I teach a class at Utah Valley University (UVU) entitled Global, Social, and Ethical Issues in Computing (CS 305G). I started teaching this course a little more than a year ago. It is closely related to a course I taught for more than a decade at BYU (CS 404, Ethics and Computers in Society).
This semester I added a module on logical fallacies. My reasoning was fairly simple: if we’re going to discuss and write about the relevant issues of the day in which computing is involved (i.e., everything), we need to be adequately equipped with tools for proper reasoning.
In the two class periods during which we discussed logical fallacies, it was stunning to realize just how much bad reasoning is applied non-stop by pretty much everyone in the increasingly cacophonous debate over pretty much everything.
Coming out of our in-class discussions, I decided to write a series of posts on logical fallacies. There’s been a lot written on logical fallacies (including a handful of decent books), but for some reason they always leave me dissatisfied. I think it’s mostly because the examples are always so contrived. As a result, appropriate nuance is often (almost always?) missing, so acquiring a proper understanding of the logical fallacy is more elusive than it should be, especially when the goal of the author is to elucidate the logical fallacy in question.
I intend to heavily leverage current events, ideally relating in some way to computers and society, but I’ll revert to good old fashioned mud slinging as needed, since it’s a historically rich source of logical fallacies masquerading as confident intelligent argument.