Faulty logic

A long while back, I mused on the use of the word ‘harvest’ in the New Testament. Well, as it turns out, I fell for the illegitimate totality transfer fallacy.

In studying the Bible, this happens when one takes one (among many) meanings of a Greek or Hebrew word and reads it into every occurrence of that word in the Bible, regardless of context.

It is actually quite easy to commit a logical fallacy…  Have a look at (or listen to) Logic and Fallacies: Thinking Clearly. My favourite, so to speak, is the slippery slope fallacy, in which an argument is made against a position by saying there will be a series of increasingly unacceptable events which will follow, for example:

  • If you pass legislation against abortion on demand then poor women will not be able to afford to keep their babies and we’ll have dangerous back-street abortions.
  • If I make an exception for you then I have to make an exception for everyone. (I’ve used this one many times, utterly convinced of its truth).

The other logical fallacies dealt with are:

  • fallacies of ambiguity;
  • the faulty dilemma (where two options are given by the speaker when in reality more exist);
  • the complex question (the one which, whatever your answer, you’re a fool, eg “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”);
  • Psychological and emotional arguments: appeal to force, appeal to pity, appeal to consequences;
  • Over-generalisations: character assassination, appeal to popularity, hasty generalisations;
  • Begging the question i.e. assuming what you want to prove;
  • Straw man i.e. attacking an argument that is different from, and usually weaker than an opponent’s position;
  • Genetic fallacy: Rejecting an idea because of where it comes from, e.g. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”;
  • Post hoc fallacy: Two events happen in parallel, and you assume one caused the other. (Non-Christians often accuse us of this in relation to answered prayer).