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What's the name for this logical fallacy:

"Research has shown that X."

"That doesn't matter. In the past, people were convinced that Y but it was then shown that they were wrong. In a few years, we'll probably realize X is wrong too."

  • hasty generalization – user35983 Nov 30 '18 at 16:22
  • This is a crude version of Laudan's pessimistic induction:"Larry Laudan argues that if past scientific theories which were successful were found to be false, we have no reason to believe the realist's claim that our currently successful theories are approximately true." Be careful, the idea is controversial, but in some contexts, at least, it is a reputable argument, not a fallacy. – Conifold Dec 1 '18 at 7:38
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That is probably closest to the genetic fallacy (a conclusion/argument/premise is incorrect because of the source of its claim), but with relevant discussion on "scholarly consensus" discussed below. However, someone in this convo has their definitions confused, so it is possible there is no fallacy.

In discussions like these, "research" is sometimes conflated with "scholarly consensus." In fact, this convo suggests that either person A or person B is getting these terms confused. Scholarly consensus is a combination of appeal to authority and appeal to popularity and is on its own a genetic fallacy. The appeal to authority is debatable (can be correct and useful and can also be false) and the appeal to popularity is even worse. Also, just for fun, I enjoyed Bart Ehrman's discussion on scholarly consensus.

The person's reply seems to be against the notion of the argument from authority, and it is a reasonable objection. As Sagan notes (in link above):

One of the great commandments of science is, "Mistrust arguments from authority." ... Too many such arguments have proved too painfully wrong. Authorities must prove their contentions like everybody else.

There is possible truth in their objection, as has been recorded throughout history. For example, scientists for 30 years were convinced that humans had 24 chromosomes because an authority on the subject said so, and even textbooks had 23 pictured and reports suggested but everyone still held to 24 chromosomes. Other examples would be steady state theory, geocentric universe, Earth's primordial atmosphere, etc. Our understanding changes and morphs. That's the beautiful thing about science. It improves as our understanding increases.

The important takeaway is to distinguish scholarly consensus from the actual research (pure evidence) generally produced in peer-reviewed publications and books. Don't waste time talking only about what people think, talk about why they think it (i.e. the actual evidence). If you want to show that A is true, then show evidence that A is true. Don't just say that person X, Y, and Z all believe that A is true. Show that A is true by proving B, C, and D that imply A. This is how you avoid that kind of rather useless discussion. If someone wants to go against scholarly consensus, then that shouldn't be (in theory) much different than going alongside scholarly consensus; both need to provide support and evidence for their claims. In reality, going against it is just much tougher, will result in ridicule, and generally more evidence will be demanded (think Einstein with all his crazy ideas), though it many times is difficult to give comprehensively and satisfactorily in the early stages of a theory.

In other words, shut up unless you're talking real evidence.

P.S.: I used an argument from authority by quoting Sagan to support mistrust of arguments from authority :)

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    +1. It strikes me as a very crude inductive argument. It's not even properly quantified - 'people' : all people or some people ? Best - Geoffrey – Geoffrey Thomas Nov 30 '18 at 12:34
  • no i disagree (i think). is the PMI a crude inductive argument? – user35983 Nov 30 '18 at 16:21
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I don’t think that is a fallacy. That is a logical explanation to how something can be wrong. Because there is a possibility that eventually it will be wrong. Perhaps a fallacy would be, ‘we were wrong before, but this time we got it right’.

It also is in relation to the question or to the solution. Most things change over time. Nothing is constant. “Man cannot fly”, “only god knows”, “the cat is either alive or dead”, and yes, “2+2=4”, (for Jose).

But all emotion aside it appears to be a causal fallacy because you cannot conclude from the premise.

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