Seeking the truth during campaign season
With campaign season in full swing, voters are being ambushed with claims, promises and accusations from politicians on all levels. So how are we supposed to find the truth in all the soap-boxing? Our Tamara Lindstrom sat down with an expert in logic to find out.
To view our videos, you need to
install Adobe Flash 9 or above. Install now.
Then come back here and refresh the page.
ITHACA, N.Y. -- It's getting down to the wire for political hopefuls, with speeches and arguments becoming a daily distraction. And there's one thing you're certain to hear: Some false logic.
"Both parties are not immune to this. And the reason why is they do work," said Sam Nelson, Cornell University Industrial Labor Relations.
But these fallacies of argument are easy to spot if you know what you're looking for.
Nelson said, "You shouldn't just go with your emotion. You shouldn't just trust somebody because they're somebody. And you really need to take the time and think out logically whether or not the arguments actually make sense."
Nelson says all good arguments should have a claim, a justification and something that is often lacking: Proof.
"Some information, some data, some evidence. And that's what we need to start insisting on as citizens of a healthy democracy," Nelson said.
And there are some catch phrases to look out for when candidates answer, or don't answer, questions.
Nelson said, "One of them is 'That's still being studied' or maybe a delay tactic like 'I haven't really figured out the exact policy, but I know this one's bad.' If one candidate isn't willing to lay out the specifics, that should be a warning sign that maybe they don't have a better policy."
Invoking the spirits of long gone heroes is another red flag.
"'This is what the founding fathers would have said' with no actual proof that that's what they would have said or whether they would have had an opinion on the issue. But it's an appeal to authority that's a fallacy of argument. That they would have liked it so it must be good. And it doesn't really make sense and we shouldn't accept it as a sound reason to do anything," Nelson said.
But these tips are only useful if voters are willing to take a critical look at the stories they're hearing from behind the podium.
"Most people listen to politicians speak not because they're trying to be persuaded and figure out who they're going to vote for, they actually are looking for reasons to justify why they're voting for someone. So if you're a Republican, you'll turn to the Republican National Convention because you want to hear what their arguments are so you can repeat them to others to explain your own position. The same thing with the Democrats. So what we need is really more independent minded people that are willing to go in with an open mind and do what's best and insist that their politicians actually represent them," said Nelson.
And take pride in not being tricked into thinking one way or another, but demanding strong reasoning instead. A policy, Nelson says, will lead to a strong country.
Nelson says the reason those false arguments are so easy to believe is they all contain a kernel of truth.