I really enjoy a good, respectful intellectual debate, but I keep running into the same problem lately – people who don’t know how to make an argument without relying on logical fallacies. I took critical thinking my freshmen year of college, more than 10 years ago, and I still remember many of them, but it seems I’m in the minority. So, I’m instituting a new rule in trying to discuss religion or politics with me – if your argument hinges on a logical fallacy, I will walk away from the conversation and mock you endlessly for your pathetic attempts to sound smart.
Unfortunately, many of these fallacies are popping up in mainstream debates these days. I can feel the nation’s collective IQ dropping. Let me cover the logical fallacies I hear the most frequently lately:
Slippery Slope: Slippery slope arguments (falsely) assume that one thing will inevitably lead to another more horrible thing; therefore we shouldn’t do that first thing to begin with.
Example: If I drink, I will get drunk. If I get drunk, I will like it so much that I will turn into an alcoholic. I should never drink.
Appeal to Antiquity: This fallacy presupposes that if it’s always been that way, it must be right. It’s pretty easy to see why this is a fallacy if you pick something like:
Example: We’ve been performing surgical operations without sterilizing our equipment for hundreds of years. That’s the way it’s always been and that’s the way it should be.
Appeal to Popularity: An idea simply must be a fact because the majority of people believe it. Popular opinion does not equal truth, especially in the light of evidence.
Example: Millions of people smoke cigarettes’, therefore smoking is a great idea.
Circular Reasoning: (Also known as begging the question) If the conclusion of your argument is also the premise, you are guilty of begging the question.
Example: Of course the Bible is true; it says so in the Bible.
Ad Hominem: Literally, against the man. This fallacy deflects the validity of the opposing argument by attacking the person making the argument. Sometimes, this can work if it shows an ulterior motive for the statement, but usually it’s just a case of being a meanie.
Example: You would be in support of affirmative action, you’re the minority.
There are plenty of other logical fallacies, but these are the ones I see throw around as a valid argument the most frequently. Look, you’re allowed to your own beliefs and opinions and I’m allowed to disagree with you. But if your argument hinges on one of the above fallacies, take a step back and reevaluate the argument. Do some research and support your opinion; don’t just throw something out there because it “feels” right. That doesn’t count as a reason to create a rule or a law (unless that rule applies to a person under 7 years old). You may be completely right - so demonstrate that.
My fingers are nearly betraying me to dive deeper into the specifics when I’ve heard these used as valid points, but I will hold off on that for now. However, if you’re thinking of certain public figures or perhaps people in your life who are guilty of using these fallacies on you, tell me about it in the comments!