Often times while in debate or discussion with someone, they may say something that they state as though it was truth, but upon further examination you find that in fact their statement does not prove anything. What they have committed is what is commonly known as a Logical Fallacy.
The discovery of Logical Fallacies within an argument is a very very important practice in defending your faith. They are very common in the arguments of atheists, Muslims, Mormons, and pretty much every other religion, including Christianity. It is because of their importance that I will list what I think are the ten most common Logical Fallacies that get committed, not just so that we can uncover them in an opponent’s argument, but so we can avoid using them ourselves when we are called upon to give a defense for the hope that is in us.
Ad Hominem (Appeal to the Person) - This is the fallacy where the character of the person is attacked. By paying close attention you will find that ad Hominem is used more often than any of the fallacies you will see in this list. Often times you will see this used by atheists when trying to convince others of their position. While it may be intimidating to hear, it may be seen as either a sign of immaturity or a lack of defense in your opponent’s argument. There have been multiple times where I have cut off discussions because even after warning, my opponent could not refrain from throwing nothing but vulgar insults in my direction. If you ever come across this in a discussion, I encourage you to stop your opponent and simply ask, “was it your goal to lower my self-esteem by insult or actually prove something by fact?”
In his best seller The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins uses this fallacy as a personal favorite, often filling page after page with insults without providing any evidence for his particular view. The sad thing is that many Christians have been lead away from their faith as a result to Dawkins and other authors from his platoon.
- Example A: “You’re so dumb there’s no way you can possibly be right!”
- Example B: “Yes, but if I were as dumb as you, I’d be an atheist too.”
Appeal to Numbers - This is the fallacy that is committed when someone tries to refer to the results of polls or surveys in an attempt to show that their viewpoint is valid because a certain percentage of the public agrees with them. While often serving a purpose in speeches and presentations, appealing to numbers is however quite incapable of proving anything in an argument.
- Example A: “A recent survey showed that 65% of the people in Chicago are Atheist. This proves that there is no such thing as God.”
- Example B: “This is Interesting, because another recent survey showed that 70% of the people in Chicago have IQ’s lower than 12. This proves that atheists are all unintelligent.”
Circular Argument or Begging the Question - This fallacy occurs when someone uses what they are trying to prove as part of the proof of that very thing; or they just simply assume it to be true without providing any evidence. These are sometimes very difficult to point out in a debate but if found it can be very effective to reveal it.
- Example A: “The Koran is right because it says it is right.”
- Example B: “Since Darwinian evolution is a fact, we can conclude that we’ve all evolved from monkeys.”
Appeal to Authority - This fallacy is committed whenever someone cites another person who agrees with them, even though the person has no expertise in the topic of the argument.
- Example A: “Albert Einstein said, ‘;God is subtle but he is not malicious’ so therefore the wrathful God of the Old Testament does not exist.”
- Example B: “Jessica Simpson said, ‘;there is chicken in the sea,’ so therefore birds can swim.”
Appeal to Pity - This fallacy is committed when someone tries to manipulate the reception of their argument by using pleading and emotion to convince or manipulate people.
- Example A: “I was beaten and kidnapped by a man I thought was a Christian! What kind of God would let that happen? One that doesn’t exist!”
- Example B: “Atheists don’t believe in morals! They believe anything is permissible! Even rape and murder! So why should we let them continue to be a part of society?”
False Dilemma - This occurs when only two choices are given when in fact there could possibly be more. You may come across this when people try to intellectually back you into a corner by forcing you to validate one of two options when in fact both of them are false.
- Example A: “Are you a Jew or a Muslim?”
- Example B: “Jesus was either a lying prophet or a delusional motivational speaker.”
Genetic Fallacy - This is what happens when someone tries to either credit or discredit a claim because of its origin or history.
- Example A: “Since God in the Old Testament told the Israelites to completely destroy the Canaanites, I cannot believe that God exists.”
- Example B: “I would not buy that automobile because the owner of the company is an atheist, therefore it can’t possibly be a good car.”
Non Sequitur - This refers to an argument that does not properly follow from a premise or the conclusion. Like many others this is often difficult to catch in a conversation because it can be very well hidden.
- Example A: “In the Bible Jesus said he would send us a helper. That helper was Muhammad. Therefore Islam is the one true religion.”
- Example B: “I believe God is love, and I am a very loving person, so therefore I am God.”
Red Herring - This occurs when someone brings in irrelevant facts to the topic at hand. Often this happens when a person can no longer defend their position so they have to bring in a new topic in order to support their view.
- Example A: “I know there is still no transitional fossils to prove Darwinian Evolution, but are you going to tell me that some invisible man made it all?”
- Example B: “Yes, Jesus did fulfill prophecies and perform many miracles, but I am a good person, why can’t that be enough?”
Straw Man - This fallacy occurs when someone produces a somewhat false argument that is meant to be proven false. Think of a straw man, like in the Wizard of Oz, he is easy to build but is formed so that he can make a fool of his target. This fallacy is often committed to make someone look unintelligent and humiliated which will as a result cause him to lose respect in the argument.
- Example A: “My opponent is saying that a wrathful God will send us to a hot fiery Hell, where he will watch us burn for all eternity. But… he loves us.”
- Example B: “So your saying that we all crawled out of some slimy ooze billions of years ago as some fish, which turned into a monkey, which turned into me? Yet, I’m the crazy one.”