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Monday, January 28, 2013

How to Lose an Argument PART 2: More logical fallacies demonstrated with idiotically inane examples

Welcome back for the second half of the Logical Fallacies series designed to help you point out how other people are wrong/stupid. If we're going to have to argue serious topics with people, we might as well argue them intelligently. 

You may recall that in Part 1, we learned about the Red Herring, the Straw Man, and the Appeal to Ridicule. Today, we conclude our lesson with the Ad Hominem fallacy, the False Dilemma, and the Slippery Slope.

The Ad Hominem Fallacy

Ad Hominem is an old favorite in political arguments. With this one, you don't argue against someone's actual viewpoint, but rather just tie that viewpoint to someone who is batshit insane and call it a day. Obviously, if someone who is as crazy as Ye Olde Nutjob subscribes to a certain viewpoint, then the viewpoint itself must be wrong. Obviously. OBVIOUSLY.

For example, let's say you have one of those friends who isn't just a vegetarian, but is an asshole missionary vegetarian who rolls her eyes every time you order something with meat in it and likes to regale you with disgusting stories about chickens being de-beaked right as you take your first bite.

There are plenty of ways to shut your "friend" up: you could duct tape her to a chair with a ball gag in her mouth;

Oh what, your TOFU couldn't get you out of this one?!

Because ... a steak could ... totally rescue a tied-up guy.

Errrh ... yes.

You could embark on an elaborate, years-long strategy to trick her into eating meat and then humiliate her with this information on some sort of large stage in front of a bunch of vegetarians who will never forgive her;

Or, you could take the easy way out and go with the Ad Hominem strategy:

Here's what a great pros and cons list of vegetarianism looks like:

Well ... you can't argue with that. The facts speak for themselves. HITLER.

So basically, Ad Hominem is annoying as hell and completely ineffective, but like the Appeal to Ridicule, it's really hard to respond to. I guess we should just all come up with counterexamples to keep at the ready at all times.

Okay maybe that won't really help after all. Sigh.

The False Dilemma

The False Dilemma is a pretty obvious: you act like there are only two possible options to choose from in a situation, and oh, ONE OF THEM IS COMPLETELY F**KING INSANE.

NO, CHRIS, YOU CAN'T JUST "n-n-n-not let any animals out."


The problem with the False Dilemma is that it ridiculously oversimplifies complex situations and forces people to choose one or the other of two extreme options. Either you support an assault weapons ban, or you believe that all insane people ought to be issued AK-47s. Either you're against stricter gun control, or you believe the government should go door-to-door collecting everyone's guns. THERE IS NO MIDDLE GROUND.

Except that, y'know, THERE IS. And nobody will ever be able to successfully resolve any dispute if they act like the only possible options are 1 - you agree with my position, or 2 - you hate America/freedom/children/civilized society.

NO BUTS, RAMBO. We are all keenly aware of your feelings on America, freedom, children, and civilized society.

The Slippery Slope

The Slippery Slope fallacy basically insists that every action you take can and will eventually lead to the apocalypse, through a chain reaction of events that will result in a science fiction dystopian future where humans are grown in jars, the government knows your thoughts, and also, alien mind control is a thing. The 'arguer' (using the term loosely) will lay out a series of events that will quickly follow your Action A, creating a "slippery slope" on the way to doom and destruction.


The idiocy if this kind of reasoning is immediately obvious, though. In the real world, sometimes you give a mouse a cookie and -- SHOCK -- he just thanks you and moves on. There is absolutely nothing 'inevitable' about the events the Slippery Slope perpetrator lays out, much as they'd like you to believe there is. Some stricter limits on gun ownership aren't automatically going to lead to a Big Brother-style police state ... and guess what, neither would armed guards at schools. 

If you want to argue about something, argue about the thing itself, and not about some future iteration of it that exists only in the nightmare world of your own head -- a land where horrible snake-butterfly hybrids have forced mankind into servitude while the dog-people slowly plan a coup that will restore them to the greatness they knew in the 2030's and 2040's.

Haha you didn't think the "armed snakerfly" picture would only appear once in this blog, did you???

I expected the dog-man picture to turn out badly, but this level of failure was a surprise even to me.

And dude, seriously? What the f**k is the matter with you? Your head is a scary goddamned place.


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