Logical Fallacies: Top Ten List

A logical fallacy is a false argument. It is used to divert, undermine or create support for an idea based on irrelevant information. Logical fallacies are often used by advertisers and by campaigning politicians. They are the enemy of clear, honest and objective thinking because they mimic the truth and twist the facts. 

Here is a top ten list of my personal (not-so) favorites:

10. Red Herring (see illustration above): The introduction of a diverting, unrelated topic. Example: I know I dented the car, but did you see the package that came for you in the mail?
9. False Dilemma: A choice is presented as either/or when in fact there are numerous options. Example: Do you walk to school or take a cab?

8. Poisoning the Well: Presenting a negative comment before a person speaks, to discredit their idea. Example: Joe seems to think he is an expert on this. Let's hear what he has to say.

7. Guilt by Association: Rejecting an argument because the person proposing it is connected to someone disliked by the hearer. Example: Your cousin is a liar, so I cannot believe anything you say.

6. Genetic Fallacy: Endorses or disqualifies a claim based on its connection to a (negative) history. Example: Volkswagens are lemons, because the company was founded in Nazi Germany.

5. Non sequitur: Conclusions that do not follow from the premise. Example: Since we have no money, it is important to boost our spirits by going out to dinner.

4. Begging the question: This assumes that the thing you are trying to prove is true. Also called a circular argument. Example: Barth has the best theology because he is the most influential theologian.

3. Appeal to pity: Accepting an argument because of sympathy or emotional appeal. Example: You should buy this newspaper subscription from me because it will help keep kids off the streets.

2. Appeal to the popular: Accepts popular opinion as an automatic reason for change. Example: Students don't like to receive grades, therefore they should be eliminated.

1. Special Pleading (double standard): Applying special status to the validity of an assertion because of the status of the person promoting it. Example: You cannot refute what I claim, because you are not: a woman, in the union, etc.