Other Terms and/or Related ConceptsSpecious allegations of fallacy; Fallacy Abuse.
DescriptionThe advocate is overly quick to claim an opponent has made a fallacy when in fact the opponent has not.
ExampleReligious apologist Bjorn Belleeber, writing in the peer reviewed journal Theological Ratiocinator, is critiquing an argument forwarded in a paper from the prior edition.
Begging the Question is a fallacy that occurs when a disputant uses his conclusion as one of the premises employed to establish his conclusion. In his paper, Dawkitch asserts that: "Over time, as we progress through history, our society gets older and wiser and our view of the world and everything in it becomes less and less superstitious and more realistic. We stop believing in spirits, demons and the undead. Our model becomes realistic; over time, we update it with correct information from the real world." How can Dawkitch know this is true before all the evidence is in? Dawkitch begs the question and assumes that his conclusion is true by restating the premise.
Comment"Red flags" are the particular things one looks out for that could mean a fallacy is in play. For example, gratuitous insults and slurs on an opponent's character could mean an Ad Hominem attack. "Faux pas" comes from French, meaning “false step”. In English (and French) faux pas are embarrassing violations of social norms. So in this sense a Red Flag Faux Pas is the embarrassing mistake of accusing someone of making a fallacy, when in fact they have not.
Just because a red flag has caught one's attention, in order to avoid taking a "false step", one shouldn't be overly hasty in claiming a fallacy has been committed. Is the red flag the basis of an argument? If so, then it is likely a fallacy is being made. If the red flag is an addendum to an argument or point, or simply not part of an argument, then it may not be fallacious (it might simply be impolite and/or irrelevant).
The example above is not Begging the Question, as Belleeber claims. There is no premise in Dawkitch’s statement. There is also no conclusion. Ergo, it’s not Begging the Question. It is simply an assertion. One can choose to agree or disagree with it, but it’s not Begging the Question. Begging the Question would be more like:
Note the introduction of the word "because". This clearly shows this is the sentence that attempts to justify the claim in the initial section. But of course, it’s simply the initial claim reworded to sound like a justification. Now it is a Question Begging argument. Dawkitch should only be accused of making an unsupported assertion. This in itself could be argued is error enough. Every sentence simply repeats this assertion in a different manner for more emphasis.
Over time, as we progress through history, our society gets older and wiser and our view of the world and everything in it becomes less and less superstitious and more realistic. We stop believing in spirits, demons and the undead. This is because our model becomes realistic over time, we update it with correct information from the real world and stop relying on supernatural explanations for unexplained phenomena.
Making a Red Flag Faux Pas is understandable. In cases such as the example above, the continued repetition of the same point is easily mistaken for a Question Begging argument, just as insulting somebody is easily assumed to be an Ad Hominem attack. The key to identifying a fallacy is careful consideration of the structure of the argument or position. Is is formulated as an argument? If not, it is more than likely a naked assertion, which can be dismissed in any case.