Monday, August 16, 2021

The Fallacy Detective


I received this complimentary product through the 
Homeschool Review Crew.

The Fallacy Detective is a softcover workbook that contains thirty-eight lessons on how to recognize bad reasoning. What is a fallacy? A fallacy is a "mistaken belief, especially one based on unsound argument. A failure in reasoning which renders an argument invalid. An error in logic, a place where someone has made a mistake in his thinking." I don't know about you, but over the past year or two I have been saying more frequently to myself and others, "What has happened to logical thinking in America? So many things that are happening are just jaw-droppingly crazy." This book will help students and even adults recognize bad reasoning. The Fallacy Detective is recommended for ages 12 and up. 

Each of the thirty-eight lessons are followed by fill-in-the-blank exercises for the students to complete. Since I read the lessons aloud to several of my kiddos, I read the exercises aloud and had my kiddos take turns answering the questions. We had some pretty fun and interesting conversations. The book starts out with an introduction explaining, What is a Fallacy? The goal behind the book is to help you better be able to spot fallacies in everyday life, in what you read and hear, and in yourself as well. We as parents needs to give our children the tools to help them sift through the myriad of thoughts and views that are bombarded their way every day during a very impressionable time in their lives. By the time students complete the thirty-eight lessons they should be able to know how to spot bad reasoning, put a higher value on good reasoning, and know how to avoid fallacies in their own reasoning. For students in high school - The Fallacy Detective can be used for 0.5 or 1.0 high school credits in either logic or critical thinking. 

What is included in the book?

The Inquiring Mind
  1. Exercise Your Mind
  2. Love to Listen
  3. Opposing Viewpoints
Avoiding the Question
  1. Red Herring Fallacy
  2. Recognizing Red Herrings
  3. Special Pleading
  4. Ad Hominem Attack
  5. Genetic Fallacy
  6. Tu Quoque
  7. Faulty Appeal to Authority
  8. Appeal to the People
  9. Straw Man
Making Assumptions
  1. The Story of Aroup Goupta
  2. Assumptions
  3. Circular Reasoning
  4. Equivocation
  5. Loaded Question
  6. Slippery Slope
  7. Part-to-Whole
  8. Whole-to-Part
  9. Either-Or
Statistical Fallacies
  1. What is a Generalization?
  2. Hasty Generalization
  3. What is an Analogy?
  4. Weak Analogy
  5. Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc
  6. Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc in Statistics
  7. Proof by Lack of Evidence
  1. What is Propaganda?
  2. Appeal to Fear
  3. Appeal to Pity
  4. Bandwagon
  5. Exigency
  6. Repetition
  7. Transfer
  8. Snob Appeal
  9. Appeal to Tradition and Appeal to Hi-Tech
  10. Find Some Propaganda on Your Own
Lesson 19 which is a lesson on Part-to-Whole which is defined as "when someone says that what is true of part of something must also be true of the whole thing, he is using the part-to-whole fallacy." They give an example of a child's understanding of one single feather's weight verses a feather pillow. Another example is someone who talks about how delicious their homemade cake is going to be because their ingredient are of the finest quality. Well, if the person doesn't know how to bake a cake, just because it is made of the best ingredients may turn out horrible. There were several other examples given in the lesson. 

One of the Exercise Questions was:
Rich Husband to His Wife: Dear, I haven't spared a penny to get the most exquisite materials and furnishings for our new home. I hope you're happy. It's the best house money could buy. 
Wife: Why does this marble floor in the dining room seem to slope down toward the kitchen? Look! The zebra book dining table is sliding toward the dumbwaiter! And what are the bronze electrical outlets doing in the vaulted ceiling? How am I supposed to reach them? And why does the hall light switch make all the toilets flush? And what is a smoke detector doing inside the fireplace? 

                 part-to-whole fallacy                                                 not part-to-whole fallacy

The answer to this question is part-to-whole. This falls under the Making Assumptions category. 

Here is another example of an Exercise Question taken from another lesson. 

What form of bad reasoning, if any, do you find in the example?

"That company's products can't possibly be good. It was started by a narcissistic creep." 

The answer to this one is Genetic Fallacy. 

The definition of genetic fallacy is - "condemning an argument because of where it began, how it began, or who began it."  This falls under Avoiding the Question. 

A form of a Statistical Fallacy is Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc - "Assuming that since A happened before B, A must have caused B."

A commonly know form of Propaganda is Appeal to Fear - "Moving us to fear the consequences of not doing what someone wants."

Throughout the book you will find funny fallacy cartoons. Here are just a few. 

At the end of the thirty-eight lesson is a game, The Fallacy Detective Game. In the game you actually get to make your own fallacies. Also in the back of the book there is a section entitled, Short List of Fallacies. This is a three page list of all of the fallacies taught in the book. Each fallacy is listed with its definition and then an example. At the end of the book is the Answer Key for each lesson. 

I found the content of book to be both relevant and easy to understand for upper middle school and high school students. My 13-year-old and high school age siblings used this book. My middle schooler was able to understand and follow the lessons and engage in the exercises. I will be using this to go toward a half credit hour in Logic for high school. I will be counting this as early credit for my 8th grader towards high school credit. I would highly recommend this book to other homeschoolers who are looking for a fun yet thorough way for your student to learn informal logical fallacy. Be sure to read what my Fellow Crew Members  had to say about The Fallacy Detective as well as Archer and Zowie which some of my other crew members reviewed. 

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