Apex fallacy

From RationalWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Part of the series on
Logic and rhetoric
Icon logic.svg
Key articles
General logic
Bad logic

An apex fallacy (also semantic apex fallacy) occurs when someone evaluates a group based on the performance of best groupmembers, not a representative sample of the groupmembers (eg, evaluating how well women are doing by looking only at national leaders). Conversely, the nadir fallacy occurs when someone evaluates a group using the worst groupmembers.

The fallacy is a conditional fallacy. When not fallacious, the "apex" can be representative of a group, though then it wouldn't really be much of an "apex"; alternately, through regression analysis, the apex-ness of the sample can (theoretically) be magicked away statistically controlled for. When fallacious, the fallacy is one of overgeneralization and fallacious composition; if the sample was explicitly chosen because of its anomalous status, it is cherry picking.

The "apex fallacy" is highly prevalent in the manosphere, where it is used as a critique of feminism.

The fallacy is an imprecision fallacy.

Form[edit]

P1: Of entities in set X, all entities in subset Y are Z.
P2: (unstated) Y is representative of X.
C1: All entities in set X are Z.

This fallacy hinges on P2. If Y is representative, then there is no fallacy; if not, then the conclusion does not follow.

In apex fallacies, Y will be the unrepresentative cream of the crop; in nadir fallacies, Y will be the unrepresentative flotsam.

Examples[edit]

P1: The world's best long-distance runners come from Africa.
P2: (unstated) Those runners are representative of Africans.
C1: All Africans are good long distance runners.

This is an apex fallacy because not all Africans are good long distance runners.[1]


P1: I know a guy who cheats the welfare system.
P2: (unstated) That guy is representative of welfare recipients.
C1: All welfare recipients cheat the system.

This is a nadir fallacy because not all welfare recipients cheat the system.

And, the example most beloved of MRAs:


P1: The most powerful people in the world are men.
P2: (unstated) Those powerful people are representative of men.
C1: All men are powerful.

This is an apex fallacy because not all men are powerful.[1]

Manosphere (ab)use[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Manosphere

The manosphere argues that feminism is ultimately based on an apex fallacy. The use is typified by the "Stoner with a Boner" blog:[2]

[An] apex fallacy is the idea that we assign the characteristics of the highest visibility members of a group to all members of that group.[note 1] This fallacy has a particularly damning effect on the feminist construct of patriarchy. Women have looked up, and seen that the top of society is made up of men that hold power. They then attribute that characteristic to all men. The line of thinking goes, all CEO’s are men (mostly true), therefore all men are CEO’s (not even close). Feminists fail to look at the men at the bottom of the pyramid.

This statement is true: The existence of powerful groups of men does not prove that the average man is more powerful than the average woman.

Unfortunately, this position is a strawman of feminism. Feminists often point to systematic sexism (eg, the gender wage gap or gender differences in rape victimization), rather than merely saying "hey look, the wealthiest/most-powerful people are men". Thus, they don't fall prey to the apex fallacy -- because they aren't just looking at the apex, but rather the rest of the pyramid, too. Ultimately, this abuse of the apex fallacy denies the relative privilege of males over females.

This view appears to be widely held by MRAs[3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12] and by one Dr. Helen Smith,[3][13] friend of Paul Elam. In fact, the term "apex fallacy" is so popular among the manosphere that is almost singularly used by MRAs or their critics. (With a few exceptions.[14])

Frontman Fallacy[edit]

In the 1990s, New Zealand MRA Peter Zohrab created the Frontman Fallacy, defined as:[15][16][17]

the mistaken belief that people (men, specifically) who are in positions of authority in democratic systems use their power mainly to benefit the categories of people (the category of “men”, in particular) that they belong to themselves.

Again, "frontman fallacy" appears to only be used on MRA websites. Zohrab himself has written that Marc Lepine, school shooter of 14 women, was "not only not sexist, as the media stated – he was actually fighting sexism" and was "protesting against various issues which are aspects of Feminist sexism".[17] Perhaps as a result, MRAs rarely cite Zohrab as the intellectual forefather of one of their favorite talking points.

Wikipedia[edit]

The idea was laughed off Wikipedia, the encyclopedia where anything is "notable" if you try hard enough.[17][18] MRAs were butthurt that Wikipedia did not recognize the two (!) reputable sources they could find; immediately, they cried censorship.[17]

Urban Dictionary[edit]

Of note, the most downvoted UD entry happens to be the least wrong one (although it strawmans MRAs):[1]

[The apex fallacy is] A psuedoscientific term created by the misogynists who call themselves "Men's Rights Activists" to justify their claim that just because men control almost all the positions of power (the "apexes") doesn't mean that any discrimination against women happened.

Normal human: "You ever notice all 43 American presidents have been men?"

Misogynist: "That's the apex fallacy, I can find 43 poor guys, too! Therefore, women have just as much power as men -- no, even more power than men! Child support is theft! All rape reports are false!" *foams at the mouth*

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. In fact, this would be the spotlight effect.

References[edit]