Friday, April 4, 2014

Don't distort someone's argument to dismiss it: The Straw Man

The straw man fallacy takes the opponents argument and restructures as an extreme version of itself that no one could possibly agree with and then dismisses it because it is absurd. It is a fallacy because you are not actually confronting the opponent’s argument; you are claiming that it is something it isn’t and then dismissing it. By turning the opponent’s argument into a weaker, “straw man,” version of itself, you are being dishonest, and fabricating, misrepresenting, or exaggerating someone else’s argument just to make yours look better will actually result in the opposite – they will wonder what is so weak about your argument that you have to result to poor logic to defend it. Straw man arguments often include the phrases, “seem to think,” “probably believe,” or otherwise imply a position that the opponent doesn’t actually suggest (i.e. “Evolutionists seem to think that humans just crawled out of the goo" or "Conservatives want children to suffer.")

How it applies: Anytime someone claims that “All atheists are evil/bad/amoral,” or that “All religious people are stupid/blind/ignorant,” they are committing this fallacy. Perhaps even more common, they commit this fallacy when they reduce complex scientific concepts to inaccurate metaphors and then dismiss them, i.e. “Evolutionists think that a lightning striking mud resulted in human beings” or “How can scientists think that the Big Bang made their computers?”


  • After Will said that we should put more money into health and education, Warren responded by saying that he was surprised that Will hates our country so much that he wants to leave it defenseless by cutting military spending.
  • “Hitler supported gun control and registration, you know.”
  • “What woman in her right mind could truly desire total equality with men? No woman wants the right to be shot at in times of war, the right to have to pay alimony, or the right to have to use the same restrooms as men.”
  • “The liberals probably believe that wealthy people never worked a day in their lives.”
  • Tom Delay: "So the Democrats want to get an emergency extension on unemployment benefits. They apparently want unlimited unemployment, so people could stay out of work for the rest of their lives."
  • Women shouldn’t earn as much as men. Everyone knows that bosses go easier on women and what they do. Besides girls are physically smaller and weaker than men, so they need to be protected from the real world.
  • Anyone who wants to fight AIDS is a liberal/atheist who rejects God and the Bible. The people who have AIDS are suffering God's punishment for the sin of homosexuality. Helping these people would be to defy God.

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