Monthly Archives: November 2019

Appeal to the minority

by Tim Harding

Alternative things have been ‘cool’ since the 1960s. They include alternative music, alternative lifestyles and of course, so-called ‘alternative medicine’. At least part of the appeal of such alternatives is the rejection of majority views perceived as mainstream or conservative.                   

An appeal to the minority is a logical fallacy that occurs when something is asserted to be true because most people don’t believe it. It is the opposite of an appeal to popularity where an advocate asserts that because the great majority of people agree with his or her position on an issue, he or she must be right (The Skeptic, September 2012). The logical form of the appeal to the minority fallacy is:

Premise 1: X is a minority view (as compared to majority view Y).

Premise 2: Minority views are more often true than majority views.

Conclusion: X is more likely to be true than Y.

To give some examples of this fallacy: ‘just like Copernicus, we in the Flat Earth Society are willing to defy the wrong-headed orthodoxy of the mainstream scientific community’ and ‘the medical profession and pro-vaccine sheeple have been conned by Big Pharma to maximise their profits’.

This fallacy has also been called ‘second-option bias’, which is a well-documented phenomenon among fringe and counterculture groups where theyassume that any widely-held opinion among the general population must be untrue, and therefore, the prevailing contrary opinion must be right. This is an important driver in conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, quackery and other fields where a person feels their views and ideas are being marginalised by mainstream society.

Ironically, an appeal to the minority is inherently limited. If someone successfully persuades other people that they are right, then their opinion would increasingly lose its minority status — and eventually would become majority opinion.

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The Diary of a Gulag Prison Guard, by Ivan Chistyakov, translated by Arch Tait

ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

Let me say at the outset, this is not a book that anyone would read for pleasure.  The Diary of a Gulag Prison Guard is raw and confronting, written by a man struggling to maintain his mental health in an environment designed to brutalise him.  I read it for Vishy’s Red October Russian Reads, and it is indeed a very salutary reminder of the extremes of the Soviet experiment…

It has relevance today because there are, no doubt, similar situations in repressive regimes such as China’s, but also in places like Australia’s detention centres where we know from media reports that it is not just the detainees who suffer mental health problems.  (But we only know this about Australian guards, there are only hostile media reports about PNG local guards and yet it would be surprising if some of them were not also gravely troubled by their work and…

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Where we are now (and Darwin’s sloth)

Why Evolution Is True

Yesterday was a port day in Puerto Natales, and was pretty quiet. Some passengers took off on a guided tour of the city, or to see the Cueva del Milodón Natural Monument, a cave where the bones (and skin!) of a extinct giant ground sloth were discovered. As Wikipedia notes:

The largest cave in the monument is the 200 metres (660 ft) long Milodón Cave. It was discovered in 1895 by Hermann Eberhard, German explorer of Patagonia. He found a large, seemingly fresh piece of skin of an unidentified animal. In 1896 the cave was explored by Otto Nordenskjöld and later it was recognized that the skin belonged to Mylodon – an extinct animal which died 10,200–13,560 years ago.

It’s not must Mylodon, but the scientific name is Mylodon darwini.  The “Darwin” bit comes from the fact that the first bones of this animal were found by Charles Darwin…

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