Red Herring Fallacies: The Straw Man Argument
According to our friend Wikipedia, the Straw Man argument is a red-herring fallacy where one party in a debate describes a position that, on the surface, resembles an opponent’s actual view but is easier to refute. Then, in counterpoint, the debating partner attributes an easily refutable position to the opponent (for example, deliberately overstating the opponent’s position). Wikipedia says:
1. Person A has position X.
2. Person B ignores X and instead presents position Y.
Y is a distorted version of X and can be set up in several ways, including:
- Presenting a misrepresentation of the opponent’s position and then refuting it, thus giving the appearance that the opponent’s actual position has been refuted.
- Quoting an opponent’s words out of context — i.e., choosing quotations that are not representative of the opponent’s actual intentions.
- Presenting someone who defends a position poorly as the defender and then refuting that person’s arguments, thus giving the appearance that every upholder of that position, and thus the position itself, has been defeated.
- Inventing a fictitious persona with actions or beliefs that are criticized, such that the person represents a group of whom the speaker is critical.
- Oversimplifying an opponent’s argument, then attacking the simplified version.
3. Person B attacks position Y.
4. Person B draws a conclusion that X is false/incorrect/flawed.
This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because attacking a distorted version of a position simply does not constitute an attack on the position itself.
For example, there has been some lively discussions recently around the notion that CEP is overhyped.
Debate: “CEP is Overhyped.”
Person A: “CEP has been overhyped.”
Person B: “CEP is just hype.”
The point of the discussion by person A was to point out that CEP has been overhyped. Person B has exaggerated this to a harder to defend position, “CEP is mere hype.” or “CEP is just hype.”
From the customer perspective, I don’t think that fallacies and red-herring arguments are good for CEP. Believe me, if we could take an “out of the box” stream processing rules-engine and bolt it on to a network and insure a client it would detect complex fraud, or diagnose network faults accurately, and not put my entire professional reputation on the line, I would do it in a heartbeat.
It is not the speed of the an engine which makes a good CEP engine, it is the capability of the analytics to deliver high-quality, high-confidence complex event detection in real-time.