November 21, 2011

Logic Lessons: Appeal to Ridicule

This logical fallacy is difficult to classify in some ways because of the huge potential for blending and overlapping with other fallacies (especially ad hominem). Appeal to Ridicule is a form or subclass of the Appeal to Emotion fallacy, and is often used as a kind of Red Herring to distract the opponent from the topic under discussion.
 
This fallacy is something that I encounter very frequently and in various forms:
  • Creation science is stupid. This is the "purest" form of the fallacy, where the topic is directly ridiculed.
  • You must be an idiot fascist because you believe in God, and religion is stupid. Now you can see an ad hominem attack mixed with the ridicule.
  • Intelligent design is stupid and unscientific because it's just "Goddidit". A Straw Man fallacy is  mixed with the ridicule.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea.


The emotional aspect of an Appeal to Ridicule can be powerful. If you are not on guard against it, you can find yourself hopelessly chasing a school of red herring to nowhere. And getting angry. You could find yourself defending your intelligence and personal integrity instead of having your opponent justify his assertions. (I have seen attacks that reek of desperation by jumping on typos, mixed metaphors or grammar instead of dealing with the point at hand.) And if you're distracted from your subject, the simple act of wasting your time is a sort of victory for your opponent, you savvy?

Ridiculing your topic is not necessarily ridiculing you, but wait a while; the personal attack will not be far behind.


I know it is easy for me to say, but try to maintain your composure and stay with the topic at hand. Of course, if your discussion is adversarial and unproductive, feel free to withdraw.

This has multiple fallacies, including loaded terminology as well as ridicule. Pathetic.

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