Logical Fallacies - Religious Debate

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Logical Fallacies - Religious Debate

Righ-tio, I'm currently doing logic at school, and pursuing it as an interest, so I thought I might briefly summarise some logical fallacies in regards to religious debate. If I miss any or haven't elaborated etc. please feel free to post.

Abusive ad hominem - Comes down to attacking the person on an unrelated matter to the debate at hand. That is - "you're fat, so your opinion on religion is worthless"

Circumstantial ad hominem - Like a more sophisticated version of abusive ad hominem. It basically sets out that because of one's circumstances (most commonly attributed with one's job/beliefs) that they're argument is worthless. For example, someone accusing a priest "Of Course you would hold the view that the bible is correct, you're a priest". Whether this is true or not is irrelevant, the important thing is that the position of the priest is being attacked rather than the argument itself.

Tu Quoque - This is basically arguing that because a person is being a hypocrite, their argument is invalid. Soooo, for example, a theist could claim that because their opponent in a debate has made an argument not based on scientific evidence, that one of their arguments not based on scientific evidence is just as valid (This isn't a great example - I'd appreciate an alternative)

Ad Vericundian - This fallacy is an 'appeal to wrong authority'. This is when one argues that a supposed expert at one thing is therefore an expert at other unrelated things. This one is commonly used - priests are almost always used in opposition to scientists when debating the logical and scientific worth of evolution for example.

Ad Misericordiam This fallacy is an 'appeal to pity'. Simply put, it tries to make an argument look stronger because of emotional attachment. e.g. Stop being so harsh, my relationship with god is very personal

Ad Populum An 'appeal to popular opinion'. As in, every one believes in this, therefore you should too

Ad BaculumAn 'appeal to force'. This is one of the main reasons behind allowing religion to exist. dun dun dun - If you don't believe in my religion/god, you will spend eternity rotting in hell

Ad IgnorantiumAnother signature one. Basically, because you cannot disprove something, it must be true. i.e. Because you cannot disprove God's existence, he must exist

Appeal to nature Because something is natural, it must be better. 'Gay people shouldn't be gay because this isn't what humans were designed to do, whether evolutionary or created.

Appeal to association This is where you pass on the attributes from one thing to the things which it is attributed to. For example, on Sapient's report on that CNN thing, he mentioned people who said that they had lost all respect for CNN. If they had lost all respect for CNN beccause they were dumbarses, didn't know the first thing about rational argument and because they all believed in god, then it would be fallacious. This is because the attributes of the people on the panel would be given to CNN. If however, they lost respect for CNN because they set up a stupid panel, then it is perfectly justifiable.

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc This is where one assumes that because event A preceded event B, event A must have caused event B. For example, because someone praying preceded the survival of a friend, then that praying must have caused the survival of that friend.

Slippery Slope Event A might lead to Event B, Event B might lead to even C etc. right on down to Z. Then the individual claims that event A then must cause event Z. 'If we allow gay people to marry, family values will be lost, and then children will be without morality...and it won't be long before Nazis riding dinosaurs will rule the earth!(drawn together)

Petitio Principii Circular argument. This is where two unproven arguments use each other to be logical. The bible is true because god created it. God exists because the bible says so. God exists. (I'm sorry, but I can't help myself - ROFLMAO)

Fallacy of relativity This is when a relative term is used like an absolute term. So - theism requires absolute faith, atheism requires the tiniest of tiniest leaps of faith (not really though), therefore both atheism and theism are really the same

Fallacy of redefinition This is where one has a definition of a word that they use in argument, then that person realises their argument is in fact crap. I think hambydamnit put it well in this example

Theist: God is omnipotent. He can do anything.

Atheist: He obviously can't make a married bachelor, so he's not omnipotent.

Theist: He is. He can do anything logically possible.

Ok, there are probably a lot more which I have forgotten, but this is a basic list. Ask me if you want clarification etc.

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No True Scotsman - when you

No True Scotsman - when you define a term so narrowly that only what you choose fits into it - comes from the classic version:

"Scotsmen don't put molasses on their oatmeal"

"But my Uncle Angus puts molasses on his oatmeal!"

"No true Scotsman puts molasses on his oatmeal!"

Strawman - Presenting a slanted view of the othersides viewpoint that literally nobody would agree with - ie presenting evolution as humans coming into existance "only by chance."

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I listen to the  New

I listen to the  New England Skeptical Society Podcast each week and they have a top 20 logical fallacy list here:


Good stuff. 

"It is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring." - Carl Sagan

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Moving Goal Posts: The

Moving Goal Posts: The theist changes definitions and standards of evidence to maintain a position. "Well, yes, MICROevolution occurs, but not macroevolution." (Shown example of speciation.) "Well, yes, SPECIES can evolve, but the the Bible never talks about species, it talks about KINDS. You'll never see a dog give birth to a banana."

Another funny example: "All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?" -- Life of Brian

False dichotomy: The theist assumes there are only two positions possible. "If you're right, so what? But if you're wrong, you will burn in hell forever." (What about all the other possible gods? We could both be wrong.)

Tu quoque: AKA the You Too fallacy. Theist sees his position is weak, so he projects his weakness onto you, claiming your position is weak for the same reason. (After being shown faith is not a justification) "Well, you have faith that there's no god, so you're just as bad as me." (Which does nothing to support his position, even if true.)


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