Perhaps the best thing about the LSAT (besides, of course, for the fact that a good score can redeem four years of drunken revelry in college, never once stepping foot in a library, and attending more football games and frat parties in a semester than actual classes) is that studying for it (properly, that is) will transform you from a gullible believer of all manner of fanciful claims, into a fallacy-finding machine. Once you learn what makes an argument valid (remember the force, Luke) and the common ways an argument can go wrong (you have reviewed lesson 6 right? Good. Now do it again. Yes, it’s that important), you start finding flaws everywhere – much to your friends’ dismay. Don’t think of the logical skills you acquire in LSAT study as applying solely to the narrow realm of the LSAT; you encounter countless arguments in everyday life, many of which are horribly flawed. You just don’t realize it yet.
Nowhere is this more evident than within mass media. News stories are often rife with fallacious arguments, advertisements are riddled with invalid and horrendously unsupported claims, and politicians frequently make leaps of logic that would put a kangaroo to shame.
Just the other day I came across an article titled “Social Network Overuse Breeds Narcissism” – a title that already presents us with a strong causal claim, one demanding a rather high standard of proof. Does the article provide evidence strong enough to back up their claim? Hell no. Instead it simply discusses recent research that found that kids who spend more time on Facebook and Twitter are more likely to be narcissistic, vain and anti-social (big surprise there).
Does finding such a correlation mean we can properly conclude that social networks cause people to be narcissistic? Not a chance. Correlations will never be enough to support a causal claim. There is always the possibility that a third hidden cause leads to both social network use and vanity. More than likely, cause and effect are reversed – that is, narcissism causes people to use sites like Twitter to begin with (it does seem like you’d have to be pretty damn narcissistic to assume anyone cares about what you had for breakfast, or how awesome your gym sesh was omg lol!).
Once you start interpreting the claims you encounter in your day-to-day life as logical arguments (which they certainly are), you’ll start to see flaws everywhere. And as nerdy as this may sound, this is actually a good thing. Not only will it reinforce concepts you’ll encounter on the LSAT, it will also help you become an intelligent consumer of information (an essential and much lacking skill in this digital information era). So grab your book, review your flaws and join us as a foe of fallacies, wherever they may be hidden.