5 Fallacies you NEED to Know


June 19, 2012 by mattfradd

The word fallacy comes from the Latin word fallacia, which could also be translated as “deception.” A fallacy is a misleading or unsound argument that can be either accidental or intentional.

To demonstrate five common fallacies, I’d like to propose a deductive argument (if you don’t know what a deductive argument is click here):

Premise 1: Jesus Christ established a church.
Premise 2: The only church that can trace its roots back to the time of Jesus and the Apostles is the Catholic Church.
Conclusion: Therefore, Jesus Christ established the Catholic Church.

Now I will offer five fallacious replies, explain why they are fallacious and how one ought to respond.

1. Red herring: The person making the argument raises an irrelevant issue to distract the attention of his opponent or audience.

Example: How can you believe that the Catholic Church is the Church Jesus Christ established in light of the recent sex abuse scandal?

Response: The sex abuse scandal, is an important topic, which I’d be happy to discuss in a later discussion, but it has nothing to do with whether Jesus Christ established the Catholic Church. Let’s stick to the argument at hand.

2. Ad hominem (from the Latin: “to the man”): The person hearing the argument rejects the argument because of the one making the argument.

Example: You argue that Jesus Christ established the Catholic Church, but the last time I checked you were neither a biblical scholar nor a historian.

Response: You are right, I am not a historian, nor am I a biblical scholar. So what? I may also be obnoxious, arrogant, and smelly. None of that means my argument is unsound. Let’s focus our energy on the argument I’ve offered.

3. Non sequitur (from the Latin, “it does not follow”): The person making the argument draws a conclusion that does not follow from his premises.

Example: Jesus Christ was perfect, but some popes who have reigned over the Church have been corrupt; therefore, Jesus Christ did not establish the Catholic Church.

Response: The conclusion does not follow from the premise. While it’s true that all popes, because of original sin, are sinners—the first pope, St. Peter, denied our Lord three times—this does not disprove the Church’s divine origin.

4. Genetic fallacy: The person making the argument tries to invalidate a position based on how that position originated.

Example: The only reason you are making this argument is because you were raised Catholic. If you had been raised in the Bible Belt, you would have been Protestant.

Response: While it’s true that a person may come to hold a belief for inadequate reasons, this does not mean that the belief is false.

5. Straw man: The person making the argument misrepresents his opponent’s position in order to refute it.

Example: Just because the Catholic Church is the largest denomination in Christendom, that does not mean Jesus Christ established it. Islam is the second-largest religion in the world and may one day have more followers that the Catholic Church. Wouldn’t that then make Islam the true religion?

Response: You’ve misrepresented my argument entirely. I did not say that Catholicism is true because it has more adherents than all Protestant communities combined. Rather, I proposed that Jesus Christ established a church and the Catholic Church is the only church that dates back to the time of Christ; therefore, Jesus Christ established the Catholic Church.

In your experience what is the number one logical fallacy you encounter?

10 thoughts on “5 Fallacies you NEED to Know

  1. Maeghan says:

    The Red Herring is the one I get the most. I would argue that the obvious failings of the men who have attempted to follow in His footsteps supports the Divine origin of the Church: Our Lord promised that the Church He created would not fail no matter what men attempted to do to it. Since we have subsequently done everything humanly possible to destroy it and yet it remains, the Church of which He spoke must be the one He considered His.

  2. Mike says:

    Straw Man is definitely the most common fallacy I’ve encountered especially dealing with questions from our Muslim brothers and sisters.

  3. The point about an argument relies on a sound premise too … most often I come across people arguing about very scientific facts on a faith based premise.

  4. […] remember a few weeks ago I posted the article on logical fallacies. One of the fallacies I mentioned was the straw man fallacy where one, […]

  5. BJ says:

    I don’t need the fallacies when your second premise is historically inaccurate. Now, you’re probably wondering, “What are you, an historian?” The actual institution of the Catholic church can in NO way be traced back to the time of Christ and the Apostles. The papacy can not be traced to Peter, either, if that’s where you’re headed next. It’s understandable that you have to be shone the logical fallacies to arguments against the church. When you blatantly lie to people, and manipulate logic by adding false premises, they seldom have any other recourse.

    • mattfradd says:

      the Encyclopedia Britannica acknwledges that the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ in ca. AD 33. And that Encyclopedia, by the way, is the only encyclopedia that can be introduced in a court of law as evidence due to it’s objectivity. – How’s that for a start.

      • JMJ3in1 says:

        Good to know. Thanks. Could have used this 2 weeks ago when I used Britannica to provide a discontent with “secular” evidence.

  6. […] this week we’ll take a look at 5 common logical fallacies and how to detect them! Share this:FacebookTwitterEmailLike this:LikeOne blogger likes […]

  7. […] To learn more about logical fallacies click here! […]

  8. JMJ3in1 says:

    Oh, Lord, I get the “non sequitur” first when discussing such things as Faith and reason, and then, when (out of total frustration) I post something like …”You reworded my premise which just proves the premise I premised before that you have to believe revelation is revelation before you can believe revelation as revelation.” That is when the ad hominem’s begin to fly my way. I will meditate on #’s 2 & 3. 🙂

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