In this life, there is one choice that matters more than any other. One choice that distinguishes between evil and good. However, there are those of you who will make the wrong decision. Those who will choose pain over happiness. Failure over success. Cowardice over courage.
Pancakes over waffles. Frankly, I am disgusted by your blasphemous lifestyle. Any reasonable person will agree that waffles are far superior to the soggy atrocity of pancakes. No other breakfast food can harness the crispy, fluffy glory, complete with pockets for optimal topping storage. All those who disagree will be sentenced to death. But… what about french toast? While waffles may be far superior to pancakes, this particular argument employed a type of faulty reasoning referred to by philosophers as black or white thinking, a type of false logic where there only appear to be two contrary options when in reality there are many more. Black or white thinking is just one of a multitude of logical fallacies that we encounter every day. A logical fallacy is a flaw in reasoning, a trick or illusion of thought that undermines the validity of an argument.
Unfortunately, these sneaky tricks are everywhere, from political debates to advertisements to social media and they discourage critical thought, often without us even realizing it. Accepting logical fallacies provides a faster, easier means of navigating the bombardment of information our brains must process each day. But there are alarming consequences to this shortcut and unfortunately, discrimination against pancake lovers is a best case scenario.
Logical fallacies are dangerous tools that can be used to disengage empathy and critical thought, justifying xenophobia, violence and hate. To address this concerning issue, let’s open up our cookbooks and break this recipe down into three parts. First, we will whip up some batter by piecing together the components of a logical fallacy.
Then, we will heat up the subject by exploring examples of the damages caused by three different types of logical fallacies. Finally, we will dig in to solutions that promote a healthy dose of skepticism and awareness. The first step in identifying a logical fallacy is understanding where it comes from. So let’s flip way back to ancient Greece. The first to synthesize a list of logical errors was Aristotle in his dissertation Sophistical Refutations which named and described 13 fallacies. Centuries later, English academic Richard Whately continued to hone the concept, defining a logical fallacy as “any argument or apparent argument, which professes to be decisive of the matter at hand while in reality it is not.” But when Richard Whately died in 1863, he likely had no inkling of the role logical fallacies would play in the world of the future.
As our world becomes ever more interconnected, ideas travel across the nation and even the globe in seconds, with the tap of a button. But with this increased communication, false claims, supported by logic that appears to be sound reach a more widespread audience. A terrifying example of this is found in the president of the United States, Donald Trump who, according to the Washington post, has made 1,628 provably false or misleading claims over the course of his first 298 days in office. A lot of things have changed since the election. Since then I’ve been feeling like everything I do is radical. Like asking the cashier for a cup of water and lowkey filling it with sprite.
Anti-capitalist. Someone call in the red army because there is no time for Stalin. But I’ve also realized how important it is to be honest in my identity.
When I was a kid, I liked to play pretend. I liked it so much, I pretended that I was straight for 15 years. I guess I did a good enough job that no one questioned the giant Ellen Degeneres poster in my bedroom or the fact that I was a construction worker for halloween. Three years. In a row.
The summer before I came out, my family and I drove to Washington DC and my mother blared NPR all the way there. One morning, David Greene was conducting an interview with Pat Robertson. He was giving the sort of fire and brimstone rant you would expect to hear in a 1692 puritan church. Except for one seemingly very valid, very logical argument. If homosexuals can get married, what next? Incestuous marriage? Probably. Bestiality? Definitely.
Hell, marriage to a cucumber might even be legalized. This argument makes sense right? It did to me. I felt disgusting, like I had some putrid disease. Ugly. Worthless.
Broken. But let’s take a step back and examine this logic. See, Robertson used the slippery slope fallacy, claiming that if we take even one step onto the “slippery slope,” we will slide all the way down to the bottom, to some dire consequence when in reality there is not enough evidence for that assumption. Maybe if I had known that the entire basis of the argument rested on a logical fallacy, I wouldn’t have tried so hard to fix myself.
But I didn’t know. I didn’t realize how easy it is to manipulate reason to justify xenophobia and hate. To smother diversity and encourage hatred. Regretfully, the damage caused by logical fallacies extends far beyond sexual orientation, exposing a dark part of our humanity.