Fallacious arguments employed by believers.

Total Posts:  25
Joined  05-10-2007
29 December 2008 08:05

Reading the work of Alan Dershowitz brought this to mind. Alan employs a vast repertoire of fallacious arguments honed by years of practice. Similar techniques have been employed recently by Ben Stein and Richard Sternberg albeit much less effectively. Unfortunately many people are unable to see through the thick smokescreen laid by such pundits.

- Card stacking:

Card stacking, or selective omission, is one of the seven techniques identified by the IPA, or Institute for Propaganda Analysis. It involves only presenting information that is positive to an idea or proposal and omitting information contrary to it. Card stacking is used in almost all forms of propaganda, and is extremely effective in convincing the public. Although the majority of information presented by the card stacking approach is true, it is dangerous because it omits important information. The best way to deal with card stacking is to get more information.


-Appeal to Antiquity / Tradition

An appeal to antiquity is the opposite of an appeal to novelty. Appeals to antiquity assume that older ideas are better, that the fact that an idea has been around for a while implies that it is true. This, of course, is not the case; old ideas can be bad ideas, and new ideas can be good ideas. We therefore can’t learn anything about the truth of an idea just by considering how old it is.


- Appeal to Wealth

The appeal to wealth fallacy is committed by any argument that assumes that someone or something is better simply because they are wealthier or more expensive. It is the opposite of the appeal to poverty.

In a society in which we often aspire to wealth, where wealth is held up as that to which we all aspire, it is easy to slip into thinking that everything that is associated with wealth is good. Rich people can be thought to deserve more respect than poorer people; more expensive goods can be thought to be better than less expensive goods solely because of their price.


- Appeal to Authority

An appeal to authority is an argument from the fact that a person judged to be an authority affirms a proposition to the claim that the proposition is true.

Appeals to authority are always deductively fallacious; even a legitimate authority speaking on his area of expertise may affirm a falsehood, so no testimony of any authority is guaranteed to be true.

However, the informal fallacy occurs only when the authority cited either (a) is not an authority, or (b) is not an authority on the subject on which he is being cited. If someone either isn’t an authority at all, or isn’t an authority on the subject about which they’re speaking, then that undermines the value of their testimony.


- An argumentum ad populum (Latin: “appeal to the people”), in logic, is a fallacious argument that concludes a proposition to be true because many or all people believe it; it alleges that “If many believe so, it is so.”

This type of argument is known by several names[1], including appeal to the masses, appeal to belief, appeal to the majority, appeal to the people, argument by consensus, authority of the many, and bandwagon fallacy, and in Latin by the names argumentum ad populum (“appeal to the people”), argumentum ad numerum (“appeal to the number”), and consensus gentium (“agreement of the clans”). It is also the basis of a number of social phenomena, including communal reinforcement and the bandwagon effect, the spreading of various religious and anti-religious beliefs, and of the Chinese proverb “three men make a tiger”.


- Appeal to consequences, also known as argumentum ad consequentiam (Latin for argument to the consequences), is an argument that concludes a premise (typically a belief) to be either true or false based on whether the premise leads to desirable or undesirable consequences. This is based on an appeal to emotion and is a form of logical fallacy, since the desirability of a consequence does not address the truth value of the premise. Moreover, in categorizing consequences as either desirable or undesirable, such arguments inherently contain subjective points of view.

In logic, appeal to consequences refers only to arguments which assert a premise’s truth value (true or false) based on the consequences; appeal to consequences does not refer to arguments that address a premise’s desirability (good or bad, or right or wrong) instead of its truth value. Therefore, an argument based on appeal to consequences is valid in ethics, and in fact such arguments are the cornerstones of many moral theories, particularly related to consequentialism.


- Argumentum ad baculum (Latin for argument to the cudgel or appeal to the stick), also known as appeal to force, is an argument where force, coercion, or the threat of force, is given as a justification for a conclusion. It is a specific case of the negative form of an argument to the consequences.


- Glittering generalities

Use attractive, but vague words that make speeches and other communications sound good, but in practice say nothing in particular.

Use linguistic patterns such as alliteration, metaphor and reversals that turn your words into poetry that flows and rhymes in hypnotic patterns.

Use words that appeal to values, which often themselves are related to triggering of powerful emotions.

A common element of glittering generalities are intangible nouns that embody ideals, such as dignity, freedom, fame, integrity, justice, love and respect.


- Stereotyping

Cast those who you want to denigrate into an unpopular stereotype. Talk about the stereotypes as ‘them’, downplaying their rights as humans. Describe them as threatening, unworthy, disgusting and other negative frames.

Put emphasis on the stereotype words and the associations you want link to the stereotypes.

Name their leaders. Give exaggerated and distorted examples that ‘prove’ the stereotype and so condemn all who follow them.

Stereotyping can also be used to cast a group of people as good, perfect and otherwise wonderful and desirable.


- Argumentum verbosium

Proof by verbosity is also used colloquially in forensic debate to describe a logical fallacy (sometimes called “argumentum verbosium”) that tries to persuade by overwhelming those considering an argument with such a volume of material that the argument sounds plausible, superficially appears to be well-researched, and that is so laborious to untangle and check supporting facts that the argument is allowed to slide by unchallenged. It is the fallacy epitomized by the familiar quote: “If you can’t dazzle them with your brilliance, then baffle them with your bullshit.”


I am sure I missed some of the methods employed but this provides a starting point.

[ Edited: 16 December 2011 03:23 by Nhoj Morley]
Total Posts:  16186
Joined  15-02-2008
29 December 2008 13:09

That’s marketing 101. One of my favorites is pointing out negatives as proof that the positives must be true in order to justify the negatives.