Perhaps the most common error I see in assertions on the internet (be it in the popular press, blogs, or what have you) is rooted in overstating your case. Quite simply, overstating your case occurs when you state that you have more evidence then you actually do, or when you state that your opponent has less evidence then they actually do. This occurs near rampantly in live debates (especially among the non-scientific), because rhetorically it sounds great to say that you have all the evidence and that your opponent has none, however this is rarely true. And you can see these types of mistakes coming back to haunt people.
For example, Jon Stewart actually got nailed for this recently by Politifact. He first made the statement that polls showed that Fox News viewers were consistently the most misinformed. While this doesn't quite encompass all the nuance of the truth, it's a very defensible statement, and probably would have gotten a "mostly true" rating. However he had the mistake of going one step too far and stating that Fox viewers were the most misinformed "consistently, every poll." That every sets a rather high bar of evidence, and ultimately led to his statement being rated as "false". Credit should be given to Mr. Stewart for going on air and apologizing for his misstatement (It's a sad day when we see greater journalistic integrity from a comedy show then we do from our own free press).
Remember when engaged in rational discussion, it's appropriate to couch your assertions and to question those who do not. You will notice a great deal of this in the scientific literature. Reason deals in probabilities, evidence, and nuance. Rhetoric deals in absolutes, assertions without evidence, and ad hominem. If the person you're listening to is dealing in rhetoric and not reason, you're probably not dealing with a reasonable debate so much as a talking points exchange. State the facts you have, and not more.
Being the cheerful, skeptical fellow that I am, my wife was good enough to point me to this gem from the International Air Transport Association. This is probably due to the skepticism I expressed about the FAA regulation involving the usage of personal electronic devices during takeoff and landing. To be clear, I have no issue with them banning cell phone usage. I could vaguely see how the active broadcast of cell phone signals MIGHT interfere with some of the more sensitive equipment. I still doubt it, but that sounds plausible to me. An e-reader though? Or an iPod? Or a CD Player? Really? You think that the tiny electromagnetic radiation from their power consumption is really going to affect the equipment? If your equipment was that unshielded and sensitive, then your own power consumption would fuck it up.
So did this article from my wife change my opinion on the matter?
I'm still highly skeptical of the entire thing. For starters, the paper that they produced isn't a scientific paper, it's a survey they conducted not trying to find evidence that this occurred, but rather asking crew members if there were any incidents they BELIEVED were caused by passengers using portable electronic devices. No evidence they actually were is needed, just write down your suspicions. Furthermore, they only came up with 75 of those. This survey covered their organization (125 airlines) for the years 2003-2009, or a grand total of 17,520,000 flights, and yet this terrible problem only produces 75 reports? Ridiculous. That's only .0004%. To put that in perspective, the National Transportation Safety Board reported that in the US, during that same period there were 2133 fatal accidents in the United States airline industry. Being that this organization accounts for one quarter of the industry, they should be responsible for 533.25 of them during that same time. So fatal accidents are definitely documented to be seven times the problem that portable electronic devices kinda maybe might be.
Why even produce these kinds of papers if you're just going to use such shoddy methodology and come up with such terrible results that don't even support the position you're trying to put forward? It just undermines everything you're doing and makes you look like you're just producing lying papers to try to iterate unpopular talking points. Verdict: