Our world is overflowing with opinions. It should be noted that not all opinions are created with equal veracity and evidentiary support. Logical fallacies have turned me away from social media and news sources. My mind grew weary of investigation and analysis.
It should be noted that I am not primarily a philosopher, just a theologian who enjoys thinking and reading. The following mental exercise is my attempt at applying my background in investigating a historical book (the Bible) to the process of thinking clearly about what is being written in our current day. I’ve spent 20 years learning the context of biblical times and understanding the different and unique literary structures found throughout the Bible. Context. Evidence. Reason. Language. Systematizing beliefs. — This is where I live. Applying the same critical methods to modern news/opinion is my desperate attempt to renew my love for current events.
I propose the following.
Examine Evidence. Apply Critical Reasoning. Let sound evidence and reasoning inform your claims; in short, build sound arguments.
An arguments consist of three basic parts. A claim, reasoning, and evidence.
A claim must be supported by reasoning that is grounded in evidence. When we examine an argument (a position someone holds about something) it is healthy to ask a few questions:
- Does the argument or belief contain hidden assumptions that are unclear, questionable, or downright false?
- Does the argument display one or more of the logical fallacies (see below)?
- Are there potential alternative explanations for the cause-effect relationship alleged?
- Is the truth of the evidence questionable?
- Has the argument been examined with grace, thoughtfulness, and an open mind?
Here are 9 logical fallacies for your thinking pleasure. There are many more, but these are the ones I often see abused in my daily reading. I’ve provided (**Examples to think about**) not to establish finalized arguments, but to provide paths of thinking.
- Faulty Causation, alleges that a certain effect has a single cause without thought being given to correlation or an alternative cause.
**Too much screen time make kids unhealthy.** Think: How are we qualifying the quantity of screen time? Does what is on screen matter? What if a child watches educational videos and applies them? What metric are we using for health? Mental? Physical? Emotional? Spiritual? Social? Are you beginning to see the nuances?
- Hasty Conclusion, results when a conclusion is based in insufficient evidence. Hasty Conclusions are arrived at quickly without examination of evidence or consideration of opposing reason. **Liberals aren’t true Christians. Real Christians are politically conservative.** Think: What makes someone a Christian? Faith in the person and work of Jesus. That he died and rose again to redeem his people by paying for their sin. What makes someone a liberal or conservative? Is it possible to value particular liberal political platforms while believing in the gospel of Jesus? Conservative platforms? Is possible that God’s politics and Kingdom rule transcend a single human political construct? Think about it.
- Slippery Slope, argues that a certain action will lead to or justify a similar but less desirable action and so on. Slippery Slopes presume to know future effects with certainty. **Sending kids to school during a pandemic will lead to widespread deaths of children and educators.** Think: Is there a way to reopen schools with safety measures that will protect students and teachers? How does school attendance differ from current exposure? Is the current pandemic able to be stopped or have we reached critical mass infection? Could developing herd immunity while maintaining adequate hospital capacity be a better solution for long term immunity? Is the virus mortality rate too great a risk for societal acceptance? (Ie, We accept automobile dangers as a necessary byproduct of our ability for autonomous travel. We release prisoners despite evidence that repeat offense remains highly probable.) Are your seeing the complexities?
- Begging The Question, is the fallacy of supporting a generalization, judgement, or conclusion by repeating it in different words. **Big Pharma can’t be trusted. They are devious.** Think: Why can’t they be trusted? What makes them devious? Are all Pharma companies untrustworthy? Are all devious in their practice? Where is the reasoning or evidence? Just because an argument is bad doesn’t make the claim untrue. Examine the evidence. Explore reason.
- Ad Hominem, substitutes substantive discussion with personal attacks meant to discredit opposition. **You’re just not intelligent enough to understand.** Think: This has zero relation to an actual argument. It shifts the focus from the argument to the person holding the argument. Where is the thoughtful analysis? How are you determining quality or quantity of intelligence in regard to the argument? Does intelligence mean someone is correct by default (see next fallacy)?
- Red Herring, occurs when an irrelevant issue is raised to divert attentions from the primary issue. **(Talking about when life begins as it pertains to abortion) My body, my choice.** Think: What does the woman’s body have to do with the personhood of a baby already created with his or her own unique DNA? Does a mother’s choice have relevance as to whether or not their womb is carrying an individual life according to science? I’m not saying you can’t be pro-choice. I am saying that touting “my body my choice” is a diversion from the topic of discussing when life begins as it pertains to abortion. (Though I’m obviously pro-life, another blog for another day.)
- Appeal to Authority, occurs when high-status individuals are presumed true by nature of their high reputation or status rather than the substance of their argument. **The CDC says… WHO says… Dr. Fauci said…”** Think: Can organization be incorrect? Can people with advanced degrees have underlying motives? Can organization have underlying motives? Status does not make an argument good or true. Being good and/or true makes an argument good and true.
- Appeal to Fear, is an appeal to the primal human condition of fear in order control belief or behavior. Instead of presenting evidence and reason, one uses fear alone to achieve their desired outcome. **A vote for _________ is a vote to destroy America.** Think: Is one vote or one presidential term of 4 years able to destroy a country? Could there be other factors at work toward the dissolution or destruction of our way of life? Is the destruction of America as we know it good? Or bad? Why? Topics like this are worth thinking about, and far more worthy that twitter sized statements created to illicit allegiance without critical thought, dialogue, and debate.
- Bandwagon, a democratic version of Appeal to Authority that is rooted on group consensus rather than an individual authority. **Everyone says… they say…** Think: Even if everyone believes something, it does not make it true. People can be wrong en masse. We can see think in crowd riots, political rallies, and religious gatherings of various kinds. “Would you jump off a bridge if everyone else was jumping?” ~ Everyone’s mom.
Well, there’s 9 fallacies out of an arson that exist in philosophy. I figured less than 10 would be a good place to start, to keep it manageable. This is not to say that someone, including myself, can’t or won’t use the leverage of a fallacy; I just hope we stop leaning on them to form actual argument.
Look for the best in others.