Fallacy Friday!

Today's Logical Fallacy is... Half Truth!

(Cherry-Picking, Card Stacking, Incomplete Information, Texas Sharpshooter, suppressed evidence, fallacy of incomplete evidence, argument ...

Friday, December 11, 2015

Today's Logical Fallacy is... Argument from Ignorance!

(Argumentum ex Silentio, Ad Ignoratiam, Appeal to Ignorance)

This fallacy occurs when individuals take the lack of information about a certain subject as proof of either its existence or nonexistence. Essentially, it’s the belief that something is true because we don’t know it isn’t true, or, conversely, the disbelief in something because we don’t know that it is true. It is often used to justify a position that lacks a certain amount of evidence: proponents of extrasensory perception argue that because we don’t know everything there is to know about the brain that the brain can then send signals; UFO believers often use this argument when they argue that the lack of knowledge about lights or objects in the sky are proof of the existence of UFOs.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Today's Logical Fallacy is...Personal Incredulity!

(Argument from Incredulity)

This fallacy occurs when someone dismisses something because they personally don’t understand it or can’t imagine how it would work. The basic level of understanding by any one person or even a majority does not dictate what is or is not false. Just because the concepts might be difficult to understand doesn’t make them impossible. Otherwise, most scientific advances that we take for granted today wouldn’t exist. This fallacy is related to the argument from ignorance, the difference being that ignorance comes from a lack of knowledge whereas incredulity comes from a lack of understanding or imagination.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Today's Logical Fallacy is... Bandwagon!

(argument from common sense, argumentum ad populum [“appeal to the people”], appeal to the crowd, appeal to the masses, appeal to belief, appeal to the majority, appeal to democracy, appeal to popularity, argument by consensus, consensus fallacy, authority of the many, and bandwagon fallacy, argumentum ad numerum ["appeal to the number"], consensus gentium ["agreement of the clans"])

This fallacy occurs when someone suggests that something is true because it is popular. The flaw here is that the popularity of a position does not guarantee that it is valid. Opinions can be popular for a variety of reasons: cultural custom, religious belief, lack evidence to the contrary, small sample size, and pressures to conform to the norm. Essentially, this is the fallacy of “peer pressure.” It is also often reversed in order to convince people to “step out of the norm.”

Friday, November 20, 2015

Today's Logical Fallacy is...Argument from Consequences!

(argumentum ad consequentiam, appeal to consequences of a belief, argument to the consequences)

This fallacy occurs when someone argues that something cannot be true because the consequences are unacceptable (or is true because the consequences are desirable). This is a fallacy for several reasons: 1) desirability is a subjective concept; 2) it seeks to convince through an emotional appeal as the consequences often evoke fear or desire; and 3) it is teleological in nature (reverses cause in effect) by asserting that something is caused by its own effect. The consequences of something are irrelevant to whether or not it actually exists; children may behave well if they believe in Santa, but that does not mean that Santa must exist.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

"Because I Have Been Given Much": Why We Don't Have to Repeat 1939

With the recent terrorist attacks in Beruit and Paris (among other places), I was among many who watched, listened, and read in horror and heartache for those who have lost their loved ones. Social media erupted with images and videos expressing love and support for those who were hurting. Moments of silence and candlelight vigils were planned across the country, and many wanted to know what they could do to help.

It didn't take long, however, for the shock to devolve into fear. Within days, if not hours, the tragedies were turned into opportunities for political activism


Instead of hearing, "We love you," I began to hear, "Leave us alone." 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Today's Logical Fallacy is... “We Have to Do Something!"

(Politician's syllogism)

A very dangerous contemporary fallacy, this one arises when tragedies and crises triggers the response: “We have to do something!” – regardless of whether or not that “something” is an overreaction, ineffective, or even makes things works. The logic, or lack thereof, usually flows like this:

1. We must do something.
2. This is something.
3. Therefore, we must do this.

Friday, November 6, 2015

"Family First" Includes Same-Sex Families: Why the LDS Church Updated Its Policies Concerning Same-Sex Marriage



Anyone who knows me knows that I am an ally of the LGBTQ community and have long-supported their right to equal protections under the law. So you can imagine my response when I read that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints updated their policy concerning the definitions of apostasy (and includes the possibility of excommunication) to include individuals who are in a same-sex marriage. It also added a policy concerning children of parents who are in a same-sex cohabitation or marriage that requires two things in order for a child to become baptized:
  1. The child "accepts and is committed to live the teachings and doctrine of the Church and specifically disavows the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage," and 
  2. The child must be "of legal age" and not living "with a parent who has lived or currently lives in a same-gender cohabitation relationship or marriage."
I was stunned. 


Today's Logical Fallacy is... Tu Quoque!

[pronounced “too-KWO-kwee”] (Two Wrongs Make a Right, Look Who’s Talking, The Appeal to Hypocrisy, a variety of the Ad Hominem, related to Red Herring) 

Literally translating as “you too,” this fallacy attempts to justify a wrong action because someone else also does it. It’s commonly used as a red herring because it distracts from the real argument, and the one employing it manages to avoid having to defend their argument. Many who use this argument do so to avoid moral blame for their actions (or inactions), but just because he or she is not alone in his or her morally corrupt position does not mean that his or her position is justified. It is also common in revenge scenarios: “Well, my girlfriend cheated on me, so I’m going to cheat on her.”

Friday, October 30, 2015

Today's Logical Fallacy is....Appeal to Emotion!

(Argumentum ad Misericordiam, Playing to Emotions, Appeal to Pity, "E" for Effort, Noble Effort, Sob Story)

This fallacy occurs when someone attempts to invoke an emotional response (fear, hope, anxiety, love, surprise, guilt, shame, distress, interest, excitement, joy, anger, disgust sadness, happiness, amusement, peacefulness) instead of using a valid or compelling argument. It’s a fallacy because it’s using emotion instead of logic to make its argument. Almost all humans are affected by emotion, and that makes these appeals exceptionally common and effective (think “scare tactics”). However, they are flawed and dishonest. They also tend to unjustly trigger an emotional response from the opponent. It is important to note that emotional responses may accompany otherwise logical arguments without making them fallacies. Appeals to emotion are often the basis for censorship and bigotry.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Today's Logical Fallacy is... Appeal to Authority!

(Argument from Authority, type of Ad Hominem)

A type of ad hominem, this fallacy occurs when one believes what an authority figure says just because they are an authority figure. In other words, the claim is true because of the identity of the person advancing the claim, often regardless of their knowledge of field, an established consensus, or any biases. The converse of this fallacy is the credential fallacy: rejecting a claim because the individual suggesting it doesn’t have the right authority or degrees.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Today's Logical Fallacy is...Argument from Inertia!

(Stay the Course)

This fallacy occurs when someone argues that we must continue on a course of action even though it has been proven to be a mistake. A variety of the argument from consequences, they defend “staying the course” because changing course would require admitting that they made a wrong decision – which might undermine the authority of the one making the decisions – or would take considerable money, effort, and/or resources in order to change. This fallacy can also be an appeal to tradition if long-standing customs are a part of the argument: “I don't care if the recipe is unhealthy. We’ve always done it this way, so we’re going to continue to do it.”

Friday, October 9, 2015

Today's Logical Fallacy is... False Dichotomy!

(False Dilemma, Black/White Fallacy, Either-Or Reasoning, Fallacy of False Choice, Fallacy of Exhaustive Hypotheses, Fallacy of False Alternative, Fallacy of the Excluded Middle)

Closely related to the straw man fallacy, this occurs when choices are artificially reduced to only two options, ignoring all other alternatives, either intentionally or unintentionally. It implies that there really is only a choice between two extremes with no room for compromise, and it is usually worded in such a way to favor one answer over the other. Not only is this fallacy misleading and dishonest, it impedes rational discussion.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Today's Logical Fallacy is... Overgeneralization!

(Hasty Generalization, Fallacy of Exclusion, Faulty Sign, Hasty Conclusion, Jumping to a Conclusion, Misunderstanding Statistics or Non-Representative Sample, Composition/Division, Sweeping Generalization).

A type of association fallacy, this occurs when you draw a conclusion without sufficient evidence, often using one or two examples as a basis of judgment for all examples. It is frequently applied to group behavior in assuming that the behavior displayed by some is indicative or unique to that entire group when it is actually common to many groups. A small incidence is mistaken for a larger trend.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Today's Logical Fallacy is... Balance Fallacy!

(False Balance, Argument to Moderation, Argumentum ad Temperantium, Golden Mean Fallacy, False compromise, Gray fallacy)

The opposite of the false dichotomy, this fallacy occurs when someone asserts that the extremes are always wrong and the middle ground is always right or when we give equal weight and credence to both sides of an argument regardless of the evidence supporting the sides for the sake of being "fair." This isn’t to say that the middle ground is always wrong; sometimes it may be the best option. It's a fallacy when we assume that the middle ground must be right because it is between two extremes. This fallacy does not occur when pointing out flaws in both sides of an argument while remaining, or appearing to remain, undecided.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Today's Logical Fallacy is... Genetic Fallacy!

(fallacy of origins, fallacy of virtue)

The term “genetic” here refers to the Latin meaning of the word “gen” – to create – usually in reference to the beginning of something. This fallacy is a type of association fallacy where the conclusion is based entirely on the origin of something or someone rather than the actual argument being presented and thus transferring whatever negative or positive association of the origin onto the current argument. It is a fallacy because it offers no relevant argument; the validity of an argument has no bearing on where it came from. This fallacy encompasses a wide variety of other fallacies including the Ad Hominem, Appeal to Ancient Wisdom, Appeal to Authority, Appeal to Nature, Appeal to Tradition, Favoritism, Guilt by Association, Tu Quoque, and “They’re Not Like Us.”

Friday, September 11, 2015

Today's Logical Fallacy is... Dogmatism!


This fallacy occurs when one doctrine is pushed, often intensely, as the only acceptable conclusion and that that belief is beyond question. Dogmatists are unwilling to even consider an opposing argument and believe that they are so correct that they can’t even examine evidence to the contrary. Some even believe that thinking about questioning the position is wrong. Anyone who disagrees with the position is branded as either stupid or evil.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Today's Logical Fallacy is.... Appeal to Tradition!


("If it ain't broke, don't fix it," argumentum ad antiquitatem, Appeal to Antiquity, Appeal to Common Practice, Appeal to the Old, Old Ways are Best, Fallacious Appeal to the Past, Appeal to Age, Proof from Tradition, Appeal to Past Practice, opposite of “Appeal to Innovation”)

This fallacy is based on the argument that an idea, practice, or position is better, correct, justified, and/or acceptable just because it has “always” been practiced or believed. Usually this argument comes from the individuals or group that is served particularly well by that position, and it often takes the form of, “We shouldn't challenge time-honored customs or traditions,” or “We should continue to do things as they have been done in the past.” We often fall subject to this fallacy because we don’t often like change. Not only is it psychologically comforting to adhere to older practices and ideas, sticking with what has always been done is easier and requires less effort.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Today's Logical Fallacy is... Appeal to Nature!



This fallacy stems from the idea that just because something is “natural” means that it is good, valid, justified, inevitable, or ideal. While many “natural” things are “good,” that doesn’t mean that all natural things are good and all unnatural things are bad. For example, infanticide is “natural;” that doesn’t mean it should be considered “good” or acceptable.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Today's Logical Fallacy is... Red Herring!

(Ignoratio Elenchi, Ignorance of Refutation, beside the point, misdirection, changing the subject, false emphasis, the Chewbacca defense, irrelevant conclusion, irrelevant thesis, smokescreen, clouding the issue, judgmental language, fallacy of distraction) 

This fallacy occurs when someone uses an irrelevant distraction, intentionally or unintentionally, to divert or mislead an audience. We most often recognize this as “changing the topic,” but sometimes the topic is so emotionally loaded or the new topic is seemingly related to the original topic that we don’t recognize it. The fallacy gets its name from fox hunting: smoked herrings, often red, are used to throw the hounds from the scent of the fox. Many fallacies are types of red herrings including appeals to pity, consequences, and the straw man fallacy.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Today's Logical Fallacy is... Anecdotal Fallacy!

[the "I know a person who" fallacy]

This logical fallacy is committed when someone rejects or discounts extensive evidence in favor of an isolated or personal experience. This is often used as the basis for the overgeneralization fallacy and is linked to the Post hoc ergo propter hoc (correlation/causation) fallacy, a fallacy that assumes a causal relationship where none exists.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Today's Logical Fallacy is... Association Fallacy!

(They're Not Like Us, Guilt by Association, Honor by Association, a variety of the Ad Hominem and Hasty Generalization)

This fallacy occurs when someone’s argument or position is dismissed (or upheld) because of the group to which that person belongs. Often referred to as the “They’re Not Like Us” fallacy, this is the basis for bigotry and racism. It’s a type of Ad Hominem Fallacy (as it dismisses the argument based on the individual making it), a Red Herring (as it is a distraction from the actual issue), and a Hasty Generalization (as it uses implied stereotypes), and it can often be an Appeal to Emotion (as the stereotypes often invoke an emotional response as means to dismiss the position).

Friday, July 31, 2015

Today's Logical Fallacy is... Complex Question!

(fallacy of presupposition, trick question, fallacy of many questions, loaded question, leading question, presumption of guilt, false question, plurium interrogationum) 

A complex question is a rhetorical technique that poses a question that contains assumptions. It is a fallacy when the assumptions are unjustified or when the question is worded in such a way as to force a particular answer. Complex questions must be challenged and analyzed before they can be answered. When the presupposition contains especially inflammatory or negative connotations, it is most appropriately called a “loaded question.” The recipient of these questions often goes on the defensive, appearing flustered and off-put, resulting in appearing guilty without evidence. This is a very common tactic and, while unethical and manipulative, is often used by attorneys, police officers, journalists, therapists, and social researchers as they tend to elicit confessions and manipulate attitudes. This fallacy is similar to both the begging the question fallacy and the double-barreled question fallacy.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Today's Logical Fallacy is... Reductio ad absurdum!

(Appeal to Extremes, argument to absurdity, argumentum ad absurdum, reduction to the impossible) 

Literally translating as “reduction to absurdity,” this is actually a valid mode of argumentation if used correctly. It is used appropriately when, if the premises lead to a false conclusion, we conclude that we must then reject at least one of the premises. It is a fallacy when, in order to reach the false conclusion, it is extended to an absurd degree using assertions that are not actually in the original argument; in this case, it is not the premise that fails but the logical progression to the conclusion that does. When it is used incorrectly, it often results in a straw man fallacy.


Friday, July 17, 2015

Today's Logical Fallacy is... One Single Proof!

 (“Smoking Gun”)

This fallacy occurs when someone rejects overwhelming circumstantial evidence because of the lack of a single “smoking gun” or specific proof (one that may or may not exist ) and thus declares an entire argument, belief, or position invalid. This is a very common tactic for “denialists,” individuals who deny evidence because the truth contradicts their worldview (usually with the help of a lot of cognitive dissonance). This fallacy is also related to the “Moving the Goalposts” fallacy in which the determination of whether or not the evidence is “good enough” continues to move. This fallacy is seen frequently among global warming denialists, “Birthers,” moon-landing denialists, anti-vaxers, AIDS denialists, holocaust denialists, and creationists.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Today's Logical Fallacy is... Ad Hominem!

(personal attack, poisoning the well, Guilt By Association, Damning the Source, a type of genetic fallacy)

Latin for “to the man,” this fallacy occurs when, in an attempt to undermine or dismiss your opponent’s argument, you attack their personal character instead the validity of the evidence. This is a fallacy because the validity of an argument has nothing to do with the character of the person presenting it. Ad Hominem fallacies don’t address the actual points of the argument; they just dismiss them out of hand. This can be done in overtly (by a direct attack on them) or more subtly (casting doubt on someone’s credibility), and are very common in political campaigns. These attacks are often used to discredit an argument without actually having to debate it and are often used when there is little that can be said to counter the argument itself.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Today's Logical Fallacy is... Blind Loyalty!

(the Nuremberg Defense, Blind Obedience, the "Team Player" appeal, Argument from Inertia, Appeal to Loyalty) 

This very dangerous fallacy occurs when an argument or action is deemed acceptable or correct because an authority figure (parent, boss, commanding officer, adult, coach, etc.) says so. Instead of examining whether or not the idea or order is ethical, reasonable, or moral, they shift the responsibility of their actions to the authority figure, prioritizing loyalty over truth or conscience in order to justify their behavior, behavior that may harmful or criminal.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Common Creationist Complaint: How did biochemical pathways originate?


Common Complaint: How did new biochemical pathways, which involve multiple enzymes working together in sequence, originate? Every pathway and nano-machine requires multiple protein/enzyme components to work. How did lucky accidents create even one of the components, let alone 10 or 20 or 30 at the same time, often in a necessary programmed sequence. Evolutionary biochemist Franklin Harold wrote, “we must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations.”

Monday, June 29, 2015

To my Southern Friends: Are You Sure You Want to Support the Battle Flag?

For many southerners, the Battle Flag (commonly misnomered as "rebel flag" or "Confederate flag") doesn’t mean white supremacy or racial superiority. They, like myself, grew up thinking the flag meant southern pride: pride in a simple life and family time, synonymous with cornbread and pickup trucks. The racial history of the flag wasn’t part of their dialogue growing up, and they have largely been oblivious to the history surrounding the flag and how other people view it. When they see the Battle Flag, they see it as standing up for their culture and lifestyle that is largely mocked and ridiculed by those in other parts of the country, and when they see their symbol being attacked, they feel as though their lifestyle and culture is being attacked as well, resulting in their clinging to it more intensely.

Friday, June 26, 2015

I Celebrate the Supreme Court Ruling Because of my Religion, Not in Spite of It


It is with much joy that I woke up and heard the news this morning: the Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex marriage bans are illegal and these unions must be recognized. I've been a supporter of the legalization of same-sex marriage for years, and today, I'm very proud of my country.

But I'm a Mormon, and Mormons have a history of opposing same-sex marriage.

Today's Logical Fallacy is... Slippery Slope!

This fallacy has been chosen especially in honor of today's Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage!


(Also known as “Snowball Argument,” “Domino Theory”)

The slippery slope fallacy is based on the idea that if we allow one thing to happen (“A”), then it will inevitably lead to a chain reaction of consequences, eventually culminating in something reprehensible (“Z”). 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Defending Family Values - Are You Sure Same-Sex Marriage is the Threat?


"Defend the family!"

"Stand up for family values!"

"The family is under attack!"

Oh, you've heard it. From the pulpit to news media outlets to social media, you've heard about the war on the family. And you know exactly what it is they are referencing:


Same-sex marriage.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Today's Logical Fallacy is.... Equivocation!

(Semantics, Splitting Hairs, Playing With Words, or Using Legalisms, Fallacy of Equivocation, Doublespeak)

This fallacy occurs when someone uses the inherent ambiguity in a word to manipulate the audience by suggesting that a word means something that it doesn’t, often by allowing the meaning of a word to change during the argument and thus invalidating the conclusion. Equivocations are common in the American legal system, newspaper headlines, and anti-science arguments. They are also very effective in humor and satire.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Changing Times



I know, I've been absent for the past few months. Between getting the Evolution/Religion lecture finished and posted, getting ready to start my PhD at the University of Kentucky, and getting ready to move, I've been *super* busy. So I'm sorry. Don't worry; I'll be back posting regularly soon.

BUT...

I did want to let everyone know that the blog itself is shifting a bit in its emphasis. I've focused the past year on science and religion, and I'll continue to write on that, but there are other things that I think are important: religion itself, science outside of the context of religion, politics, culture. You know, life. So the title has been changed to "A Believing Scientist" (same web address), and you'll find a wider range of things being posted here. Especially since I've dropped the pseudonym I used in the beginning ("Rose Huxley"). You can expect to see a bit more of... well, me. I hope you enjoy it. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Herd Immunity: No, It's Not a Hoax

Contrary to popular belief, getting an immunization isn't a magic shield that will forever keep you from catching that virus. Of course, that is undoubtedly the ultimate goal of vaccines, but we're not there yet. The vaccines we have are very effective, but they're not perfect: most people who are vaccinated are fully immune, but a very small portion are only partially immune and may still be susceptible to disease (though they are able to fight off the disease more successfully if they do get it). Because vaccines are not perfect, some people tend to think that they are a big hoax perpetrated by "big pharma" and "big government." This fear is compounded when people misunderstand concepts like herd immunity and have a limited understanding of how vaccines work.

Real Vaccine Victims

I don't believe that a food service worker must be required to wash his hands after using the bathroom. After all, he is capable of making educated choices about his life and his body.

Oh, wait.




Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Common Creationist Complaint: How do evolutionists know that living things weren't designed?



Common Complaint: Living things look like they were designed, so how do evolutionists know that they were not designed? Richard Dawkins wrote, “biology is the study of complicated things that have the appearance of having been designed with a purpose.”Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of the double helix structure of DNA, wrote, “Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.” The problem for evolutionists is that living things show too much design. Who objects when an archaeologist says that pottery points to human design? Yet if someone attributes the design in living things to a designer, that is not acceptable. Why should science be restricted to naturalistic causes rather than logical causes? [1]

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