Logical fallacies/Page 2

Table of Contents


A FairMormon Analysis of:
Logical fallacies

Ecological fallacy

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy assumes that individuals can be accurately described by referring only to analyses of the group to which they belong. The inverse of this is faulty generalization.

  • Argument: "All the Mormons I've met have never had a good response to the polygamy issue. Therefore, my apologist friend doesn't have a good answer to the polygamy issue."
  • Rebuttal: Averages or stereotypes may reveal something true of some members of a group, but they say very little about a specific individual. If the average IQ is 100 in the United States, does that mean that everyone in the US has an IQ of 100?
  • See also:

Faulty generalization

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy makes a false general conclusion based upon individual cases. It is the inverse of fallacies of distribution.

Biased sample

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy draws a false conclusion about a group because the members of the group studied are not typical of the group as a whole.

  • Argument: Mormons all feel oppressed in their religion but don't dare say anything--it's what all my friends on the ex-mormon recovery bulletin board experienced.
  • Rebuttal: The experiences and perspectives of those writing about their 'ex-Mormon experiences' in public are not likely to be representative of the majority of Mormons. This is not to say that their perspectives are of no worth, but they have little utility in explaining how 'most' Mormons look at things, since they have chosen to leave while most Mormons have chosen to stay.

Variation of this fallacy The 'spotlight fallacy' is one example of how such biased samples can be drawn. The things which tend to draw attention tend, by their nature, to be atypical.

  • Argument: "Mormon bishops can't be trusted; I've seen bishops in the paper charged with sexual abuse."
  • Rebuttal: The bishops who appear in the newspaper are not likely to be representative of Mormon bishops generally; the vast majority will go quietly about their work without being noticed or cited for committing crimes. Newspapers never print a headline reading "sun came up this morning in the east"; were the sun to rise in the west, that would be news. But, we would not then be justified in concluding that the sun tends to rise in the west.
  • See also:

Hasty generalization

(Also called fallacy of insufficient statistics, fallacy of insufficient sample, fallacy of the lonely fact, leaping to a conclusion, hasty induction, secundum quid)

Wikipedia entry

This error is made because one does not study enough of a group to understand its characteristics.

Overwhelming exception

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy makes a statement that is accurate, but has so many exceptions and caveats as to be meaningless or of little importance.

  • Argument: "Mormons may have a Church named after Jesus, end every prayer in His name, believe He is the Son of God, have multiple books of scripture dedicated to teaching about Him, teach their members to emulate his life, believe that He is the only route to salvation, and do extensive acts of charity to non-believers, but aside from that they aren't Christian in any meaningful sense."
  • Rebuttal: If none of that counts as "Christian in a meaningful sense," then of what real value does being or not being Christian have?
  • See also:

Genetic fallacy

(or "fallacy of origins")
Wikipedia entry

This fallacy assumes that the origin of an idea is related to whether it is true or not.

  • Argument: "The first mention in the Bible of becoming like God comes from Satan in the Garden of Eden. Therefore, anyone who mentions becoming like God is Satanic."
  • Rebuttal: The truth or falsehood of an idea does not depend on who advocates or opposes it. Jesus also mentioned becoming like God (See Matthew 5:48).
  • See also:

Guilt by association

(also called Association fallacy)
Wikipedia entry

This fallacy condemns an idea because of those who promote it.

  • Argument: "Mormons were involved in the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Therefore, Mormonism is a false religion that promotes violence and murder."
  • Rebuttal: Virutally any idea can have some believer or advocate who is distasteful. This says nothing about whether the idea is true or not. (e.g. Hitler believed the sun rose in the east; this is true, despite Hitler's odious nature.)
  • See also:

Historian's fallacy

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy assumes that historical figures understood events and decisions in the same way (and with access to the same information) that the person analyzing the decision had. This fallacy often involves or is related to the error of presentism.

  • Argument: "Mormons claim Joseph Smith's First Vision was the beginning of the Restoration; Joseph should have publicized and focused upon it. That he did not shows that the idea of being a 'prophet' was a later invention." (See: First Vision accounts).
  • Rebuttal: Events or facts that seem important or obvious in retrospect may not have been prominent (or even noticed) by those participating in the events. Joseph's First Vision was of personal importance to him, but it wasn't until the visits of Moroni and the translation of the Book of Mormon that Joseph seems to have understood his own role in producing the fulness of the gospel.
  • See also:

Homunculus fallacy

Wikipedia entry

Relevance for apologetics?

  • Argument:
  • Rebuttal:
  • See also:

Ideology over reality

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy clings tenaciously to a belief despite the evidence. The belief may not be false, but one must admit that the present state of the evidence does not consist with the belief.

  • Argument: "It doesn't matter if the Book of Mormon appears to be true scripture; the Bible says there can't be any more scripture, so the Book of Mormon must be false."
  • Rebuttal: By definition, this fallacy rejects the evidence which might disprove it. Note that this fallacy does not challenge the evidence, but merely rejects it because it is inconsistent with the speaker's views.

One can only point out that this is occurring (it is a common tactic with anti-Mormon authors who do not want their view of the Bible or religion contradicted). One can also challenged the premises which undergird the ideology.

One might, for instance, attempt to enhance the critic's understanding of:

It is claimed that 'ideology over reality' is the typical Mormon response to information which 'disproves' their belief. They may invoke cognitive dissonance theories to explain this. A response in this instance may require that the member:

  • explain why they do not find the evidence compelling
  • demonstrate why the evidence is mis-stated or misleading
  • introduce additional evidence which they feel is relevant
  • See also:

If-by-whiskey (argues both sides)

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy panders to the audience. It argues both sides of the question, and will therefore appear to support whichever opinion the listener has.

  • Argument: "People have asked me if I'm in favor of freedom of religion. If you mean freedom to practice your faith according to conscience, of course I am. If you mean freedom for the Mormons to support their deceptive leaders, of course not--that should be regulated."
  • Rebuttal: This statement tries to 'have it both ways' or be 'all things to all people.' It hopes that Mormons will hear the idea that they should be free to practice their faith. It also hopes that those who oppose the Mormons will hear the statement that the Mormons' evils (from the practice of their faith) will not be tolerated.
  • See also:

Variations of this fallacy Anti-Mormons commonly do not wish to appear intolerant or bigoted. Furthermore, they must contend with the fact that their audience may know many members of the Church, and so not be willing to apply hostile claims to their friends.

The critic will therefore argue that "most Mormons are honest, friendly, intelligent people." He will then say nothing further about this majority subset of the Church, but will focus on how ignorant, misguided, and hostile to the facts "some" members are. The critic usually slyly slants his report so that it effectively applies to most or all members, even though they have started out trying to appear generous. In this way, when called on the negative distortions, the critic can always plead, "But I'm not talking about all Mormons..." The so-called 'mainstream media' often adopts this tactic (either intentionally or because of manipulation by anti-Mormon critics) in an effort to appear 'balanced'.

Example: from David Hedley, “Leaving the fold," Calgary Herald (Sunday, 30 May 2004): B07.

Begins positive... ...undercuts with negative
  • Church leaders are “genuinely loving.”
  • In the next breath, we’re told that the leaders believe this love “requires that they mislead their followers”. The love is, therefore, a sham not worthy of the name: a ‘love’ that leads to manipulation and lying.
  • Church members are “well-intentioned, intelligent…with high standards of honesty, neighborliness….”
  • Despite this, we then get a bigoted description of how “the vast majority of the Mormon community” will react to the article. Members will either
    • “not read [the article] because it is critical of Mormonism” or
    • “be unaffected by it due to cognitive dissonance

So, the Saints may mean well or be honest—except when it comes to the thing that matters most: their faith. They’re intelligent and honest until confronted with ‘the truth about their faith,’ and then they either choose ignorance or dishonesty. So, these ‘virtues’ are there for window dressing, as it were, but when the chips are down, those virtues are nowhere in sight.
  • Leaders are said to be "loving," and local leaders “are sincere and generally unaware of the issues”

However...

  • leaders “breach the trust of faithful Mormons”
  • leaders “distort…information to protect their own authority”
  • “misled [people] as to how Mormonism started, and hence what it was”
  • “deceive both [other] Church members and the public about important matters”
  • their behavior is akin to that of “shady stock promoters”
  • higher leaders “believe God’s will requires that they mislead their followers”
  • leaders believe in “a moral obligation to lie to the ignorant masses when necessary to help them make good choices”

The reader is expected to connect the dots, and conclude these are not truly acts of love or sincerity, and so the leaders aren't really 'loving' at all. They are either cynical manipulators or dupes.


The nice things about Mormons are included so the reader won't reject the speaker for what he is: an anti-Mormon bigot. But, the positive is undercut and effectively 'unsaid' in most of the argument. The initial kindness is nothing but window dressing to one 'part' of the audience.

Judgemental language

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy seeks to influence the audience by using inflammatory or prejudicial language.

Irrelevant conclusion

(also called Ignoratio elenchi)
Wikipedia entry

This fallacy makes a logical argument, but the argument does not prove what the critic claims it does.

Intentional fallacy

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy derives from literary criticism, and asserts that the author's intent in writing a text is not the only, or even the most important, meaning of the text.

Need LDS example if possible

  • Argument:
  • Rebuttal:
  • See also:

Meaningless statement

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy makes a statement that one cannot agree or disagree with--this causes problems for logical reasoning, since one cannot confirm or deny the truthfulness of the meaningless statement.

Need a better LDS example if possible

  • Argument: "Mormon doctrine is red, and therefore false."
  • Rebuttal: Saying doctrine is "red" is meaningless, since doctrines do not have color. One cannot confirm or deny the claim that Mormon doctrine is false, because the premise is meaningless.

A form of this argument may redefine a key term. "I'm not lost, I just don't know where I am." Being lost is not knowing where one is; the statement is therefore meaningless.

  • Argument: "Mormon's aren't Christians, they just claim to worship Christ as the Son of God and Savior."
  • Rebuttal: Being a Christian is worshiping Jesus as Son of God and Savior; the claim is absurd and meaningless.
  • See also:

Middle ground

(also called argumentum ad temperantiam)
Wikipedia entry

The fallacy presumes that the logical place to find truth is between extreme points of view.

  • Argument: "Mormons say the Book of Mormon was an ancient record; critics say it was a complete forgery. Therefore, it was probably a somewhat inspired 'pious fiction.'"
  • Rebuttal: Truth may be on one extreme, or in a middle way. This must be proved, not assumed. It should be noted that appeals to the "middle way" are sometimes merely disguised forms of one extreme 'dressed up' to seem more tolerant and appealing. In the above example, the middle route ("pious fiction") is really just a kinder way of saying the same thing: Joseph faked the Book of Mormon, and it is not an ancient record. This fallacy often falsely assumes that there is a middle route; for some questions (e.g. whether God appeared to Joseph) there is no middle ground--either He appeared to Joseph or He didn't.
  • See also:

Misleading vividness

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy describes an occurrence in vivid and often exaggerated detail, in an effort to convince the audience there is a problem where none is likely to exist.