Sunday, May 17, 2009

Fallacy Short Descriptions

This is the short description of the fallacies for quick reference. You should check the full description (in the book), read the examples we've blogged about (linked on the sidebar) and listen to the associated podcast for the complete picture.

Appeal to Authority
: Advocate makes an unwarranted appeal to an authoritative person or organization in support of a proposition.

Argument by Artifice: Advocate puts forward convoluted and weak assertions which any disinterested observer would perceive as artificially constructed in order to make a case.

Argument by Slogan: Advocate uses a simplistic statement or slogan rather than logical argument in a debate or discussion.

Argument to Consequences: Advocate claims that a proposition cannot be true because it ought not to be true (or vice versa).

Begging the Question: Advocate makes a circular argument where the conclusion is in essence a restatement or paraphrase of the premise.

Browbeating: Advocate is threatening and overbearing in argument and doesn't allow the opponent the opportunity to state his or her case.

Burden of Proof: Advocate fails to take responsibility for arguing a case by claiming that the opponent must first prove that the opposite case is true.

Burden of Solution: Advocate denigrates a suggested solution to a problem but fails to propose a viable alternative.

Cultural Origins: Advocate makes an unwarranted claim that a particular way of doing things is best because of its cultural origins.

Exaggerated Conflict: Advocate claims that because there is some degree of uncertainty in a domain of knowledge, nothing at all is certain.

Factoid Propagation: Advocate asserts the truth of a proposition that is commonly assumed to be true, when it is not in fact established as true.

False Analogy: Advocate puts forward an analogy in support of a case, but the analogy only has superficial similarities to the case in question.

False Attribution: Advocate appeals to an irrelevant, unqualified, unidentified, biased or fabricated source in support of an argument.

False Cause; Correlation Error: Advocate asserts that there is a causal link between phenomena, when the link is only apparent rather than real.

False Compromise: Advocate seeks to reconcile two differing views by "splitting the difference" and falsely claiming that the result reflects reality.

False Dichotomy: Advocate represents an issue as "black or white" when in fact the reality is "shades of grey".

False Dilemma: Advocate portrays one option as necessarily excluding another option, when in fact there is no necessary connection.

False Positioning: Advocate attacks a weakened, exaggerated, or over-simplified form of the opponent's position rather than the real position.

Gibberish: Advocate presents an argument or assertion that is so garbled in its presentation that it is essentially meaningless.

Impugning Motives: Advocate makes an unwarranted claim that the opponent has devious motives.

Misuse of Information: Advocate misunderstands or deliberately misuses a statistic, fact or theory to support an argument.

Moral Equivalence: Advocate seeks to draw false moral comparisons between two phenomena which are not morally equivalent.

Moving the Goalposts: Advocate changes the discussion focus by seeking to force the opponent to tackle a more difficult or different version of the topic.

Observational Selection: Advocate pays close attention to confirming evidence, but ignores evidence which is contrary to his or her position.

Personal Abuse: Advocate mounts a personal attack on the opponent rather than the argument put forward by the opponent.

Poisoning the Well: Advocate seeks to undermine an opponent's position by linking the position to an original source which is unjustly denigrated.

Popular Opinion: Advocate makes an unwarranted appeal to popular opinion (e.g. "most people agree that...") in support of a proposition.

Sanctimony: Advocate makes an unwarranted claim that his or her position is morally superior to the opponent's position.

Simple-Minded Certitude: Advocate has an unshakeable belief which remains unchanged even in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence.

Single Cause: Advocate asserts that there is only one cause of a phenomenon or problem, when the evidence suggests multiple factors.

Slippery Slope: Advocate asserts without evidence that if we take "one step in the wrong direction", it will inexorably lead to catastrophe.

Special Pleading: Advocate claims special insights into an issue, and that the opponent is incapable of achieving the same level of understanding.

Stacking the Deck: Advocate is aware of counter-arguments to his or her position, but conceals them in order to defeat the opponent.

Unfounded Generalization: Advocate draws a general conclusion about a phenomenon based on unrepresentative examples of the phenomenon.

Weasel Words: Advocate uses emotionally loaded labels to boost his or her position or to denigrate the opponent's position.