Logical Fallacy

I’m noticing a pattern in online conversations with people who apparently have no understanding of logic, or who are too blinded by their beliefs to pay attention to the actual words being written.

Typically, Jane will make a true statement in this format: “In some cases, ABC.”

Logic-challenged John replies, “That’s not true, because I personally XYZ.”

See the problem there? Jane’s statement was qualified with “in some cases,” acknowledging that not everyone’s experience has been the same. John, on the other hand, assumes his own experience has to be universal, though the fact that John XYZs in no way means that everybody does. Jane’s statement is valid; John’s is not.

Most of the time, John’s assumption is easy for Jane to disprove, since even one case of someone whose experience is different is enough to show that John’s experience is not universal. If Jane can point to one or more people who have experienced ABC, then she has proven her original statement to be correct, and John’s assertion to be wrong.

John, on the other hand, cannot prove that Jane’s statement is false, without somehow having personal knowledge of every case ever. Yet, John continues to argue. When he runs out of arguments, which usually doesn’t take long, he feels backed into a corner. That’s when he personally attacks Jane, sometimes accusing her of lying, even if her original statement is a well-documented fact for which she has provided references.

An example: In response to a recent article about education costs, someone (we’ll call him John) said that no student should start at a four-year university, but that everyone who wants to go to college should attend a community college for two years to take all the general education courses, and then transfer to a four-year school.

I responded that that’s a great plan for many students, but that it doesn’t work for everyone. I pointed out that at some universities, certain majors require specialized coursework within the department beginning in the very first semester, and that not all of those classes are available at a community college — and that even when they are, the credits for those in-major classes (and even sometimes for more general classes) don’t always transfer.

Everything about that statement is true. I never said that John’s plan doesn’t work for anyone, just that it doesn’t work for some students.

John responded to say that my statement was untrue, “because I did my first two years at a community college and then transferred to a university, and all my credits transferred.”

I said it was great that it worked out for him, but that not everyone has the same experience. And he continued to argue. Why continue to argue when your position is so clearly illogical? The fact that his experience is different does not make my statement untrue. My statement allowed for different experiences. I pointed out that I looked into my son taking a class for his major at a local community college, but that the class is not available there. I pointed out that I know other college students who have tried to but learned that the credits would not transfer. Clearly this does happen to some students, so I proved my point. John cannot prove his, because it is not true. Yet John continues to believe that his experience is the only one.

What is the problem here? Are people like this just not very intelligent?

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