In the second part of my introduction to logical fallacies, I'll introduce you to some other fallacious arguments that you might hear together with some examples of where I've heard them being used in health & fitness circles.
The Appeal to Nature or Argumentum ad Naturam if you want to sound clever ;-)
This fallacy is committed when something is suggested to be good or better simply because it's natural. You can break it down something like this;
Natural things are good.
X is natural.
Therefore X is good.
Of course some natural things might be good but you can't argue that something is so just because it's natural. For example mushrooms are natural and although some are good, (in the sense you can eat them and they're nutritious) others are in fact poisonous and may kill you!
You hear the appeal to nature a lot in health & fitness particularly in relation to nutrition. While I was working as the Health & Fitness Manager of a London health club I would often have the opportunity to speak to sales reps who were trying to persuade us to stock various drinks, bars and supplements. I've lost count of the times that, after asking them to tell me what was so good about their product, they would tell me it was because "it's 100% natural " or words to that effect, often pointing towards the label on the product that said exactly that. As you can imagine I required a little bit more evidence to be convinced and often told them so in no uncertain terms.
The Argument from Antiquity or argumentum ad antiquitatem.
You hear this particular fallacy in health and fitness circles almost exclusively from those who teach or are enthusiastic about Yoga.
It's committed when someone uses the fact that something is old or traditional to support their claim. In terms of Yoga practitioners, the conversation goes something like this;
Yoga bod: "Yoga's brilliant"
Me: "Why's that then? "
Yoga bod : "Well people have been doing it for thousands of years ....."
Me: "Doh!! " (I don't actually say this but it's what's going through my mind :-)
I'm not joking when I say this is often their opening argument. Come on guys you can do better than that! And they usually do to be honest but only when you point out the initial logical error.
The Argument from authority
I most often hear this fallacy when talking to people including fellow professionals about books they have read on particular topics in health & fitness. When discussing the validity of the claims in the book (which obviously may or may not be correct) the fact that the author is a medical doctor, a PhD or some other kind of expert is cited to support their assertions. This is not necessarily a good argument for somethings validity although to be fair, the argument from authority is not always fallacious. It's not knowing when and how to use it correctly that can get people into logical trouble.
For example; Dr Atkins of high protein diet fame was a cardiologist. He had no particular expertise in nutrition and did no research of his own about the efficacy of his approach. He based his ideas on the research of others and after dieting this way himself. So it is fallacious to say that the Atkins diet must be effective because of the qualifications of it's author.
If on the other had he was a renowned researcher in the field of nutrition with published papers about high protein diets you wouldn't necessarily be committing a fallacy if you used his authority as an argument for the validity of his claims, as long as there was adequate evidence and justification for them.
So there're a few more logical fallacies to get your teeth into.
The Appeal to Nature
The Argument from Antiquity
The Argument from Authority
Perhaps listen out for them next time you're chatting to your friendly neighbourhood yoga teacher, someone at a health food shop or anyone who's just read a book about the latest and greatest fitness ideas.