A Beautiful Compilation of Rhetorical and Logical Fallacies

If any of you are forced to go to church next weekend, I suggest printing this out and taking it to the service with you. When the pastor speaks, cross the fallacies he uses off the list.

It’s like Church Bingo. But more blasphemous.

(Click the image to enlarge.)

(via Information is Beautiful — Thanks to Nicholas for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Ombakrrw

    Some great examples supplied with these fallacies, with Ad Hoc Rescue having the best.

  • http://www.facebook.com/eukota Darrell Ross

    I think the “appeal to ridicule” as a rhetological appeal to emotion is interesting. I think ridiculing absurd beliefs is valid. If I recall correctly, isn’t it recommended by some prominent nonbelievers?

    Also the example for the “appeal to incredulity” seems out of place given that assuming god exists based on complexity would require more assumptions (namely that a superbeing exists) than accepting evolution. Perhaps the example is just poor. Outrageous claims should require very good evidence.

    I think there are far too many of these and some of them do not apply very well in practice.

    • Anonymous

      “Appeal to ridicule” is acceptable if the argument is ridiculous.

      In the example a comparison with other things that the person does not believe in is also acceptable.

      “A faith in Yahweh is like believing in Alah, Bigfoot or the Tooth fairy”

      There is no evidence for any of these things, and the claimant disbelieves Alah, Bigfoot and the Tooth fairy for the same reason the rational disbelieve in Yahweh and other gods

      • http://www.facebook.com/squeakyreaper Kenneth Armstrong Gould Jr.

         By claiming that their beliefs are absurd, and then comparing them to things that are noted children’s tales at the /start/ of your argument, it seems as though you are insulting them. They could do the same to yours. Perhaps as a “wrap up” note, but engaging in appeal to ridicule as a reason or basis for an argument is quite unkind.

        • Anonymous

          “They could do the same to yours.” In what way would that be possible without misrepresenting the facts.

          Is it not a fair comparison between Yahweh and Alah? Aliens and Bigfoot? All of these things have their believers.

          • http://www.facebook.com/squeakyreaper Kenneth Armstrong Gould Jr.

             “They” in this case are people who believe in these things, though. Someone who holds an opposite position to you on how the universe was created, things evolved and whether or not someone “intelligently” guided these processes would view your naturalism on the same level as… well, anything they don’t also hold true. “You’re just a believer in science”, or something like that.

            Not that it’s a particularly /good/ come back, but you’re never going to get anywhere by kicking off a debate by saying “your beliefs are as valid as a child’s”.

        • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

           If the primary intent is to ridicule, it is perhaps unkind. But comparing one thing that a person might believe in (God) with other things that he does not believe in (unicorns, Santa Claus) is certainly a valid argument strategy, and does not necessarily represent an appeal to ridicule fallacy at all. I believe the example here confuses reductio ad absurdum , a valid logical argument, with reductio ad ridiculum, a logical fallacy.

          • http://www.facebook.com/squeakyreaper Kenneth Armstrong Gould Jr.

             Hmm, possibly. I’m not very well read on logical fallacy’s official names. I can spot them and what not, but I might be interpreting their chart wrong.

    • Kalafarski

      The one failing of this list is that if you are not aware of some of the nuances of fallacies, you may misunderstand in exactly which situations the fallacies apply since the list is very concise.

      For instance, it is fallacious to argue that God cannot exist because believing in God is comparable to believing in the Easter Bunny (Appeal to Ridicule); however, arguing that faith in God is comparable to faith in the Easter Bunny is not fallacious; it is an apt analogy if we can agree there is no solid evidence for either. When used properly, this just shows that believing in God is unfounded, not that God does not exist.

    • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

      These are really more of logical fallacies. In rhetoric or debate, where you don’t have the luxury of making a full proof, many of them are useful and valid. Many could be used as a valid rebuttal. The fallacy is when you try to use them to make an assertion yourself.

      For example, if a study on media consumption is funded by Disney, it can still be a valid study. If Disney tried to secretly fund it and manipulated the data in some way, you’d be right in declaring the study uninformative. You’d be fallacious to declare some other results based on that study, though.

    • Pseudonym

       

      I think there are far too many of these and some of them do not apply very well in practice.

      If you actually study critical thinking, such as at the university level, you find that most experts seem to agree that being able to identify or name specific logical or rhetorical fallacies is a pretty useless skill. If only people put the same effort into developing skills for understanding exactly what the other person is saying (which is more than half the battle in evaluating an argument critically), we’d all be better off as a society.

  • Anonymous

    That is funny!  However, there is zero chance that I will be attending any churches this weekend, or any future weekend for that matter.  The only time I enter such a place is for weddings and funerals.  I view those as about the person/people involved and less about what the jackwagon on the altar is saying.  I will need to print the card out though, I am sure it will be useful on those occasions.  Perhaps I can find a way to make it a contest with my wife or other like-minded individuals.

  • bobby boy

    Might want to check out the example for appeal to ignorance though. Not what I’d expect and atheist to carry as an example of a fallacy.

    • kagekiri

      “Appeal to Ignorance
      A claim is simply true because it has not been proven false (or false because it has not been proven true).
      “Nobody has proved there is a God. So there is no God.” ”

      Yeah, that’s not at all what most atheists say. Most say they’ve looked at the claims and evidence, and found no evidence of the god(s) claimed by most religions: no evidence of ones who actively interfere in the physical world and who communicate to mankind, and certainly not evidence for the all-powerful, perfectly good, and all-knowing god(s) claimed by some of the most popular religions. Then they ask the religious for their supposed evidence, and no one brings anything forward that’s worth considering.

      It’s the religious who try to shift the burden of proof and rely on ignorance. 
      “You can’t disprove God, therefore he exists.””You weren’t there at the creation of the Universe, but God was, therefore science is wrong about the Big Bang.””You weren’t there at *any historical time period to verify their claims*, therefore our religion’s claims about the period are true.”

      “As far as we know, the Universe/life is a rare occurrence, therefore God is the only way it could have happened.”

      They shove their God of the gaps into every hole of ignorance they can.

      Going the other way (something is false until proven true) is like presumption of innocence in the legal system, or not arresting someone without a reason, or not believing things without evidence; it’s a common sense thing.

      To call that skepticism “Appeal to Ignorance” is just….mind-bogglingly dumb (appeal to ridicule, I guess).

      • kagekiri

        Ugh, I read further down, and it has “Burden of proof” that basically says what I said.

        “I don’t need to prove my claim- you must prove it is false.”

        That seems like a really contradictory thing to throw in…

        • Nick

          It is misused burden of proof that I think it is talking about.

          • kagekiri

            I guess I’ve seen people reject scientific truth because others couldn’t cite specific studies/results on the spot, but that still seems like the prudent thing to do in many cases.

            I guess you could take such skepticism too far or keep moving goal-posts to keep from ever changing your mind, but that’s usually in the service of some “revelatory knowledge”, like Christians who are certain that science is lying to them to make them believe in evolution instead of Creation, because obviously, Creation is true and thus the scientists must be lying.

            • Kyle Anderson

              There are plenty of Christians who see no problem between faith and science, why not pick on them? You could actually have a conversation because you at least have something in common.

    • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

       ;) Don’t deny the antecedent!
      Just because that argument against the existence of a God isn’t good, doesn’t mean there aren’t other adequate ones.

  • Larennaise

    This is wonderfully helpful!

  • Kyle Anderson

    Shoot, take it anywhere someone is talking and you can play bingo with it.

  • Anonymous-Sam

    Their example for Appeal to Ignorance is appropriate, but it would also be appropriate to use it in the opposite way.

    No one has proven it to me, so it can’t be true.
    No one has proven it to me, so it might be true.
    No one has disproven it to me, so it must be true.
    No one has disproven it to me, so it might be true.
    If you can’t prove it, how do you know it’s true?
    If you can’t disprove it, how do you know it isn’t true?

    In every case, the appropriate response would be “I don’t know for sure, but neither do you, because as you said, it hasn’t been dis/proven.”

  • Anonymous

    We should use these as templates for an Easter Sunday Bingo game lol. Of course, I’m not going to church or to my family’s thing after church. I told them all I was working.

  • parv

    Would somebody suggest some text to read which goes in detail as I have major deficiency in identifying & knowing the fallacies besides appeal to authority, popularity and one or two others?

    • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

      Here’s a not horrible place to start: 
      http://www.fallacyfiles.org/whatarff.html

      If you need more detail on specific fallacies, a google search might lead to illuminating examples. If you prefer videos, this is the start of a decent set of videos for some basics: http://youtu.be/iSZ3BUru59A
      If you prefer books, “How to Win Every Argument,” by Madsen Pirie, is a fun little book that teaches 50(?) ways to use fallacies to win arguments (in other words, it’s a satirical way to teach fallacy recognition, and where the hell did my copy get to??).

      • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

        Although, like someone up above said, it’s not so important that you know the names. It’s more important to recognize when faulty logic happens, and to be able to explain *why* a particular argument is bad.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the lists.  It is always fun to see what logical fallacies atheists
    are using.  Your list also showed me a new fallacy, appeal to ridicule; atheist love to use this fallacy.

    -Harold

  • http://www.SketchSepahi.com/ SketchSepahi

    I support this sort of thing because it gives people a quick-and-dirty guide to proper debating conduct. (Not that it matters, if all you’re doing is trying to win without any regard to truth, honesty, or validity of inference.) However, I’m not sure about the presentation here. Some of these seem a bit…off. For instance begging the question is presented as:

    Making a claim while leaving out one or more major contributing factors that may affect the conclusion.

    That’s entirely incorrect. Begging the question is using the conclusion as a premise in its own supporting argument. Or more colloquially speaking “begging the question” some times refers to using a premise in your argument that, while not being exactly the same as your conclusion, nevertheless would only be conceded by someone who already agreed with the solution. For instance: “Taking a human life is murder. Abortion is taking a human life. Therefore, abortion is murder.” The argument is valid and obviously “abortion is murder” is not just a restatement of “abortion is taking a human life,” but only people who’re already anti-abortion would concede the premise.

    Anyway, that was just an example. There is a lot of impreciseness and inaccuracy in that fallacy-list. It could even be argued that some of the examples constitute a fallacy in and of themselves. But it’s still a worthwhile list if you take it with a grain of salt. Just don’t let semantic taxonomy get in the way of your sound inferences. If you can explain why something is fallacious you don’t have to slap a label on it.

    • http://www.SketchSepahi.com/ SketchSepahi

       Ah, I just can’t help myself. I feel an urge to provide another example of what I think is wrong with that list. Other commenters have already raised issue with the supposed fallacious appeal to ridicule of saying “faith in God is like believing in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy.”

      This can actually be considered a fallacy fallacy on part of the list’s auther, where it’s argued that since a particular argument for a claim is fallacious, the claim must therefore be false.

      In this case, it’s fallacious to conclude that belief in God is comparable to belief in Santa just because you find you find both beliefs equally ridicule-worthy. However, that doesn’t mean that the two beliefs aren’t comparable.

      Saying that the comparison is fallacious just because it’s unflattering to the faithful is in itself fallacious.

    • d’Armond

      This isn’t the text I see for Begging the Question.  It’s

      “Hiding other contributory factors and supporting the truth of your claim without any evidence other than the conclusion of your claim.”

      I don’t see the bit you quoted anywhere, which suggests they’re improving them to address some of the problems.  Good on them.

      • http://www.SketchSepahi.com/ SketchSepahi

         Good on them, yes, but the description is still completely wrong.

  • d’Armond

    As I was reading this list I had a strong positive reaction to some and a strong negative reaction to others.  For instance, Appeal to Popular Belief, Appeal to Tradition, Burden of Proof are examples of fallacies I call out often, while Appeal to Ridicule seems like a reasonable rhetorical device, especially if, you know, you’re opponent’s argument is ridiculous.  (Though I get why it’s a fallacy.)

    But what I was wondering was if there would be any patterns in how people ranked these on, say, a Likert scale (strongly agree | agree | neither agree nor disagree | disagree | strongly disagree) of the form: “My rhetorical opponents often commit this fallacy.”  Some of these I see used all the time, even after having them called out.  (Hmm, maybe there should be a fallacy of rhetorical non-participation for those [ahem, ad hominem, cough cough] who just want to spew meaningless babble at you without regard for intelligent dialogue.  Trolls.)  I suspect skeptics & atheists would tend to cluster around certain fallacies (also depending on the topics they end up debating), compared to our opponents (christians, ID creationists, yadda yadda).

  • http://deityshmeity.blogspot.com/ Grundy

    If you like logical fallacy information laid out in a visually appealing manner, check this out: http://www.yourlogicalfallacyis.com/


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