Fallacy Journal I

I’ve got to do a fallacy journal (for a class) based on 15 informal logical fallacies.1 The fallacies are to be pulled from every day mediums such as reading, TV, social media, etc.

I thought I would share some of my findings. Below are a few recent fallacy finds in no particular order. In case you want to explore these fallacies further – an online fallacy list!

Appeal to Pity ( or Ad Misericordiam) – tries to persuade due to a sense of pity rather than an actual argument.

I posted a link on Facebook the allegations that Auburn University paid football players. I pulled the comment below out of the exchange since my friend offered as a reason why well-known college athletes on scholarship should be paid.

I know several former college athletes that went to big name schools on scholarships. They all have told me stories of how little was received, how hard it was for them to get by but how much was expected from them. Some came from very poor backgrounds where their families could not help. There was no time to hold down a job and some, even with a scholarship, still had to take loans just to cover living expenses.

Argument Against the Person (or Ad Hominem) – the person is attacked rather than the argument/position.

One commenter challenged another to read Martin Luther’s Bondage of the Will in attempt to combat semi-pelagianism and provide a Reformational, theological understanding of free-will.

The following Ad Hominem reply was offered.

With all due respect, Tom, Luther was a grog-swilling, racist, masogynist. I am free from his ‘Bondage.’

Appeal to Force (or Ad Baculum) – fear is used to promote a position instead of a logical argument.

One Southern Baptist pastor offers ideas on how the Calvinist/non-Calvinist discussion can move forward in the Southern Baptist Convention. He makes the following appeal just before noting his suggestions. [Emphasis added.]

I do genuinely believe that if the following suggestions are not implemented, the future of the SBC may not be as bright as it could be; although, one may easily find sufficient grounds to view my suggestions dismissively since I do seem to have an extraordinarily unimpressive record as a prophet.

False Dilemma – presents a limited number of alternatives while ignoring others to consider.

This example is taken from the same pastor writing against Calvinism who is noted above in the Appeal to Force example. I’ve included the full paragraph and underlined the offending sentences showing that no alternatives were offered for one to be considered a consistent Calvinist. [Emphasis added.]

By double talk, I specifically and only mean, whether meditatively or unmeditatively, thinking, praying, writing, or speaking in such a way that obscures the disquieting realities of Calvinism. This rhetorical practice of many Calvinists makes substantive conversations regarding the essence of Calvinism, so that both Calvinists and those who are desiderative can fully understand these disquieting realities, frustratingly improbable.If a person accepts and clearly and consistently proclaims such realities, then he can be a knowledgeable and consistent Calvinist; however, if one is unwilling to accept and unambiguously proclaim them, he cannot be a consistent Calvinist.

Begging the Question (Petitio Principii) – assumes the conclusion is true in the premise without evidence it is true.

The following example is taken from 6 Things Christians Should Just Stop Saying by Steve McSwain at the Huffington Post religion blog. Notice how he assumes the answer without explanation.

2. We just believe the Bible.

That, too, is false. What you really believe is your interpretation of the Bible. And the last I checked, the history of the Christian church is the history of disagreement over “interpretation.” How else do you explain the scores of denominations within Christianity alone?

Appeal to the People (Ad Populum) – a claim should be accepted as true because of majority approval.

Another one from McSwain’s Huffington Post article. Notice his appeal to the truth claims of point 5 is based on what the next generation believes.

5. Homosexuality is a chosen lifestyle and it is a sin against God.

My son said it well the other day. We were discussing homosexuality and same-sex marriage and he observed, “Dad, it’s your generation that’s hung up on these issues. Once you guys get out of the way and the younger generation moves into the decision-making arena, these issues will disappear. The day will come when, just as slavery is unthinkable in our consciousness today, it will be equally unthinkable to deny anyone the right to be who they are or the right to same-sex marriage.”

Equivocation – particular word or phrase is used ambiguously, or with a double-meaning.

And a final example from McSwain’s Huffington Post article. Notice he is declaring his belief of the doctrine of love Christians should practice while denying we should be known by beliefs, doctrines or declarations.

Now, there is one thing I think all Christians, including me, should remember — no, should practice (and we should practice this between ourselves first, too) — and that is the one simple thing Jesus once said would be the one-and-only thing the world would know us by…

Not our beliefs.
Not our doctrines.
Not our denomination’s distinctions.
Not even our declarations.

Jesus said, “They will know you are my disciples by your love” (John 13:35).

When we love, what more needs to be said?

Having fun yet?


P.S. I hope I’ve thought through these correctly.

  1. The 15 fallacies are taken from The Power of Logic by C. Stephen Layman. They are: Argument Against the Person (Ad Hominem), Straw Man, Appeal to Force (Ad Baculum), Appeal to the People (Ad Populum), Appeal to Pity (Ad Misericordiam), Appeal to Ignorance (Ad Ignorantiam), Equivocation, Amphiboly, Composition, Division, Begging the Question (Petitio Principii), False Dilemma, Appeal to Unreliable Authority (Ad Verecundiam), False Cause Fallacy, and Fallacy of Complex Question.
Let's connect!

tagged as , , in apologetics,Christianity,Culture

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 David (NAS) Rogers April 9, 2013 at 2:20 pm

You might find some interest in the blogger Vox Day’s Voxicon (Vox’s lexicon) which has some amusing references to fallacies used by atheists. Vox can be vulgar at times and some will find some of his opinions and conclusions either unsupported or offensive but he does stimulate one to think at times. Note: he is a decided non-Calvinist.


2 evidenceministries April 9, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Oh, oh! You’ve got to cover the amphiboly. It is my FAVORITE logical fallacy!

3 Mark April 10, 2013 at 9:21 am

Keith, I was hoping I’d find an amphiboly. That may be a tough one.

4 Mark April 10, 2013 at 9:22 am

David, thanks for pointing out the Vox Day site. I’ll check it out.


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