How To Win Every Argument

Gervase Markham

LUGRadio Live 2007

Before We Begin...


Logical Fallacies

Loaded words

"During last night's demonstration, the occupying Israeli military murdered five Palestinian activists.
During last night's violent riots, the Israeli peace-keepers shot dead five Hamas terrorists.

Slippery slope

"And this will continue until such time as browsers take a stand. Should we also implement all the bugs that Internet Explorer and Netscape 4.x have in their CSS parser? Hell no!" -- Ian Hickson, discussing implementing support for the Symbol font

Dicto simpliciter

"Biblical scholars say the Gospels were written long after the events they record and are distorted by the viewpoint of the author and the need for the accounts to address the situation of the early church."

Argumentum ad temperantiam

"The Third Way is the route to renewal and success for modern progressive politics. Neither old left nor new right, it takes the essential values of the centre and centre-left... and applies them to a world of fundamental social and economic change, free from outdated ideology." -- Tony Blair

Definitional Retreat

"Of course, I was using "expectation" as statisticians do, multiplying the probability of the returns by their size. I didn't mean it in the sense that we expected anything to happen..."

False Analogy

"The Bible is just a bunch of myths and fairy stories. Believing in God is like believing in the Flying Spaghetti Monster."

Ignoratio elenchi

"Isn't it true, Minister, that you have allowed the living standards of the poor to fall in real terms?"
"What we have done, Jim, is to increase by 3.7% the allowance to dependent females, and by 3.9% the allowance to widows with two children, these increases both being larger than our opponents ever managed in a single year of their term of office."

Argumentum ad populum

"Walk up to 100 random people on the street, and ask them if they've heard of a video game, called Counterstrike. And if they have heard of it, have they played it. Now ask the same about Mario. Seriously, I know that Counterstrike is a good game, but apart from the people who do play it, most people have never even heard of it." -- "CastrTroy" on Slashdot, discussing which is the best game ever

Argumentum ad misericordiam

"What about those who have never heard the gospel, who don't even know that Jesus ever existed? Surely God will not send them to hell. That's unfair."

Post hoc ergo propter hoc

"Children who eat breakfast every morning tend to perform better at school" -- Jo Frost, Cornflakes box
"I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gay and lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the A.C.L.U., People for the American Way - all of them have tried to secularize America - I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.'" -- Jerry Falwell, after Sept. 11th 2001

Poisoning The Well

"Choice in education is only a device by which the middle classes can buy advantage for their children."

False Dichotomy

You're either with us or against us in the fight against terror." -- George Bush
"Is it better to distribute DRMed media or no media at all?" -- Mass Debate participant

Your Turn...

"Kid, I've flown from one side of the galaxy to the other and I've seen a lot of strange stuff, but I've never seen anything that could make me believe there's one all-powerful force controlling everything." -- Han Solo

Argumentum ad ignorantiam

The End