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How to Write a Refutation of Faulty Arguments


You need to select a piece of writing online that you believe has faulty arguments.

The piece can be about politics, but it also can be about art, culture, sports, or other fields. Just make sure it has an identifiable argument—a main claim supported by sub-claims and by evidence or reasoning.

Blog posts and newspaper op-eds work well for this. Make sure your piece of writing is at least 500 words long.

One you have selected your piece, then you will begin your written refutation for two of the author’s claims. One of your claims can be the proposition—the main claim—but it doesn’t have to be.

For each claim, first identify specifically the claim that you are refuting. Then, using course concepts we have learned, identify the reasons why you believe the argument in support of the claim is flawed. Be specific and thorough. Try to find more than one reason, or if you only identify
one reason, explain in more detail. Your total assignment should be around 400-450 words.

The written component is worth 100 points.

Each student will deliver a two-minute oral report during our class period on December 8.

The report is very simple: tell us who you are refuting, the proposition they are advancing, and the one main reason you think their argument should not be supported. The oral component is worth 50 points.

There are three main categories of refutation we have discussed:

1. Defense: The argument relies on faulty reasoning by violating some important reasoning principle we have discussed. (See the Course Materials on Reasoning, Fallacies, and the Toulmin Model.) Some examples include:

a. The warrant, or logical connection, between the grounds and the claim is missing.

b. The argument relies on reasoning by example, but the examples used are not enough to draw a conclusion, are not representative of most examples, or are outweighed by counterexamples.

c. The argument relies on poor reasoning because the reasoning represents a fallacy.

2. Defense: The argument relies on evidence that is not credible. (See the Course Materials on Evidence.) Some examples include:

a. The authority lacks credibility because the subject matter is highly technical, and the authority does not have any experience or expertise with that subject matter.

b. The authority has questionable credibility because they are being paid to take the position they take.

c. The evidence is simply too old to be relevant to the current situation it has been applied to.

3. Offense: The policy at issue would make the problem the author seeks to solve worse or would cause other disadvantages that outweigh the advantages.

First, Lopez makes the explicit claim that “There’s good evidence police reduce crime and violence.” This claim is suspect for two reasons.
First, the claim relies on faulty evidence.

Lopez cites a 2020 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research that concludes homicides decrease with each additional police offer a city employs.

However, much of the data that the study relies on comes from police departments themselves.

Given the argument that Lopez is responding to—that police departments are unreliable and even dangerous—we should be skeptical of any study that relies on police-gathered data.

Police have a financial incentive to produce data that keeps them employed.

In a way, this use of data constitutes the begging the question fallacy, by basically stating: “Police are reliable because according to the police, they are reliable.”

Second the claim also relies on faulty reasoning by confusing correlation with causation, committing the fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc. That fallacy holds that just because some second occurrence happens after some initial occurrence does not mean the initial occurrence
caused the second occurrence.

Here, Lopez does not prove that just because homicides decreased after some police hires the decrease was because of the additional police officers.

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