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Fallacy of Ignorance

October 19, 2011

I have noticed people using a new type of fallacy, which has, in all likelyhood been used before, just not recorded. The basic form of the fallacy is as follows:

1. I don’t understand X.
2. Therefore X is false.

When put in it’s form, it sounds very silly. Just because one person doesn’t understand something does not make it not true. Many people don’t understand many things, and in fact, one could say that the nature of being human is not to understand very much. I have long associated this fallacy with the intelligent design crowd (I don’t understand evolution, therefore evolution is false), but I saw it referenced in an economics paper in the form: I don’t understand why prices are sticky, therefore Keynesianism is wrong.

“It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong” – Richard Feynman

Regardless of how much or how little one knows about a subject matter, or even furthermore, regardless of how much all humans know about a subject, empirics always trump theory. It’s ok to say you don’t understand something, but you can’t draw any conclusions from that.

This seems to be similar to my fallacy, just more generalized to “society can’t prove X, therefore ~X.”

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