Logical fallacies/Page 3


A FairMormon Analysis of: Logical fallacies

Naturalistic fallacy

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy refers to arguments in ethics whereby something is declared 'good' in an ethical sense because of 'natural' properties ("pleasant," "feels good," "occurs in nature").

  • Argument: "Mormons are wrong to oppose homosexual behavior, because such behavior occurs in nature among other animal species, proving that it is not a 'perversion' or 'aberration' for humans.
  • Rebuttal: There are many natural occurances which are not morally acceptable. Some beetles (Xylocaris maculipennis) seal the female's reproductive tract with a plug to prevent other males from successfully mating with them. Subsequent beetle suitors then stab through the female abdomen to bypass this obstruction. Such behavior may be natural but it is surely not moral if applied to human behavior.
  • See also:

Negative proof

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy argues that because there is no proof of the negative, the claimed statement is true. Thus, because there is no evidence that something is not a certain way, this is taken as evidence that it is a certain way.

  • Argument: "There's no proof that Joseph didn't plan to defraud people, so he defrauded people."
  • Rebuttal: The burden of proof is always on the claimant--if someone claims that Joseph planned to defraud people, they must prove that he did so. They may not claim that others must provide proof that he did not seek to defraud people. Proving a negative is notoriously difficult and often impossible. A legal analogy to this principle is that a person is "innocent until proven guilty," not guilty unless he can prove his innocence.
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Non sequitur

(or, it does not follow)
Wikipedia entry

This fallacy occurs when a conclusion does not follow from the premises. There are two variations, discussed below:

Affirming the consequent

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy takes the following form:

Premise 1:If A, then B.
Premise 2:B.
Conclusion:Therefore, A.
  • Argument: "Those who practiced authorized plural marriage had multiple sexual partners. John C. Bennett had multiple sexual partners. Therefore, Bennett practiced authorized plural marriage."
  • Rebuttal: A implies B, but B does not imply A--i.e., authorized plural marriages had multiple partners, but all those with multiple partners were not practicing authorized plural marriage.
  • See also:

Denying the antecedent

Wikipedia entry This fallacy takes the following form:

Premise 1:If A, then B.
Premise 2:Not A.
Conclusion:Therefore, not B.
  • Argument: "Those who practiced authorized plural marriage had multiple sexual partners. John C. Bennett did not practice authorized plural marriage. Therefore, Bennett did not have multiple sexual partners."
  • Rebuttal: A implies B, but not meeting the A does not mean that B did not occur--i.e. many of those who did not practice plural marriage did not have multiple sexual partners, but some did.
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No true Scotsman

Wikipedia entry

The fallacy defines a key term in such a way as to favour the speaker and disfavour his/her opponent. It is a form of begging the question, since one shapes a definition used in the argument to support the conclusion one wishes to reach.

  • Argument: Latter-day Saints are not Christian because they do not believe in the Trinity.
  • Rebuttal: "Christians" are not defined as those who accept the Trinity, but rather as those who accept Jesus as Son of God and Savior. Since LDS do accept this, they are "Christians," just not "Trinitarian Christians." In other words, "Trinitarian" does not equal "Christian."
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Package deal fallacy

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy assumes that traits or things which are often grouped together must go together.

  • Argument: "Mormons do not believe in creatio ex nihilo therefore they aren't Christians."
  • Rebuttal: While many or most Christians may believe in creatio ex nihilo, this is not necessarily what makes one a Christian. A Christian is one who worships Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
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Pathetic fallacy

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy treats inanimate objects or entities as if they had feelings or mental processes.

Need LDS example if possible

Perfect solution fallacy

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy assumes that a perfect solution exists (or should exist) to a problem or issue. The speaker therefore refuses to consider any solution that does not resolve all issues.

  • Argument: "Unless you can provide an answer to all anti-Mormon criticisms, the Church must be false."
  • Rebuttal: In any non-trivial field, some problems remain insoluble or only partially solved.

This fallacy has special relevance in religion. The LDS do not depend upon logical syllogisms for their beliefs; rather, they are the product of divine revelation to each individual. Asking God does not require that all our issues be 'solved,' but only that we entertain the possibility that the Church may be true, and that God will answer the sincere seeker.

Poisoning the well

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy attempts to discredit a person before their arguments are even heard.

  • Argument: "Nothing that anyone who publishes with FAIR or FARMS can be believed, because they are "apologists," and so inherently untrustworthy."
  • Rebuttal: An "apologist" may have a very good argument or a very bad one. One is only intellectually honest if he/she is willing to consider the argument on its own merits regardless of who raised it. This tactic is used to avoid confronting arguments with which the critic does not wish to deal. All authors have biases; "apologists" are at least up front about theirs, while critics try to play the role of disinterested 'seekers of truth,' they are as much "apologists" for their own position as a religious apologist. Trying to hide behind the claim that one is 'merely being objective' is misleading.
  • Example: Robert Ritner provides a classic example here.
  • See also:

Proof by verbosity

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy provides the illusion of proof by the sheer mass of material flung at the problem.

This is a favorite anti-Mormon tactic, in which a "shotgun" approach is used, whereby the critic throws up a barage of criticism, and persists with a given issue only until it is clear that the target has an answer or is untroubled by it. The intent is not for understanding, but to wear down through the sheer volume and duration of the attack. Practitioners of this approach rely on the fact that answering an attack is always more time intensive than launching one.

This fallacy is especially notable in some ostensibly 'scholarly' approaches to Mormonism, in which the volume and number of footnotes provides the illusion of depth and rigor. Such "scholarly overkill"* can be used to mask the fact that the sources do not say what the footnotes claim, or that important alternative evidence or explanations have been ignored. The intent is to overawe or intimidate the reader into acceptance or at least acquiesence, since checking voluminous sources may take a prohibitive amount of time.

  • Argument: "Look at everything that's 'wrong' with Mormonism! Even if only 10% of my claims have merit, your faith has serious problems!"
  • Rebuttal: A thousand poor attacks are as worthless as a single poor one. Just because there is the critics' smoke of charges and claims does not mean there is a true fire of a crisis of faith.
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Questionable cause

(also called non causa pro causa)
Wikipedia entry

These fallacies mistakenly claim a 'cause' for an event where not warranted.

Circular cause and consequence

(also called chicken and egg fallacy, or Catch 22)
Wikipedia entry

This fallacy argues that a consequence is the cause of an event or thing.

Need LDS example if possible

Correlation implies causation

(Also called cum hoc ergo prompter hoc--"with this, therefore because of this")
Wikipedia entry

This fallacy presumes that because two events occur together, one is the cause of the other.

  • Argument: "A polygamous wife felt depressed and undervalued. Therefore, polygamy caused women to be depressed and undervalued."
  • Rebuttal: Some women who drink water also feel depressed and undervalued. It does not follow that water is the cause. Many people feel depressed and undervalued, regardless of their marital circumstances. It is possible that these feelings may be present in any marital situation, and not be caused by marriage status. One could just as easily argue that women who feel depressed and undervalued choose plural marriage.
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Fallacy of the single cause

(or oversimplification of the cause)
Wikipedia entry

This fallacy oversimplifies a situation, and presumes that there is a single cause of a more complex phenomenon.

  • Argument: "Polygamy was introduced to satisfy sexual desire. You can't expect me to believe the men involved had no sexual feelings whatever?"
  • Rebuttal: Plural marriage was a complex institution, which had personal, social, and religious underpinnings. Focusing on a single cause is sure to lead to misunderstanding and caricature.
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Joint effect

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy assumes that two phenomenon are related as cause and effect, when in fact both are caused by a third event.

Need LDS example if possible

  • Argument:
  • Rebuttal:
  • See also:

Post hoc

(also called post hoc ergo propter hoc-- "after it, therefore because of it")
(or, coincidental correlation, false cause)
Wikipedia entry

This fallacy argues that because phenomenon B comes after phenomenon A, A caused B.

  • Argument: Joseph Smith used to dig for treasure before claiming to be a prophet. Therefore, his money-digging activities created his belief in divine messengers.
  • Rebuttal: An alarm clock goes off while it is still dark outside, but the ringing of the clock does not cause the sun to rise.
  • See also: