• Caleb Harrelson

Bad reasoning hurts people



Bad reasoning is keeping believers and our nation away from thoughtful engagement.

Below are some examples of fallacious (erroneous) reasoning that I see a lot:

1. The Ad Hominem Fallacy: In Latin, it literally means "towards the man." It is attacking the person making the argument instead of the argument itself. Person one: I think this_______ behavior is wrong. Person two: I disagree. You think that is wrong because you are_________(i.e. horrible person, hateful, racists, an oppressor, an idiot, etc. )

What's the logical fallacy in this example?

Person 2 is not responding to reasons WHY they think person 1's moral position is wrong. His position is on the moral oughtness of certain behavior and yet person 2 is merely attacking the character of the person. Person 2's response is avoiding the issue by emotionally charged rhetoric and he is now slandering and insulting the person he is engaging with and shutting down the conversation by also assuming the worse of person 1. It would have been proper for person 2 to engage with reasons WHY he disagrees instead. He must respond to the actual points person 1 stated and not attacked the person stating them.

2. Genetic Fallacy: The Fallacy Detective book defines it when "It addresses the genesis, or beginning, of something. The genetic fallacy is different from ad hominem because it does not attack the person making the argument. It attacks the place where the argument came from" (43-44).

Example: Person 1: I think abortion is wrong and we should not support it. Person 2: Why should I listen to you? You are a _____________(a certain political party, Christian, a man, from a certain city, a certain skin color), thus I can't trust anything you are saying.

What's the logical fallacy in this example?

This is also an example of a different type of "avoiding the issue" because person 2 is NOT responding to the claims of person 1. They are merely dismissing a moral claim because of the origin or background of person 1. The origin or background of the person making an argument may explain WHY they hold to that position, but that doesn't mean that their position is wrong simply because of their origin. This is an error of thinking because it is still not dealing with the issue at hand, but rather side-stepping it by discounting the point simply because of "where it began, how it began, or who began it" (49-40).

The proper response would have been for person 2 to say reasons why they think abortion is not wrong instead of dismissing it based on the origins of the person stating the claim. Furthermore, it should be noted that dismissing someone based on their background or skin color is actually partiality and is sinful. Partiality based on someone's skin color alone IS ethnic prejudice or racism (btw Biblically, Acts 17:26, there are NOT multiple races, but only ONE human race.


So please don't let bad reasoning keep you from having a thoughtful engagement with others. This matters to all who would like to move past the lazy rhetoric of our days and instead pursue the beauty, truth, and goodness in God's world.

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