Fallacy Identification Exercises

Many of the following exercise examples are from Hurley’s Concise Introduction to Logic. Try to identify the fallacy each commits and be able to support your choice.

1. DeLay argues that stem-cell research is immoral. But DeLay is an ultra right-wing lunatic who’s incapable of thinking objectively. Obviously his argument is non-sense.


2. Barbara Striesand, Paul Newman and Julia Roberts are Democrats. Therefore all Hollywood stars are Democrats.


3. The ship of state is like a ship at sea. No sailor is allowed to protest orders from the captain. So no citizens should be allowed to protest presidential policies.


4. Smirnoff is the best vodka available: renowned violinist Pichas Zukerman says, “When it comes to vodka, Smirnof plays second fiddle to none.”


5. Eat your liver and carrots. Don’t you want to grow up to be big and strong like the X-men?


6. Poet Allen Ginsburg argued in favor of legalizing pornography. But Ginsberg’s arguments are just trash: He was a marijuana-smoking homosexual and advocate of the drug culture.

7. Freedom of speech is constitutionally guaranteed, so you can’t arrest someone for inciting a riot.


8. The garment workers have signed a petition arguing for better ventilation on the premises. Unfortunately, air conditioning is expensive. Air ducts would have to be run through the factory, and a massive heat-exchange unit installed on the roof. The cost of operating it in the summer would be astronomical. In view of all this, the petition must be rejected.


9. There’s a lot of talk these days about getting the pesticides out of our fruits and vegetables. But many of these foods are essential to our health. Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A, broccoli is rich in iron, and oranges and grapefruits have lots of vitamin C.


10. The position open in the accounting department should be given to Frank. He’s got six hungry children to feed and his wife needs an operation to save her eyesight.


11.  President Bush argues that we should open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling. But Bush just wants to reward his rich cronies in the oil industry, so we can’t take his arguments seriously.


12. Whoever puts a knife in another person deserves to go to jail, so surgeons should be locked up.


13. You should read An Inconvenient Truth. It’s been on the N Y Times Best Seller list for 29 weeks.


14. Nietzsche’s philosophy is a load of rubbish. He was an atheist, and called himself an immoralist; he probably died of syphilis.

15. The editors of the Daily Register have accused our company of being one of the city’s worst water polluters. But the Daily Register is responsible for more pollution than we are –they own the Western Paper Company, which discharges tons of chemical waste into the river every day.

16. Senator Barrow advocates increased Social Security benefits for the poor. It’s regrettable that he finds it necessary to embrace socialism. Socialism defeats initiative, takes away promised rewards and leads to inefficiency and big government. It was tried and failed in Europe. Clearly socialism is no good.


17. I know some of you oppose the appointment of Cole as the new sales manager. But I am sure you will see that he’s well-qualified for the job. If he’s not appointed, we may have to cut some personnel in your department.

18. Animal rights activists say that animals are abused in biomedical research labs. But actually, pets are abused by their owners every day, and probably about 25% of pet owners neglect their pets. Some cases of abuse are enough to make you sick.

19. The Free-Lance Star carried a report about three teenagers arrested on drug charges. Teenagers these days are just a bunch of junkies.


20. If a car breaks down on the freeway, a passing mechanic is not required to stop and provide road service. Likewise, if a person has a heart attack on the street, a passing physician is not obligated to render emergency medical care.


21. There’s probably life on Mars, because Pat Robertson says God told him there is.


22. The secretaries have asked for lounge areas where they can take their coffee breaks. We’ll have to turn down this request. If we give them the lounge areas, next they’ll want a t.v., and then snack machines, a spa and a swiming pool. We can’t afford all that.


23. Paris Hilton says that “Scary Movie” is excellent, so it must be worth seeing.


24. No one can prove that extrasensory perception doesn’t happen, so therefore it’s a legitimate theory.


25.  When water is poured over a pile of rocks, it always trickles down to the very bottom. Similarly, when rich people make lots of money, we can expect this to trickle down to the less fortunate.


26. The average American family has 2.7 children. The Hansons seem very average to me, I bet they have 2.7 children too.


27. “I see nobody on the road,” said Alice.

” I only wish I had such eyes,” the King remarked in a fretful tone. “To be able to see Nobody! And at that distance too! Why, it’s as much as I can do to see real people, by this light.” Alice in Wonderland


28. Reverend Jones said he had the privilege of marrying six people yesterday. I had not realized before that he was a bigamist.


29.  I do believe that fathers can and should care for their children, but you simply can not (sic) replace a child’s mother, it’s unnatural. (The Bullet, Jan 25, 2007, p. 9)


30. “Because music is abstract, we thought it would activate higher levels of cortex,” Tramo said. “Instead we got this very ancient system which is usually involved in biological reward…What we found in a nutshell is when people experience chills, there was a huge range of activity all over the brain. It lit up like a Christmas tree.” Washington Post 2/4/07

–I think it’s insulting that he’d generalize from what he found in a nutshell! Is he calling the cranium a nutshell?


31. I’ve always reckoned that looking at the new moon over your left shoulder is one of the carelessest and foolishest things a body can do. Old Hank Bunker done it once, and bragged about it; and in less than two years he got drunk and fell off the shot tower, and spread himself out so that he was just a kind of a layer, as you may say. Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn


32. Socrates, I think you are too ready to speak evil of men, and, if you take my advice, I recommend you to be careful. Perhaps there is no city in which it is not easier to do men harm than to do them good, and this is certainly the case at Athens, as I believe that you know. Plato, Meno


33. But can you doubt that air has weight when you have the clear testimony of Aristotle affirming that all the elements have weight, including air, and excepting only fire? Galileo, Dialogues


34. The Inquisition must have been justified and beneficial, if whole peoples invoked and defended it, if men of the loftiest souls founded it and created it severally and impartially, and its very adversaries applied it on their own account, pyre answering to pyre. Benedetto Croce


35. Why do I know more than other people? Why am I so clever? Nietzsche, Ecce Homo


36. On the Senate floor in 1950, Joe McCarthy announced that he had penetrated “Truman’s iron curtain of secrecy.” He had 81 case histories of persons whom he considered to be Communists in the State Department. Of Case 40, he said, “I do not have much information on this except the general statement of the agency that there is nothing in the files to disprove his Communist connections.” Richard Rovere, Senator Joe McCarthy


37. Robert Toombs is reputed to have said, just before the Civil War, “We could lick those Yankees with cornstalks.” When he was asked after the war what had gone wrong, he is reputed to have said, “It’s very simple. Those damnyankees refused to fight with cornstalks.” E. J. Kahn The New Yorker, Feb 1978


38. Seeing that the eye and hand and foot and every one of our members has some obvious function, must we not believe that in like manner a human being has a function over and above these particular functions? Aristotle. Nichomachean Ethics


39. Order is indispensable to justice because justice can be achieved only by means of a social and legal order. Ernst Van Den Haag, Punishing Criminals


40 . Whether we are to live in a future state, as it is the most important question which can possibly be asked, so it is the most intelligible one which can be expressed in language. Joseph Butler, Of Personal Identity


41. “I’m all for women having equal rights, ” said Bullfight Association president Paco Camino. “But I repeat, women shouldn’t fight bulls because a bullfighter is and should be a man.” SF Chronicle 3/28/72


42. Like an armed warrior, like a plumed knight, James G. Blaine marched down the halls of the American Congress and threw his shining lances full and fair against the brazen foreheads of every defamer of his country and malinger of its honor. For the Republican Party to desert a gallant man now is worse than if an army should desert their general upon the field of battle. Robert Ingersoll, nominating speech 1876.


43. You can’t take the arguments of conscientious objectors seriously. They are obviously just trying to avoid the draft being reinstated.


44. We must believe in God’s existence because it is taught in the Holy Scriptures, and we must believe the Holy Scriptures because they have come from God. Descartes, Meditations


45. “I would like to ask the learned gentleman, on which side he is descended from a monkey, his mother’s or his father’s?”


46. Your food section often features recipes with veal, and you say that veal is a wholesome and nutritious dish. I disagree. Do you know how veal comes to be on your plate? How a baby calf is separated from its mother, chained up in a dark enclosure so it can’t move, to limit its muscular development so it’s tender? And then it’s kept in the dark until it’s slaughtered for you. Letter to the Editor, Cascade News


47. Listen, as long as you’re going to live here at home and let your mother and me support you, you can rest assured that you’re going to cooperate. And that goes for your opinions as well as your behavior.


48. Al Franken’s arguments are a load of crap; he calls Rush Limbaugh a “big fat idiot,” which is the ad hominem fallacy.


49. We must accept the traditions of the men of old time who affirm themselves to be the offspring of the gods –that is what they say–and they must surely have known their own ancestors. How can we doubt the word of the children of the gods?   –Plato, Timaeus


50. If you hold that nothing is self-evident, I will not argue with you for it is clear that you are a quibbler and are not to be convinced.    –Duns Scotus, Commentary on Peter Lombard

51.  “It’s no wonder President Obama wants every kid to go to college. The indoctrination that occurs in American universities is one of the keys to the left holding and maintaining power in America,” Santorum said at a rally last month in Florida. “As you know, 62 percent of children who enter college with a faith conviction leave without it.”

And Santorum isn’t the only presidential candidate who thinks college is anti-religion. Newt Gingrich shared some of the same concerns in a speech to a group of pastors in Florida last year. ”I for one am tired of the long trend towards a secular, atheist system of thought dominating our colleges, dominating our media,” Gingrich said.

It may be true that many college professors are liberal. But does that mean that colleges, as Gingrich claims, are encouraging atheism? That number Santorum threw out — that 62 percent of kids who go to college with religious beliefs leave without them — would seem to prove his point. The number comes from a 2007 study published in the journal Social Forces looking at the relationship between education and religious faith.

But as it turns out, later in that same study, the authors came to the complete opposite conclusion: They found that 76 percent of kids who don’t go to college end up attending church less often, a higher percentage than those who do go to college. “Higher education,” as they put it, “is not the enemy of religiosity.”

Now that you have all that information, what is the fallacy in the first paragraph?

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