An Addition to the List of Logical Fallacies
by Eric Hall
March 23, 2013
This week, I ran across an old classic argument the anti-vaccine people use as a reason not to get vaccines. It takes various forms in how it is presented, but the premise surrounds the fact there are companies and people that make money from vaccines, thus they are inherently evil. In some cases, the government is involved because these people and companies contribute to campaigns. Depending on the form and the way it is presented, it can fall under a few different off what I call "main category" logical fallacies. I am starting to think, however, that perhaps this argument needs its own category.
There are several places to find lists of logical fallacies. Here are some of the ones I look at to help increase my knowledge and to improve my skills at identifying the type of logical fallacy being made in an argument:
This is not to say the desire to make money or continue an income stream isn't a cause for concern. What I am saying is the fact that someone makes money from something cannot be the only argument for concluding something is wrong or in error. In the case of vaccines, there are decades of research and decades of statistics that show the benefits FAR outweigh the risks. Thus, even though people profit from them, they do provide an excellent benefit in saving human lives.
In contrast, there are people who do benefit from things not backed by science. These are things like chiropractic, homeopathy, and acupuncture. Depending on the case, some may deliberately ignore the fact there is no science backing their practice, and choose to keep profiting anyway. Others may be ignorant of the scientific process, and are fooled by the bad information available, or even convinced by an anecdote and thus continue the practice.
I don't think making money alone is something that can identify someone doing fraud science, but it is always something to keep in mind whenever looking at the larger scenario. Even those who normally do good science could be biased and either accidentally or purposely miss something, and thus putting profit over science. Everyone needs money to live, and having more certainly makes things more comfortable. It should always be weighed against the other evidence, but by itself should not be evidence to prove or disprove someone's motive.
A couple of the lists above include fallacies of "appeal to poverty" and "appeal to wealth." However, these I don't feel quite fit with the idea of profiting, more they are fallacies of current economic status. I think because the specific profit motive is so often used to refute good science, it deserves its own designation. The Capitalistic Fallacy would be a fallacy where one argues that because someone makes money on a product, the product is concluded to be bad. I feel this is a valid fallacy because the conclusion cannot follow directly from the premise. In order for the conclusion to be true, there must be some other intervening information.
I look forward to your thoughts on adding this to the list. Depending on the feedback, I may even go modify RationalWiki myself!
by Eric Hall
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