Bailey83221 (bailey83221) wrote,



Web pages: Logical fallicies & Top Ten Dodge List

Skeptic's Dictionary

A less comprehensive, but more interesting Baloney Detection Kit in the book The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan also explains the fallacies of logic.

see also:

These fallacies appeal to evidence or examples that are irrelevant to the argument at hand.

Argumentum Ad Hominem
(Literally, “Argument to the Man.” Also called “Poisoning the Well” and "Personal Attack"):
Attacking or praising the people who make an argument rather than discussing the argument itself. This practice is fallacious because the personal character of an individual is logically irrelevant to the truth or falseness of the argument itself. The statement "2+2=4" is true regardless if is stated by a criminal, congressmen, or a pastor. There are two subcategories:

To argue that proposals, assertions, or arguments must be false or dangerous because they originate with atheists, Christians, Communists, the John Birch Society, Catholics, anti-Catholics, racists, anti-racists, feminists, misogynists (or any other group) is fallacious. This persuasion comes from irrational psychological transference rather than from an appeal to evidence or logic concerning the issue at hand. This is similar to the genetic fallacy.

To argue that opponents should accept or refute an argument only because of circumstances in their lives is a fallacy. If one’s adversary is a clergyman, suggesting that he should accept a particular argument because not to do so would be incompatible with the scriptures is a circumstantial fallacy. To argue that, because the reader is a Republican, he must vote for a specific measure is likewise a circumstantial fallacy. The opponent’s special circumstances do not affect the truth or untruth of a specific contention. The speaker or writer must find additional evidence beyond that to make a strong case.

Appeal to Force: (Argumentum ad Baculum, or the “Might-Makes-Right” Fallacy):
This argument uses force, the threat of force, or some other unpleasant backlash to make the audience accept a conclusion. It commonly appears as a last resort when evidence or rational arguments fail to convince. Logically, this consideration has nothing to do with the merits of the points under consideration.

Example: “Superintendent, it would be a good idea for
your school to cut the budget by $16,000. I need not remind you
that past school boards have fired superintendents who cannot keep
down costs.”

While intimidation might force the superintendent to conform, it does not convince him that the choice to cut the budget was the most beneficial for the school or community. Lobbyists use this method when they remind legislators that they represent so many thousand votes in the legislators’ constituencies.

Genetic Fallacy:
The genetic fallacy is the claim that, because an idea, product, or person must be wrong because of its origin.

"That car can't possibly be any good! It was made in Japan!"
Or, "Why should I listen to her argument? She comes from California,
and we all know those people are flakes."

This type of fallacy is closely related to the fallacy of argumentum ad hominem, below.

Argumentum Ad Populum:
Using an appeal to popular assent, often by arousing the feelings and enthusiasm of the multitude rather than building an argument. It is a favorite device with the propagandist, the demagogue, and the advertiser. An example of this type of argument is Shakespeare’s version of Mark Antony’s funeral oration for Julius Caesar. There are three basic approaches:

(Bandwagon Approach):

“Everybody is doing it.”

This argumentum ad populum asserts that, since the majority of people believes an argument or chooses a particular course of action, the argument must be true or the course of action must be the best one.

Example: “85% of consumers purchase IBM computers
rather than Macintosh; all those people can’t be wrong. IBM must
make the best computers.”

Popular acceptance of any argument does not prove it to be valid, nor does popular use of any product necessarily prove it is the best one. After all, 85% of people possibly once thought planet earth was flat, but that majority's belief didn't mean the earth really was flat! Keep this in mind, and remember that all should avoid this logical fallacy.

(Patriotic Approach): “Draping oneself in the flag.”
This argument asserts that a certain stance is true or correct because it is somehow patriotic, and that those who disagree are somehow unpatriotic. It overlaps with pathos and argumentum ad hominem to a certain extent. The best way to spot it is to look for emotionally charged terms like Americanism, rugged individualism, motherhood, patriotism, godless communism, etc.

A true American would never use this approach. And a truly
free man will exercise his American right to drink beer, since beer
belongs in this great country of ours. This approach is unworthy of a
good citizen.

(Snob Approach):
This type of argumentum ad populum doesn’t assert “everybody is doing it,” but rather that “all the best people are doing it.” For instance,

“Any true intellectual would recognize the necessity for
studying logical fallacies.”

The implication is that anyone who fails to recognize the truth of the author’s assertion is not an intellectual, and thus the reader had best recognize that necessity. In all three of these examples, the rhetorician does not supply evidence that an argument is true; he merely makes assertions about people who agree or disagree with the argument.

Appeal to Tradition (Argumentum ad Traditio):
This line of thought asserts that a premise must be true because people have always believed it or done it. Alternatively, it may conclude that the premise has always worked in the past and will thus always work in the future:

“Jefferson City has kept its urban growth boundary at six miles
for the past thirty years. That has been good enough for thirty years, so
why should we change it now? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Such an argument is appealing in that it seems to be common sense, but it ignores important questions.
Might an alternative policy work even better than the old one? Are there drawbacks to that long-standing policy? Are circumstances changing from the way they were thirty years ago?

Appeal to Improper Authority (Argumentum ad Verecundium):
An appeal to an improper authority, such as a famous person or a source that may not be reliable. This fallacy attempts to capitalize upon feelings of respect or familiarity with a famous individual. It is not fallacious to refer to an admitted authority if the individual’s expertise is within a strict field of knowledge.

On the other hand, to cite Einstein to settle an argument about
education is fallacious. To cite Darwin, an authority on biology, on
religious matters is fallacious. To cite Cardinal Spellman on legal
problems is fallacious.

The worst offenders usually involve movie stars and psychic hotlines. A subcategory is the Appeal to Biased Authority. In this sort of appeal, the authority is one who truly is knowledgeable on the topic, but unfortunately one who may have professional or personal motivations that render that judgment suspect:

“To determine whether fraternities are beneficial to this
campus, we interviewed all the frat presidents.”

Indeed, it is important to get "both viewpoints" on an argument, but basing a substantial part of your argument on a source that has personal, professional, or financial interests at stake may lead to biased arguments.

Argumentum Ad Misericordiam:
An emotional appeal concerning what should be a logical issue. While pathos generally works to reinforce a reader’s sense of duty or outrage at some abuse, if a writer tries to use emotion for the sake of getting the reader to accept a logical conclusion, the approach is fallacious.

For example, in the 1880s, Virginian prosecutors presented
overwhelming proof that a boy was guilty of murdering his parents
with an ax. The defense presented a "not-guilty" plea for on the grounds
that the boy was now an orphan, with no one to look after his interests
if the court was not lenient.

This appeal to emotion obviously seems misplaced, and it is irrelevant to the question of whether or not he did the crime.

Component fallacies are errors in inductive and deductive reasoning or in syllogistic terms that fail to overlap.

Begging the Question (also called Petitio Principii and “Circular Reasoning”):
If writers assume as evidence for their argument the very conclusion they are attempting to prove, they engage in the fallacy of begging the question. The most common form of this fallacy is when the claim is initially loaded with the same conclusion one has yet to prove.

For instance, suppose a particular student group states, "Useless
courses like English 101 should be dropped from the college's curriculum."
The members of the group then immediately move on, illustrating that
spending money on a useless course is something nobody wants.

Yes, we all agree that spending money on useless courses is a bad thing. However, those students never did prove that English 101 was itself a useless course--they merely "begged the question" and moved on to the next component of the argument, skipping the most important part. Begging the question if often hidden in the form of a complex question (see below).

Circular Reasoning is a subtype of begging the question.
Often the authors word the two statements sufficiently differently to obscure the fact that that the same proposition occurs as both a premise and a conclusion. Richard Whately wrote in Elements of Logic (London 1826):

“To allow every man unbounded freedom of speech must
always be on the whole, advantageous to the state; for it is highly
conducive to the interest of the community that each individual
should enjoy a liberty perfectly unlimited of expressing his sentiments.”

Obviously the premise is not logically irrelevant to the conclusion, for if the premise is true the conclusion must also be true. It is, however, logically irrelevant in proving the conclusion. In the example, the author is repeating the same point in different words, and then attempting to "prove" the first assertion with the second one. An all too common example is a sequence like this one:

"God exists." "How do you know that God exists?" "The
Bible says so." "Why should I believe the Bible?" "Because it's the
inspired word of God."

The so-called "final proof" relies on unproven evidence set forth initially as the subject of debate. Surely God deserves a more intelligible argument than the circular reasoning proposed in this example!

Hasty Generalization (also called “Jumping to Conclusions,” "Converse Accident," and Dicto Simpliciter):
Mistaken use of inductive reasoning when there are too few samples to prove a point. In understanding and characterizing general cases, a logician cannot normally examine every single example. However, the examples used in inductive reasoning should be typical of the problem or situation at hand. If a logician considers only exceptional or dramatic cases and generalizes a rule that fits these alone, the author commits the fallacy of hasty generalization.
One common type of hasty generalization is the Fallacy of Accident. This error occurs when one applies a general rule to a particular case when accidental circumstances render the general rule inapplicable.

For example, in Plato’s Republic, Plato finds an exception
to the general rule that one should return what one has borrowed:
“Suppose that a friend when in his right mind has deposited arms
with me and asks for them when he is not in his right mind. Ought
I to give the weapons back to him? No one would say that I ought
or that I should be right in doing so. . . .”

What is true in general may not be true universally and without qualification. So remember, generalizations are bad. All of them. Every single last one.

Another common example of this fallacy is the misleading statistic.

Suppose an individual argues that women must be incompetent
drivers, and he points out that last Tuesday at the Department of Motor
Vehicles, 50% of the women who took the driving test failed.

That would seem to be compelling evidence from the way the statistic is set forth. However, if only two women took the test that day, the results would be far less clear-cut.

False Cause:
This fallacy establishes a cause/effect relationship that does not exist. There are various Latin names for various analyses of the fallacy. The two most common include these:

(Non Causa Pro Causa):
A general, catchall category for mistaking a false cause of an event for the real cause.

(Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc):
Literally, "After this, therefore because of this." This type of false cause occurs when the writer mistakenly assumes that, because the first event preceded the second event, it must mean the first event must have caused the later one. Sometimes it does, but sometimes it doesn't. It is the honest writer’s job to establish that connection rather than merely assert it.

The most common examples are arguments that viewing a
particular movie or show, or listening to a particular type of music
“caused” the listener to perform an antisocial act--to snort coke, shoot
classmates, or take up a life of crime.

These may be potential suspects for the cause, but the mere fact that an individual did these acts and subsequently behaved in a certain way does not yet conclusively rule out other causes. Perhaps the listener had an abusive home-life or school-life, suffered from a chemical imbalance leading to depression and paranoia, or made a bad choice in his companions. Other potential causes must be examined before asserting that one event or circumstance alone caused an event. Frequently, sloppy thinkers confuse correlation with causation.

Ignorantio Elenchi (Irrelevant Conclusion):
This fallacy occurs when a rhetorician adapts an argument purporting to establish a particular conclusion and directs it to prove a different conclusion.

For example, when a particular proposal for housing legislation
is under consideration, a legislator may argue that decent housing for
all people is desirable. Everyone, presumably, will agree. However,
the question at hand concerns a particular measure. The question
really isn't, "is it good to have decent housing," the question really
is, "will that measure provide it or is there a better alternative?"

This type of fallacy is a common one in student papers when students use a shared assumption--such as the fact that decent housing is a desirable thing to have--and then spend the bulk of their essays focused on that fact rather than the real question at issue. It's very similar to begging the question, above.

One of the most common forms of ignorantio elenchi is the “Red Herring.” A red herring is a deliberate attempt to change the subject or divert the argument from the real question at issue;

For instance, “Senator Jones should not be held
accountable for cheating on his income tax. After all, there
are other senators who have done far worse things.”

Another example: “I should not pay a fine for reckless driving.
There are many other people on the street who are dangerous
criminals and rapists, and the police should be chasing them,
not harassing a decent tax-paying citizen like me.”

Certainly, worse criminals do exist, but that it is another issue! The question at hand is, did the speaker drive recklessly, and should he pay a fine for it?

Another similar example of the red herring is the fallacy known as Tu Quoque (Latin for "And you too!"), which asserts that the advice or argument must be false simply because the person presenting the advice doesn't follow it herself.

For instance, "Reverend Jeremias claims that theft is
wrong, but how can theft be wrong if Jeremias himself admits
he stole objects when he was a child?"

Straw Man:
This fallacy is a type of red herring in which a writer creates an oversimplified, easy-to-refute argument, places it in the mouth of his opponent, and then tries to "win" the debate by knocking down that empty or trivial argument. For instance, one speaker might be engaged in a debate concerning welfare.

The opponent argues, "Tennessee should increase funding
to unemployed single mothers during the first year after childbirth
because they need sufficient money to provide medical care for
their newborn children." The second speaker retorts, "My opponent
believes that some parasites who don't work should get a free ride
from the tax money of hard-working honest citizens. I'll show you
why he's wrong. . ."

In this example, the second speaker is engaging in a straw man strategy, distorting the opposition's statement into an oversimplified form so he can more easily "win." However, the second speaker is only defeating a dummy-argument rather than honestly engaging in the real nuances of the debate.

Non Sequitur (literally, "It does not follow"):
A non sequitur is any argument that does not follow from the previous statements. Usually what happened is that the writer leaped from A to B and then jumped to D, leaving out step C of an argument she thought through in her head, but did not put down on paper. The phrase is applicable in general to any type of logical fallacy, but logicians use the term particularly in reference to syllogistic errors such as the undistributed middle term, non causa pro causa, and ignorantio elenchi. A common example would be an argument along these lines:

"Giving up our nuclear arsenal in the 1980's weakened
the United States' military. Giving up nuclear weaponry also
weakened China in the 1990s. For this reason, it is wrong to try to
outlaw pistols and rifles in the United States today."

The "Slippery Slope" Fallacy (also called "The Camel's Nose Fallacy")
Is a non sequitur in which the speaker argues that, once the first step is undertaken, a second or third step will inevitably follow, much like the way one step on a slippery incline will cause a person to fall and slide all the way to the bottom..

It is also called "the Camel's Nose Fallacy" because of the image of a sheik who let his camel stick its nose into its tent on a cold night. The idea is that the sheik is afraid to let the camel stick its nose into the tent because once the beast sticks in its nose, it will inevitably stick in its head, and then its neck, and eventually its whole body. However, this sort of thinking does not allow for any possibility of stopping the process. It simply assumes that, once the nose is in, the rest must follow--that the sheik can't stop the progression once it has begun--and thus the argument is a logical fallacy.

For instance, if one were to argue, "If we allow the
government to infringe upon our right to privacy on the Internet,
it will then feel free to infringe upon our privacy on the telephone.
After that, FBI agents will be reading our mail. Then they will be
placing cameras in our houses. We must not let any governmental
agency interfere with our Internet communications, or privacy will
completely vanish in the United States."

Such thinking is fallacious; no logical proof has been provided yet that infringement in one area will necessarily lead to infringement in another, no more than a person buying a single can of Coca-Cola in a grocery store would indicate the person will inevitably go on to buy every item available in the store, helpless to stop herself.

Either/Or Fallacy (also called "the black and white fallacy" and "false dilemma"):
This fallacy occurs when a writer builds an argument upon the assumption that there are only two choices or possible outcomes when actually there are several. Outcomes are seldom so simple. This fallacy most frequently appears in connection to sweeping generalizations:

“Either we must ban X or the American way of life will collapse.”
"We go to war with Canada, or else Canada will eventually grow
in population and overwhelm the United States."
"Either you drink Burpsy Cola, or you will have no friends and no social life."

You must avoid either/or fallacies, or everyone will think you are foolish.

Faulty Analogy:
Relying only on comparisons to prove a point rather than arguing deductively and inductively.

“Education is like cake; a small amount tastes sweet, but
eat too much and your teeth will rot out. Likewise, more than two
years of education is bad for a student.”

The analogy is only acceptable to the degree to which a reader agrees that education is similar to cake. As you can see, faulty analogies are like flimsy wood, and just as no carpenter would build a house out of flimsy wood, no writer should ever construct an argument out of flimsy material.

Undistributed Middle Term:
A specific type of error in deductive reasoning in which the minor premise and the major premise may or may not overlap.

Consider these two examples:

(1) “All reptiles are cold-blooded. All snakes are reptiles. All snakes
are cold-blooded.” In the first example, the middle term “snakes”
fits in the categories of both “reptile” and “things-that-are-cold-blooded.”
It is what logicians call a “distributed middle term.”

(2) “All snails are cold-blooded. All snakes are cold-blooded. All snails
are snakes.” In the second example, the middle term of “snakes” does
not fit into the categories of both “things-that-are-cold-blooded” and “snails.”

It is an undistributed middle term. Sometimes, equivocation (see below) leads to an undistributed middle term.

These errors occur with ambiguous words or phrases, the meanings of which shift and change in the course of discussion. Such more or less subtle changes can render arguments fallacious.

Using a word in a different way than the author used it in the original premise, or changing definitions halfway through a discussion. When we use the same word or phrase in different senses within one line of argument, we commit the fallacy of equivocation.

Consider this example: “Plato says the end of a
thing is its perfection; I say that death is the end of life;
hence, death is the perfection of life.”

Here the word end means goal in Plato's usage, but it means last event in the author's second usage. Clearly, the speaker is twisting Plato's meaning of the word to draw a very different conclusion.

Amphiboly (from the Greek word “indeterminate”):
This fallacy is a subtype of equivocation. Here, the ambiguity results from grammatical construction. A statement may be true according to one interpretation of how each word functions in a sentence and false according to another. When a premise works with an interpretation that is true, but the conclusion uses the secondary “false” interpretation, we have the fallacy of amphiboly on our hands.

In the command, “Save soap and waste paper,”

the amphibolean use of the word waste results in the problem of determining whether "waste" functions as a verb (Should I save the soap but waste all the paper?) or as an adjective ("Is that a pile of waste paper I should save along with the soap?").

This fallacy is a result of reasoning from the properties of the parts of the whole to the properties of the whole itself--it is an inductive error.

Such an argument might hold that, because
every individual part of a large tractor is lightweight,
the entire machine also must be lightweight.

This fallacy is similar to Hasty Generalization (see above), but it focuses on parts of a single whole rather than using too few examples to create a categorical generalization. Also compare it with Division (see below).

This fallacy is the reverse of composition. It is the misapplication of deductive reasoning. One fallacy of division argues falsely that what is true of the whole must be true of individual parts. Such an argument concludes that because Mr. Smith is an employee of an influential company, he must be an influential individual. Another fallacy of division attributes the properties of the whole to the individual member of the whole.

"Microtech is an immoral business incorporation.
Susan Jones is a janitor at Microtech. She must be an immoral individual."

These errors occur because the logician leaves out material in an argument or focuses exclusively on missing information.

Stacking the Deck:
In this fallacy, the speaker "stacks the deck" in her favor by ignoring examples that disprove the point, and listing only those examples that support her case. This fallacy is closely related to hasty generalization, but the term usually implies deliberate deception rather than an accidental logical error. Contrast it with the straw man argument.

Argument from the Negative:

Arguing from the negative asserts that, since one position is untenable, the opposite stance must be true. This fallacy is often used interchangeably with Argumentum Ad Ignorantium (listed below) and the either/or fallacy (listed above).

For instance, one might mistakenly argue that, since
the Newtonian theory of mathematics is not one hundred percent
accurate, Einstein’s theory of relativity must be true.

Perhaps not. Perhaps the theories of quantum mechanics are more accurate, and Einstein’s theory is flawed. Perhaps they are all wrong. Disproving an opponent’s argument does not necessarily mean your own argument must be true automatically, no more than disproving your opponent's assertion that 2+2=5 would automatically mean another argument that 2+2=7 must be the correct one.

Argument from a Lack of Evidence (Argumentum Ad Ignorantiam) :

Appealing to a lack of information to prove a point, or arguing that, since the opposition cannot disprove a claim, the opposite must be true.

An example of such an argument is the assertion
that ghosts must exist because no one has been able to prove
that they do not exist.

Hypothesis Contrary to Fact (Argumentum Ad Speculum) :

Trying to prove something in the real world by using imaginary examples, or asserting that, if hypothetically X had occurred, Y would have been the result.

For instance, suppose an individual asserts that Einstein had been aborted in utero, the world would never have learned about relativity, or that if Monet had been trained as a butcher rather than going to college, the impressionistic movement would have never influenced modern art.

Such hypotheses are misleading lines of argument because it is often possible that some other individual would have solved the relativistic equations or introduced an impressionistic art style. The speculation is simply useless when it comes to actually proving anything about the real world.

A common example is the idea that one "owes" her success to another individual who taught her.

For instance, "You owe me part of your increased salary. If I hadn't taught you how to recognize logical fallacies, you would be flipping hamburgers at McDonald's right now." Perhaps. But perhaps the audience would have learned about logical fallacies elsewhere, so the hypothetical situation described is meaningless.

Complex Question (Also called the "Loaded Question"):

Phrasing a question or statement in such as way as to imply another unproven statement is true without evidence or discussion. This fallacy often overlaps with begging the question (above), since it also presupposes a definite answer to a previous, unstated question.

For instance, if I were to ask you “Have you stopped
taking drugs yet?”

my supposition is that you have been taking drugs. Such a question cannot be answered with a simple yes or no answer. It is not a simple question but consists of several questions rolled into one.

In this case the unstated question is, “Have you taken drugs in the past?” followed by, “If you have taken drugs in the past, have you stopped taking them now?” In cross-examination, a lawyer might ask a flustered witness, “Where did you hide the evidence?”

The intelligent procedure when faced with such a question is to analyze its component parts. If one answers or discusses the prior, implicit question first, the explicit question may dissolve. Complex questions appear in written argument frequently.

A student might write, “Why is private development
of resources so much more efficient than any public control?”

The rhetorical question leads directly into his next argument. However, an observant reader may disagree, recognizing the prior, implicit question remains unaddressed. That question is, of course, whether private development of resources really is more efficient in all cases, a point which the author is skipping entirely and merely assuming to be true without discussion.

Contradictory Premises:

Establishing a premise in such a way that it contradicts another, earlier premise.

For instance, "If God can do anything, he can make
a stone so heavy that he can't lift it."

The first premise establishes a deity that has the irresistible capacity to move other objects. The second premise establishes an immovable object impervious to any movement. If the first object capable of moving anything exists, by definition, the immovable object cannot exist, and vice-versa.


The term "Occam's razor" comes from a misspelling of the name William of Ockham. Ockham was a brilliant theologian, philosopher, and logician in the medieval period. One of his "rules of thumb" has become a standard guideline for thinking through issues logically. Occam's razor is the principle that, if there are two competing theories to explain a single phenomenon, and they both generally reach the same conclusion, and they are both equally persuasive and convincing, and they both explain the problem or situation satisfactorily, the logician should always pick the less complex one. The one with the fewer number of moving parts, so to speak, is most likely to be correct.

An example will help illustrate this. Suppose you
come home and discover that your dog has escaped from the
kennel and chewed out large chunks out of the couch. Two
possible theories occur to you.
(1) Theory number one is that you forgot to latch the door, and
the dog pressed against it and opened it, and then was free to
run around the inside of the house.
(2) Theory number two is that some unknown person skilled at
picking locks managed to disable the front door, then came
inside the house, set the dog free from the kennel, then snuck
out again covering up any sign of his presence and then relocked
the door, leaving the dog free inside to run around the house freely.

Either one would be an adequate explanation.

Both explain the same phenomenon (the escaped dog) and both employ the same theory of how, i.e., that the latch was opened somehow, as opposed to some far-fetched theory about canine teleportation or something crazy like that. Which theory is most likely correct?

If you don't find evidence like strange fingerprints or human footprints or missing possessions, William of Ockham would say that the simpler solution is most likely to be correct in this case. The first solution only involves three entities--you, the latch, and the dog. On the other hand, the second theory requires at least six entities--you, a hypothetical unknown intruder, the intruder's lockpicking skills, the intruder's implausible motivation, the front door to your house, the dog, and the kennel's latch. It is needlessly complex.

Occam's basic rule was "Thou shalt not multiply extra entities unnecessarily," or to phrase it in modern terms, "Don't speculate about extra hypothetical components if you can find an explanation that is equally plausible without them." All things being equal, the simpler theory is more likely to be correct, rather than one with many parts or one that relies upon many hypothetical additions to the evidence already collected.

Top Ten Dodge List

Tactics to employ if you're in a logical debate and logic has not sided with you (for any number of reasons), and you are nevertheless unwilling to change your argument or opinion.

10. Ignore the entire response or question, drop out of the debate for a while, and then post again later with your argument unchanged (and the response still unaddressed) after you believe everyone has forgotten the part you had trouble with. This is a particularly popular tactic, but not necessarily aggravating unless done several times over and over again. Most of the time, users of this tactic end up getting the hint, or simply getting bored and leaving permanently. Alternately, you can ignore just one person... the person who is giving you trouble. Hopefully nobody else will notice.

9. Repeat yourself. A lot. When asked to go into detail or to explain your position(s), repeat your original claim. When asked for justifications or logical support, repeat your claim. Finally, when people accuse you of not answering any tough questions which might collapse your argument, angrily say that you've already answered all those questions in several different places. Then repeat your original claim. For bonus points, use this tactic across multiple discussion boards.

8. Change the subject. Laugh, rage mightily at posters, pout, act cute, insult someone... whatever it takes to get people's minds off of the troublesome bits. Abandon your argument, but do not change it, since it may come in handy later on. This tactic can take many forms, and is probably the most popular tactic of all. This is the classical form of the traditional "dodge", with the alternate form being to simply ignore the points of an argument you don't like.

7. Play the definition game. This one is also very popular... "death" doesn't really mean death, it really means "separation from God's grace", didn't you know that? "Kill" doesn't mean kill, it really means "murder", as any fool knows. This tactic is so popular with biblical believers because of the ample protection that is offered from the confusion resulting from having the bible translated into (and from) a jangle of languages, so that every culture comes away with a different interpretation of God's absolute word. Few people know ancient Aramaic, Hebrew, and modern English. Combine this with poetry, parable, and prophecy, and you can pretty much make up whatever you like. How can you lose?

6. Play the "but why?" game. This one is one of my pet peeves. Agree with your competitor sometimes, but always ask "but why?" at the end. Most four-year olds are adept at this game. Eventually your opponent will get tired or frustrated and abandon the debate, so you win! For extra points, proudly proclaim that you've won the debate by default.

5. Make certain your opponent understands that he is an idiot, terribly under-educated, or downright stupid. No matter how much evidence or logic he produces, wave it away with a flick of your wrist, since if it's coming from him, it obviously isn't worth considering. For extra points, treat every poster this way automatically from the outset. (Ad hominem attack: The person presenting an argument is attacked instead of the argument itself.)

4. Use logical circles to your advantage. Embrace them, don't look at them as a sign of a failed argument. Refuse to acknowledge any contradiction. If your opponent actually lays out the circle and asks you to follow it, do so until you get tired, then refer to any other tactic listed here if still pressed.

3. Use your "gut" as scientific evidence (or a logical premise). Also known as "feelings fairies", "my heart tells me so", or "I just know, okay?". Never say how it is you know, just say you have perfect knowledge of your claim. Why? Because you can feel it, and your heart tells you so.

2. Post twenty pages worth of information at once, and yell at your opponents for not answering every tidbit contained therein. If your opponent is not a professional geologist, astronomer, physicist, philosopher, and engineer, then there will be something somewhere he can't answer (thankfully for you, your own argument is "God did it", which requires knowledge of none of the beforementioned). For bonus points, use faulty data, analogies, and bad logic often, so they have a lot to address. For even more bonus points, combine this tactic with #9.

1. My personal favorite: When logically cornered, claim that logic doesn't work (or isn't applicable). Do this in a perfectly logical manner, and with a straight face.

- Bryan "Archon" Prim
Tags: debate, logic
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