Misconception, Mistaken & Myth Arguments

by Susan Anne Ramsey

But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil. Matthew 5:37


A fallacy is an incorrect way of reasoning. More narrowly, a fallacy is any attempt to persuade emotionally or psychologically, but not logically.

AMBIGUITY – The fallacy of ambiguity occurs when we use a word or phrase in such a way that its meaning is not clear or can be taken in more than one way.

GENETIC FALLACY – A genetic fallacy is an abusive appeal that consists of attempting to discredit a position by condemning its source (genesis) or to establish a position by condemning the source of an opposed viewpoint.

AD HOMINEM – Ad hominem is Latin for “to the man.” The fallacy of ad hominem consists in attacking the person rather than the person’s argument.

INVINCIBLE IGNORANCE – Invincible ignorance is the fallacy of insisting on the legitimacy of an idea or principle despite contradictory facts.

QUESTIONABLE CLAIM – A questionable claim is one that cannot stand up under investigation because of the breadth of its assertion.

INCONSISTENCY – The fallacy of inconsistency occurs when we contradict ourselves in word or action without justification for the change of mind.

– Begging the question is the fallacy of answering a question with a variation of the very question asked or of assuming that the statement to be proved is true to make it look more plausible.

– The argument from ignorance is the fallacy of insisting that a statement is true until proved false or false until proved true.

– Authority is an alleged expert source outside the agent on whom the agent is resting his or her claim to knowledge.

POPULARITY, OR DEMOCRACY – The fallacy of popularity, or democracy, is a false appeal to authority that relies on numbers alone to support its claim.

APPEAL TO TRADITIONAL WISDOM – Traditional wisdom is the fallacy of relying exclusively on the past to justify the present.

PROVINCIALISM – Provincialism is the fallacy of seeing things exclusively through the eyes of one’s own group, organization, or affiliation.

– The fallacy of hasty conclusion occurs when we make a judgment based on insufficient evidence.

TWO-WRONGS-MAKE-A-RIGHT – The fallacy of two-wrongs-make-a-right is the fallacy of defending what is considered wrongdoing by pointing to an instance of similar behavior.

STRAW MAN – The straw man fallacy consists of presenting a position in an altered version that is easier to attack than the original.

IS/OUGHT – The fallacy of is/ought consists of assuming that because something is the case, it ought to or should be the case; or that because something is not the case, it ought or should not be the case.

FALLACIES OF FAULTY CAUSATION – A causal statement asserts a relationship between two things such that one is said to bring about the other.

– Case sometimes carries the meaning of “necessary condition” – that is, a condition that must be present if the effect is to occur.

CAUSE AS A SUFFICIENT CONDITION – Cause sometimes carries the meaning of “sufficient condition” – that is, a condition in whose presence the effect will always occur.

CAUSE AS A CONTRIBUTORY CONDITION – Cause sometimes carries the meaning of “contributory condition” – that is, a condition that helps create the total set of conditions, necessary or sufficient, for an effect.

CAUSAL OVERSIMPLIFICATION – Assuming that a necessary or contributory cause for an event is the sufficient cause is causal oversimplification.

NEGLECT OF A COMMON CAUSE – This fallacy results from failing to recognize that two seemingly related events may be not causally related at all but rather are effects of a common cause.

POST HOC – Asserting that one event is the cause of another merely because the first preceded the second is the post hoc (Latin for “after this”) fallacy.

SLIPPERY SLOPE – The slippery-slope fallacy consists in objecting to a particular action because it supposedly will lead inevitably to a similar but less desirable action, which in turn will lead to an even less desirable action, and so on down the “slippery slope” to some ultimate horror.

– This is the fallacy of assuming that because two phenomena as related statistically, they must be related causally.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. Colossians 3:16

By the Grace of God, go we.