Logical fallacies/Page 4

Table of Contents


A FairMormon Analysis of:
Logical fallacies

Red herring

(also called irrelevant conclusion, ignoratio elenchi - "ignorance of the issue")
Wikipedia entry

This fallacy uses an unrelated issue to distract the audience's attention.

  • Argument: "We could investigate the claims of the Book of Mormon, but becoming a Mormon involves assuming a lot of onerous duties."
  • Rebuttal: Whether being a Mormon is difficult is irrelevent and a distraction--the key point is whether the Book of Mormon is true. If so, then one ought to be a member of the Church regardless of how hard it is. If not, one ought not, even if the route is easy.
  • See also:

Reification

(also called hypostatization)
Wikipedia entry

This fallacy treats an abstract idea as if it were real.

Need LDS example if possible

Relativist fallacy

(also called subjectivist fallacy)
Wikipedia entry

Relevance for apologetics?

  • Argument:
  • Rebuttal:
  • See also:

Retrospective determinism

(i.e. it happened so it was bound to)
Wikipedia entry

This fallacy assumes that something which happened was inevitable. It is a claim made with the benefit of hindsight, but provides no rational reason for believing that what did happen was what would inevitably happen.

  • Argument: "Once he decided to run for President of the United States, Joseph Smith's assassination was assured."
  • Rebuttal: The argument presumes that running for President was the sole cause for Joseph's murder, and an inevitable one. Historical events are more complicated than this; there is a complex web of cause, effect, and contingency at work. Joseph could have made many decisions which resulted in him going free (e.g. abandoning his prophetic claims, going west over the Mississippi to escape the mob, etc.), and those involved in his prosecution and murder could likewise have made choices which resulted in different outcomes.
  • See also:

Shifting the burden of proof

Wikipedia entry

The burden of proof properly rests on the claimant--the person who makes a claim must back it up. It is not the responsibility of others to prove that a claim is "not true."

  • Argument: "The Book of Mormon is a forgery, unless you can prove it isn't."
  • Rebuttal: The person who claims the Book of Mormon is a forgery must prove it. This is a variation of the legal principle that one is "innocent until proven guilty."
  • See also:

Slippery slope

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy asserts that if the argument is granted, a consequence will inevitably happen. This consequence is painted as inexorable and negative; thus, the audience is encouraged to reject the argument.

  • Argument: "If you accept the doctrine of personal revelation, then people will get revelations to do whatever they want. Soon people will be murdering like crazy because 'God told them to'. Clearly, personal revelation is a dangerous idea, and so should be rejected."
  • Rebuttal: The argument can be attacked on two grounds:
    • in the first place, the inevitable link between the argument (personal revelation) and the consequence (murder) is not at all clear, and has not been demonstrated.
    • in the second place, negative consequences should not deter us from accepting that which is true. If personal revelation is a reality, then we must accept it even if there are some "negative" consequences to it.
  • See also:

Special pleading

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy creates a one-sided argument by including favorable data and excluding unfavorable data through improper means. Tactics include:

  • claiming the right to dictate the meaning of key terms, without proper justificaton (e.g. see Latter-day Saint's aren't Christians).
  • claiming access to 'secret' or otherwise inaccessible data which cannot be verified (e.g. see argument from authority).
  • claiming that the normal rules of evidence or discourse do not apply to the situation because of special circumstances, without proper justification
  • claiming the subject is too technical to explain to one's opponent

Important note: critics might well point out that appeals to spiritual witnesses and "testimony" are special pleading, because they make reference to events . This is true to the extent that an LDS person expects the critic to take his word for the spiritual witness. However, LDS doctrine teaches that spiritual witnesses are available to all seekers; the witness given the LDS is ultimately to persuade him or her, and no one else. Thus, testimony may explain why an LDS remains convinced, despite a personal inability to articulate a rational basis for faith on a particular point. To use it to end a discussion and convince another, however, is special pleading. To simply offer it as an explanation for why one continues to believe is not.

  • Argument: "Latter-day Saints aren't Christians because they don't accept the creeds."
  • Rebuttal: One must first demonstrate that "believer in the creeds" is a necessary component for being called "Christians." One must also explain whether such defintions may properly exclude the apostles and first century Christians from the family of "Christians," even though they had no creeds. Refusing to do this legwork is special pleading.
  • See also:

Statistical and mathematic fallacies

These fallacies are less commonly seen in anti-Mormon writing, since mathematics and statistics generally play little role in such discussion. There are included her for completeness, and additions will be made if examples are encountered.

Base rate fallacy

Wikipedia entry

  • Argument:
  • Rebuttal:
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Conjunction fallacy

Wikipedia entry

  • Argument:
  • Rebuttal:
  • See also:

Dicto simpliciter

Wikipedia entry

Accident

(also called a dicto simpliciter ad dictum secundum quid)
Wikipedia entry

  • Argument:
  • Rebuttal:
  • See also:

Converse accident

(also called a dicto secundum quid ad dictum simpliciter)
Wikipedia entry

  • Argument:
  • Rebuttal:
  • See also:

Gambler's fallacy

Wikipedia entry see also Wikipedia entry for Inverse gambler's fallacy

This fallacy involves a misunderstanding of probability.

  • Argument: A fair coin is tossed ten times, giving ten results of 'heads.' We are therefore 'due' for it to come up tails, so that is more likely.
  • Rebuttal: The chance of the coin coming up heads is 50%. The coin has no memory of past events; heads and tails are equally likely on the eleventh throw.
  • See also:

Invalid proof

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy is restricted to the field of mathematics, in which a mathematical principle is used improperly, producing a self-contradictory result.

  • Argument:
  • Rebuttal:
  • See also:

Lump of labour fallacy

(also called the fallacy of labour scarcity or zero sum fallacy)
Wikipedia entry

This fallacy assumes that a variable is independent of the situation under consideration, while in fact it is interrelated to other variables. For example, one might assume that in an economy the amount of money someone earns must result in someone else losing the same amount of money. However, this is false, since economic systems may create weath or value, meaning that one person's gain need not be someone else's 'loss'.

Need LDS example if possible

  • Argument:
  • Rebuttal:
  • See also:

Prosecutor's fallacy

Wikipedia entry

  • Argument:
  • Rebuttal:
  • See also:

Regression fallacy

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy mistakes "regression to the mean" as a significant signal, rather than a normal statistical artifact.

  • Argument:
  • Rebuttal:
  • See also:

Screening test fallacy

Wikipedia entry

  • Argument:
  • Rebuttal:
  • See also:

Statistical special pleading

Wikipedia entry

In this fallacy, statistics are 'massaged' or expressed in such a way as to mislead.

Straw man

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy sets up a weakened or caricatured version of the opponent's argument. The speaker then proceeds to demolish the weak version of the argument, and claim victory.

This is one of the most common anti-Mormon approaches. Rarely do anti-Mormon authors fairly convey LDS opinion and thought on a target, and even more rarely do such authors engage LDS scholarship. Most anti-Mormon arguments are decades old, and have been "asked and answered" many times. Thanks to the straw man tactic, anti-Mormons can continue to recycle attacks.

Style over substance fallacy

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy refuses to engage counterarguments, and simply focuses on the way in which the counterargument has been presented.

A common anti-Mormon tactic is to respond to a rebuttal by complaining that the apololgists' response is ad hominem, and then decline to discuss further. Asserting this is not sufficient; he should demonstrate which parts of the rebuttal (if any) are ad hominem, and reply to other substantive issues.

  • Argument: "Joseph Smith was an atrocious speller and could not write well. He cannot have been a prophet."
  • Rebuttal: The merits of an argument should be debated independent of the style of presentation.
  • See also:

Syllogistic fallacies

Wikipedia entry

These fallacies are violations of the rules of logic. Non-LDS examples have been chosen for simplicity.

Affirming a disjunct

Wikipedia entry

Fallacy takes the form:

Premise 1:A or B
Premise 2:A
Conclusion: Therefore, not B.

Error made: Premise 1 does not exclude both A and B being true.

Affirmative conclusion from a negative premise

Wikipedia entry Lander Philosophy Link]

This fallacy occurs when there is one negative premise:

Premise 1:No honest people steal.
Premise 2:Honest people pay taxes.
Conclusion:Therefore, some people who steal pay taxes.

Error made: One premise is negative, and yet a positive conclusion is drawn.

Existential fallacy

Wikipedia entry
Lander Philosophy Link

This fallacy has two universal premises, and draws a particular conclusion.

Premise 1:All A are B
Premise 2:No C are B
Conclusion: Therefore, some B are not A.

This fallacy assumes that specific entities exist from universal declarations.

Fallacy of exclusive premises

Wikipedia entry
Lander Philosophy Link

This fallacy uses two negative premises, to draw a third negative conclusion.

Premise 1: No cats are reptiles.
Premise 2: No reptiles are safe as pets.
Conclusion: Therefore, no cats are safe as pets.

Fallacy of four terms

(also called quaternio terminorum)
Wikipedia entry
Lander Philosophy Link

Premise 1:Nothing is better than a good meal
Premise 2:A poor meal is better than nothing.
Conclusion: Therefore,a poor meal is better than a good meal, because:

Nothing > good meal, but
Poor meal > nothing, so
Poor meal >good meal.

This is a fallacy because there are four terms in the syllogism. The word "nothing" is being used in two different senses (see Amphibology). Thus, the syllogism is not:

Premise 1:A > B
Premise 2:C > A
Conclusion: Therefore, C > B. This would be a valid syllogism.

Instead, what is acutally argued is:

Premise 1:A > B
Premise 2:C > D
Conclusion: No conclusion can be drawn, because there are four terms:
A = "Nothing in sense 1"
B = "Good meal"
C = "Poor meal"
D = "Nothing in sense 2"

Fallacy of exclusive premises

(also called fallacy of two negative premises)
Lander philosophy link

Premise 1:No human is a fish.
Premise 2:No fish can breathe in outer space.
Conclusion:Therefore, all humans can breathe in outer space.

Error made: Both premises are negative, yet a positive conclusion is reached.

Fallacy of the undistributed middle

Wikipedia entry
Lander Philosophy Link

Premise 1: All FAIR apologists are Mormon
Premise 2: George is a Mormon
Conclusion: Therefore, George is a FAIR apologist.

In this case, the "middle" is the phrase "Mormon." While it is clear that if George is an FAIR apologist, he is a Mormon, it is not clear that all Mormons are apologists. Thus, Premise 1 tells us that:

  • All FAIR apologists = Mormon, True
  • All Mormons = FAIR apologists False

Illicit major

Wikipedia entry
Lander Philosophy Link

Premise 1: All FAIR apologists are Mormons.
Premise 2: No general authorities are FAIR Apologists.
Conclusion: Therefore, no general authorities are Mormons.

Illicit minor

Wikipedia entry
Lander Philosophy Link

Premise 1: All FAIR apologists are Mormons
Premise 2: All FAIR apologists use the internet
Conclusion: All internet users are Mormons

Texas sharpshooter fallacy

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy takes data from its context, and thereby tries to make it appear more 'impressive' than it truly is. The name comes from an example of a Texas gunslinger who shoots randomly at a barndoor, and then afterward paints a target around each bullet hole. The holes are random, but appear to prove that the gunslinger is a 'great shot.'

  • Argument: "Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews is clearly the material Joseph Smith used to create the Book of Mormon—look at the things the books have in common!"
  • Rebuttal: The supposed 'parallels' between Ethan Smith's book and the Book of Mormon are general and rather trivial. This claim usually ignores the many "unparallels" which exist, and ignores the vast amount of material that has no analogue at all between the volumes. Claims about View of the Hebrews are only successful for those who have not read both volumes in their entirety, since the data is taken from its literary context.
  • See also:

Wrong direction

Wikipedia entry

In this fallacy, cause and effect are reversed.

  • Argument: "Apologists only find evidence for the Book of Mormon because they believe it."
  • Rebuttal: Apologists find the evidence—both intellectual and spiritual—for the Book of Mormon to be convincing, and so they believe it.
  • See also:


Further reading and additional sources responding to these claims