Fresh AiR SciPhi - Youtube Show
Fresh AiR SciPhi - Youtube Show

What is a fallacy?

A fallacy is an error in reasoning, it doesn’t necessarily make the conclusion false, but the reasoning to get there is fallacious and needs to be refined.

We are going to provide a number of examples of statements and lines of thought that are fallacious, and times where people might shout fallacy when they are not.

Some of these statements are might seem a little glib, this is due to me giving a concise version of the statement, but if anyone wants them expanded on, please let us know.

Ad Populum Fallacy

The Ad Populum Fallacy describes someone drawing the conclusion to be true based purely on the fact that many people believe it

Theist

More people believe in a god than don’t, and most people believe in my god, therefore my god is real

Atheist

Most atheists I speak to say atheism is ONLY defined as a lack of belief in gods, therefore that is the only definition of atheism.

Times when it is not a fallacy

Generally, we find with in subjects of professionals that disagree heavily on things, like history, science, or philosophy, when a large percentage are agreeing with each other, it is likely this is the case, or at least what the evidence is currently pointing to.

Strawman

A straw man is when you make an argument someone is not making as it is more easily defeasible than the actual argument they are making.

Theist

(In response to a discussion about evolution) Yeah, well as an atheist you believe everything came from nothing.

Atheist

Faith is believing things without any evidence. (This is not actually how many theists define it, especially within academic circles)

Theists never provide any evidence for their claims. (This is a misunderstanding of evidence, which is indicative. What they mean is the evidence is weak/unconvincing.)

Times when it is not a fallacy

The Strawman is always a fallacy, but there are times when it is shouted out incorrectly.

For example, you might ask a question ‘Do you mean x?’ trying to clarify the position, or you understand that if they say X, Y follows, so you explain why X and Y don’t work, and they say ‘I never said Y, that’s a strawman’

Appeal to Ignorance (argumentum ad ignorantiam)

It asserts that a proposition is true because it has not yet been proven false or a proposition is false because it has not yet been proven true

Theist

My god is real because you have not proved it false.

Atheist

Your god is false because you have not proved it true.

Times when it is not a fallacy

Popper’s falsification, based on fallibilism, is used in science constantly. To be brief, it is the ongoing testing process that goes ‘so far we have not proved this false, so we can consider it true for now’

False Dilemma/False Dichotomy

The False Dilemma is a type of informal fallacy, more specifically one of the correlative-based fallacies, in which a statement falsely claims an “either/or” situation, when in fact there is at least one additional logically valid option.

Theist

If you don’t vote republican, you’re not a true Christian. (which is also a no true Scotsman but that’s a different topic)

Atheist

You can only be theist or atheist there is no middle ground

Times when it is not a fallacy

  • When there is a genuine dichotomy, e.g. the light switch is either in an on or off position

Slippery Slope

The slippery slope is a fallacy that is how it sounds. It is a logical fallacy in which a party asserts that a relatively small first step leads to a chain of related events culminating in some significant effect.

Theist

If we allow homosexuals to marry then next will be children and animals.

Atheist

Letting Catholics babysit kids will lead to lots of child molestation because the Catholic Church enables child molestation.

Times when it is not a fallacy

When there is perfectly logical reasoning to back this up, consider how if you allowed a child to choose their food every night, they are likley to choose more unhealthy options, fast foods, icecream etc, this in turn will lead to them becoming overweight and potentially any number of issues. This may not be EVERY child, but the majority would probably go this way.

Circular Argument (petitio principii)

Circular reasoning is a logical fallacy in which the reasoner begins with what they are trying to end with. The components of a circular argument are often logically valid because if the premises are true, the conclusion must be true

Theist

The bible is flawless because it is the word of god because it says so in the bible therefore it is flawless

Atheist

Atheism is the more rational position, and only rational people are atheists therefore as an atheist I am a rational person because I hold the more rational position and therefore everything that I say is rational because atheism is the more rational position.

Times when it is not a fallacy

There are certain tautologies that work because they work… consider the correspondence theory of truth, it becomes quite circular when you consider facts, reality, and truth but it works, as do things like logic.

Hasty Generalization

The Hasty Generalization is a fallacy in which a conclusion that is reached is not logically justified by sufficient or unbiased evidence.

Theist

Atheists are just rebelling against God because they don’t want to be judged for their sins

Atheist

All theists are irrational and too stupid to understand science

Times when it is not a fallacy

When it’s just a generalisation and used to specify common traits that might appear, ie. ‘As atheists tend to favour naturalism’, ‘Christians tend to go to church on a Sunday’.

Red Herring Fallacy (ignoratio elenchi)

A red herring is something that misleads or distracts from a relevant or important question. It may be either a logical fallacy or a literary device that leads readers or audiences toward a false conclusion.

Theist

I am pretty sure that evolution is not a very good explanation for human life. Anyway, I am pretty offended that anyone would suggest that I came from a monkey.

Atheist

There is no mention of Jesus in any Roman writings contemporary to him, therefore Jesus cannot be based on a historical figure.

Times when it is not a fallacy

The red herring is always a fallacy but there are times when this is miscalled, much like the strawman, there are times sometimes where if A is true B follows, and someone might call you out in a red herring for addressing B.

Tu Quoque Fallacy

Tū quoque, or the appeal to hypocrisy, is an informal fallacy that intends to discredit the opponent’s argument by attacking the opponent’s own personal behaviour as being inconsistent with the argument’s conclusion.  It is answering a criticism with a criticism.

Theist

I might have faith, but so do atheists.  It takes more faith to not believe in God then it does to believe in God.

Atheist

Science might not have all the answers, but believe in things based on faith and faith is never a path to truth.

Times when it is not a fallacy

It’s always a fallacy.  It’s a fancy way of describing name calling.

Causal Fallacy

It’s a fallacy brought about by attributing a false cause during the argument.  During reasoning A is attributed as the cause for B when A is not related to B.  Every time I go out it rains; therefore, it is me going out that causes it to rain.

Theist

I couldn’t find my car keys, so I prayed to Allah.  Then I remembered they were on the kitchen counter, therefore Allah helped me find my car keys.

Atheist

Catholic priests molest children after joining the Church, therefore the Catholic religion causes child molestation.

Times when it is not a fallacy

It’s always a fallacy because it is attributing a false cause and coming to a conclusion based on that falsehood.

Genetic Fallacy

The genetic fallacy (also known as the fallacy of origins or fallacy of virtue) is a fallacy of irrelevance that is based solely on someone’s or something’s history, origin, or source rather than its current meaning or context

Theist

That site is run by atheists so their information must be wrong

Atheist

Stanford University has religious roots therefore everything on there is invalid

Times when it is not a fallacy

It can be argued this is always a fallacy, however we could perhaps allow it if source X has been consistently debunked about subject Y, and they make yet another post about subject Y, however, this is still fallacious and we should at least skim the article for the content to see if there has been a shift in opinion.

Poisoning the Well

Poisoning the well is a type of informal fallacy where adverse information about a target is pre-emptively presented to an audience, with the intention of discrediting or ridiculing something that the target person is about to say.

This, in some regards, is similar to a genetic fallacy, essentially you poison the well which in turn makes others commit a genetic fallacy.

Theist

Atheists cannot be trusted because they do not believe in God, and you need God to have morals.

Atheist

Theists believe in imaginary friends, and are therefore completely irrational.

Times when it is not a fallacy

It’s always a fallacy.

Etymological Fallacy

The etymological fallacy is a genetic fallacy that holds that the present-day meaning of a word or phrase should necessarily be similar to its historical meaning. This is a linguistic misconception, and is sometimes used as a basis for linguistic prescription.

This can also be extended to ‘an argument from etymology’ in the sense that we use the etymology of a word to fully define it, often ignoring the etymology is not the same as use/definition.

Theist

I’ve not actually seen theists do this one.

Atheist

Ra: I use the original definition of atheism, therefore it is the correct one. (not to mention he doesn’t as he proved writing his own article, but the original use would not make it automatically ‘correct’)

Ra: The etymology of agnostic is without knowledge, therefore that is the only definition of agnostic.  (Except that’s not actually its use, it is one use with lay people but not the only one)

Times when it is not a fallacy

When you’re not being prescriptive and just having a discussion.

Guilt by association

A guilt by association fallacy occurs when someone connects an opponent to a demonized group of people or to a bad person in order to discredit his or her argument. The idea is that the person is “guilty” by simply being similar to this “bad” group and, therefore, should not be listened to about anything.

Theist & Atheist

Theists and atheists are both guilty of doing this to each other. People will also do it to others too.

Times when it is not a fallacy

It’s always a fallacy.

Reductio ad Absurdum

In logic, reductio ad absurdum, also known as argumentum ad absurdum, apagogical arguments, negation introduction or the appeal to extremes, is the form of argument that attempts to establish a claim by showing that the opposite scenario would lead to absurdity or contradiction.

In some respect this is like the slippery slope fallacy, except you miss the path down the slope and end up with an extreme result.

Times when it is not a fallacy

When it’s used a rhetoric device in order to point out genuine flaws in the argument, rather than reducing it to the absurd simply to dismiss it.

The GI Joe Fallacy

When the arguer believes that being in possession of knowledge about fallacies means that they do not commit fallacious reasoning.  Their understanding of fallacies makes them immune to fallacious reasoning.

The Fallacy Fallacy

When an arguer claims that an argument contains fallacious reasoning and therefore the conclusion of the argument is wrong.

Made up Fallacies

Through debate online, response to our articles, and just general discussion, we have discovered some faulty arguments that, whilst might not quite fulfil the parameters of a formal fallacy, show faulty reasoning/conclusions that seem quite common.

The Oh Mann

The ‘Oh Mann’ or ‘Appeal to Free Speech’ is an error in reasoning that states that due to having free speech you can define words as you please and no one can correct you, inclusive of ignoring contextually correct definitions.

This is often combined with a special plead, in which you expect someone to accept your definitions without having to accept theirs.

Argumentum ex Ignorantium Populum

The ‘Argumentum ex Ignorantium Populum’ (‘vulgaris argumentum ex ignorantia’), ‘Argument from Popular Ignorance’, or ‘Argument FOR Ignorance’ is a combination of ‘Tu Quoque’ and ‘Willful Ignorance’ based on how ‘most others’ don’t understand the topic/logic, so why should you take the time to learn about it. You essentially build yourself a straw house of erroneous statements but refuse to see how easily at has been blown down by anyone with knowledge on the topic.

This can be seen by folks such as creationists who refuse to learn the science of evolution, or atheists who refuse to learn the philosophy behind morality or beliefs.

And example of this can be found in this post here.

The Wee Willy Winkler

The ‘Wee Willy Winkler’ or ‘Argumentum ab Ego’ is an argument from ego. Typically the person is an egomaniac, possibly brain-damaged, and has such an inflated opinion of themselves and their ‘metacognitive’ abilities they assume they are always right, everyone disagreeing with them is wrong, and it is everyone else suffering the Dunnin-Kruger, not them.

The irony is that due to this inflated ego, and overestimation of abilities, one misunderstands everything with the most amazing precision but is so obsessive that one must be right they cannot let the topic go, flailing around for anything that backs up their position, operates on confirmation bias, e.g. using Urban Dictionary as an authority for definitions, and spends more time speaking in fallacies than Ken Ham would whilst discussing evolution.

An example of this can be found here.

Watch this video on YouTube.

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