Friday, August 21, 2015

Today's Logical Fallacy is... Red Herring!

(Ignoratio Elenchi, Ignorance of Refutation, beside the point, misdirection, changing the subject, false emphasis, the Chewbacca defense, irrelevant conclusion, irrelevant thesis, smokescreen, clouding the issue, judgmental language, fallacy of distraction) 

This fallacy occurs when someone uses an irrelevant distraction, intentionally or unintentionally, to divert or mislead an audience. We most often recognize this as “changing the topic,” but sometimes the topic is so emotionally loaded or the new topic is seemingly related to the original topic that we don’t recognize it. The fallacy gets its name from fox hunting: smoked herrings, often red, are used to throw the hounds from the scent of the fox. Many fallacies are types of red herrings including appeals to pity, consequences, and the straw man fallacy.


“In regard to my recent indictment for corruption, let’s talk about what’s really important instead--terrorists are out there, and if we don't stop them we're all gonna die!”

“We start debating the evidence supporting evolutionary theory, but you bring up the fact that believing this theory is depressing.”

“We start debating the evidence supporting global warming, but you bring up the fact that believing this theory is depressing...or that Al Gore has a big house and flies on jets a lot.”

“Accused by his wife of cheating at cards, Ned replies "Nothing I do ever pleases you. I spent all last week repainting the bathroom, and then you said you didn't like the color.”

“There's too much fuss and concern about saving the environment. We can't create an Eden on earth. And even if we could, remember Adam and Eve got bored in the Garden of Eden anyway!”

“We admit that this measure is popular. But we also urge you to note that there are so many bond issues on this ballot that the whole thing is getting ridiculous.”

“You know, I've begun to think that there is some merit in the Republican's tax cut plan. I suggest that you come up with something like it, because If we Democrats are going to survive as a party, we have got to show that we are as tough-minded as the Republicans, since that is what the public wants.”

“I think there is great merit in making the requirements stricter for the graduate students. I recommend that you support it, too. After all, we are in a budget crisis and we do not want our salaries affected.”

“You may think that he cheated on the test, but look at the poor little thing! How would he feel if you made him sit it again?”

Mike: It is morally wrong to cheat on your spouse, why on earth would you have done that?
Ken: But what is morality exactly?
Mike: It’s a code of conduct shared by cultures.
Ken: But who creates this code?...

Billy: How could the universe be 6000 years old when we know the speed of light, the distance of astronomical objects (13+ billion light years away), and the fact that the light has reached us[1]?
Marty: 6000 years is not a firm number. The universe can be as old as about 10,000 years.
Billy: How do you figure that?...

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