I recently had a conversation with someone in which they used an example to illustrate a point:
"For example, if you tell me something [which isn't scientifically proven to be effective] works and I try it five times and don't notice a difference, but you've been doing it for 15 years... [maybe it not working after 5 times doesn't mean it doesn't work]."
I agreed that the experience in doing that thing could contribute to it working or not, and that just because it hasn't worked after 5 times of practice doesn't mean it's ineffective.
However, I then said:
"and at the same time if that thing has not been scientifically shown to work I have to make a judgement call on whether it is worth continuing to invest time and effort in that thing knowing that it could take some uncertain amount of time, like up to 15 years, to maybe see the benefit"
My conversation partner said that I was misinterpreting his example, and that assuming it would take up to 15 years is inaccurate and that I was somehow skewing the point - eg what if the person had a community of thousands of people for whom it worked in two weeks? He said I made assumptions about the time frame when I should have asked for more information.
To me it seemed like this was changing the example under my feet after he'd used the original example to prove his own point. Then when I tried to use the same example, he claimed I shouldn't assume that this is all the information we have, and that I should have asked/clarified before using the example. I did not think we were even disagreeing with each other about the original points, but at that point it turned into a debate about my usage of his example.
With the information I had in the example I could only say that it might take anywhere between 5 times and 15 years - maybe it would be a few days, maybe it would be a few months, maybe it would be years, etc...so aside from changing the example it seems like that doesn't negate my point anyway, which was that with something unproven one would have to make a judgement call with whatever information they had to see if it's worth the time investment for something that may or may not work. It feels like we went off on some peripheral tangent arguing about an example when the original point still stands anyway. However, being told that I misinterpreted the example when I only used the same example he did to make his point bothered me, and that's what this question is mostly about.
- Is my conversation partner right that I made assumptions that I shouldn't have in using his example as it was presented without asking for more information?
- Am I right in that providing an example and then claiming that the other person should have asked for more information when they use the same example, is not really a fair expectation?
- Is one of these viewpoints (or both?!) some kind of logical fallacy that I could read more about?
Things I've tried:
- Googling for a term for this
- Reading about common fallacies here:
Based on the above I thought maybe I was making a Strawman fallacy, but I don't think I was skewing or changing his original example - I used the information given, but the claim is that I should've asked him for more information before making any point with the original example.
For a second I thought maybe he made the No True Scotsman fallacy, above it states "the speaker amends the terms of the claim" (in this case the example), but the example given on the page above makes me doubt its relevance.
The fact that the debate about my usage of the example doesn't really seem to negate the thing I was trying to say also makes me believe that he may have made a 'Red Herring' fallacy: "We were talking about trying something that hasn't been scientifically proven to work, but you bring up the idea that I used your example wrongly even though it does nothing to negate my point". However, I now actually care about whether I did use the example wrongly, so that is where I am looking for a fallacy or point of failure in either of our arguments.
Thanks for your input!