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I have recently started going back to the gym. Myself and my friend have both been suffering from muscle soreness. I decided to take a supplement known as creatine on the day of my workout, and I found that my soreness subsided far quicker than my friend's. My friend's soreness finally stopped, a few days after he decided to take the creatine supplement.

I'm aware that soreness relief can be influenced by other factors such as diet, but I suggested to my friend that the best explanation for his soreness relief was the fact that he consumed creatine.

However this led to a backlash from my gym partner and his analogy was that "some believe lemsip cures the cold, it doesn't mean its true" and then posited that I have a belief system and that "I believe creatine helps" in the same manner as a rebuttal to my argument.

My friend decided to make the argument that just because we believe in something, it doesn't mean that it is true. He used this to argue against my idea that creatine helps muscle soreness. He stated that I only hold a belief in the helpfulness of creatine, and that this does not make what I believe true. His conclusion was that my argument (creatine is the best explanation for his soreness relief) was wrong.

Question

I feel that my friend may be guilty of a straw man fallacy or something, but I am not too sure. Could you suggest where his reasoning has gone wrong?

  • Could you clarify what your argument actually is? If your argument is just "I feel that creatine does help", then I think your friend's argument is warranted. – Five σ Mar 30 '15 at 10:42
  • Hi :) I feel that I need to know what your actual argument is before I can provide an answer, so I deleted my answer for the time being. I will of course update my answer if you could clarify what your actual argument is. – Five σ Mar 30 '15 at 10:45
  • I've offered my thoughts as an answer. I will revisit them at a later date if needs be. – Five σ Mar 30 '15 at 12:13
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Part of what your friend is saying does have some truth to it. Just because someone believes that X is the case, it doesn't follow that X is actually the case.

However this led to a backlash from my gym partner and his analogy was that "some believe lemsip cures the cold, it doesn't mean its true" and then posited that I have a belief system and that "I believe creatine helps" in the same manner as a rebuttal to my argument.

However, what your friend seems to be doing is that he is highlighting a feature of your disposition (your beliefs), and then using this in order to refute your argument.

In other words:

You: My argument is that the calming of your soreness can be best explained by creatine consumption.

Him: Just because you believe in something, it doesn’t make it true. You believe that creatine helps soreness, this doesn’t make it true. Your argument that creatine helps soreness is therefore wrong.

Whilst your friend's ideas about beliefs have some merit, they are actually irrelevant to the argument at hand. Your argument could very well be wrong, but not for the reasons that he has presented.

This is because he is attacking your beliefs instead of your argument. For your friend's argument to be successful, he needs to attack the notion of creatine helping soreness, rather than attacking the idea that you hold a belief in the utility of creatine with respect to soreness.

Therefore, I would say that he is guilty of ad hominem. Nevertheless, I don't think that hunting fallacies and then accusing something of committing fallacy X is particularly useful. Rather, you should be able to explain where the reasoning has gone wrong, and you don't need to know the name of a fallacy in order to do that.

P.S. What should be noted is that the impact of creatine on soreness is an empirical issue. If you guys intend to debate the notion that creatine reduces muscle soreness, you have to bring some empirical support to the table.

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