They used to teach logic in schools, and that included an examination of common fallacies: circular reasoning, equivocation, raising the bar, poisoning the well, begging the question, etc.
The objective was not only to discourage students from making illogical arguments, but also to empower them to recognize faulty reasoning wherever they might encounter it.
And encounter it they would, for irrational people willing to believe and propagate the most ridiculous falsehoods are everywhere, as are the smooth operators eager to prey on them: used-car salesmen, health-product hucksters, investment advisers, multilevel marketers, television evangelists, cause crusaders, politicians, and more.
Unfortunately, it's been too long since high school and college graduates were lucky enough to have been taught this essential information. Many are not even aware of the defect in their thinking, much less capable of detecting and exposing frauds.
The consequences can be costly for society. Take our courts, for instance. Many of the claims adjudicated today are so fraught with logical errors that they should have been dismissed at the outset, and the plaintiffs and attorneys responsible for them chastised.
One of the most common fallacies that goes unrecognized and unchallenged is known – among those who know it – by its Latin name, post hoc ergo propter hoc, which translates as “after this, therefore because of this.” This is the error of assuming that one thing is caused by another simply because the latter preceded the former.
There's a good example of it making its way through Jackson Circuit Court right now.
On October 12, 2012, Harold and Virginia Starcher, an elderly couple with health issues, shared a takeout meal from a Bob Evans restaurant and became ill nine hours later. Mrs. Starcher died that December, her husband the following May. Their adult children are now trying to hold the restaurant chain responsible for the parents' deaths.
There are numerous conceivable, alternative explanations for the Starchers' demise, but they wouldn't pay as well.