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What is the fallacy?

by Hans Bluedorn

Last time I gave you a quote and asked you to find the informal fallacy in it. As of yet, no one has responded – not even an incorrect answer. Come on! It isn't as if I'm going to dunce cap you if you get it wrong. Anyway, this time I'll print one a little easier (and believe me, this one is EASY).

From the MSNBC website, describing an Iowa debate between Republican presidential hopefuls:

"Bauer asked the Texas governor [Bush] whether he'd name as a running mate someone who was opposed to abortion. In reply, Bush swatted Bauer away rhetorically by saying it would be "incredibly presumptive for someone who has yet to earn his party's nomination to be picking a vice president." Bush said the main criterion he'd use in choosing a running mate would be whether the person was capable of being president."

Sorry no multiple choice; the answer was covered on one of the last loops.

To: Logic Loop

I received this question from Iva Brkic, a 12th grade student in Zagreb, Croatia.

"IS THERE ANY INFORMAL FALLACY THAT ONE MIGHT BE JUSTIFIED IN USING, OR IS ONE MORALLY BOUND NEVER TO MISLEAD OTHERS ON PURPOSE? DISCUSS THIS QUESTION WITH REFERENCES TO SPECIFIC FALLACIES, JUSTIFYING YOUR ETHICAL POSITION."

I found several verses that may deal with this. John, 2:19-21, 4:13-14, 9:39 and Matthew 13:11-14. Most likely these verses are examples of Equivocation (an informal fallacy which changes the meaning of a term in mid-argument) meant to lead certain persons astray. Example: "If aliens don't exist, then what are all those people on Ellis Island doing?" Read these Scripture portions and tell me what you think.

Hans

Yuck2k

Although I'm sure all of you are tired of hearing about that noted and expected event this past New Year (dare I mention that dreaded phrase again), and any information on it is somewhat outdated, the following was such a good example I had to use it.

"All evidence points to those hoarding specific products as being a small minority who are overreacting to the issue of Y2K." – The Tasmanian State Government discouraging panic buying.

This is an example of "Appeal to Authority," – to form an argument based upon the actions of people in positions of supposed authority. To cite an "authority" as a reason to believe something is an "Appeal to Authority."

"All evidence points to those hoarding ... as being a small minority"

In this case an appeal is made to the general populace as the source of authority and wisdom. If nobody else is hoarding food, then it must be a bad thing to do. After all, you wouldn't want to be in the shunned minority, since they're always wrong. The popular question asks itself, "If only a small minority didn't jump off a cliff, would you?"

However, as you may have noticed, among some circles we have a common recurrence of "Appeal to Authority's" counterpart, which is called the "Pseudo-science Fallacy." It goes like this:

"I've just invented a perpetual motion machine that can run your car, power your house and solve marital disputes all at once by just adding water. Unfortunately the government is trying to cover my discovery up because Exxon and Mobil would loose too much money, and now nobody believes me. Just send me $982 plus your firstborn son and you can have one."

For some people I know, this appeal would be enough. They would speedily relinquish the desired amount. The question asks itself again: "If practically nobody jumped off a cliff, would you?"

Sesquipedalianism

Quote: "When speaking about the passage of hate crimes legislation President Clinton said. "We need to stand against manifestations of our inhumanity and we need to do more to reaffirm our common humanity," the president said.

Clinton said that if he could give America just one gift, it would be "the ability to be one America, to bridge all divides. ...We still can't form a society where no one hates anybody else because they're different." – President Clinton, on hate crimes legislation, from the CNN website.

This is a form of the "Red Herring" fallacy which I call "Sesquipedalianism," or, babbling on and on about nothing. Much speaking and long words are meant to persuade the listener that one really knows what he is talking about, when in fact his words are not only off topic, they are not on any particular topic at all.

This one is used so often that in certain cases it is possible to live your entire life under this fallacy. Many political commentators are quite good at this technique. After listening to them for a while, you feel very good about the subject, but are left wondering what was really said.

Unfortunately, if you challenge them on this you are often accused of being insensitive. Just ask them to "put your point a little more clearly, please." ("And maybe some proof would help").

To: Logic Loop

Hans,

Another good example of [the propaganda technique of] "Exigency" is the recent campaign by the Federal government proposing more regulations on businesses regarding the workplace environment. Typically, these regulations would require a business to alter an employee's physical work environment if the environment was causing the employee medical problems. For example, if a person complained of eye strain because he sat at a computer terminal all day, the regulations might force the company to make adjustments to his terminal or to re-assign him to other work while continuing to pay him at his current salary.Apparently, there are scientific studies (I believe under the auspices of the National Science Foundation) that are either in progress or have been proposed to study common "ergonomic problems" to see if they truly are "real" problems. However, supporters of the proposed regulations insist that the regulations be instituted as soon as possible, before any scientific evidence is gathered, because people are being hurt now.

Randy Hoheisel

Argumentum ad Populum

I found the following portion in an article in "Campus Journal (Sep, Oct, Nov, 1999)" from "RBC Ministries"

 "Ten Reasons To Believe In The Bible"

"#1 Its Honesty. The Bible is painfully honest. It shows Jacob to be a deceiver. It describes Moses to be an insecure, reluctant leader. Scripture was not written for people who want simple answers or an easy religion."

This is a fallacy that seeks to interrupt our normal thinking process. Instead of telling us what we know about the subject, it asks us what we feel about it. It is an appeal to emotion, or "Argumentum ad Populum," whatever sways the crowd.

The Bible is honest. Is this the real reason we should believe the Bible as the inspired word of God. Because it's honest? Should we believe the salesman at our door, trying to sell his product, because he admitted he can't stand his job, or he himself thinks it costs too much? He was honest.

This is not a true reason we should believe the Bible. Rather it should be because God says the Bible is His inspired word.

Next time: "Ten Reasons To Believe In The Bible, #2

Copyright January 10, 2000, all rights reserved. 4659 views


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