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Fallacies that effect science analysis, comprehension, interpretation and explanation

We need science more than ever for our own welfare, yet many people find it hard to get accurate information about the scientific method and its achievements. Making things more difficult, their misconceptions about science are often driven by logical fallacies, or errors in deductive reasoning.

A fallacy is the use of invalid or otherwise faulty reasoning, or "wrong moves" in the construction of an argument. A fallacious argument may be deceptive by appearing to be better than it really is. Some fallacies are committed intentionally to manipulate or persuade by deception, while others are committed unintentionally due to carelessness or ignorance. The soundness of arguments depends on the context in which the arguments are made.

Fallacies are commonly divided into "formal" and "informal". A formal fallacy can be expressed neatly in a standard system of logic, such as propositional logic, while an informal fallacy originates in an error in reasoning other than an improper logical form. Arguments containing informal fallacies may be formally valid, but still fallacious.

Fallacies are very important in construction and comprehension of pseudo-science and their understanding is essential in differentiating science from pseudo-science, alternative facts, misconceptions, and falsehood.

To understand a fallacy, first try these examples ...

Example 1. Krishna is different from Rama
Rama is a man
Therefore, Krishna is different form a man (and not a man)!

Now consider this second example to know how pseudo-science is interpreted as science

Example 2. Astronomy deals with Stars and is science

Astrology also deals with stars 

Therefore, Astrology is Astronomy and is science!

( This is language based fallacy and I have seen this fallacy when people try to argue that Astrology is real Science)

There are several fallacies but I will deal with the most important ones we are bothered with now as these affect science comprehension and used in misleading the public about science.

Affirming a disjunct – concluding that one disjunct of a logical disjunction must be false because the other disjunct is true; A or B; A, therefore not B.
Affirming the consequent – the antecedent in an indicative conditional is claimed to be true because the consequent is true; if A, then B; B, therefore A.
Denying the antecedent – the consequent in an indicative conditional is claimed to be false because the antecedent is false; if A, then B; not A, therefore not B
Confusing? Then consider this example:
A baby had a heart condition and fever. Despite that, his parents went for vaccination. The baby died because of the complications of fever and heart condition. But as the baby died as soon as he took the vaccination, it is assumed that vaccination is responsible for the baby's death!

There need not be an actual link between vaccination and death here. But this is how people spread rumours about vaccination and even the media reports it without investigating the real cause of death causing panic about vaccinations in general public. And people refuse to get their children vaccinated.
We call this Post hoc ergo propter hoc (Latin: "after this, therefore because of this") fallacy. It is a logical fallacy that states "Since event Y followed event X, event Y must have been caused by event X." It is often shortened simply to post hoc fallacy.

Affirmative conclusion form a negative premise: Consider this statement: Majority of scientists are atheists(although this is not negative it is used as a negative moral or model). Therefore, science is totally against religion. This is totally untrue but religious leaders use it to make people hate science.

The fallacy of exclusive premises: 

Science needs validation. Religion is not science. Therefore, religious beliefs ( or superstitious beliefs) need no validation to follow.

Conflating (combining) genus and species. There is a vast difference between  genus and species and between different terms in science. People mix up things, unable to understand the difference.

Like somebody argued some time back, scientists discovered God as this is proof that He exists because  "God particle" ( Higgs Boson) is related to God and God himself! "What?!", one of my physicist  friends face-palmed in agony after hearing this argument! 

Confusing general principles with specific applications of those principles :

When a scientist puts forward a general principle, he sometimes illustrates it with examples that later turn out to be deficient. But it simply doesn’t follow that the general principle itself is mistaken. For example, people often think of the evolution of the horse as a neat transition from very small animals to ever larger ones, as in the kind of exhibit they might have seen in a natural history museum as a child. It turns out that things aren’t quite so neat. There is no hard and fast correlation between the size of a horse and where it appears in the fossil record. It doesn’t follow, however, that modern horses did not evolve from much smaller animals. That earlier accounts of the evolution of the horse turn out to be mistaken does not entail that the general principle that horses evolved is mistaken. 

False equivalence fallacy: Two months back I participated in a disastrous TV debate on pseudo-science. I was made to sit along with a punditji and a rationalist. 

The punditji didn't understand at all how science works. He didn't know what scientific method is. He didn't understand what evidence is. He didn't understand the difference between genuine evidence and mere opinion of  a person. When I asked him to give evidence, he started giving his opinion. He started quoting some books written by some people who are just story tellers. 

Entire time was over by the time I explained what "genuine evidence" in science means. 

Balanced reporting is important, no question. But that doesn't mean every single perspective on a contentious issue deserves equal air time or consideration. Such is the fallacy of false equivalence, the assertion that there's a logical equivalence between two opposing arguments when there is none. How can a science illiterate's opinion ( of a punditji) be equal to evidence based fact (of a scientist)? Can people listening or watching the debate differentiate between the two?

This is a mistake that's often made when journalists or pundits try to provide a "fair" debate between a scientific and denialist point of view. All too often, however, the dissenting side lacks evidence, or presents evidence of poor or dubious quality. Indeed, both sides of an argument are not always equal in terms of quality and evidence. And laymen watching/hearing it hardly understands who is right and who is wrong and therefore, cannot come to a proper conclusion!

Just watch a presentation on any of the major news outlets on anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change (ACC). They'll have one talking head, usually a scientist who is trying to present nuanced data, usually uncomfortable with public "debate", going up against a photogenic, possibly a scientist (but in a field totally unrelated to climate studies), who uses logical fallacies, and manipulated data to make a point. And the viewer thinks that half the world's scientists equally split between both sides of the "debate" regarding ACC. However, the real balance would give us 97 scientists supporting anthropogenic climate change and 2-3 against. Yes, a real high impact factor, extremely well respected journal, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, analyzed climate change science, and determined that 97-98% of researchers in climate science supported the tenets of hu....

Science denialists/skeptics try to create false equivalence through several methods (many of them fallacies of their own), including the claim that science is a democracy, the appeal to authority, conspiracies, and "manufactroversy" (the manufacturing or invention of a controversy). Hmmm!

Argument to moderation (false compromise, middle ground, fallacy of the mean, argumentum ad temperantiam) – assuming that the compromise between two positions is always correct. Several people, while I was participating in debates like science versus religion, asked scientists to give some ground to religion in order to have harmony between the two. 

But can we reduce facts to half facts or half truths or accommodate irrational beliefs and reduce science to 80 or 90% science? Scientific methods don't allow us to do that! Can stories like creationism become science if we accommodate them? Can irrational beliefs be brought into science to have harmony between science and religion? Science doesn't work like that! That compromise is not correct.

Appeal to Nature & The Naturalistic Fallacy  To undermine scientists and their work  some people appeal to nature and the naturalistic fallacy. The former is the belief that what is natural is "good" and "right" and the latter deducing "ought" from "is." Both have been used to argue that progress in science and technology represents a threat to the natural order of things. It's a line of argumentation that lauds the inherent wholesomeness of all things natural, while decrying the unhealthiness and unsavoriness of all things unnatural.

At the root of this conviction is the unfounded assumption that humanity's scientific and technological achievements somehow lie outside of nature, and that our activities in the Universe often serve to disrupt the natural flow or equilibria of things. This sentiment has contributed to many concerns and outright prohibitions, including those in fundamental biological research, genomics, while also contributing to the rise of pseudo-scientific ideas like Social Darwinism.

But the truth is science actually deals with Nature, its laws, understanding them and how to use this knowledge for the welfare of human beings. Okay some business minded people and politicians try to exploit  these laws to gain money and power but that doesn't mean entire science is bad.  

Continuum fallacy or  "inflation of conflict." Inflation of conflict occurs when someone claims that because two (or more) experts disagree on one point, no conclusion can be drawn and the entire field or area of research is probably discredited to boot.

Right now we have this state with regard to Anthropological Global warming (AGW). Yes, some experts agree with some political parties and  try to discredit genuine evidence on climate change research. 

Observation selection Many critics of science deliberately (and sometimes unconsciously) select and share information that serves to undermine specific proclamations of science, while ignoring information that works to support credible hypotheses.

Like this one: One of my uncles smoked all through his life without any bad consequences! Smoking doesn't effect you in a bad way. Or my uncle ate ghee all his life without getting a heart attack or stroke. 

For one uncle of this person who might have had good genes or good food that counter-acted the bad consequences, there are thousands who suffered lung cancers for smoking and died a premature death! 

Suppressed correlative or lost contrast is a semantic logical fallacy in which the arguer attempts to redefine two contrasting terms in such a way that one encompasses the other.  Often this lost contrast fallacy is used in attempts to classify science as religious beliefs; the substitute definition of "religion" will typically be so broad that almost any human association would qualify as a religion.

I heard several times people saying, 'science is some sort of religion too'. These people don't  really understand how science actually works.

Appeal to faith Arguing that Supernatural is beyond science and protects living beings at any cost.  Global warming? God will protect us from its consequences. God is very kind. He won't allow his sons and daughters to suffer and die. There is nothing we can do if God wants to destroy Earth.

God will protect my child from diseases. I need not get him vaccinated. I need not take him to hospital. Yes, some highly religious people have actually said and did this! Some cult leaders have made their followers to believe this!

Like somebody said ... If one gives up reason in the formation of some of one's beliefs, one gives up the only access to truth we have through science and a chance to avoid bad consequences like avoiding  unnecessary death and destruction.

Devine fallacy :  (argument from incredulity) – arguing that, because something is so incredible or amazing, it must be the result of superior, divine, alien or paranormal agency.

God of gaps : Agreed, science doesn't have all the answers right now. 

People say science cannot solve all the problems and doesn't answer all the questions human minds pose. True! But think about this: This universe started with a Big Bang ( according to one theory - which is not yet proved!) some 14 Billion years ago. But science is just a few hundred years old.

The universe in which we find ourselves is about 14,000,000,000 years old, planet Earth is about 5,000,000,000 years old, the species Homo sapiens, to which we belong, 300,000 years old, and modern science a mere 500 years old ( all approximate, not exact years) . 

Science ( the process with which we try to study and understand this universe) is still in its infancy. It has to learn a lot, study a lot, think a lot, experiment a lot and then only it can come up with all the answers we are seeking right now. How can you expect a child to solve all the problems of his ancestors? And answer the questions posed by his great, great, great, great grand fathers? Is it appropriate to even expect such a thing? I don't think so.

There is science ( the laws that govern this universe)  every millimeter and Angstrom of this universe. And the universe is unimaginably  vast! But the scientists are so few!  How can the limited number of scientists read the language this universe is written in such a less time?

Moreover, there are more pressing problems like saving lives, more food production for the ever increasing population. We can’t waste our time on less important ones. But we get ridiculed for our choices of problems!

We should be amazed at how we have been able to get so far in understanding the things in this universe despite our inadequacies! Science is doing its best with the limited resources it has to both answer the questions and solve the problems. As the time goes by, I am pretty sure, it will succeed more and more. Please have patience! Give science some time.

And let me assure you when science answers these Qs, they will not be silly stories but universe-shivering true facts.

Another way to put it: It is not science that cannot explain things, but us. Science is merely a tool and is as good or as bad as the one who wields it.

Like one physicist puts it ... As humans we have with mathematics the power to reason about things we can't fit in our brains. With 1200 cubic centimeter of brain we can reason about the universe, which is obviously much larger. The mystery is natural, the model is our power. 

Science is the language this universe is written in. It is already there and scientific principles rule this universe and run it. It is the human understanding that isn’t developed to match it. We, the scientists, are not bringing things from somewhere. We are discovering things because they exist in the universe.

Everything has a natural explanation, it's just that we are still yet to understand a great many things.

Just because we can't explain it now, doesn't mean magic or supernatural become  better alternatives. You cannot fill these Gaps with a thing called God! God did it might be an answer but might not a true explanation!

There is another aspect to it too...

You imagine something. Or you hallucinate about it. And call it supernatural. And say science cannot explain it. 

Right. How can science explain things that just lie in the realm of only your imagination and not in the real scientific world? Call it with whatever name you want, but introducing an additional, unnecessary entity, the supernatural thing, to fill the gaps of your understanding, is escaping into an unrealistic world.  It’s never justified to call a phenomenon supernatural in a scientific context. Whoever does that has already left scientific ground because science deals only with natural world. There are countless phenomena that cannot be explained by science at the moment, e.g. dark energy or dark matter or the origins of the Big Bang. But that does not mean that those must be of supernatural nature. They are natural phenomena waiting to be understood when we get the capacity to do so. 

As mathematician Charles A. Coulson wrote, "There is no 'God of the gaps' to take over at those strategic places where science fails; and the reason is that gaps of this sort have the unpreventable habit of shrinking," adding that "Either God is in the whole of Nature, with no gaps, or He's not there at all."

The fallacy of equivocation: This occurs when a key term or phrase in an argument is used in an ambiguous way, with one meaning in one portion of the argument and then another meaning in another portion of the argument.

While propagating pseudo-science, scientists in India observed that, some people interpreted mythological  texts in strange ways giving different meaning to some words.

Appeal to consequences This can be seen as a kind of precautionary principle, an injunction to not engage in activities or scientific endeavors that raise threats of harm (or undesirable outcomes) to human health or the environment on account of a unforeseen series of cascading events (which is related to another fallacy, the slippery slope). In many cases, however, anti-science folks intertwine the boundaries between their disputes of a particular scientific line of inquiry with alleged philosophical and moral consequences.

For example, there's a fear that belief in evolution will lead to genocide, or that it will lead to the opinion that humans are just another animal in the forest.

Not giving consent or withholding it. Like this  interpretation: " Evolution is just a theory". Here the person is not giving his consent to the fact that evolution had actually  taken place and is taking place right now! Alright, scientific principles like natural selection and general relativity are theories, but there comes a point when explanations or models become so instructive and so damned useful that they graduate to the level of axioms — a statement or proposition that's so established, accepted, or self-evidently true that we should refrain from withholding our consent, because to do otherwise would be simply unreasonable in the presence of insurmountable evidence.

An ecological fallacy (or ecological inference fallacy) is a formal fallacy in the interpretation of statistical data that occurs when inferences about the nature of individuals are deduced from inferences about the group to which those individuals belong.

even when studying individual level risk factors, population level studies play an essential part in defining the most important public health problems to be tackled, and in generating hypotheses as to their potential causes. Many important individual level risk factors for disease simply do not vary enough within populations to enable their effects to be identified or studied. More importantly, such studies are a key component of the continual cycle of theory and hypothesis generation and testing. Historically, the key area in which epidemiologists have been able to “add value” has been through this population focus, although this lesson has been forgotten by many modern epidemiologists. For example, many of the recent discoveries on the causes of cancer (including dietary factors and colon cancer, hepatitis B and liver cancer, aflatoxins and liver cancer, human papilloma virus and cervical cancer) have their origins, directly or indirectly, in the systematic international comparisons of cancer incidence conducted in the 1950s and 1960s. These suggested hypotheses concerning the possible causes of the international patterns, which were investigated in more depth in further studies. In some instances these hypotheses were consistent with biological knowledge at the time, but in other instances they were new and striking, and might not have been proposed, or investigated further, if the population level analyses had not been done. More recently, a huge amount of funding has been spent on studying the “known” causes of asthma in affluent countries (for example, air pollution, allergen exposure), and it is only now that standardised studies are revealing major international differences in asthma prevalence that are not explained by these “established” risk factors such as air pollution, but are more consistent with recent theories on the protective role of some infant infections in the aetiology of asthma.

A second reason that ecological studies are back is that it is increasingly being recognised that some risk factors for disease genuinely operate at the population level. In some instances they may directly cause disease, but perhaps more commonly they may cause disease as effect modifiers or determinants of exposure to individual level risk factors. For example, being poor in a rich country or neighbourhood may be worse than having the same income level in a poor country or neighbourhood, because of problems of social exclusion and lack of access to services and resources. This may operate through relatively direct mechanisms, but may also involve aspects of individual lifestyle that are in part determined by the social context. For example, the decision to continue to gain temporary relief and pleasure through smoking tobacco may be quite rational for someone who is surviving from week to week in difficult circumstances.

The failure to take account of the importance of population context, as an effect modifier and determinant of individual level exposures could be termed the “individualistic fallacy”

Fallacy of composition – assuming that something true of part of a whole must also be true of the whole.

I heard some people arguing that science as a whole has gone awry because some scientists are committing frauds while publishing papers, which is highly unlikely.

False attribution – when someone appeals to an irrelevant, unqualified, unidentified, biased or fabricated source in support of an argument.

False authority (single authority) – using an expert of dubious credentials or using only one opinion to sell a product or idea. Related to the appeal to authority.

Yes, some doctors on the net are propagating alternative medicines in the name of authority.

Feedback fallacy - in the context of performance appraisal or judging somebody's work, the belief in the accuracy of feedback, despite evidence that feedback is subject to large systematic errors due to the idiosyncratic rater effect.

Incomplete comparison – insufficient information is provided to make a complete comparison.
Inconsistent comparison – different methods of comparison are used, leaving a false impression of the whole comparison.

Ludic Fallacy : One of his key ideas is that of Ludic Fallacy, that is the use (abuse) of game analogies to real world situations. 

McNamara fallacy (quantitative fallacy) – making a decision based only on quantitative observations, discounting all other considerations.

Example: Just because a large number of people follow a certain superstition, saying that it is completely true or a fact. Science doesn't work like that!

Moving the goalposts (raising the bar) fallacy – argument in which evidence presented in response to a specific claim is dismissed and some other (often greater) evidence is demanded.

Onus probandi – the burden of proof is on the person who makes the claim, not on the person who denies (or questions the claim). It is a particular case of the argumentum ad ignorantiam fallacy, here the burden is shifted on the person defending against the assertion. Also known as "shifting the burden of proof".

Very often people imagine things like ghosts, souls etc. and ask science to prove or disprove that they exist or don't exist, which is shifting the burden of proof from the person who claims it to the person who opposes it. In science, the burden of proof always lies with the person who claims something, not the person who opposes it. Get that right.

Proof by assertion – a proposition is repeatedly restated regardless of contradiction; sometimes confused with argument from repetition (argumentum ad infinitum, argumentum ad nauseam).

If you say a hundred times that ghosts exist and that several people have seen them, it doesn't become a reality in science!

The psychologist's fallacy is the one that occurs when an observer assumes that his or her subjective experience reflects the true nature of an event. 

Like, for example, someone hallucinates (or imagine under certain circumstances) ghosts and assume they really exist!

Reification (concretism, hypostatization, or the fallacy of misplaced concreteness) – a fallacy of ambiguity, when an abstraction (abstract belief or hypothetical construct) is treated as if it were a concrete, real event or physical entity. In other words, it is the error of treating as a "real thing" something that is not a real thing, but merely an idea.

"Evolution is just a theory! " I heard several people saying this!

Got it?

Retrospective determinism is the informal fallacy that because something happened under some circumstances, it was therefore bound to happen due to those circumstances.

This type of fallacy can precede a hasty generalization: because something happened in given circumstances, it was not only bound to happen, but will in fact always happen given those circumstances. 

Example: Just because you got some result several times in a lab, you need not expect the same result in the nature because several other factors  might affect the results in nature!

Special pleading – a proponent of a position attempts to cite something as an exemption to a generally accepted rule or principle without justifying the exemption.

When you base an argument on reasoning that is not logical, you have committed a fallacy. One type of fallacy is special pleadingSpecial pleading involves a person applying rules and standards to others while exempting him- or herself. In addition, with special pleading, the person does not provide a logical reason for why he/she should be exempt from the rules or standards.

Loaded label – while not inherently fallacious, use of evocative terms to support a conclusion is a type of begging the question fallacy. When fallaciously used, the term's connotations are relied on to sway the argument towards a particular conclusion. For example, an organic foods advertisement that says "Organic foods are safe and healthy foods grown without any pesticides, herbicides, or other unhealthy additives." Use of the term "unhealthy additives" is used as support for the idea that the product is safe.
Circular reasoning (circulus in demonstrando) – the reasoner begins with what he or she is trying to end up with; sometimes called assuming the conclusion.
This is very often the case with pseudo-science. You presume Your culture always does things right.Toe rings is worn by married women in India. And people justify it saying that toe rings are good for reproduction in women while in reality there is no connection!

Fallacy of many questions (complex question, fallacy of presuppositions, loaded question, plurium interrogationum) – someone asks a question that presupposes something that has not been proven or accepted by all the people involved. This fallacy is often used rhetorically so that the question limits direct replies to those that serve the questioner's agenda.
Faulty generalizations
Faulty generalization – reach a conclusion from weak premises. Unlike fallacies of relevance, in fallacies of defective induction, the premises are related to the conclusions yet only weakly support the conclusions. A faulty generalization is thus produced.

Accident – an exception to a generalization is ignored

Cherry picking (suppressed evidence, incomplete evidence) – act of pointing at individual cases or data that seem to confirm a particular position, while ignoring a significant portion of related cases or data that may contradict that position.

Survivorship bias – a small number of successes of a given process are actively promoted while completely ignoring a large number of failures
False analogy – an argument by analogy in which the analogy is poorly suited.
Hasty generalization (fallacy of insufficient statistics, fallacy of insufficient sample, fallacy of the lonely fact, hasty induction, secundum quid, converse accident, jumping to conclusions) – basing a broad conclusion on a small sample or the making of a determination without all of the information required to do so.
Inductive fallacy – A more general name to some fallacies, such as hasty generalization. It happens when a conclusion is made of premises that lightly support it.
Misleading vividness – involves describing an occurrence in vivid detail, even if it is an exceptional occurrence, to convince someone that it is a problem; this also relies on the appeal to emotion fallacy.
Overwhelming exception – an accurate generalization that comes with qualifications that eliminate so many cases that what remains is much less impressive than the initial statement might have led one to assume.
Thought-terminating cliché – a commonly used phrase, sometimes passing as folk wisdom, used to quell cognitive dissonance, conceal lack of forethought, move on to other topics, etc. – but in any case, to end the debate with a cliché rather than a point.

Gambler's fallacy – the incorrect belief that separate, independent events can affect the likelihood of another random event.

The gambler’s fallacy is the mistaken belief that the likelihood of a certain independent event occuring in the future depends on past events, which don’t influence it in reality. 

  • The gambler’s fallacy is the mistaken belief that past events can influence future events that are independent of them.

For example, the gambler’s fallacy might cause someone to believe that if a coin just landed on heads twice in a row, then it’s “due” to land on tails on the next toss.

However, the gambler’s fallacy can also influence people’s thinking and decision making in other areas of life, such as in the case of childbirth, where people often believe that someone is “due” to give birth to a baby of a certain gender, if they have previously given birth to several babies of the opposite gender.

Furthermore, the gambler’s can affect the behavior of various professionals, such as loan officers, sports referees, judges, and even psychologists, despite the fact that many of them are well aware of its influence.

For instance, there is the hot-hand fallacy, which causes people to mistakenly assume that a string of positive outcomes in a random event signals that more positive outcomes are going to follow.

This is responsible for superstitious behaviour.

Magical thinking – fallacious attribution of causal relationships between actions and events. In anthropology, it refers primarily to cultural beliefs that ritual, prayer, sacrifice, and taboos will produce specific supernatural consequences. In psychology, it refers to an irrational belief that thoughts by themselves can affect the world or that thinking something corresponds with doing it.
Regression fallacy – ascribes cause where none exists. The flaw is failing to account for natural fluctuations. It is frequently a special kind of post hoc fallacy.

While debating science with people outside of science, I found these fallacies ...

Appeal to the stone (argumentum ad lapidem) – dismissing a claim as absurd without demonstrating proof for its absurdity. Example: Evolution is absurd. 

Argument from ignorance (appeal to ignorance, argumentum ad ignorantiam) – assuming that a claim is true because it has not been or cannot be proven false, or vice versa.

Example: Assumption that Souls exist.
Argument from incredulity (appeal to common sense) – "I cannot imagine how this could be true; therefore, it must be false."
Argument from repetition (argumentum ad nauseam, argumentum ad infinitum) – repeating an argument until nobody cares to discuss it any more;sometimes confused with proof by assertion.

Example: Saying that Earth is flat. 

Argument from silence (argumentum ex silentio) – assuming that a claim is true based on the absence of textual or spoken evidence from an authoritative source, or vice versa.

Example: God created this universe
Ignoratio elenchi (irrelevant conclusion, missing the point) – an argument that may in itself be valid, but does not address the issue in question.

Red herring fallacies: A red herring fallacy, one of the main subtypes of fallacies of relevance, is an error in logic where a proposition is, or is intended to be, misleading in order to make irrelevant or false inferences. In the general case any logical inference based on fake arguments, intended to replace the lack of real arguments or to replace implicitly the subject of the discussion.

Example: Used in Creationism  

Red herring – a speaker attempts to distract an audience by deviating from the topic at hand by introducing a separate argument the speaker believes is easier to speak to. Argument given in response to another argument, which is irrelevant and draws attention away from the subject of argument. 

Ad hominem – attacking the arguer instead of the argument.

Yes, while debating pseudo-science, several times I observed, as people cannot counter scientific evidence, they try to attack the arguer that provided the evidence in order to divert the attention of the audience/readers.
Circumstantial ad hominem - stating that the arguer's personal situation or perceived benefit from advancing a conclusion means that their conclusion is wrong.
Poisoning the well – a subtype of ad hominem presenting adverse information about a target person with the intention of discrediting everything that the target person says.

Example: Saying that - as science cannot answer several Qs, it cannot answer this present one too (even if it did).
Abusive fallacy – verbally abusing the opponent rather than arguing about the originally proposed argument.
Appeal to motive – dismissing an idea by questioning the motives of its proposer.
Kafka-trapping – a sophistical and unfalsifiable form of argument that attempts to overcome an opponent by inducing a sense of guilt and using the opponent's denial of guilt as further evidence of guilt.
Tone policing – focusing on emotion behind (or resulting from) a message rather than the message itself as a discrediting tactic.
Traitorous critic fallacy (ergo decedo, 'thus leave') – a critic's perceived affiliation is portrayed as the underlying reason for the criticism and the critic is asked to stay away from the issue altogether. Easily confused with the association fallacy ("guilt by association"), below.
Appeal to authority (argument from authority, argumentum ad verecundiam) – an assertion is deemed true because of the position or authority of the person asserting it.

Example : Arguing that if the American President says climate science is bogus, it is bogus as it came from the president of the US even though he is not q qualified scientist to say that.
Appeal to accomplishment – an assertion is deemed true or false based on the accomplishments of the proposer.This may often also have elements of appeal to emotion.
Courtier's reply – a criticism is dismissed by claiming that the critic lacks sufficient knowledge, credentials, or training to credibly comment on the subject matter.

Example: Several times I heard people saying Bill Nye is not a scientist to talk about science.
Appeal to consequences (argumentum ad consequentiam) – the conclusion is supported by a premise that asserts positive or negative consequences from some course of action in an attempt to distract from the initial discussion.
Appeal to emotion – an argument is made due to the manipulation of emotions, rather than the use of valid reasoning.

Example: A mother whose child had autism had been brought to discuss autism several times on TV to emphasize that his condition 's because of vaccines even though there is absolutely no evidence of that and in fact the opposite has been proved right.
Appeal to fear – an argument is made by increasing fear and prejudice towards the opposing side.

Example: Arguing that vaccines contain harmful substances that kill children.
Appeal to flattery – an argument is made due to the use of flattery to gather support.

Example: People of religion have more morals than people of science.
Appeal to pity (argumentum ad misericordiam) – an argument attempts to induce pity to sway opponents.

Example: Autism and vaccine link and appeal to human emotions by telling stories of suffering.
Appeal to ridicule – an argument is made by incorrectly presenting the opponent's argument in a way that makes it appear ridiculous.
Appeal to spite – an argument is made through exploiting people's bitterness or spite towards an opposing party.
Judgmental language – insulting or pejorative language to influence the audience's judgment.
Pooh-pooh – dismissing an argument perceived unworthy of serious consideration.

Example: Arguing that Science cannot answer several important Qs
Wishful thinking – a decision is made according to what might be pleasing to imagine, rather than according to evidence or reason.

Example: Imagiantion that afterlife exists and we would meet our departed loved ones again in Heaven.
Appeal to nature – judgment is based solely on whether the subject of judgment is 'natural' or 'unnatural'. (Sometimes also called the "naturalistic fallacy", but is not to be confused with the other fallacies by that name.)
Appeal to novelty (argumentum novitatis, argumentum ad antiquitatis) – a proposal is claimed to be superior or better solely because it is new or modern.
Appeal to poverty (argumentum ad Lazarum) – supporting a conclusion because the arguer is poor (or refuting because the arguer is wealthy). (Opposite of appeal to wealth.)
Appeal to tradition (argumentum ad antiquitatem) – a conclusion supported solely because it has long been held to be true 

Example: Arguing that all traditions are scientific
Appeal to wealth (argumentum ad crumenam) – supporting a conclusion because the arguer is wealthy (or refuting because the arguer is poor). (Sometimes taken together with the appeal to poverty as a general appeal to the arguer's financial situation.)
Argumentum ad baculum (appeal to the stick, appeal to force, appeal to threat) – an argument made through coercion or threats of force to support position.
Argumentum ad populum (appeal to widespread belief, bandwagon argument, appeal to the majority, appeal to the people) – a proposition is claimed to be true or good solely because a majority or many people believe it to be so.

Example: Vaastu is right because several people accept it and follow it
Association fallacy (guilt by association and honor by association) – arguing that because two things share (or are implied to share) some property, they are the same
Ipse dixit (bare assertion fallacy) – a claim that is presented as true without support, as self-evidently true, or as dogmatically true. This fallacy relies on the implied expertise of the speaker or on an unstated truism.
Bulverism (psychogenetic fallacy) – inferring why an argument is being used, associating it to some psychological reason, then assuming it is invalid as a result. The assumption that if the origin of an idea comes from a biased mind, then the idea itself must also be a falsehood, irrespective of its present status.
Chronological snobbery – a thesis is deemed incorrect because it was commonly held when something else, known to be false, was also commonly held.
Fallacy of relative privation (also known as "appeal to worse problems" or "not as bad as") – dismissing an argument or complaint due to the existence of more important problems in the world, regardless of whether those problems bear relevance to the initial argument. 
Genetic fallacy – a conclusion is suggested based solely on something or someone's origin rather than its current meaning or context.
Moralistic fallacy – inferring factual conclusions from evaluative premises, in violation of fact–value distinction; e.g. making statements about what is, on the basis of claims about what ought to be. This is the inverse of the naturalistic fallacy.
Naturalistic fallacy – inferring evaluative conclusions from purely factual premises in violation of fact–value distinction. Naturalistic fallacy (sometimes confused with appeal to nature) is the inverse of moralistic fallacy.
Is–ought fallacy – statements about what is, on the basis of claims about what ought to be.

Example : Argument that God  created this universe and Earth as it they are now!
 Naturalistic fallacy fallacy and anti-naturalistic fallacy – inferring an impossibility to infer any instance of ought from is from the general invalidity of is-ought fallacy, mentioned above. For instance, is {\displaystyle P\lor \neg P} P \lor \neg P does imply ought {\displaystyle P\lor \neg P} P \lor \neg P for any proposition {\displaystyle P} P, although the naturalistic fallacy fallacy would falsely declare such an inference invalid. Naturalistic fallacy fallacy is a type of argument from fallacy.

Straw man fallacy – an argument based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position.
Texas sharpshooter fallacy – improperly asserting a cause to explain a cluster of data.
Tu quoque ('you too' – appeal to hypocrisy, whataboutism) – the argument states that a certain position is false or wrong or should be disregarded because its proponent fails to act consistently in accordance with that position.
Two wrongs make a right – occurs when it is assumed that if one wrong is committed, another wrong will rectify it.
Vacuous truth – a claim that is technically true but meaningless, in the form of claiming that no A in B has C, when there is no A in B. For example, claiming that no mobile phones in the room are on when there are no mobile phones in the room at all.

So, while dealing with science, scientific research, its understanding, interpretation, explanation, argumentation using science,  if you are not careful, you will go wrong. And interestingly, while dealing with several people including people of science, I realized, they don't even know their reasoning is highly faulty! And they don't appreciate and acknowledge it if you try to tell them this! :)

But as a science communicator, I know I will have to deal with all sorts of irrationality and faulty reasoning. It drives me crazy sometimes. However, I am comfortable being uncomfortable. And I go on and on and on and on .... despite everything. 

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