QUESTION TEXT: Letter to the editor: Your newspaper’s…
QUESTION TYPE: Flawed Reasoning
CONCLUSION: The newspaper is wrong to claim that it covers the school’s most popular sports.
REASONING: The newspaper doesn’t cover a sport (track) that has a high participation rate.
ANALYSIS: The letter to the editor uses two different versions of popular: one refers to how much people like watching a sport, the other refers to how many people participate in a sport.
Track and field is popular to compete in. But it’s boring. So boring to watch. Whereas only a few people play basketball, but it’s exciting to watch. We know from common knowledge that if a newspaper says they cover the most popular sports, they mean “popular to watch”. Newspapers print stuff that’s popular to read. (Yes, you’re allowed to use common knowledge, if literally everyone would agree with it.)
- There wasn’t even a correlation in the argument.
Example of flaw: The more people watch basketball, the more the newspaper covers basketball. So newspaper coverage must cause people to watch basketball.
- Sample size is almost never the problem. And in this case, the entire school was sampled.
Example of flaw: I surveyed Bob, the runner, over whether running was popular. Bob says yes, and so did the running coach. So running must be popular.
- CORRECT. From a fair reading of the ad, it’s pretty clear the newspaper meant “most popular to watch” and not “most popular to participate in”.
- This describes circular reasoning. This is very rare, and usually obvious.
Example of flaw: Running is popular because it’s a popular sport.
- This is ad hominem. It didn’t happen. It refers to personal insults.
Example of flaw: The newspaper editor claims they provide fair coverage. But the editor smells bad! Clearly, their coverage is unfair.
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