Firmitas

Argument from High Standards

Revision 1
© 2011-2019 by Zack Smith. All rights reserved.

Argument from High Standards

This is the fallacy in which one argues that a claim is false or can be ignored by feigning ever-higher standards of evidence.

  • Proposition P says that the arguer has higher standards than someone making a claim.
  • Therefore that claim i.e. Proposition Q is false. ]]

Typically, when new and, more compelling evidence is provided, the arguer simply claims to have higher standards still. It becomes a delaying tactic.

Examples

We hear you say that everyone who lives along the river has gotten cancer, and our factory that is up-river is spewing out pollution that may be toxic, but until you can produce evidence of this so-called cancer from more than the several doctors you paid, our company will pay them nothing. We have very high standards of evidence! Subsequently: Until you prove beyond a doubt that our factory's waste caused their proven cancer, we do not need to take any responsibility. We have higher standards of evidence.

Yes, I see that a steel-framed building collapsed at free-fall speed which is typical of controlled demolitions, and that is suspicious. However, until you can provide at least 20 scientists with PhDs to argue for and against that position, and debate other possible causes, on television and not merely on the Internet, I simply cannot believe your claim that it was a controlled demolition. Because I have higher standards than you. (Fact: Free-fall collapse of steel-framed buildings can only be achieved using controlled demolition.)

Weaknesses

The arguer's claim of having higher standards is usually bogus and thus the fallacy is deployed as a delaying tactic.

The arguer wants to avoid accepting very obvious facts and conclusions because doing so has implications for him, or people who employ him, or for fellow partisans. He cravenly seeks an excuse to deny the veracity of the claim, so he pretends to have higher standards, which is also a childish ploy to place himself above other arguers when in fact his defeat is imminent and his stance is escapist.

Typically when new evidence is supplied, making Proposition Q even stronger, the arguer either rejects it or claim even higher standards still. You merely need point this out. No proof is ever good enough.

To deal with a person who deploys this fallacy, one can:

  • Point out the obviousness of your claim (Proposition Q).
  • Point out the simplicity of your claim e.g. any 10 year old can understand it: You do not need a panel of scientists to figure it out.
  • Creatively assess and identify for him what he stands to lose from the obvious truth being recognized.
  • Point out that his constant delaying is pointless and irresponsible.
  • Point out his somewhat less than heroic escapism.