|Logical fallacies employed by Mormons.
|Dec 29, 2008
|A post by Baura brought this to mind. Defense of
Mormonism often relies on some combination of the following:
- Card stacking:
Card stacking, or selective omission, is one of the seven techniques identified by the IPA, or Institute for Propaganda Analysis. It involves only presenting information that is positive to an idea or proposal and omitting information contrary to it. Card stacking is used in almost all forms of propaganda, and is extremely effective in convincing the public. Although the majority of information presented by the card stacking approach is true, it is dangerous because it omits important information. The best way to deal with card stacking is to get more information.
-Appeal to Antiquity / Tradition
An appeal to antiquity is the opposite of an appeal to novelty. Appeals to antiquity assume that older ideas are better, that the fact that an idea has been around for a while implies that it is true. This, of course, is not the case; old ideas can be bad ideas, and new ideas can be good ideas. We therefore can't learn anything about the truth of an idea just by considering how old it is.
- Appeal to Wealth
The appeal to wealth fallacy is committed by any argument that assumes that someone or something is better simply because they are wealthier or more expensive. It is the opposite of the appeal to poverty.
In a society in which we often aspire to wealth, where wealth is held up as that to which we all aspire, it is easy to slip into thinking that everything that is associated with wealth is good. Rich people can be thought to deserve more respect than poorer people; more expensive goods can be thought to be better than less expensive goods solely because of their price.
- Appeal to Authority
An appeal to authority is an argument from the fact that a person judged to be an authority affirms a proposition to the claim that the proposition is true.
Appeals to authority are always deductively fallacious; even a legitimate authority speaking on his area of expertise may affirm a falsehood, so no testimony of any authority is guaranteed to be true.
However, the informal fallacy occurs only when the authority cited either (a) is not an authority, or (b) is not an authority on the subject on which he is being cited. If someone either isn't an authority at all, or isn't an authority on the subject about which they're speaking, then that undermines the value of their testimony.
- An argumentum ad populum (Latin: "appeal to the people"), in logic, is a fallacious argument that concludes a proposition to be true because many or all people believe it; it alleges that "If many believe so, it is so."
This type of argument is known by several names, including appeal to the masses, appeal to belief, appeal to the majority, appeal to the people, argument by consensus, authority of the many, and bandwagon fallacy, and in Latin by the names argumentum ad populum ("appeal to the people"), argumentum ad numerum ("appeal to the number"), and consensus gentium ("agreement of the clans"). It is also the basis of a number of social phenomena, including communal reinforcement and the bandwagon effect, the spreading of various religious and anti-religious beliefs, and of the Chinese proverb "three men make a tiger".
- Appeal to consequences, also known as argumentum ad consequentiam (Latin for argument to the consequences), is an argument that concludes a premise (typically a belief) to be either true or false based on whether the premise leads to desirable or undesirable consequences. This is based on an appeal to emotion and is a form of logical fallacy, since the desirability of a consequence does not address the truth value of the premise. Moreover, in categorizing consequences as either desirable or undesirable, such arguments inherently contain subjective points of view.
In logic, appeal to consequences refers only to arguments which assert a premise's truth value (true or false) based on the consequences; appeal to consequences does not refer to arguments that address a premise's desirability (good or bad, or right or wrong) instead of its truth value. Therefore, an argument based on appeal to consequences is valid in ethics, and in fact such arguments are the cornerstones of many moral theories, particularly related to consequentialism.
- Argumentum ad baculum (Latin for argument to the cudgel or appeal to the stick), also known as appeal to force, is an argument where force, coercion, or the threat of force, is given as a justification for a conclusion. It is a specific case of the negative form of an argument to the consequences.
- Glittering generalities
Use attractive, but vague words that make speeches and other communications sound good, but in practice say nothing in particular.
Use linguistic patterns such as alliteration, metaphor and reversals that turn your words into poetry that flows and rhymes in hypnotic patterns.
Use words that appeal to values, which often themselves are related to triggering of powerful emotions.
A common element of glittering generalities are intangible nouns that embody ideals, such as dignity, freedom, fame, integrity, justice, love and respect.
Cast those who you want to denigrate into an unpopular stereotype. Talk about the stereotypes as 'them', downplaying their rights as humans. Describe them as threatening, unworthy, disgusting and other negative frames.
Put emphasis on the stereotype words and the associations you want link to the stereotypes.
Name their leaders. Give exaggerated and distorted examples that 'prove' the stereotype and so condemn all who follow them.
Stereotyping can also be used to cast a group of people as good, perfect and otherwise wonderful and desirable.
- Argumentum verbosium
Proof by verbosity is also used colloquially in forensic debate to describe a logical fallacy (sometimes called "argumentum verbosium") that tries to persuade by overwhelming those considering an argument with such a volume of material that the argument sounds plausible, superficially appears to be well-researched, and that is so laborious to untangle and check supporting facts that the argument is allowed to slide by unchallenged. It is the fallacy epitomized by the familiar quote: "If you can't dazzle them with your brilliance, then baffle them with your bullshit."
I am sure I missed some of the methods employed.
|appeal to antiquity
|Dec 29 11:23
|How do you keep an elephant tied down?
When the elephant is a baby, you tie him to a stick in the ground and he will not be strong enough to pull away. After awhile, the elephant doesn't try anymore because he knows he is stuck. By the time the elephant is an adult, he just believes that the stick holds him in place- even though at this time, the elephant is very capable of breaking away. Sometimes, we don't take the time to re-evaluate things we already assume to be true.
|Re: appeal to antiquity
|Jan 10 13:12
|I find the appeal to antiquity hillarious, simply
because Mormons think themselves experts on antiquity. They spend so much
time in SS discussing the OT and BoM and PGoP that they think they know all
about Egyptology and Judaic history. They start taking about metallurgy, and
Jewish culture and Meso-American archaeology like they had done their
dissertation on King Tut. However, their knowledge is limited to a few key
phrases that prop up LDS scripture, and they are completely ignorant about
other seminal aspects of these works. I'll bet most Mormons would stare at
you blankly if you said words like "Olmec" or "Hyksos" or "Purim", yet they
are as essential to understanding these fields as knowing words like "Aaronic"
or "Eliza Snow" or "Deseret" are to understanding Mormonism.
It's too bad that most Mormons can't parlay this interest in antiquity into a veritable avocation. Then again, those that do probably end up leaving the church.
|Thanks, Cooper. This is a great post.
|Dec 29 11:32
|I've copied the list, if you don't mind, for my own
Interesting to note that here in California during the summer and autumn months leading up to the election we saw pretty much all of these techniques used on at least one occasion.
|An addition to the list
|Dec 29 12:27
|Most of the items on this excellent list are easily
spotted by anybody with at least average intelligence.
More subtle (and I think much more common) are the fallacious forms of the "If... then..." type (known in Latin as "modus ponens" and "modus tollens").
The categorical syllogism, developed by Aristotle, in the classic form "All men are mortal; Socrates is a man; therefore Socrates is mortal" is probably not as useful as the hypothetical syllogism, also called the conditional syllogism, developed a century after Aristotle by the Stoic philosopher Chrysippus. Here are some simple examples:
"If the witness is telling the truth, the defendant is guilty. The witness is telling the truth, therefore the defendant is guilty."
"If you have appendicitis, you will have pains in your abdomen. You do not have pains in your abdomen, therefore you do not have appendicitis."
The hypothetical syllogism is probably the most powerful reasoning tool for recognizing what may be true by identifying what is not true. It is the basis for the scientific method. It can take two forms, both beginning with an identical premise with the key words "If.." and "then." "If A is true, then B must be true." This is called the premise. Of course, the premise must be correct, or you will not get reliable results. One form of the syllogism continues: "A IS true; therefore B is true." The other form continues: "B is not true, therefore A is not true."
Like many logical concepts, these also have Latin names. The first form, where A is true, is called "modus ponens", meaning roughly "the method of setting up" because it establishes that something is true. The second form, where B is false, is called "modus tollens", meaning roughly "the method of taking away" because it establishes that something is false.
The two parts of the premise also have names. The "if" part is called the "antecedent," that is, the part that precedes or comes before. The "then" part is called the "consequent," meaning what follows as a consequence of the condition being true.
We use the hypothetical syllogism dozens of times every day, perhaps without realizing the name of it. However, like any powerful tool (such as fire or electricity or atomic energy) it can easily be abused. For each correct use of the hypothetical syllogism, there is a fallacious use that looks very much the same. They are especially insidious because they do look like the genuine article. I think of Saint Paul's comment about how Satan can appear as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:13).
Here is an example of one form of the invalid hypothetical syllogism:
If A is true, then B must also be true; but A is false, therefore B is false. That sounds fine at first glance, but it is invalid, as will be obvious if we apply it a few times: "If the witness is telling the truth, then the defendant is guilty. But the witness is lying, therefore the defendant is not guilty." That of course does not make sense. The defendant's guilt does not have to depend upon the testimony of one witness.
Another example: "If you have appendicitis, you will have pains in your abdomen. You do not have appendicitis (as we have determined from other tests), therefore you do not have pains in your abdomen." I DO have pains, but they are obviously caused by something else.
This fallacious form of modus ponens is called "Denying the Antecedent," since it wrongly proceeds from the fact that the "if" part of the premise turns out not to be true, which means only that we can conclude nothing, one way or the other, about the consequent.
Mormons use this fallacious argument. "If you obey all the commandments and remain faithful, you will be happy. You have not done that, therefore you are unhappy."
The other fallacious form of the categorical syllogism is a corruption of the modus tollens. The correct form, you will recall, is: If A is true, then B must also be true; B is false, therefore A is false. The fallacy argues that B is true, therefore A is true. It is arguing backwards. This fallacy is called "Affirming the Consequent." Here are some examples:
"If you have appendicitis, you will have pains in your abdomen. You do have pains in your abdomen, therefore you have appendicitis." That is fallacious, since my pains may be nothing more than simple indigestion from having eaten too much.
"If the church is true, I will feel happy in obeying all the commandments. I am happy, therefore the church is true."
"If the church is true, then its teachings will help us to be good. Its teachings do help us to be good, therefore the church is true."
"If the church is of God, it will teach correct doctrine about topic X. Its doctrine about topic X is correct, therefore the church is of God."
"If I ask God to tell me the Book of Mormon is true, he will cause a burning in my bosom. I got a burning in my bosom; therefore it's true."
Some of these arguments are not only invalid because they deny the antecedent or affirm the consequent; they are also based on a premise that is unproven. You have to have an accurate premise in order to be able to rely even on correct reasoning. "If you repent and are baptized, you will go to heaven when you die" should be proven before you can get reliable results.
Sometimes a hypothetical syllogism appears valid, but it is based on an unreliable premise:
"If this doctrine is true, it comes from God. It is true, therefore it comes from God." This argument affirms the antecedent, thus it is valid. But it is a corruption of an invalid syllogism: "If a doctrine comes from God, it must be true. This doctrine is true, therefore it comes from God." That, of course, is the fallacy of affirming the consequent.
The "Seventeen Points of the True Church" story is faulty, for the same reason (among several others). The Mormon argument is: "If a church has these seventeen characteristics of the early church, it is the true church. The Mormon church has these seventeen points, therefore it is the true church." Of course that is a corruption of the correct premise: "If a church is the true church, it will have these seventeen characteristics." To then say that the Mormon church has these characteristics is to commit the fallacy of affirming the consequent.
Of course the basic premise is also false. Compare this argument: The government of the United States has three branches, with checks and balances, a bicameral legislature, etc. etc. A government which has these characteristics is therefore the United States government.
Another example of what appears to be a valid hypothetical syllogism is the argument "If the Spirit tells me that something is true, then it is true. The Spirit tells me that the church is true, therefore it IS true." This is stated in such a way that the antecedent is affirmed. However, it becomes invalid when stated like this, which fallaciously affirms the consequent: "If the church is true, the Spirit will tell me so. The Spirit has told me so, therefore it is true."
You can see that the hypothetical syllogism must be used carefully. Modus ponens can only be used to test the "then" part, the consequent. Modus tollens can only be used to test the "if" part, the antecedent. The rule is: Affirm the antecedent, or deny the consequent, not vice-versa:
|another one, esp used by prop 8'ers
|Dec 29 14:12
|The slippery slope argument, which my tbm dad used in
talking about prop 8 and its analogues in other states. This is the idea
that, if you let gays marry, what's next? A bisexual marrying a man and a
woman? A man marrying a hedge hog? Prohibition of hetero marriage?
Slippery slope isn't always a fallacy. For example, the concern that if the government is allowed to bail out banks, that will be seen as a precedent to follow with other financial crises, seems to be coming true.
|Here are a few employed by ex-Mormons [Mormon troll post]...
|Dec 29 14:43
|Appeal to Tradition: "Christians have believed in the
Nicene Creed for nearly two thousand years! Therefore Mormons are not
Stereotyping - "I know a Mormon that cursed, drank, and shoplifted. Mormons sure don't live very upright lives."
Appeal to Authority: "The Smithsonian institute says that the Book of Mormon has nothing to do with ancient America. Therefore, the Book of Mormon is not an ancient work."
There are many other examples but I'm getting close to violating the board rules.
|WRONG!!!! On all accounts [referring to the Mormon troll post]
|Dec 30 00:47
|Pompous S Monson
|"Appeal to Tradition: "Christians have believed in the
Nicene Creed for nearly two thousand years! Therefore Mormons are not
That's not an appeal to tradition. Being christian implies a set of beliefs. Those that do not share those beliefs are not christians, by definition. Just like someone who believes in free markets and personal freedom is not a communist.
A fallacious appeal to tradition in regards to christianity and the nicene creed would be justifying the creed's veracity and legitimacy based on mere tradition.
"Stereotyping - "I know a Mormon that cursed, drank, and shoplifted. Mormons sure don't live very upright lives."
That's not really a stereotype. It's anecdotal evidence which is of very limited value.
"Appeal to Authority: "The Smithsonian institute says that the Book of Mormon has nothing to do with ancient America. Therefore, the Book of Mormon is not an ancient work."
Not all appeals to authority are fallacious. Appeals to authority are fallacious when "the authority cited either (a) is not an authority, or (b) is not an authority on the subject on which he is being cited."
"There are many other examples but I'm getting close to violating the board rules."
I'm guessing that you're referring to some dumbass uneducated evangelicals and not serious critics.
|Re: Here are a few.. [referring to the Mormon troll post].
|Jan 10 13:41
> Appeal to Tradition: "Christians have believed in the Nicene Creed for nearly two thousand years! Therefore Mormons are not Christian"
That is an argument made by Fundamentalist Christians about their definition of Christianity. I am not a Fundamentalist Christian, so I don't define Christianity in those terms. I have rarely seen this argument made on RfM.
> Stereotyping - "I know a Mormon that cursed, drank, and shoplifted. Mormons sure don't live very upright lives."
Funny, that is more of a TBM way of doing things. Most of what I was taught about gays was gross stereotyping. I know far too many Mormons to believe that one rotten apple spoils the bunch.
However, stereotypes are often based on real experiences. If I find that Mormons tend to be anti-intellectual, racist and sexist, it's because they were taught these things from the church.
The only time I think one individual Mormon makes for a valid stereotype is if it is an important leader who is an example for all Mormons. If Monson forgoes theology for saccharine fabrications, and Mormons think that is an example of how religion should be taught, then it becomes a valid stereotype.
> Appeal to Authority: "The Smithsonian institute says that the Book of Mormon has nothing to do with ancient America. Therefore, the Book of Mormon is not an ancient work."
Appeal to authority is not necessarily flawed, especially in the social sciences and humanities. If we are discussing archaeology, the only way I can find out is a) to do a Thomas Ferguson and attempt to find evidence for the BoM myself or b) I can read academic studies and balance them out to reach my own conclusion. Given my time and material restraints, the Internet and library search is far more feasible for my needs than actually going to Guatemala and spending 20 years not finding proof of the BoM.
The reason you can cite the Smithsonian is because they have a strong reputation for fair and thorough research in their areas of expertise. The problem Mormons have is that there is NO evidence on their side, so appeal to authority works since it is a such a lopsided discussion.
Mormon apologists also tend to fail the "Burden of Proof" argument, placing the burden on skeptics to disprove the enormous claims of the BoM. Therefore, FARMS just tries to discredit the critics rather than providing any real evidence for the BoM or JS's other claims. I say that Jupiter is the Land of OZ, you say that it isn't, and I say "PROVE IT!" The burden of proof is on me for making the large claim, not on you for not believing my outlandish statement.
> There are many other examples but I'm getting close to violating the board rules.
No violations of board rules, just violations of poor logic.
|Anonow, a better example of misusing appeal to authority.....
|Jan 10 19:49
|.....than your invalid mention of the Smithsonian, is
Mormon apologists who get college degrees in certain fields, then use their
position to advocate tenets of Mormonism which are not supported by the
facts and evidence.
Mormon apologists employ this tactic on a constant basis. One such example is John Gee using his degree in Egyptology to act as a supposed authority in defending the Book of Abraham. But Gee has been severely condemned for his apologetics re: the BOA by his own former professor, Robert Ritner. Ritner's criticism fell just short of accusing Gee of academic fraud. Gee's publications re: the BOA are not supported by the facts or evidence, but Ritner's and other non-Mormon Egyptologists who have commented on the BOA are.
Similarly, the Smithsonian's pronouncements re: the Book of Mormon are supported by facts, evidence, and good science, while Mopologists' productions on the subject are full of misinformation, desperate, ludicrous theories, and lunatic-fringe pseudo-science.
|[referring to the Mormon troll post]
|Jan 10 13:28
|Like gross generalizations supported by no evidence?
|Re: Can you point to the logical fallacies in this letter by my FIL?
|Jan 10 13:26
|Dec 29 14:32
|Re: Logical fallacies employed by Mormons.
|Dec 29 23:17
|nevermo in ca
|Fantastic post - I've saved it as well. Maybe this could be archived?
|Two glaring omissions
|Dec 30 00:38
|Pompous S Monson
An ad hominem argument, also known as argumentum ad hominem (Latin: "argument to the man", "argument against the man") consists of replying to an argument or factual claim by attacking or appealing to a characteristic or belief of the person making the argument or claim, rather than by addressing the substance of the argument or producing evidence against the claim. The process of proving or disproving the claim is thereby subverted, and the argumentum ad hominem works to change the subject.
Circular Reasoning, AKA Begging the Question-
In logic, begging the question has traditionally described a type of logical fallacy (also called petitio principii) in which the proposition to be proved is assumed implicitly or explicitly in one of the premises. Begging the question is related to the fallacy known as circular argument, circulus in probando, vicious circle or circular reasoning. The first known definition in the West is by the Greek philosopher Aristotle around 350 BC, in his book Prior Analytics.
Mormons use these two logical fallacies the most. The best example of circular reasoning is MORONi's promise and secondly, appealing to the bible to downplay misdeeds. They also LOVE to use ad hominem attacks against critics. "That's anti." "You just wanted to sin, and now fight against the truth to cover for it."
|Post hoc ergo propter hoc
|Dec 30 01:31
|After this, therefore because of this.
B occurs after A, therefore A caused B. The logical fallacy comes in confusing temporal correlation with causation as in "We didn't have enough money to pay our tithing and buy food, but we paid our tithing anyway, and then we got a check in the mail from _______, amd were able to pay all of the bills. It was because we paid our tithing that we got the check from ________."
In actuality, the check would have come anyway, paying tithing had nothing to do with it.
Another favorite of mopologists is confirmation bias. Find one or two small things that might support BOM history while ignoring the other 500 things that do not.
Recovery from Mormonism - The Mormon Church www.exmormon.org