30 minutes which is such a short time. While it is possible that Harold may have known
the doctor from outside the seminar, the statement he made is being discussed with respect to
context. His confiding in me is an indication that he is basing his assessment of the doctor’s point
of view on the events that have taken place in the seminar (Facione and Gittens, 2015).
The originator of a statement will be said to have made a logical fallacy of hasty generalization
by concluding a matter too soon without taking into consideration the relevant facts. Harold’s
statement fits in well with the description of this fallacy. Half an hour is clearly not adequate to
appraise a person’s point of view or the entire collection of his knowledge. Furthermore, this is a
medical conference and any support for a point made or opposition to a point made, needs to be
based on medical facts and not mere opinions. Harold believes that the doctor’s estimation of the
healing process is inaccurate. So far there is no problem with this; however his justification for
his point of view is in no way related. He does raise facts such as the doctor being recently back
from an orthopedic fellowship and also that the university the Doctor studied in being in the
West Coast (Fisher, 2011).
Harold’s reference to the doctor’s has studied in the West Coast introduces another fallacy in his
argument. This argument is known as the Straw Man. It is so called because the speaker acts by
overly simplifying the viewpoint that the opponent has. Their contradicting points of view makes
the doctor his opponent, Harold refers to the location of the doctor’s previous learning institution
as sufficient grounds to disqualify the experimental procedure being advocated for. The West
Coast may not be perfect and there may be very real and tangible reasons why Harold has
problems with the place but the fact that he does not mention them greatly weakens his
argument. The ambiguity leaves it completely open and this means that Harold’s qualms with the
West Coast are related to weather or culture. He does not clearly state what the problem is with
the West Coast leading to the Doctor’s inaccuracy
Question 2
Response: I disagree with you on that matter, the fact that he has the title ‘Doctor’ before his
name and his presenting this information before a panel of medical experts is proof that he
knows what he is talking about with respect to the post-operation recovery process.
I have used two fallacies in the above statement. The first fallacy that I have used is the Genetic
Fallacy. This type of fallacy is manifested in a statement when the originator makes use of the
institution a person belongs to as a means of determining the character they have. In this case I
have used the prefix of ‘Doctor’ as a justification for my belief that he has to be an expert in
medicine. This statement is fallacious because while medical doctors do have the suffix, they
tend to be either specialists or general doctors. There are also people who have the title by virtue
of a PhD being awarded to them. The title does signify the qualification that a doctor has but if it

is to be considered, it needs to be considered in full as even for medical doctors, there are several
categories. There are those who are general practitioners, there are others who are surgeons and
others may have specialized in dentistry. As such, it is not sensible to simply use his title to
appraise the content of his presentation, which greatly waters down the significance of the
discussion and shifts the focus from what he has worked on to a general image of the profession.
The argument may have been stronger if I mentioned a title that was relevant to the work that he
has done in orthopedic surgery or the position he holds within the organization of physical
therapists (Bowell and Kemp, 2014).
The second fallacy that I have used is the circular argument. In this fallacy, the speaker restates
an argument instead of proceeding to prove it. In this case I have stated that the information he is
giving has to be accurate and medically sound because his audience is made up of doctors who
are giving him attention. Circular fallacies are so called because they tend to go back and forth
with the first part justifying the second part and the second part justifying the first part yet there
is no significant substance being discussed or elaborated upon. The argument is circular because
the content and its quality are determined by taking into consideration only the speaker and the
audience while leaving out the particulars about the findings that doctor has presented. His
expertise cannot be solely judged on the fact that he is speaking to doctors at the seminar. While
this was definitely taken into account in his selection as a keynote speaker, this cannot justify my
point of view. I essentially stated that their being doctors makes it impossible for them to get the
wrong information in a forum or his being the speaker in a medical forum made it impossible for
him to give inaccurate information. What I essentially did was peg my thoughts on his being
correct about the experimental procedure because of the existence of the seminar where the talk
took place. The presentation he gave being a part of this project, does not in any way
automatically translate to it being accurate (Admanti et al, 2011).
The statements that Harold made as well as my hypothetical response are all fallacies because
they demonstrate a mistake or mistakes that were made in the thinking process followed during
the making of our respective opinions about the doctor’s presentation on the experimental
procedure. They are all errors in reasoning because the originator of the statements circumvents
or avoids the most important facts that can be used to validate the conclusions that are being
made. The authors of the statements instead pick on irrelevant aspects of the subject and use
them to support the conclusions given (Gardner, 2012).

Admati, A. R., DeMarzo, P. M., Hellwig, M. F., & Pfleiderer, P. C. (2011). Fallacies, irrelevant
facts, and myths in the discussion of capital regulation: Why bank equity is not expensive. MPI
Collective Goods Preprint, (2010/42).
Bowell, T., & Kemp, G. (2014). Critical thinking: A concise guide. Routledge.
Facione, P., & Gittens, C. A. (2015). Think critically. Pearson.
Fisher, A. (2011). Critical thinking: An introduction. Cambridge University Press.
Gardner, M. (2012). Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science. Courier Corporation.

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