Logical Fallacies Part 2

There are so many logical fallacies, I didn’t think the 1100 words I gave in the first post were enough to describe the wide array of errors people commit on an almost-constant basis.  So I thought I would give some more examples.

False Dilemma
A false dilemma fallacy occurs when only 2 options are put forward to explain potential outcomes, when in fact, there are many more possibilities.  For example:

John:  “Either the screeching we heard last night was bigfoot, or I’m a monkey’s uncle”
Jack:  “Couldn’t the screeching have been something other than bigfoot?”
John:  “Nope…”

Causal Reductionism
This is very similar to ignoring a common cause.  The difference is that in Causal Reductionism, a collection of interrelated events led to an outcome.  For example:

John:  “I prayed, and that made my cancer go away”
Jack:  “You don’t think it had anything to do with medicine and chemotherapy?”
John:  “No, it was the prayer”

Red Herring
Red herring might be the most commonly invoked logical fallacy, and often, it’s hard to spot.  The example often used to describe red herring is the story of a hunting dog that is tracking a wounded bird.  Someone brings a dead fish (red herring) to draw the dog off the bird’s scent.  So, red herring is simply the use of a non-related topic to draw people off the current topic.  For example:

Jack:  “Claims about bigfoot are not reasonable”
John:  “Do you realize how many claims are unreasonable?  Think about all the people who claim they were abducted by aliens”
Jack:  “What do aliens have to do with bigfoot?”

In the above conversation, aliens are irrelevant to the point Jack was trying to make.  Had Jack not been so astute about John’s logical fallacy, he might have gotten drawn into a debate about alien abductions, and the topic of bigfoot would have gotten missed altogether.

Special Pleading
A special pleading occurs when a person attempts claims that their specific claim is special and different than most other claims of a similar nature.  For example:

John:  “Obviously alien abductions, the abominable snowman, and the Loch Ness monster are ridiculous on their surface.  But I’m not talking about them.  I’m talking about the North American Bigfoot!”
Jack:  “How is that different?”
John:  “Bigfoot is completely different!”

Sometimes it is a challenge to respond to logical fallacies a person commits, because their fallacy does not necessarily mean they’re wrong.  It just means that the argument is poorly formed, and the evidence put forward does not agree with the conclusions of the claim.

I think that watching out for logical fallacies, even when that’s directed towards people who might have similar opinions to ourselves, is an honest way to approach the world, and the best way to avoid making bad decisions when determining how to understand reality, and it is one of the best methods we have to separate fact from fiction.


Author: Tim...Stepping Out

Tim Stepping Out

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