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Logical Fallacies

So, what is a logical fallacy? And what the heck does it have to do with Bible study? Well, in short, a logical fallacy is an error in reasoning. In formal argumentation, (such as debate or persuasive writing) arguments take a standard format of premise (what we know) and conclusions (what we can deduce from what we know.) In more practical terms, logical fallacies are argument forms that we should not be persuaded by.

Why shouldn't we be persuaded by them? Well, each logical fallacy is different, but in general, because the premises do not actually lead to the conclusions. These methods may be employed by authors, teachers, and ministers in all fields whether they are deliberately aware of it or not.

Some of these are silly and others are somewhat hard to understand (and even harder to identify in action.) There are many forms of logical fallacies. The list below is only a partial list of some of the more common forms.

In our opinion, the logical fallacies most commonly practiced by members of the Church community are appeals to emotion, untestability, ad hominem, and (among the scholarly) a fallacy we like to call "Quantity of Quotes." It is also our opinion that if these were pointed out whenever they occurred at weekly Church sermons or Bible Study groups, you would almost entirely empty these events from any verbal content. This in turn demonstrates the need for the modern Church to return to a logical approach to truth evaluation.

There is one other important item to note. People, in general, whether trying to persuade others or just express themselves, tend to phrase things in such a way as to make it sound acceptable to those who hear them. As such they may often use words that have ambiguous or vague meanings.

When this phenomenon is done deliberately, whether malevalently (to manipulate or decieve) or benevelently (in order to "preserve unity" or to avoid conflict or offending someone), it inevitably results in deceptive communication. A large part of critical thinking involves clearly defining terms, using clearly defined terms, and identifying when others are not using clearly defined terms, especially when they are doing so deliberately. A great deal of arguments and positions are sustained by the use of confusing or ambiguous terminology.

If you should happen to find any of these faulty argument forms in our writings, please let us know.

Here are some of the most common logical fallacies. (This list was created by compiling information from varying sources.)

Appeals to Emotions Instead of Support
• Appeal to Force: the reader is persuaded to agree by force
• Appeal to Pity: the reader is persuaded to agree by sympathy
• Consequences: the reader is warned of unacceptable consequences
• Prejudicial Language: value or moral goodness is attached to believing the author
• Popularity: a proposition is argued to be true because it is widely held to be true

Style Over Substance: the manner in which an argument (or arguer) is presented is felt to affect the truth of the conclusion

Ad hominem: You attack the person instead of the person's argument or point of view on a subject.
• the person's character is attacked
• the person's circumstances are noted
• the person does not practice what is preached

Fallacies of Ambiguity
• Equivocation: the same term is used with two different meanings
• Amphiboly: the structure of a sentence allows two different interpretations. Example: Last night I shot a burglar in my pyjamas.
• Accent: the emphasis on a word or phrase suggests a meaning contrary to what the sentence actually says. (Example - the captain was sober this morning, or, "It would be illegal to give away Free Beer!"

Faulty Appeal to Authority: citing an authority who may not have expertise on the subject or using phrases like "Sources close to" or "Experts claim."
• the authority is not an expert in the field
• experts in the field disagree
• the authority was joking, drunk, or in some other way not being
• Quantity of Quotes: Assuming that the number of citations and quotes from other authors attests to the validity of the presented conclusions. Conversely, the less quotes and citations, the less valid the conclusions.

We have coined this fourth form of a false appeal to authority to reflect what we believe is a common trend in scholarly writing on any academic issue, unfortunately including theology. Although this is true for any subject, the more controversial the subject the worse the fallacy. This is actually a scholarly form of the Popularity fallacy. This may be particularly coupled with a failure to address the oppositions strongest arguments (Straw Man) while at the same time stacking your book or message with quotes from other people who support your conclusions (Card Stacking).

Missing the Point
• Begging the Question: the truth of the conclusion is assumed by the premises
• Irrelevant Conclusion: an argument in defense of one conclusion instead proves a different conclusion
• Straw Man: the author attacks an argument different from (and weaker than) the opposition's best argument

Begging the question: Asking the reader to assume that something is true without proving it first - especially flawed if that "something" is controversial. This often involves the inclusion of a hidden, or unstated premise. This may take the particular form of a controversial and unproven premise which is essential to proving a conclusion.

Red herring argument: You intentionally digress from the real issue being discussed, introducing a side issue that has nothing to do with the real issue under discussion--in an attempt to remove attention from the real issue. This is often very subtle and the new issue can often seem closely related to the real issue.

Fallacies of Explanation
• Untestability (The theory which explains cannot be tested)
• Limited Scope (The theory which explains can only explain one thing)
• Limited Depth (The theory which explains does not appeal to underlying causes)

Fallacies of Distraction
• Slippery Slope: a series of increasingly unacceptable consequences is drawn
• Complex Question: two unrelated points are conjoined as a single proposition
• False Dilemma: two choices are given when in fact there are other possible options

False Dilemma a.k.a. the Either/Or Fallacy: A limited number of options (usually two) is given, while in reality there are more options. A false dilemma is an illegitimate use of the "or" operator. You assume that taking a certain viewpoint or course of action will result in one of two diametrically opposed outcomes (no other outcomes possible).

Fallacies of Definition
• Too Broad (The definition includes items which should not be included)
• Too Narrow (The definition does not include all the items which shouls be included)
• Failure to Elucidate (The definition is more difficult to understand than the word or concept being defined)
• Circular Definition (The definition includes the term being defined as a part of the definition)
• Conflicting Conditions (The definition is self-contradictory)

Causal Fallacies
• Post Hoc: because one thing follows another, the second s held to be caused by the first
• Joint effect: one thing is held to cause another when in fact they are both the joint effects of an underlying cause
• Insignificant: one thing is held to cause another, and it does, but it is insignificant compared to other causes of the effect
• Wrong Direction: the direction between cause and effect is reversed
• Complex Cause: the cause identified is only a part of the entire cause of the effect

Non sequitur fallacy: Literally translate, "It does not follow." This is an even more illogical connection of cause/effect, in which Event A clearly has nothing to do with Event B. The evidence offered does not support the conclusion that is reached.
• Affirming the Consequent: any argument of the form: If A then B, B, therefore A
• Denying the Antecedent: any argument of the form: If A then B, Not A, thus Not B
• Inconsistency: asserting that contrary or contradictory statements are both true

Inductive Fallacies
• Sweeping or hasty generalization: the sample is too small to support an inductive generalization about a population. You've reached a conclusion based on only a little evidence that might be relevant but is not typical.
• Unrepresentative Sample: the sample is unrepresentative of the sample as a whole
• False Analogy: the two objects or events being compared are relevantly dissimilar; You assume that because two things share some characteristics, they are alike in all respects.
• Fallacy of Exclusion: evidence which would change the outcome of an inductive argument is excluded from consideration

Fallacies Involving Statistical Syllogisms
• Accident: a generalization is applied when circumstances suggest that there should be an exception
• Converse Accident : an exception is applied in circumstances where a generalization should apply

Category Errors
• Composition: because the attributes of the parts of a whole have a certain property, it is argued that the whole has that property
• Division: because the whole has a certain property, it is argued that the parts have that property

Card stacking: If someone says, "The cards were stacked against me," the speaker is saying he/she was never given a fair chance. This is a complicated one--one side may distort evidence or facts presented, suppress evidence, oversimplify or even suppress facts, etc.

Syllogistic Errors
• Fallacy of Four Terms: a syllogism has four terms
• Undistributed Middle: two separate categories are said to be connected because they share a common property
• Illicit Major: the predicate of the conclusion talks about all of something, but the premises only mention some cases of the term in the predicate
• Illicit Minor: the subject of the conclusion talks about all of something, but the premises only mention some cases of the term in the subject
• Fallacy of Exclusive Premises: a syllogism has two negative premises
• Fallacy of Drawing an Affirmative Conclusion From a Negative Premise: as the name implies
• Existential Fallacy: a particular conclusion is drawn from universal premises

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