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Invalid Arguments

  1. Argument ad hominem: attacking the man. This is an attempt to discredit an idea by attacking the person who suggested it and not the idea itself.

  2. Argument from authority: "As Prime Minister, I have evidence that you don't have. Take my word for it - Iraq has Biochemical weapons." This is not an argument but an appeal to faith (although that doesn't stop it being true).

  3. Argument from adverse consequences, or praying on an audience's fears: "We may not be very good, but the opposition would be worse". (For additional comments see below.) 

  4. Appeal to lack of evidence or 'absence of evidence equals evidence of absence': "Unicorn's cannot exist because nobody has ever seen them". Just because nobody has seen one does not prove that Unicorns do not exist.

  5. Special Pleading: How can a merciful God condemn future generations to suffering just because, against orders, one woman persuaded one man to eat an apple? Special pleading: "You don't understand the subtle Doctrine of Free Will." How can the Father, Son and Holy Spirit exist in the same person? Special pleading: "You don't understand the subtle Doctrine of the Holy Trinity."

  6. Begging the question i.e. making unproven assumptions before you start. "When did you stop beating your wife?"

  7. Observational selection or counting the hits and ignoring the misses:  "Mussolini was a great leader because he made the trains run on time." Scientists are often guilty of this experiments. This is also a common cause of people believing a coincidence to be more than it is.

  8. Statistics of small numbers. "I hear that one in five people is Chinese. How can this be? I know hundreds of people, and none of them is Chinese. Yours truly,..."

  9. Statistics in general: "Our education system is failing because half of all children achieved lower than average exam results."

  10. Inconsistency: "We must buy missiles to prepare for the worst that Russia could possibly do to us, but it's silly to spend money on stopping the greenhouse effect because it's not been proven for sure yet."

  11. Non Sequitur: "The greenhouse effect can't be real, because we have a cold May."

  12. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc or  it happened afterwards, so it happened because of. "Before women got the vote, there were no nuclear weapons. Therefore giving women the vote has created nuclear weapons."

  13. Meaningless question: "what happens when an unstoppable force meets and immovable object?" If they were such thing as an unstoppable force there would be no immovable objects.

  14. False dichotomy i.e. only allowing the extremes: "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.", "You are either good or you are evil.".

  15. Slippery slope: "If we legalize cannabis, we'll soon have heroin on display in WalMart/Sainsbury's"

  16. Confusion of correlation and causation: "Birds have control over the seasons, as soon as they fly south winter starts."

  17. Straw man, deliberate exaggeration of an opponent's position to make it easier to attack: "Evolutionists suppose that things simply fell together by chance - a blind watchmaker!". This is a huge distortion of the Darwinist view.

  18. Weasel words: Although the President of the USA is constitutionally disallowed from starting a war, recent Presidents have launched numerous "Police Actions", "Armed Incursions", "Pre-emptive Strikes", "Pacifications", "Protections of American Interests" and "Operations" e.g. "Operation Iraqi Freedom".

  19. Only one hypothesis. If an argument only considers one possibility, it's in trouble. This is a problem that affects jury trials. Retrospective studies show that some jurors make up their minds very early, then only notice or remember evidence that supports the conclusion they've already made. The problem is further exacerbated with "Death Qualified" juries (see the "Risk of Executing the Innocent" section in The Death Penalty - A Balanced Debate).

One 'intloafer'  has pointed out that an 'argument from adverse consequences' , number 3, may actually be correct. This is true. In many situations both options are bad, but one is less so than the other. The main argument being attacked here is the idea that "the opposition are bad, so we must be better". This is definitely not true. The visitor also provided another very good, often used, example: "God must exist, because otherwise life would be meaningless.". While the logical step in this argument is true, without God life has no (religious) meaning, it offers no proof for the existence (or non-existence) of God. 

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