Oversimplification

by luciditewriting

In a media climate dominated by recycled sound bites, it’s easy to fall prey the practice of adhering to simplified arguments and catchy slogans. While these may serve one well while engaging in small talk at cocktail parties or around the office water cooler, I’ve often wondered what the world would be like if we committed to engaging in more nuanced discussions, even if they prove socially uncomfortable or more difficult.

I recently posted the following as a note on my Facebook page after reading seeing one of the aforementioned oversimplified arguments appear over and over in my news feed. What began as a reaction to my frustration with the re-posted status phenomenon in general ended as a call for a more complete (perhaps more measured) analysis of current events (and, for the love of all that is good, an elimination of the logical fallacies that pervade social media– and media in general, for that matter).

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The following re-posted status has been quite pervasive in my fb feed lately (what can I say? I run with a diverse crowd):

“To everyone who is calling for stricter gun laws in light of the tragedy in Tucson, may I offer this little tidbit: If guns kill people, then pencils misspell words, cars drive drunk, and spoons make people fat. Remember: Hold the person accountable for their actions, not the means they chose. Repost if you agree”

Political leanings aside, the “guns don’t kill people, people do” so-called logic is like fingernails on a chalkboard.

“Guns don’t kill people, people do” is used in logic courses around the country as the perfect example of a logical fallacy, more specifically an oversimplification.

Taken from the worksheet of a jr. high student I tutor:

Oversimplifying. Giving easy, smug, or pat answers to complicated questions, sometimes by appealing to emotion rather than logic. Examples: “Guns don’t kill-people do” is an overly simple but popular argument against gun control. It sounds good but it doesn’t address the complex problem that the availability of guns poses in our society.

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Gun control is not a topic that I have researched much, but I would imagine that an examination of current statistics and regulations would lead to a much more complete picture of the situation in which we currently find ourselves as a nation.

I respect differing opinions, especially those of hunters who I know have a strong connection to their guns and who use them safely and wisely (and I love me some venison sausage).

However, in a gesture of respect to those whose lives are lost to gunshot wounds on a daily basis, I would hope that we could engage in a more nuanced, fact-based dialogue about the pros and cons of gun control instead of spreading oversimplified status re-posts or compulsively citing the 2nd amendment.

—- Your peace-lovin’, logical fallacy-spottin’ friend

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