What is False Logic?  Well, the name says it all.  Following are several of the most popular False Logic devices used.  All “Response” items are examples of False Logic.

Ad Hominem:

A response to a statement is an attack on the individual.  Statement – “President Bush gave tax cuts to all tax payers in America – rich and poor alike.”  Response – “Bush is an idiot.”

Appeal to Ignorance:

A statement that relies on the impossibility of disproving it.  Statement – “Honest politicians are as common as unicorns.”  Response – “Just because no one has seen a unicorn doesn’t mean they don’t exist.”

Appeal to Pity:

A statement that attempts to persuade by invoking a sense of pity.  Statement – “That politician just received a stiff sentence from the judge.”  Response – “That’s too bad, he/she had a difficult childhood.  Those three years in Fifth Grade were especially rough.”

Appeal to Popularity:

A statement that attempts to persuade by using popular opinion.  Statement – “The global demand for oil sure made the price of gas go up last summer.”  Response – “Nonsense, it was the greedy oil companies that caused the gas prices to go so high.  Just ask anyone in Hollywood.”

False Dilemma:

Creating a limited set of proposals and not including viable options.  Statement – “K-12 education needs to improve.”  Response – “True.  The system needs a lot more money to make things better.”  (Ignored are options that improve academic achievement without significantly increasing costs like High Standards testing, parental involvement, school choice, etc.)

Gambler’s Fallacy:

Independent statistics are made to appear dependent.  Statement – “I just tossed five politicians and they all came up tails.  What are the odds that the next one will also come up tails?”  Response – “I’d say the odds are 100% based on the last five results.”  Ignoring the probability that their head and tail are intimately connected – the actual odds are 50%.  Each individual politician has the same odds of coming up heads or tails since the subsequent politician’s head and tail is not dependent on the previous politician’s head and tail.

Suppressed Evidence:

Covering up or not exposing important information related to an argument.  Statement – “The Surge in Iraq has been very effective at capturing terrorists and establishing security.”  Response – “I don’t think so.  MSNBC hasn’t covered it.”

Slippery Slope:

Using a sequence of statements to predict dire consequences when the actual relationships do not support such a consequence.  This False Logic term is also related to the “Domino Effect”.  Statement – “Climate change creates a serious problem for mankind.”  Response –  “If the climate gets warmer we will have droughts and severe weather.  War will inevitably come as countries compete for scarce resources. Finally politicians and rats will be openly living together.”

Straw Man:

Setting up an easily defeated position, which varies from the opposition’s argument, then knocking it down.  The term comes from straw “men” used as dummies by knights for combat practice.  Statement – “Congressional budget earmarks are a waste of taxpayer money.”  Response – “Budgeting is Congress’ mandate and one of the most important functions of government.  After all, our government can’t function without money.”

Red Herring:

A misleading statement used to distract from an argument.  The term comes from the practice of dragging a fish across the path of a fugitive to distract bloodhounds from the scent trail.  Statement – “Illegal immigrants are placing a financial strain on several of America’s hospitals.”  Response – “Immigration is one of the great building blocks of this country and you are a racist.” (Two fish for the price of one.)

The overview provided above just skims the surface of Logic.  It is enough though to start you on your way to better understanding what politicians are really saying, and hiding, when they speak.  Digging further into Logic will enable you to better analyze their statements and arguments and, just as importantly, analyze what is missing from their statements and arguments.  When you analyze an argument by looking for missing statements that would have enhanced the argument you discover the speaker’s biases and hidden agendas.  This process will play a prominent role in the Average Joe Think Tank website.

The following website was very useful since I didn’t feel like digging my old Logic textbook out of the crawl space http://philosophy.hku.hk/think/logic/ .  Another website dedicated to critical thinking and logic is: www.thelogiccourse.com/.  Many books on logic written for Average Joe’s are available through Amazon.com and local booksellers.  Learn more and enjoy the freedom from rhetoric that Logic will bring.