Today’s Logical Fallacy is… Diminished Responsibility!

Today’s Logical Fallacy is… Diminished Responsibility!

This fallacy occurs when we argue that our behavior should be excused because of impaired judgment, e.g. telling your teacher that they should grade your exam leniently because you were hung over and “it’s not my fault.” It is a contemporary fallacy that has arisen out of the misappropriation of the American legal concept, “diminished capacity” (that punishment for criminal acts should be decreased if the criminal’s judgment was impaired and thus would not have committed the crime under normal conditions). While being drunk may mean that you aren’t charged with first degree murder, it doesn’t mean that you are free of guilt or can’t be charged with second degree murder, and it doesn’t make the consequences of your actions any less severe. Likewise, the fact that you were hungover doesn’t somehow make your answers to your test less incorrect, and you must still live with the consequences of failing; your poor judgment in getting drunk the night before the...
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Today’s Logical Fallacy is…Appeal to Spite!

Today’s Logical Fallacy is…Appeal to Spite!

This fallacy occurs when someone uses existing spiteful and bitter feelings in order to dismiss an opponent’s position. Instead of actually evaluating evidence for the opponent’s position, they are exploiting the emotions of those listening in order convince them. We do this to ourselves if we justify disagreeing with someone out of existing spite instead of examining the issues. This is especially useful when combined with stereotypes (the overgeneralization fallacy) toward a particular demographic. For example, saying that you can never vote for a career politician because they are all untrustworthy combines stereotyping (all politicians are untrustworthy) with the appeal for spite (a general dislike for politicians). For example, you would be appealing to spite if you refused to support someone running for a local office because you knew that person as a teenager and they were mean to you. You aren’t actually looking at their position and critically evaluating their arguments; you’re dismissing them because of some other unrelated...
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Today’s Logical Fallacy is…There Is No Alternative!

Today’s Logical Fallacy is…There Is No Alternative!

(TINA , Get Over It, the fait accompli, Taboo, I wish I had a magic wand.) An extension of the false dichotomy, this fallacy occurs when someone states that a position must be taken because there are no other realistic alternatives, that all other options are irrelevant, or that since a decision has been made, there’s no going back. While it may be that the position being supported is the best position, outright dismissing other alternatives suppresses critical thinking. It relies on the acceptance of the inevitable (regardless of whether or not it is inevitable) by suggesting that we are powerless to do otherwise. Examples:"What can we do about high gas prices? As Secretary of Energy I wish I had a magic wand, but I don't." [shrug] "No, you can't quit piano lessons. I wish I had a magic wand and could teach you piano overnight, but I don't, so like it or not,...
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Today’s Logical Fallacy is…Tautology!

Today’s Logical Fallacy is…Tautology!

A tautology is a statement that – by it’s construction - must always be true. It uses circular reasoning in that it’s conclusion is its own premise. While this type of logic can be easy to spot (“the Bible is the Word of God because it says so in the Bible”), it can be deceptive, especially when you’re presented with terms with which you are unfamiliar (“therapeutic touch works because it manipulates life force” – the definition of “therapeutic touch” is the alleged manipulation of life force, so it’s like saying that breathing keeps you alive because it exchanges carbon dioxide for oxygen). (Note: Definitions and mathematical proofs are not “arguments,” so while they meet the qualifications to be called tautologies, they aren’t tautological fallacies.) Tautologies appear to be explanations but actually provide no useful information. They are also unfalsifiable since they are entirely dependent on their own premise.Examples:You are a disagreeable person and, if you disagree with me on...
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Today’s Logical Fallacy is… Sending the Wrong Message!

Today’s Logical Fallacy is… Sending the Wrong Message!

This fallacy argues that a statement or action is wrong because it will “send the wrong message,” regardless of how correct, important, or true that statement or action is. The message that is, in fact, being sent is that their position is both fraudulent and fragile that it can be destroyed by truth. If your control of a population is based on the fear of them knowing the truth, you have no real control - nor should you.Examples:"Actually, we're losing the war, but if we admit it we'll be sending the wrong message to our enemies." “Of course the war on drugs has actually given more power to the cartels, but if we admit that, then we’ll send the wrong message!”“Abortion rates decrease with increased access to birth control, but that sends the message that teenagers should have sex with no consequences. We can’t have that.”“The evidence for evolution is overwhelming, but if we tell that to our congregations,...
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Today’s Logical Fallacy is…  Reductionism!

Today’s Logical Fallacy is… Reductionism!

(causal reductionism, complex cause, fallacy of the single cause, causal oversimplification, reduction fallacy)The fallacy occurs when an explanation of an event is assumed to be a single, simple cause when it may have had multiple causes. The cause is oversimplified, preventing a more in-depth analysis, often in order to deceive the listener as to the real causes. It relies on the assumption that just because something occurred before or with the event that that “something” had to cause it (related to the correlation/causation fallacy), and it is a specific kind of false dilemma in that it presents a false simplification by ignoring the influence of other causes. We often hear this fallacy in the aftermath of tragedy; it is very easy to blame a horrific event on a simple cause – especially if you happen to be biased against that cause – when the actual cause is more complicated. For example, blaming school shootings on violent video games (or parents...
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Today’s Logical Fallacy is… Paralysis of Analysis!

Today’s Logical Fallacy is… Paralysis of Analysis!

(Procrastination) This fallacy occurs when someone claims that since we will never know everything, we should always avoid making decisions because any decision we would make would be illegitimate. Related to the appeal to ignorance fallacy, the primary difference here is that, instead of claiming that we will never “know” something due to lack of information, this fallacy claims that we should never “decide.” This fallacy is most easily committed when dealing with circumstantial evidence as it’s easier to dismiss.Sometimes, the paralysis of analysis occurs by accident as some decisions are overanalyzed and overcomplicated as the “perfect” solution is sought, often driven by a fear of failure. However, failure to act or decide can also be a failure. The contrast to this is “extinct by instinct,” which suggests that jumping in too hastily will always have negative consequences. Interestingly enough, we often see this fallacy being used as an excuse for making a decision now as opposed to waiting for...
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Today’s Logical Fallacy is… Appeal to Privacy!

Today’s Logical Fallacy is… Appeal to Privacy!

(Mind Your Own Business - MYOB; You're Not the Boss of Me; Taboo)      This fallacy prohibits discussion of your own behavior or viewpoints because it is private and thus “None of your business,” regardless of how dangerous, corrupt, absurd, or offensive it is. While freedom to think and act independently is essential in a successful society, this freedom doesn’t necessarily come without consequences. Some viewpoints and behavior doesn’t necessarily end with you and can have ripple effects on others and are therefore subject to scrutiny.   Examples:“So what if I was driving 25 over the speed limit? It’s none of your business. You’re not a cop.” (Your right to drive doesn’t supersede the right of others to have safe roads, and if you drive recklessly, then you may lose your right to drive.) “What I do in my own home is none of your concern.” (If what you do in your own home includes harming children or other adults, then it...
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Today’s Logical Fallacy is… Hot-Hand Fallacy!

Today’s Logical Fallacy is… Hot-Hand Fallacy!

Counterpart to the gambler’s fallacy, this fallacy occurs when someone predicts the outcome of a chance event to be the same as the last event (unlike the gambler’s fallacy that predicts the opposite outcome of the last event). People tend to believe that, since inanimate objects are random, they shouldn’t show tendencies (being “hot” to a particular color or number), so any streaks are based on the performance of the person generating the results. Someone in a “losing streak” gives up because they have gone cold, and vice versa.Examples: “I’m on a losing streak, so I should quit while I’m a head.” “Red is hot tonight! I know what I’m betting on.”...
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Today’s Logical Fallacy is… Inconsistency!

Today’s Logical Fallacy is… Inconsistency!

(Kettle logic, internal contradiction, logical inconsistency)This logical fallacy occurs when an individual makes contradictory claims, usually by asserting that rules are followed for some beliefs, arguments, or claims but not others. It is often done by presenting multiple contradicting arguments supporting one point, and it can vary on how obvious the contradiction is. The person making the fallacy is often unaware that they are being inconsistent; lazy thinking and emotional investment can affect their perception of this fallacy. Authority figures can often get away with this fallacy because their position often protects them from challenge.Examples:Some consumer advocates argue that we need stronger regulation of prescription drugs to ensure their safety and effectiveness, but at the same time argue that medicinal herbs should be sold with no regulation for either safety or effectiveness.A used car salespersons says, "Hey, you can’t trust those other car salesman. They’ll say anything to get you to buy a car from them." A religious...
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