Tuesday, April 7, 2015


Fallacies (mistaken beliefs based on an unsound argument) appear in many forms, as the author of pearls and elephants recently posted:

Straw man – an argument used against a real person, the key is that the straw man does not exist but is fabricated to take attention away from the real person.  Discerning a straw man argument means finding out who the real person is and what he/she stands for – voting records help with this and are available via Freedom of Information Act requests.

Red Herring – a false plank or issue, similar to the straw man in that it is a fabrication meant to take attention away from actuality.

Band Wagon – Apple uses this to great effect, it is otherwise known as the coolness effect.  “Everyone is doing it (or wearing it), come on!”  Parents often confront this argument with, “If everyone jumped off a bridge, or stood on a rooftop to take a selfie, does that make it an intelligent, informed choice?”

Slippery Slope – an argument that asks you to accept a small step that leads to another step until ultimately you have strayed far from the truth.  An example comes from a play titled, A Streetcar Named Desire.  In the play, the female lead wears a slip rather than her dress on stage.  It caused a furor in 1947 – what about today?

More types of fallacies are discussed here

Fallacies are Red Flags. Other red flags include innocent inaccuracies (errors, mistakes), accidental or intended omissions, author bias, prejudice, deliberate misinformation, phishing. Fallacies are a staple of propaganda.

A great student evaluation activity is to provide examples of fallacious information and have students decide what it is.

What would you say these are:
  1. Reporter: "It seems to me that if you were elected president, the Congress with which you would have to work would not be very cooperative at all. How could you, as president, bring about any reform or help enact any beneficial legislation with a Congress that was almost totally opposed to your programs?" Ross Perot: "Well, if I were elected, about half the members of Congress would drop dead of heart attacks, and half of my problem would be solved from the outset."  [source/answer]
  2. Environmentalist: "Bicycle infrastructure should be expanded because cycling is a sustainable mode of transportation." Opponent: "We should not build bike lanes because cyclists run red lights and endanger pedestrians." [source/answer]
  3. Blogger: "I hope the art mural at 34th and Habersham will not be allowed. You open the gate for one, you open it for all and you'll have it all over the city. A person wanting to paint on buildings is nothing more than upscale graffiti. More than likely it will go too far." [source/answer]
  4. Son: "Wow, Dad, it's really hard to make a living on my salary." Father: "Consider yourself lucky, son. Why, when I was your age, I only made $40 a week." [source/answer]
  5. Voter:  "Everyone in Lemmingtown is behind Jim Duffie for Mayor. Shouldn't you be part of the winning team?" [source/answer]
Feel free to add your own examples by leaving a comment.

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