When facts get in the way of a good argument

I've wanted to write this blog for a long time, but never gotten around to it. It's a very simple observation, but one that too many people fail to make. Maybe something will come of it 🙂

Oftentimes you will see something like the following on a web news site:

Headline: New security bug found in Windows

Poster A: Windows sucks!

Poster B: Windows is attacked more often because it has the highest market share

Poster C: If that were true, Apache would be attacked more often than IIS

Of course, C's unstated-but-obvious assumption is that Apache is not attacked more often than IIS, even though it has a higher market share.

If C is right, he has disproved B's assumed premise about market share based on a valid form of argument known as modus tollens -- P implies Q, but Q is false, therefore P must be false.

The trouble though is that C is actually enforcing B's argument, since Apache is attacked far more often than IIS. Of course, C hasn't proved B's argument, he just hasn't disproved it either. (To assume that C had proved B's argument would be a logical fallacy known as affirming the consequent -- P implies Q, and Q is true, therefore P is true).

Note: For the purposes of this entry, I have ignored two things because they are not relevant to the discussion: The first is the debate about what web server market share numbers actually mean, the second is the question of why the sites were attacked (software bugs, 3rd party installs, poor administration, etc.). I merely wanted to show that C does not disprove B, not that B is necessarily correct.

Comments (3)

  1. Gijo says:

    O Ya, you are playing with the words. What are you trying to imply when you try to formulate all 3 stmts..

  2. David.Wang says:

    hehe. I deal with statement C all the time.

    It amuses me to watch users toss aside facts which do not support their argument, use third-party urban-myths as "facts", or use non-factual emotions as "proof". Users cannot seem to believe that something like IIS6 can exist from Microsoft and ruin their arguments. Darn the facts that get in the way of a good argument! 🙂

    Bottom line when it comes to Apache/IIS – the days of the emotional response is numbered…



  3. Tarwin says:

    Love you’re use of logical mathermatics – good way to tell people to shut up about unrelated issues (and show you know your head from your A##)

    (That kind of sounded sarcastic, it wasn’t meant to be, a big thumbs up)

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