Critical Thinking: Is someone bad if they work for big oil or big tobacco?

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Guilt by Association < Logical Fallacies < Four Mind Traps < TST Framework < Critical Thinking

If your friends are bad, are you bad?

No, having bad friends or working for a controversial company does not automatically make someone bad. Well, at least that’s the consensus. However, your mother is still correct when she tells you to hang around with good people, because fair or not, people judge.

This is an example of the guilt by association fallacy, which unfairly judges individuals based on their associations rather than their personal actions and character. People may work in industries like big oil, big tobacco, or even controversial companies like Walmart for various reasons, including economic necessity, personal career goals, or a desire to effect change from within. It’s essential to evaluate a person’s actions and beliefs independently, rather than making assumptions based on their employer. Always seek evidence of an individual’s own behavior and contributions before forming a judgment.

Now, if someone is associated with bad people, companies, or anything controversial, it’s reasonable to use that association as a starting point for further investigation. However, it’s important to keep an open mind and avoid jumping to conclusions. Associations can be complex and multifaceted, and a deeper understanding of the context and the individual’s motivations and actions is necessary before making any judgments. This approach ensures a fair and balanced evaluation based on evidence rather than assumptions.

For more on this topic and how to avoid logical fallacies, take the deep dive: Logical Fallacies Overview.

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