It Looks Like You’re Writing a Logical Fallacy

Dealing with dimwitted debate? I decided to make something that might come in handy.

Logical Fallacy Clippy

What are logical fallacies?

Here are a few helpful resources for improving your (and my!) writing.

The straw man fallacy is when you misrepresent someone else’s position so that it can be attacked more easily, knock down that misrepresented position, then conclude that the original position has been demolished. It’s a fallacy because it fails to deal with the actual arguments that have been made.

“To be an atheist, you have to believe with absolute certainty that there is no God. In order to convince yourself with absolute certainty, you must examine all the Universe and all the places where God could possibly be. Since you obviously haven’t, your position is indefensible.”

The above straw man argument appears at about once a week on the net. If you can’t see what’s wrong with it, read the “Introduction to Atheism” document.

—“Atheism: Logic & Fallacies,” Infidels.org

Also because, as stated above, there is a tendency to start with desired conclusions and then construct arguments to support them, many people will happily draw upon logical fallacies to make their arguments. In fact, if a conclusion is not true one must either employ a false premise or a logical fallacy in order to construct an argument that leads to that conclusion. Remember, a sound argument (one with true premises and valid logic) cannot lead to a false conclusion. So in order to avoid using logical fallacies to construct invalid arguments, we need to understand how to identify fallacious logic.

—“How to Argue,” Steven Novella, MD

It is particularly easy to slip up and commit a fallacy when you have strong feelings about your topic—if a conclusion seems obvious to you, you’re more likely to just assume that it is true and to be careless with your evidence.

—UNC “Fallacies” handout

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6 Comments


  1. The straw man argument is a favorite on Sunday morning news shows and wielded by unprincipled politicians.

  2. Hey,
    Just wondering if you were aware of Hunting Humbug 101 by Jeff and Theo Clark. Sadly Jeff died earlier this year but they have some of the best Logical Fallacy Detection stuff out there. They even have their book as a free download. Well worth checking out. I’ve listen to their podcasts over and over again.
    Cheers,
    Gary

  3. Heh heh . . . I think certain Christian apologist authors have a tool like that on their computers! I’ve encountered too many Christian apologist books brimming with straw man arguments, ad hominem attacks, appeals to authority, appeals to emotion, etc.

  4. I love the picture and the quotes. Thanks for writing this. I’m going to go read the linked pages now.

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