Apologetic Thursdays: A Lesson in Fallacies (Straw Man)

The next fallacy on our list is called a straw man. A life-sized man made up straw, like a scarecrow, is easy to tear down and destroy. A straw man fallacy is committed when you attack a distorted, misrepresented, or misstated verion of a persons argument that is easy to refute rather than the actual argument. Here is an example.

Patrick: Everything that begins to exist has a cause. The universe began to exist. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

John: Oh, so everything that exists has a cause, eh? Well, what caused God?!

Do you see the problem here? Patrick didn’t say that everything that exists has a cause. He said everything that begins to exist has a cause. In Patrick’s view, God didn’t begin to exist because He’s eternal, so He doesn’t require a cause. John did a good job at refuting the argument he stated, but it wasn’t the same as the argument Patrick stated.

Here’s another example:

Kyle: I am pro-life because the unborn is an innocent human being, and innocent humans shouldn’t be killed.

Jill: Kyle is pro-life, so he thinks that women should be controlled and shouldn’t have a choice. That’s obviously ridiculous, so his view is false!

This argument distorts Kyle’s view because he never said that women should be controlled or that they shouldn’t have freedoms. This type of argument may have a lot of emotional power for certain people, but it fails as an actual argument. Make sure you are being accurately represented in a discussion with someone, and make sure you are accurately representing him as well.

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