No matter the facts, some people refuse to budge on their version of reality. If you find yourself in the middle of an argument and unable to change someone’s mind, you can at least point out their logical fallacy (bias), and maybe—just maybe—make them reconsider how they drew a conclusion in the first place.
Sometimes it’s less about what we’re arguing about and more about why we’re arguing at all.
Appeal to Consequence
Someone will argue for how true or false something is by appealing to how much they do or do not like the consequences that could arise.
There is truth and then there is what we want the truth to be.
One of the most common ways people use this fallacy is something like: you know, if weed is legalized, then what does that mean for human behavior? If weed is legalized then we will surely fall into debauchery and addiction. Therefore, weed must remain illegal or else the planet is doomed! Doomed!
Personal Incredulity Variant
This is a convenient way to justify believing in whatever you do, and never questioning it, ever. Usually, this positioning is created through a collection of arbitrary impressions that the person feels legitimizes the judgment they’ve passed on a person or topic that they know very little about.
CBD is the same as that THC stuff, which is the same as hemp, which is the same as marijuana, and it’s all reefer madness and it’s all bad!
In other words, if something is difficult for them to understand, they make overarching assumptions on limited knowledge.
Appeal to Ignorance
The general idea is that we can assume that something is true, simply because there is no evidence that has been presented that says that it’s not true.
An example is the issue of cannabis prohibition in the first place. Cannabis was classified under Schedule I, the federal category reserved for drugs with the highest potential for abuse, due to a lack of evidence that it was harmful, not an abundance.
The document that caused marijuana to be placed in Schedule I was written in 1971 by Assistant Secretary of Health Dr. Roger Egeberg and sent to Congress.
It read, in part:
“Since there is still a considerable void in our knowledge of the plant and effects of the active drug contained in it, our recommendation is that marijuana be retained within schedule 1 at least until the completion of certain studies now underway to resolve the issue.”
President Richard Nixon ignored the recommendation to have it decriminalized, and the drug remained illegal.
Slippery Slope Fallacy
Suppose someone claims that a first step (in a chain of causes and effects, or a chain of reasoning) will probably lead to a second step that in turn will probably lead to another step and so on until a final step ends in trouble—big trouble.
This is prevalent in the “marijuana is a gateway drug” argument.
Someone: Those look like bags under your eyes. Are you getting enough sleep?
You: I had a test and stayed up late studying.
Someone: You didn’t take any drugs, did you?
You: Just some weed, to help with my anxiety.
Someone: You know what happens when people take drugs! Pretty soon the weed won’t be strong enough. Then you will take something stronger. Then, something even stronger. Eventually, you will quit school and be on the streets. Then you will be a crack addict!
Fallacy of False Equivalence
The goal is to take one or two attributes about a thing and use those to pretend as though both things are the same. A common example used to illustrate this fallacy is that both cocaine and cannabis are drugs, therefore cocaine and cannabis are basically the same. Terrible!
This is when you try to make a point about something by comparison, such as comparing alcohol and cannabis. Meanwhile, drunk driving alone kills around 10,000 people every year. Overdosing on alcohol can also kill you, while prescription drugs kill one person in the United States every 19 minutes.
Nobody has ever (ever!) died from a marijuana overdose, unlike cigarettes, alcohol, and prescription pills.
The key error is to overestimate the strength of an argument that is based on too small a sample for the implied confidence level.
I’ve met two people who smoke weed and both were lazy. So, all people who smoke weed must be lazy.
Bringing attention to these biases might have the person step back and evaluate their own argument so you don’t have to do it for them. You will begin to see that no matter what topic you’re talking to someone about, we’re almost always guilty of the same few logical fallacies.
The first step towards recovery is dismantling your own bias.