cherry picking

“Cherry picking” describes a situation where only select evidence is presented in order to persuade the audience to accept a position, and any evidence against the position is withheld. It’s a hallmark of poor science or pseudo-science.

A one-sided argument (aka card stacking, stacking the deck, ignoring the counter-evidence, slanting, and suppressed evidence) is an informal fallacy that occurs when only the reasons supporting a proposition are supplied, while all reasons opposing it are omitted.

“Cherry picking” may be committed intentionally or unintentionally. Cherry picking or “quote mining” in debates constitutes a large problem as the facts themselves are true but need to be put in context. Because research cannot be done live and is often untimely, cherry-picked facts or quotes usually stick in the public mainstream and, even when corrected, lead to widespread misrepresentation of groups targeted.

The term comes from the process of harvesting fruit, such as cherries. The picker would  select only the ripest and healthiest fruits, causing an observer to wrongly conclude that all tree’s fruit is in a likewise good condition. “Cherry picking” has a negative connotation as the practice neglects or directly suppresses evidence that could lead to a complete picture.

Philosophy professor Peter Suber has written: “The one-sidedness fallacy does not make an argument invalid. It may not even make the argument unsound. If we have been one-sided, though, then we haven’t yet said enough to justify a judgment. The arguments on the other side may be stronger than our own. We won’t know until we examine them. So the one-sidedness fallacy doesn’t mean that your premises are false or irrelevant, only that they are incomplete.”

The phenomenon can be applied to any subject and has wide applications. Whenever a broad spectrum of information exists, appearances can be rigged by highlighting some facts and ignoring others. Card stacking can be a tool of advocacy groups or of those groups with specific agendas. 

For example, an enlistment poster might focus upon an impressive picture, with words such as “travel” and “adventure,” while placing the words, “enlist for two to four years” at the bottom in a smaller and less noticeable point size.

And the words “You may die,” never appear.

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