Logical Fallacies to Avoid

A plot hole in a book or movie is when one section of the story is illogical- it just doesn’t make sense.

For instance, in Harry Potter, when the Weasley twins don’t notice a man who’s supposed to be dead hanging out in their brother’s dorm room every night, or in Iron Man, how every suit seems to fit everyone, regardless of size or height. A logical fallacy is much the same. It’s a hole in your thinking, in your logic. Here is a list of logical fallacies that people find themselves using a lot more than they think. Note that the examples are purely that: examples. They’re not meant to target someone’s views, they’re just meant to get the point across.

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Ad Hominem Attacking an opponent’s personality, character, or morals to undermine their argument. Example: “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?” –Donald Trump, speaking about opponent Carly Fiorina. Ambiguity Using vague wording or double meanings to either mislead or misrepresent the truth. Example of misleading: Using the phrases God is love and love is blind, I can conclude that Stevie Wonder, who was blind, is God. Example of misrepresenting: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” –Bill Clinton, 1998, using the very narrow definition of ‘sex’ found in law and the dictionary.

Anecdotal Using a personal experience or an isolated event instead of statistics or facts as a compelling argument. Example: Concluding that owning dogs isn’t safe for anyone because of a story you read in the papers about an attack. Appeal to Authority Claiming that since someone in a position of authority said it, it must be true. Example: In the 1600’s, the vast majority of people believed that the Earth was the center of our solar system simply because the Catholic Church said it was, and when Galileo brought proof of heliocentrism, people took the Catholic Church’s word as proof. Appeal to Emotion Attempting to illicit an emotional response rather than make a persuasive argument.

Example: “As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice.” –Adolf Hitler, appealing to the people’s senses of truth, justice, and religion. Appeal to Nature Claiming that because something is natural, it is ideal or valid. Example: Saying that since marijuana is natural, it must be good for you. Bandwagon Using popularity or ‘many people do/use this’ as evidence that something is good. Example: Hillary Clinton pulled most of the votes in the Democratic primaries of 2016.

Therefore, she would make a great president. Begging the Question Making your conclusion your premise; basically leading your argument around in a circle. Example: I can tell you that ghosts are 100% real because I’ve experienced what can only be called a ghostly visit. Black or White Presenting only two possible options when in fact there are other possibilities. Example: You’re either with me or against me.

Burden of Proof Saying that the burden of proof lies with the person trying to disprove it, not the person claiming it to be true. Example: Since you cannot definitively disprove the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, it does exist. Composition and Division Saying that if you can apply something to one part, it can be applied to all (composition), or that what you say about the whole can apply to all the parts (division). Example of composition: Atoms are not visible to the human eye. I am made of atoms. Therefore, I am not visible.

Example of division: I heard about a cover-up in Organization A. Johnny, who works at Organization A, must be involved. Distinction without Difference Calling two statements different based on wording, when in fact they are the same, whether through actual meaning or through practice. Example: We need to judge this issue by what the Constitution says, not what we think it says. Dogmatism Being completely and totally unwilling to so much as consider an opponent’s point. Example: You’ve provided evidence and shown logic in your argument that smoking is not good for your health, but I just don’t believe it and I’m not accepting your argument.

Fallacist’s Fallacy Saying that just because someone else’s argument included a fallacy or was poorly argued, their claim must not be true. Example: I speak German, therefore, I claim that I am German. Someone else points out that I cannot be German, because my argument contained a package-deal fallacy. However, that itself is a fallacy since I may or may not actually be German. False Cause A connection between two subjects means that one is the cause of the other. Example: It’s dark outside now, so it’s dangerous.

Gambler’s Fallacy Taking something as the case because it is likely or possible to happen. Example: Murphy’s Law- if something can go wrong, it will go wrong. Genetic Coming to a conclusion based on where or from whom something came from. Example: The local news claimed that a politician has been involved in a smuggling ring. Well, everyone knows about the news’s credibility, though. Homunculus Fallacy Providing an explanation that actually explains nothing.

Example: Eva asks Vincent where all life comes from. Vincent says that life came to Earth from when aliens deposited microorganisms here. Loaded Question Asking a question in such a way that no matter how the opponent responds, they look guilty. Example: Have you stopped taking illegal drugs? (Saying yes implies that you did at one point take illegal drugs; saying no implies that you still are. Even if you denied the claim, the damage is done.) Middle Ground Saying that a compromise or even point between two extremes must be the case.

Example: “You know her version of events; no one’s even heard mine. As a lawyer, you must know that the reality lies somewhere in the middle.” –Kilgrave in Jessica Jones. Moral Equivalency Implicating the equivalence or similarity between two moral issues. Example: When you send soldiers overseas to fight in other countries, you’re basically just sending terrorists because they both kill people.

Nirvana Fallacy Comparing a realistic situation to an idealistic one, dismissing the realistic situation because it cannot compare to the impossible standard. Example: Why bother lowering the drinking age if kids can get alcohol anyway? No True Scotsman Claiming that anyone or anything with negative traits or actions to their name is not truly part of a specific set after having stated a universal claim. Example: After making a claim that Christians are peaceful people and always have been, someone mentions the Crusades. To which you say, “Well, they weren’t actually Christian. Real Christians don’t do that.” Package Deal Assuming that thing must either always be grouped together, or will have disastrous impact if separated.

Example: This politician is liberal, and he supports higher taxes. It stands to reason, then, that he will also support tougher gun laws and open borders. Personal Incredulity Also called ‘appeal to the stone’, this is when something is called absurd with no proof that it is actually absurd. Example: You’re saying that non-Muslims make up the majority of terrorists? That’s crazy; you have no idea what you’re talking about. Slippery Slope If one thing is allowed to happen, then something else will happen, and therefore the first thing shouldn’t happen. Example: If we allow same-sex couples to marry, then the next thing you know, people will want to marry their cars and the neighbor’s guinea pig.

Special Pleading Making an exception when one’s claim is shown to be invalid or false. Example: Politicians say that discrimination isn’t okay- you can’t refuse to hire someone because of race or gender. But they also claim that you can refuse an LGBT person because ‘homosexuality is a choice’. Strawman Misrepresenting the opponent’s argument to make it easier to attack. Texas Sharpshooter Cherry-picking certain statistics while ignoring others to give one’s argument a boost, regardless of whether it is actually relevant.

Example: A creationist claims that an organic molecule formed out of nowhere is too random and too unlikely to be true, so the evidence points to intelligent design. The argument did not take into consideration any scientific proof at all. And there you have it- some of the most commonly used logical fallacies. So if you’re going to debate, make sure that these holes are patched- while some people might not notice, others will, and it will make your point harder to argue. Also, some of them are just really frustrating to have to deal with. Looking forward to fallacy-free arguments!