Logical fallacies/Page 1

FAIR Answers Wiki Table of Contents

A FairMormon Analysis of:
Logical fallacies

Truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come (D&C 93:24). Logic is the study of filtering fact from fiction and arriving at truth through our thought. It is a tool that the Light of Christ uses to help us discern good from bad (Moroni 7:19). Thought is a gift from our Heavenly Parents and they ask us to turn to them in every thought (D&C 6:36). This introduction to logical fallacy will help you to use that gift to bless yourself and others in strengthening your faith and keeping your covenant to sustain and defend the Kingdom of God.

Ad hominem

(also called argumentum ad hominem or personal attack)
Wikipedia entry

See also:

This fallacy attacks the person making the argument, rather than the argument itself.

It is important to note that there is at least one case when an attack upon the speaker is not fallacious, but actually appropriate. If a witness is making a statement about certain facts or events, and if the witness can be shown to be unreliable (e.g. he has lied about other issues) then this is a legitimate attack. One cannot challenge a person's logical argument on these grounds, but one can challenge the evidence which they themselves present.

  • Fallacious: E.D. Howe ought to be ignored because he was a drinker.
  • Proper: E.D. Howe has been shown to have lied about what Joseph wrote in example #1, #2, and #3. Why should we then believe Howe when he tells us what he personally observed, since he has been willing to lie in order to discredit Joseph?
  • Examples: Further details are available here, and numerous case studies are available here.
  • See also:

ad hominem abusive

(also called argumentum ad personam)

Wikipedia entry

  • Argument: This fallacy is one of the most commonly used, and has been used since the earliest days of the Church to discredit Joseph Smith. Joseph was often the target of such efforts; many of the early anti-Mormon "affidavits" against Joseph and his family (charging them with laziness, corruption, 'money-digging', immoral life, and the like) were designed to attack the messengers because the message was unpalatable.
  • Rebuttal: Brigham Young encountered such tactics frequently, and his response is appropriate:
I recollect a conversation I had with a priest who was an old friend of ours, before I ws personally acquainted with the Prophet Joseph. I clipped every argument he advanced, until at last he came out and began to rail against "Joe Smith," saying, "that he was a mean man, a liar, moneydigger, gambler, and a whore-master;" and he charged him with everything bad, that he could find language to utter. I said, hold on, brother Gillmore, here is the doctrine, here is the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the revelations that have come through Joseph Smith the Prophet. I have never seen him, and do not know his private character. The doctrine he teaches is all I know about the matter, bring anything against that if you can. As to anything else I do not care. If he acts like a devil, he has brought forth a doctrine that will save us, if we will abide it. He may get drunk every day of his life, sleep with his neighbor's wife every night, run horses and gamble, I do not care anything about that, for I never embrace any man in my faith. But the doctrine he has produced will save you and me, and the whole world; and if you can find fault with that, find it.
—Brigham Young, "The Gospel Like a Net Cast Into the Sea, Etc.," Journal of Discourses, reported by G.D. Watt 9 November 1856, Vol. 4 (London: Latter-Day Saint's Book Depot, 1857), 77–78.

ad hominem circumstantial

(also called ad hominem circumstantiae)
Wikipedia entry

  • Argument: This fallacy argues that a person makes an argument because of his circumstances. "Well, of course a Mormon would make that argument, since they can't bear to admit their faith might be wrong." Appeals to cognitive dissonance as a non-explanation often fall into this category.
  • Rebuttal: A person may well have many motivations for making an argument. However, one must confront the argument itself. Critics attempt to use this tactic to dismiss anything a member of the Church has to say about a topic. With members excluded, only non-Mormon (or anti-Mormon) authors have any 'credibility.' Note too that the same fallacious argument can be turned back on any critic—the critic is not a member, and so may have a vested interested in disproving a religion that makes uncompromising truth claims, calls on them to repent, etc. Thus, the argument is impotent in any case, since it can be applied with equal force to both sides.
  • Example: John Dehlin used this technique in an attempt to discredit Rosalynd Welch, as discussed here.
  • See also:

ad hominem tu quoque

(also called you too argument)
Wikipedia entry

  • Argument: This fallacy argues that "because you are guilty of the same thing of which you are accusing me, your accusation is meritless."

A common example is for critics to respond to charges that they have used dishonest or inaccurate footnotes by pointing out that some of Hugh Nibley's footnotes were inaccurate.

  • Rebuttal: One might be a hypocrite for criticizing someone for something of which one is guilty, but this does not make the claim any less true. If one murderer tells another murderer he is a killer, this does not make the claim untrue. Nibley's footnotes being inaccurate are irrelevent to the question of whether the critic has used misleading footnotes. Even if every Nibley footnote is wrong, this does not excuse the critic from his own mistakes. (Note that an attack on Nibley's footnotes might be appropriate if the apologist was citing an inaccurate Nibley footnote as evidence for a position.)
  • See also:


(also called amphiboly)
Wikipedia entry

This fallacy draws a false conclusion because of grammatical ambiguity. Often, a word can be understood in two different senses, making the argument either false or unclear.

  • Example:
Q:Did he say he would read the Book of Mormon?
A:He was cool about it.

Based upon the answer, one could argue either that:

  • the person was unenthusastic about reading the Book of Mormon ("cool" in the sense of "not passionate about")
  • the person was willing to read the Book of Mormon ("cool" in a slang sense of "willing to do something he didn't have to")

Appeal to authority

(also called argumentum ad verecundiam or argument by authority)
Wikipedia entry

This fallacy relies on a report of what someone (e.g. a scholar) or something (e.g. a sacred text like the Bible) says about a topic, rather than considering the evidence (if any) upon which such opinions may be based.

  • Argument: The Smithsonian institute says that the Book of Mormon has nothing to do with ancient America. Therefore, the Book of Mormon is not an ancient work.
  • Rebuttal: While the Smithsonian doubtless has experts on the subject of ancient America, it is not necessarily clear that those experts have taken the Book of Mormon and its evidences seriously. A much more persuasive argument would be for a Smithsonian expert to examine the evidence advanced by Book of Mormon proponents, and explain why it does or does not integrate with what is known about ancient America.

Especially in highly technical fields, a referral to what authorities think about a topic may be a good gauge of what the evidence currently tells us; however, in case of disagreement it is much better to consider the primary evidence itself.

Variations on this fallacy

  • The authority cited is not an expert in this field - e.g. A Biblical scholar might be very knowledgeable in his own field, but know relatively little about the Book of Mormon.
  • An authority is miscited or misunderstood - e.g. LDS prophets are experts on LDS doctrine, but the critic may have misrepresented their position. See Selective Quotation
  • The extent of the authority is not appreciated - e.g. LDS prophets are experts, but they are not considered infallible. Their statements are not doctrinally binding unless ratified by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. See General Authorities' Statements as Scripture
  • The authority may be biased - e.g. an atheist may be predisposed to disregard any evidence which would suggest that Joseph Smith saw God. Likewise, a Mormon might be predisposed to overlook evidence which questioned Joseph's truthfulness.
  • The authority might not represent his field - e.g. Citing a general authority who was later disciplined or excommunicated is not an honest way to reflect the 'consensus' of LDS belief.
  • An anonymous authority is cited - e.g. ("studies show...", "it has been demonstrated," "a source at Church headquarters who wishes to remain unnamed," "a friend of mine," etc.) By refusing to identify the authority, the speaker makes it impossible for the audience to verify the authority's credentials, assess bias, determine which evidence was used in forming the opinion, verify how accurately the authority has been cited, or even decide if the authority exists at all. (For example, during the Mark Hofmann forgery incident, Hoffman gave anonymous tips to the media about a non-existant "Oliver Cowdery History" which he claimed was in the Church vault.)

Appeal to belief

Wikipedia entry

In apologetics, this might also be called the appeal to unbelief. It asserts that something must be true simply because most people (including, perhaps, the reader) believes it.

  • Argument: "Everyone knows God doesn't speak to man"; "all Christians accept that the Bible canon is closed"; "everyone knows religious people are deluded."
  • Rebuttal: History is full of ideas which were once believed by nearly everyone (e.g. the sun orbits the earth, bleeding the sick with leeches will help them get better) and which are now known to be false.
  • See also:

Appeal to consequences

(also called argumentum ad consequentiam)
Wikipedia entry

This fallacy argues that because of the negative consequences of accepting a premise, the premise must therefore be false.

  • Argument: "Being a member of the Mormon Church caused negative consequence X in my life. Therefore, I should not have been a member, and the Church is false."
  • Rebuttal: Some truths may be unpleasant, but do not cease to be true simply because the consequences of their truth are not desired. (e.g. Just because it would destroy everything I own if my house burned down, it does not therefore follow that my house is not on fire.)
  • See also:

Appeal to emotion

Wikipedia entry

These fallcies appeal to the emotion, rather than the reason, of the audience.

Appeal to fear

(also called argumentum ad metum or argumentum in terrorem)
Wikipedia entry

This fallcy plays on the fears or biases of the audience.

  • Argument: Mormons will not be saved, because they do not accept my conception of Jesus.
  • Rebuttal: Fear of not being saved should not press us to accept someone's conception of Jesus unless that conception strikes us as truthful emotionally, logically, and spiritually.

Appeal to flattery

Wikipedia entry

This approach appeals the audience's vanity.

  • Argument: "Only those who are intellectually and emotionally honest can 'face the truth' about Mormonism." (And, by implication, if one disagrees with the speaker's version of truth, one is not emotionally or intellectually honest.)
  • Rebuttal: The acceptance of the speaker's position is the point at issue. If their position is false, then it is neither intellectually or emotionally honest to agree with them. This is often a form of begging the question.
  • See also:

Appeal to the majority

(also called argumentum ad populum)
See Appeal to belief

Appeal to pity

(also called argumentum ad misericordiam)
Wikipedia entry

This tactic plays on the audience's sympathies.

  • Argument: "We can't reject Joseph Smith's claims, because the pioneers suffered so much for it."; "My arguments against the Mormon Church are true, since I caused myself family problems by apostatizing."
  • Rebuttal: People can suffer for a false cause; the energy and effort dedicated to something is not evidence for its truthfulness.
  • See also:

Appeal to ridicule

Wikipedia entry

This tactic (mis)states an opponent's beliefs in a way that distorts them, and makes them appear ridiculous. The audience will then conclude that something so foolish cannot be defended.

This is a favorite tactic of the anti-Mormon industry; their characterizations of LDS belief and doctrine are seldom complete.

  • Argument:
    • "Mormons believe they will be gods and rule their own planets."
    • "Mormons think God talks to farmboys."
    • "[Y]ou don't get books from angels and translate them by miracles; it is just that simple."
      - Sterling M. McMurrin, "An Interview with Sterling M. McMurrin," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 17 (Spring 1984): 18-43.
    • The golden plates were conveniently taken back by the angel so no one could have the trouble to examine them!"
  • Rebuttal: To understand a belief or argument, it is always best to let a believer or proponent of an argument explain it. Any belief or idea can be made to appear ridiculous with loaded language or misleading characterizations—this is especially true of an idea that is new to an audience.
  • See also:

Appeal to spite

(also called argumentum ad odium)
Wikipedia entry

This fallacy presents the audience with the opportunity to get some sort of 'revenge' by agreeing with the speaker. The poor quality of reasoning often seen on some anti-Mormon message boards and chat rooms is an excellent example of this fallacy at work: the participants are hurt and angry about the Church for a variety of reasons, and so will not dispute anything negative which someone might have to say about the Church or a Church member, even if libelous or absurd.

  • Argument: "Church leaders betrayed you, so they routinely plan to deceive and control people."
  • Rebuttal: Even if someone did something hurtful or wrong, it does not follow that everything they do is hurtful or wrong, or that the present argument against them is accurate. Hitler was a moral monster, but it does not then follow that he was also a cannibal.
  • See also:

Two wrongs make a right

Wikipedia entry

  • Argument: The LDS committed some (real or imagined) wrong, therefore a dishonest or inappropriate tactic on the critics' part is held to be not serious. Critics who believe that the Church is a Satanic organization, or a brand of false religion often accept the rationale that "the end justifies the means" or that "lying for Jesus" is acceptable.
  • Rebuttal: Whatever the Mormons' faults or errors, dishonest debating or polemnics do not help in the search for truth. They also ill-become those who claim to be Christians.

Wishful thinking

Wikipedia entry’’

This fallacy asserts what the audience hopes or wishes were true. Their desire to believe leaves them content to avoid examining the evidence too closely.

  • Argument: "There is no evidence that the Book of Mormon is an ancient volume."
  • Rebuttal: There is, in fact, a great deal of such evidence. One must examine and rebut it, not simply make blanket claims.
  • See also:

Appeal to motive

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy seeks to discredit an opponent by questioning his/her motives. Sometimes it is merely suggested that motive is possible without demonstrating its reality.

  • Argument: "Apologists aren't worth listening to, because they are Mormons."; "Brigham Young's opinion on Joseph Smith's character cannot be trusted, because Brigham was an apostle and utterly committed to Mormonism."
  • Rebuttal: The quality of an argument does not depend on who makes it.

Note that any argument along these lines used against a member of the Church can also be used against any critic of the Church, who may have motives for disagreeing with the Church that have a religious or personal basis. This is why only the facts should be considered.

Appeal to novelty

(also called argumentum ad novitatem)

Wikipedia entry

The fallacy argues that because an idea or product is new, it is therefore superior to what has gone before.

  • Argument: "My book on Joseph Smith is based on the latest published work. My account of his life and actions is therefore more reliable than the worn accounts of yesteryear."
  • Rebuttal: The novelty of an idea is no gauge of its accuracy. We are accustomed to things constantly 'improving' in science and technology, but this is not a fixed rule. One must judge the evidence upon which a "new" interpretation is based.
  • See also:

Appeal to probability

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy assumes that because something is theoretically possible is therefore inevitably true.

  • Argument: "A shot was fired at Joseph Smith's house when he was a young man. It's possible that this was from an angry father of a girl he had dishonored, so this is one more piece of evidence that Joseph may have been a rake."
  • Rebuttal: Virtually any scenario can be said to be possible on some level. Those who make arguments about history can often get away with such statements, by couching them in the knowledge of "it may be," "perhaps," "we might conclude," etc. Weasel words are often a warning that the author is engaging in this fallacy.
  • See also:

Appeal to tradition

(also called argumentum ad antiquitatem or appeal to common practice)

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy presumes that an older idea is better than a new one.

  • Argument: "Christians have believed in the Nicene Creed for nearly two thousand years!"
  • Rebuttal: Old ideas are not necessarily true: many false ideas have been believed foe millenia. (e.g. Most human cultures have believed that the stars can foretell or control human destiny, and that astrology can reveal these matters.)
  • See also:

Argument from fallacy

(also called argumentum ad logicam)

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy assumes that because an argument advanced for an contains a logical fallacy, that the argument is therefore false. This is one of the most important fallacies to learn and remember.

  • Argument: "I have shown that FAIR's paper on Book of Mormon evidences contains false conclusions. Therefore, the Book of Mormon is a fraud."; "The missionaries couldn't answer the questions I threw at them; therefore the Church must not be true."
  • Rebuttal: A bad argument for a position does not mean that good arguments do not exist. Scholarship is an on-going investigation and discussion, and one expects to have to change at least some of one's conclusions. Proving a supporting argument wrong does not, however, relieve a critic of the necessity of providing supporting evidence for their own position.
  • See also:

Argument from ignorance

(also called argumentum ad ignorantiam or argument by lack of imagination)
Wikipedia entry

This fallacy argues that because someone (usually the speaker and audience, but sometimes the proponent) cannot explain something, it did not happen. Or, because the speaker cannot imagine how something could be, it therefore cannot be.

  • Argument: "If you can't prove to me exactly what a spiritual witness is, spiritual witnesses don't exist--they're just effects of your mind."; "My bishop couldn't answer my questions about Church history, therefore there are no good answers and the Church has been hiding this from me!"
  • Rebuttal:
    • Not being able to explain something does not prove its nonexistence. Science is a process by which things which have not been explained become explained. If it were not possible for things to be true that are unexplained, science could not progress in knowledge.
    • It is unreasonable to expect every person to be able to explain every issue, in or out of the Church. One should rather evaluate the answers of those who claim to have answers, rather than claiming that no response from someone means that there is no response possible from anyone.
    • Very often, there is an explanation for a perplexing issue. (Part of FAIR's role is to provide such explanations.) However, critics are often not interested in understanding things from an LDS point of view, and so they do not have the background to see how a thoughtful member of the Church might resolve something they consider 'impossible' to resolve.

Argument from silence

(also called argumentum ex silentio)
Wikipedia entry

This argument has a legitimate and illegitimate form. The proper form occurs when a person claims to have certain information, but consistently fails to produce it.

Proper Argument:"You claimed you had a good explanation for apologetic argument X. You have failed to produce that argument or point me to a resource which could provide it. It is therefore fair to conclude that you do not have such an explanation, since there is nothing which should prevent you from providing it."

The fallacious use of this argument occurs when one concludes that any silence must represent an admission of guilt, or an admission of ignorance.

  • Argument: "He refused to testify in court, therefore he must be guilty."
  • Rebuttal: Another reason for failure to testify might have been that the accused has a constitutional right not to testify if the defense feels it will help his case. This cannot lead to a presumption of guilt.
  • Argument: "The Church has not responded to my claims; they must therefore have no answers and my charges must be true."
  • Rebuttal: The Church might not reply because they have no answer. Or, they might have institutional reasons for not replying, since doing so distracts them from work they consider more important. Or, they may not be aware of a person's charges. Or, a reply might have been given by others which the speaker is choosing to ignore.
  • Argument: "You will not tell me about x, connected with the temple, therefore my charges are true."
  • Rebuttal: There are some things (including, but not limited to, temple worship) which the LDS consider too sacred to discuss. They may prefer silence to having cherished beliefs mocked or exposed to public debate.

Appeal to force

(also called ‘’Argumentum ad baculum’’)
Wikipedia entry

This fallacy appeals to the threat of force.

  • Argument: "Convert or die!"; "Don't be baptized a Mormon or you're out of the will!"
  • Rebuttal: Threat of force says nothing about truthfulness. Indeed, resorting to force may suggest (but not prove) that one has no better arguments to make.
  • See also:

Appeal to wealth

(also called ‘’ Argumentum ad crumenam’’)
Wikipedia entry

This fallacy argues that a claim is true because the subject is wealthy. By converse, it may argue that being poor is morally suspect, and thus a poor target is argued against.

  • Argument: "This book must be accurate, it has sold more copies than any other on the topic!"
  • Rebuttal: Wealth may be fairly or ill-gotten, regardless of truth or falsehood. This is often another form of the argument from the majority or popularity, since financial success may be the product of popularity (e.g. the book sold very well) or the cause of it (e.g. society tends to favor and fawn on the rich).
  • See also:

Appeal to poverty

(also called ‘’Argumentum ad lazarum’’)
Wikipedia entry

This fallacy argues that a claim is true because the subject is poor. By converse, it may argue that wealth is morally suspect, and thus a rich target is argued against.

  • Argument: "The Church is a billion-dollar corporation, and can't be trusted."
  • Rebuttal: There was a time when the Church was poor. Does this mean that it should have been trusted then, but cannot be trusted now because it has money?
  • See also:

Argument from repetition

(also called ‘’Argumentum ad nauseam’’)
Wikipedia entry

This fallacy tries to support its position by repeating the same claims over and over again. It is another favorite of the anti-Mormon industry.

  • Argument: "Mormons aren't Christians"; "There cannot be scripture outside the Bible".
  • Rebuttal: A false statement is false, whether uttered once or a thousand times. This seems clear when stated like this, but political propagandists have long understood that a relatively simple message, repeated over and over again, will eventually be accepted as true by a large portion of the audience. The "talking points" of modern spin doctors is a good example of this technique in action.
  • See also:

Argumentum ad numerum

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy argues that if a large number of people believe something, it must be true.

Bandwagon fallacy

(also called appeal to popularity, appeal to the people, or argumentum ad populum)
Wikipedia entry

Begging the question

(also called petitio principii, circular argument or circular reasoning)
Wikipedia entry

This fallacy assumes, as part of the argument, that which the argument is intended to prove.

  • Argument:
Premise 1: Assume that Christians can only accept the Bible as scripture.
Premise 2: Mormons accept scripture other than the Bible
Conclusion: Therefore, Mormons are not Christians.
  • Rebuttal: The critic begins with an assumption (Christians can only accept the Bible) which he knows will automatically exclude the LDS. He must, however, first prove this assumption to be true. When stated baldly as above, the circularity is obvious, so critics often treat premise #1 as a 'given' or something that the audience will assume 'must' be true without spelling it out explicitly. The argument will then take the form of "Mormons accept scripture besides the Bible, so they can't be Christians" (premise 1 is here implied but not stated).
  • See also:

Cartesian fallacy

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy describes those who assume (without proving) that the mind is completely separate from the body.

  • Argument: Brain scans of meditating monks reveal brain changes; this proves that "spiritual experiences" are all brain illusions.
  • Rebuttal: LDS theology does not teach a separation of matter and spirit into totally separate categories (see DC 131:7-8. LDS would find it strange if spiritual experiences did not have physical analogues, though such analogues might be undetectable at present. Furthermore, the claim that all "spiritual experiences" are equivalent is an unproven and unwarranted assumption.
  • See also:

Confirmation Bias

Wikipedia entry

Confirmation Bias is not a logical fallacy. However, it does involve logical fallacy as a means for monitoring it. It is the tendency to search for, interpret, and recall information that confirms one's preexisting beliefs or hypotheses. The best things we can do to monitor it are to know when Hitchens Razor may apply to certain debate, be able to cite the sources we use to make claims and inoculate ourselves to differing view points. FairMormon may help greatly in monitoring it as we 1) cite our sources for people to see how we interpret them 2) provide responses to the information that is being searched for and utilized to attack the Church 3) have our responses reviewed by several FairMormon volunteers before publication. Our answers are even at times submitted to critical reviewers for better wording. And finally 4) On the main, we have experts in the needed fields being those that write the responses for us or provide commentary for our responses. However, we do not claim perfection in our responses. If there is an error or if a response may be improved, we welcome suggestions and ask that they be made at the channels found here.

Correlative based fallacies

Wikipedia entry

  • See also:

Fallacy of many questions

(also called complex question, fallacy of presupposition, loaded question or plurium interrogationum)
Wikipedia entry

This fallacy asks a question in a way that presumes something which has not been proven. The classic example is, "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?" Whether one answers, "Yes," or "No," the implication that the respondent has beat his wife at some point remains.

  • Argument: "Are Mormons now trying to appear more Christian by emphasizing the doctrines which speak of basic Christian principles because they think this will appeal to broader society?"
  • Rebuttal: This statement presumes there was a time when the Saints did not consider themselves Christian, or when they had doctrines which they did not consider to be focused on Christ. In fact, the LDS have always seen themselves as Christian and all their doctrines centered on Christ. Different emphases might be due, for example, to the fact that American society as a whole is less overtly Christian than in the earlier days of the Church, so the LDS must emphasize doctrines (such as the virgin birth and the divine Sonship of Christ) which would have been accepted by the majority of citizens in Joseph Smith's day.
  • See also:

False dilemma

(also called false dichotomy, bifurcation, or the either/or fallacy)
Wikipedia entry

  • Argument: "We must accept either the testimony of the Bible or the teachings of Joseph Smith."
  • Rebuttal: The statement implies that Joseph Smith's witness and a belief in the Bible are fundamentally incompatible. However, it may be, for example, that there is a third way that the statement does not consider. It could be that one's false perceptions of Biblical inerrancy and sufficiency are all that need to be rejected in order to enjoy the benefits of both ancient and modern prophetic witness.
  • See also:

Denying the correlative

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy can be thought of as the opposite of the false dilemma. It tries to introduce a third option where none exists.

  • Argument:"We need to get away from the question of whether Joseph was a true prophet or a fraud. Joseph believed he was a prophet, and this is what matters."
  • Rebuttal: Believing you are a prophet does not make you a prophet. It makes little difference whether Joseph was a conscious fraud or sincerely deceived if one's key question is whether the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God's true church. This 'third' option is really just the same old claim ("Joseph was a fraud") dressed up in less inflammatory language.
  • See also:

Suppressed correlative

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy tries to redefine two mutually exclusive options in such a way as to make one option 'part' of the other, and to thus exclude it from consideration.

For example, here speaker Abe tries to prove that no one is "stupid":

Bill: John sure is ugly.
Abe: John isn't ugly, he's much better looking than my dog.
Bill: But, your dog is hideous!
Abe: But, my dog is prettier than a tarantula. So, John is really handsome!

Note how 'ugly' in Abe's use of this fallacy becomes a subset of 'beautiful,' so no one or anything can be said to be 'ugly' at all.

  • Argument:
Critic: Joseph Smith was a liar about his spiritual experiences.
Mormon: Joseph Smith was either a sincere, devout man who truly believed God had spoken to him, or he was a calculating liar. Reading his journals and letters clearly shows that he was sincere. I therefore reject the idea that he was intentionally deceiving others, especially since to pull off his 'scam,' he would have had to come up with metal plates to deceive the witnesses, convinced or persuade others to lie for him, etc.
Critic: No, Joseph was lying and knew it. But, he decided that by telling his lies and forging a book of scripture, he would enhance people's faith. He was a fraud, but a 'pious one'--a liar who meant well and had the highest motivations.
  • Rebuttal: Note how "sincere and devout" is absorbed into "liar." The critic's formulation essentially rules out the possibility of Joseph being honestly convinced of his claims. He was, for the critic, either a fraud for base reasons, or a fraud for sincere reasons. What the critic hopes to distract us from, however, is the idea that it is inconsistent for someone to be a humble, devout person who decides that 'lying for God' is a great idea through massive deceit, forgery, trickery, and exploitation of others.

So, the critic is trying to sound kind and offer a middle of the road position to appear broad-minded; what he has really done is given the reader a choice between Joseph as liar and fraud or Joseph as liar and fraud.

Variants of this approach are the current vogue for 'secular' critics' explanations of Joseph Smith.

Double standard

Wikipedia entry

The term double standard refers to any set of principles containing different provisions for one group of people than for another.

  • Argument: The Book of Mormon's first edition had typographical errors later corrected; therefore, it cannot be the word of God since God would not have let a translator of holy writ make typographical errors.
  • Rebuttal: Many published versions of the Bible likewise contain multiple typographical errors. Sectarian critics rightly excuse these faults as the inevitable consequence of fallible mortals publishing a book; they will not grant the same exception to the Book of Mormon, however.


Wikipedia entry

This fallacy uses the same term in two different ways, while implying or assuming that the word has the same meaning in both cases.

Need LDS example if possible

False analogy

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy occurs when the speaker draws an analogy or comparison between two items. These items are then (falsely) assumed to be the same in some way because of the analogy, and not traits of the items themselves.

  • Argument: "Mormonism is like Islam because both have a modern prophet (Joseph and Mohammad) and new scripture (the Book of Mormon and the Qu'ran). Therefore, Mormonism is not Christian, since Muslims don't worship Jesus."
  • Rebuttal: There are some similarities between Mormonism and Islam, but these similarities do not include the faiths' attitude toward Jesus; Mormons worship Christ as the Son of God, while Muslims regard Him as a great prophet only.
  • See also:

False premise

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy uses incorrect starting points for the argument; thus, while logically correct (the argument follows from the premises) the argument is still false because the premises do not reflect reality.

Many anti-Mormon arguments are predicated on false premises.

  • Argument:
Premise #1: The Book of Mormon claims to be the story of all Amerindians. (false)
Premise #2: Some Amerindians are clearly not of Middle Eastern origin. (true)
Conclusion: Therefore, the Book of Mormon is not an accurate record.

False compromise

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy offers two possibilities on either extremes, and then argues that the truth must lie 'somewhere in the middle'.

  • Argument: "Mormons claim Joseph Smith was commanded to implement polygamy. Harsh anti-Mormons say that Joseph did it for lascivious motives. The truth is probably that Joseph was sincere but mistaken in what God wanted."
  • Rebuttal: We often seek compromises, and so this approach seems evenhanded and tolerant. However, sometimes the truth really does lie on one side or other other; the middle route proposed is in error despite not being as extreme as one side.
  • See also:

Fallacies of distribution:

Wikipedia entry

This fallacy assumes that there is no difference in traits between the compositive (an entire class or group) and the distributive (each member of a class or group).


Wikipedia entry

Need good LDS examples of this

  • Argument: Blood cells are invisible to the naked eye. Therefore, you cannot see blood.
  • Rebuttal: Groups of things may have properties which the parts do not. I can lift every individual component of my Ford car. It does not follow that I can then lift my entire car over my head when it is assembled.
  • See also:


Wikipedia entry

Need good LDS examples of this

  • Argument: The brain is a self-aware organ. Therefore, neurons (the parts of the brain) are self-aware.
  • Rebuttal: Groups of things may have properties which the parts do not--my Ford car can go 150 km/h; my car's windshield can not reach that speed by itself.
  • See also: