Reason Hell: False Balance

Guilty as charged. I had a lot of fun with my recent map but it also neatly demonstrates a modern scourge – false balance.

In a conflict it is easy to treat two sides of a conflict as being equal in all things in an attempt to appear impartial. Even from a particular perspective (e.g. me, a person opposed to the Puppies drawing a map) it is easy to give your opponents greater prominence by simply virtue of regarding your own opinions as being of significance and hence the people in opposition to your opinion must be of significance.

However, this is an obvious fallacy and yet one easy to indulge in. The significance of a viewpoint or a person in an argument or a dispute is no indication of their wider importance or the validity of the position. It seems so obvious that the truth of an argument is not a function of how loudly or how persistently somebody speak buts we are confronted with this fallcy on a regular basis by the news media.

The bias occurs partly as a natural outcome of explaining why there is a controversy. On my recent map I show Vox Day and John C Wright at a size equivalent to George R.R. Martin. Whatever we may think of Mr Wright or Mr. Day, it is clear their impact on the SF/F genre is not currently on the scale of GRRM. Yet in trying to explain the Puppy Kerfuffle I have to devote a lot of space to both Wright and Day.

So false balance is not just a fallacy but also a dilemma. To explain a controversy leads a person into false balance. To explain why global warming is politically controversial requires paying attention to the views of climate change deniers. To explain recent measles outbreaks requires discussing the views of anti-vaccination activists. In both cases an explanation of an issue unintentionally promotes and gives credence to error filled perspectives.



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