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A Fallacy Recognition Handbook

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A Fallacy Recognition Handbook


Zen & Understanding the Middle East

Sellers' Market
Will to Believe
Rules of Thumb

"The truth is out there "
Use & misuse of words
False information signals more false information
Technical whiz-bang
Understand the Context
Lies, More Lies, Damn Lies and Newspapers
Beware of Generalizations
Theology and scripture
Misleading Statistics
Smoke in your eyes
What is Missing?
Myth versus fact versus narrative
The past was not like the present; the future will be different

Fallacy Recognition in the Middle East

Fallacies and Arguments
Cause and Effect
Slippery Slope
Gambler's Fallacy
Ad Hominem
Appeal to Novelty
Appeal to Emotion
Appeal to Tradition
False Dilemma or Black and White Thinking
Special Pleading
The Spotlight Fallacy
Who is to Say?

Fallacy Handbook

Fallacies and Arguments


Ad Hominem

Ad Hominem Tu Quoque

Appeal to Authority

Appeal to Belief

Appeal to Common Practice

Appeal to Consequences of a Belief

Appeal to Emotion

Appeal to Fear

Appeal to Flattery

Appeal to Novelty

Appeal to Pity

Appeal to Popularity

Appeal to Ridicule

Appeal to Spite

Appeal to Tradition


Begging the Question

Biased Sample

Burden of Proof

Circumstantial Ad Hominem


Confusing Cause and Effect


False Dilemma

Gambler's Fallacy

Genetic Fallacy

Guilt By Association

Hasty Generalization

Ignoring A Common Cause

Middle Ground

Misleading Vividness

Peer Pressure

Personal Attack

Poisoning the Well

Post Hoc

Questionable Cause

Red Herring

Relativist Fallacy

Slippery Slope

Special Pleading


Straw Man

2 Wrongs Make A Right
Who is to say

Who is to Say?


This fallacy occurs when a person assumes that asserting “who is to say” (or some variation) ends the need for further consideration of an issue. It is assumed by the person that this tactic “proves” that there is no way to decide whether any position or view is better than another. The person may appear to be asking a question, but they have the answer in mind: no one is to say. The fallacy has the following form:


1. “Who is to say?” or some variation is presented.

2. Therefore there is no way to decide whether any position or view is better or worse than another.

This sort of reasoning is fallacious because the mere fact that someone says or writes “who is to say?” hardly proves that there is no better or worse position on the issue at hand.

It is, of course, possible that there are situations in which it is impossible to show that one position of view is any better than the others. However, this would have to be shown through argument. For example, what people like and dislike when it comes to food is a rather subjective matter-what proof could be given that Rocky Road ice cream is tastier than Heavenly Hash? In this case, it would be reasonable to hold the view that no one is to say what ice cream truly tastes better or worse.

This fallacy is often used as a tactic to simply end discussion or as an easy (lazy) way to avoid taking a position on an issue.

Example #1

Three students are discussing cheating.

Sally: “You know, I saw that Josh was cheating like a crazy monkey on the last test.”

Andrea: “Yeah, he’s like that.”

Bill: “Um, what the heck does ‘cheating like a crazy monkey’ mean?”

Sally: “Whatever, Bill. Anyway, I think cheating is wrong. People should work for their grades.”

Andrea: “Hey, little miss judge, who are you to say what people should do?”

Sally: “What?”

Andrea: “I mean, how can anyone say what is wrong or right? You just can’t.”

Sally: “Whatever.”

Example #2

Some people are discussing evolutionary theory versus creationism

Polly: “You know, the evidence for evolution seems overwhelming. There is the fossil evidence, the genetic data and all kinds of…”

Jim: “That may be. But you can’t just chalk the universe up to chance. I think that God is a necessary factor in explaining the universe.”

Geoff: “Hey guys, lighten up. I mean, no one can really decide who is right here. So, there is no point in fighting. Polly, you can keep on bowing down to Darwin and Rorty. Jim, you can keep on praying to Jesus. See everybody can be happy because no one is right…or wrong.”

Polly: “Heretic. You must be burned.”

Jim: “I’ll get the wood and gasoline.”

Geoff: “Hey, can’t we all just get along?”

Jim & Polly: “No!”


Previous: 2 Wrongs Make A Right

See Also: Who is to Say?  (Middle East Fallacies)

Legal Information

This book is copyright 2002 by Dr. Michael C. LaBossiere. It may be freely distributed for personal or educational use provided that it is not modified and no fee above the normal cost of distribution is charged for it. Visit my web site at www.opifex.cnchost.com.

Reproduced by permission


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