Logical Fallacies in the Ham Community 29 - January - 2013Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
Recently have had two cases of really poor logic in the Amateur Radio community come my attention.
The first involves the ongoing troll-fest at the eHam forums – in this case the result is wild derogatory claims by a leading eHam troll where he claims his web searches didn’t disclose a FCC registration for a product, with his conclusion being what he assumed was a null search affirming his contention that the product was unregistered and not in compliance with FCC rules.
What he actually was looking for never exists, so drawing any conclusion from an “Absence of Evidence” in wrong. There was no “null finding” that would make the inductive leap to an “Evidence of Absence.”
The logic is so twisted as to be hard to categorize, but basically calls into the “Absence of Evidence” equals “Evidence of Absence” fallacy.
What this means is just because self-appointed Ham “S” can’t find something documented, that he is logically incorrect to claim that this absence establishes his premise.
Appropriately this flawed deduction is called an “argument from ignorance” (in Latin: ad ignorantium).
This is an assertion which states that, because there is no evidence to support a given argument, the opposite must be true.
The second case is spin out from the eHam troll-fest where Ham “C” is claiming because Ham “C” cannot find the documentation that Ham “D” is unauthorized to display certain overseas government ribbons or make reference to any TAD/TDY duty on his QSL cards!
Really – this recent Army retiree has the gonads to claim because he can’t find it in the records (he did request Ham “D’s” releasable information from the military, which is a redacted summary of the outside of his personnel file jacket sans any TAD/TDY or foreign government information), that there is no way Ham “D” could be a combat vet or have received a foreign award.
Again the same mistake – an “argument from ignorance” (ad ignorantium) – where the “Absence of Evidence” is assumed to establish the “Evidence of Absence.”
Are the records Ham “C” searched are never inclusive of the results he would apparently like to establish a “null result” for, he also cannot make the jump from “Absence of Evidence” in any way establishing any “Evidence of Absence.”
Oh should we add the items this self-appointed Judge Dredd is complaining about are depictions and cryptic references on the Ham “D’s” eQSL card, are low-level (no Medal of Honor, Bronze Star or such, just a foreign south east Asian governments hand-me-out award and the noting of a TAD/TDY assignment off on ship to another). No appearances on a uniform, no claims of privilege – but also no backing down when falsely challenged either.
Still with me? Head hurting yet?
It has been a long time here since university and professional reasearch/evidence collection training that covered this territory.
Let’s try to simplify this:
Premise is that Ham “X” is a pacifist.
Search by Ham “Y” fails to find any NRA memberships, any participation in shooting forums, ditto knife/sword forums, no club memberships, no political affiliations, no quotes my Ham “X” or writings by Ham “X”, or any other sign that that Ham “X holds an aggressive viewpoint.
So Ham “Y” announces, I’ve search and have found nothing about Ham “X” showing aggression - nothing contrary to aggression - actually really about nothing at all about Ham “X so therefore I label Ham “X” as a pacifist.
Hoping you can see the flawed leap – not finding something is not the same thing as establishing the opposite as a fact.
In my made up Ham “X” and “Y” story I’ll add a twist – Ham “X” is a vet, who writes how-to articles for Body Guards and Muscle for Hire, but under a pen-name. Ham “Y” never knew of nor search the pen-name. Ham “X” always travels armed with body guards, and has been known by intell groups to be the man behind several coups in third world countries, but all that information is classified and not available to Ham “Y.”
Or perhaps as an alternative – Ham “X” is a lay member of a secret religious group that follows peaceful ideas but never publishes membership lists, and uses an oral tradition to pass on pacifist values. Ham “Y” never know about the membership and wouldn’t have been able to confirm membership even if tipped off.
Point is – Ham “Y’s” inconclusive research in and of itself cannot establish anything to do with Ham “X’s” political leanings.
I have in my hands examples of a full US Military file which does not contain all TDY, secondments, authorized awards nor any mention of foreign government awards. Rather doubt this file is unique.
Doesn’t seem to make any difference that examples of this abound, as unfortunately we have self-empowered fellow hams (and fellow vets) who take it upon themselves to make claims of “Stolen Valor” about other veteran ham’s based on poor research and drawing false conclusions from their poor research. Shame on these self-appointed Don Quixote characters.
It is only conjecture, and an observation, but our hobby seems too often to have members who neither use best logical deduction nor avoid the emotional personal bias that causes them to fall prey to logical fallacies.
We can do better and we owe it to each other so to do.