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Straw Man

by Hans Bluedorn

"The rights of those who can and do keep guns, and use them responsibly, must be curbed because there is a minority amongst us who do neither. If guns were microbes, we would launch a national war to eradicate them."- From an article entitled "Time to declare war – on guns" by Art Caplan Ph.D (from the MSNBC Website)

One must wonder where the honorable Art Caplan received his Ph.D. Apart from the totally ridiculous first sentence, (We must ban responsible gun ownership because some of those who are responsible are irresponsible?) The rest is a fine example of the fallacy of Straw Man. This is were you misrepresent your opponent by saying something about them that is not true, and then destroy the argument based upon your "straw man" misrepresentation.

The analogy of comparing guns to microbes has no bearing on real life. What if automobiles were microbes? Cars sure kill a lot of people, are we going to get rid of them? The fact is, guns aren't microbes, they're guns. If guns were ice cream sundaes we would all go down to the gun store and have one, but that doesn't mean I'm gonna nibble on my Uzi (it would probably be melted after the 5 day wait). (By the way, to those of you who still believe the notion that kids can easily buy machine guns over the Internet with a credit card, that is a total lie, machine guns were practically banned back in the early 30's, in fact, normal persons can't even buy modern firearms through the mail at all.)

The truth is guns, like automobiles, or a hammer, are just tools, the intent of the operator is what makes the difference. Gun control is just a way of avoiding the real problems in our society.

Hans Bluedorn

To: Logic Loop

Hello Harvey and Laurie,

I've never studied logic to any great extent in school (I was of the generation that could actually get college credit for a class in frisbee throwing!) but I can smell bad logic all around me in the media. I wish to contribute, but I could only (at this time) give you the examples and let you tell the list why the logic is bad. I'd love it if you'd do this, and if I could use the knowledge I gain to write letters to the Los Angeles Times editors as to why half their articles are editorials, and not news, I'd be thrilled.

My pet peeve with the LA Times is when the headlines say things like "RELIGIOUS RIGHT IDENTITY CRISIS: must have broader appeal, polls say." I don't know why, but it seems like this type of headline is telling two different agenda-laced half-truths [I just made up this headline for an example].

Let me know your criteria for submissions.

All the best,

Robert Watson

Dear Robert,

While your example was not real, I will do my best and show you the mistakes in reasoning which I see.

It sounds like the example which you gave would fall into one or both of the following.

#1 Fallacy of Extension (exaggerating an opponents position)

Example: "Since you condemn what you call obscenity in films and magazines, you must be opposed to freedom of the press."

Your example is saying that if the religious right is having trouble with public appeal they are automatically in a "identity crisis". This is an exaggeration of what actually is true (more on this later).

#2 Fallacy of Isolation (argument based on something taken out of context or separated from its circumstances or consequences).

Example: "I fired him because he refused to do his job." (Of course it is left out that the machine he was working on was unsafe and could blow up at any moment.)

Tell me if I missed anything, but, aren't true Christians SUPPOSED to have trouble with public appeal. Yes we do have trouble when dealing with the public, but your headline leaves out that it is just a part of our job. What would have happened if Paul gave up preaching after he was thrown in jail? "I don't have enough public appeal, I must be doing something wrong."

The headline is separated from the surrounding circumstances. If they have a membership problem, then they aren't in a "identity crisis," they are just doing their job.

As far as criteria for submissions; at this point I will take anything, but I would prefer precise quotes, from prominent persons.

Copyright May 05, 1999, all rights reserved. 8522 views

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