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Fallacy & Summary Application

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We encounter arguments all over the place: in books, advertisements, TV talk shows, political speeches, newspaper editorials, class discussions, and late night "bull sessions" with our friends. Some of those arguments are sound and convincing, but many are fallacious. An argument is fallacious when it contains one or more logical fallacies. A logical fallacy -- or fallacy, for short -- is an argument that contains a mistake in reasoning (Bassham, Irwin, Nardone, and Wallace 2002). What follows is a discussion on three such fallacies: non-sequitur, appeal to fear, and equivocation. As illustrated in the text, it is important that these fallacies, as well as others not covered herein be understood so that faulty or deceptive reasoning may be better recognized - not only for their deception and fault, but also as a barrier to common ground and misunderstanding.

Non-sequitur is Latin for "it does not follow." In formal logic, an argument is a non-sequitur if the conclusion does not follow from the premise (Non Sequitur (logic), n.d.). In 1995, the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) instituted a ban on end zone celebrations following touchdowns. Along with dancing, taunting, or any so-called "look-at-me" behavior, the NCAA included kneeling to pray (Dan McGraw, 2002). This action caught the ire of Rev. Jerry Falwell and his school, Liberty University. At the time, the Liberty quarterback expressed "I want the kids in America to look at me and know that I have a higher power, and that's God (Andrews, 1995)." While admirable at first blush, the "God is on my side" argument has a flaw. Is God only on this quarterback's side? What happens when Liberty University plays Notre Dame, Southern Methodist, or another religious university? Who side is God on then? Football teams can score as many touchdowns as their God given talents may allow. It does not follow that God is on their side. Note: The NCAA modified its edict to allow players to pray or cross themselves as long as it is spontaneous and not in the nature of a pose (McGraw, 2002).

The Appeal to Fear Fallacy has the following pattern: Y is presented, a claim that is intended to produce fear; therefore claim X is true, a claim that is generally, but need not be, related to Y in some manner (The Nizkor Project, n. d.). This line of reasoning is fallacious because creating fear in people does not constitute evidence for a claim. Progress for America (PFA), an organization that promotes conservative policies, began an issue advocacy effort that includes television advertising on national cable outlets and on broadcast television in Missouri, placing a sharp focus on the War on Terror. The ad stated bluntly "These people want to kill us." While this statement itself is true enough, what followed was clearly false. The ad further proclaimed that "Many seem to have forgotten the evil that happened only five years ago," while showing an orange fireball billowing from the World Trade Center as United Airlines Flight 175 slammed into it (Progress for America, 2006).

It is safe to say that nobody has forgotten the events of September 11th. It can also be successfully argued that Progress for America is unable name a single person who has. If PFA wishes to argue that many people to do not see the September 11th attacks as a justification for the present military action in Iraq, then there is a valid argument. The public may be less worried about terrorism, but that is not even a distant cousin to forgetting.

Equivocation is the type of ambiguity which occurs when a single word or phrase is ambiguous, and this ambiguity is not grammatical but lexical. So, when a phrase equivocates, it is not due to grammar, but to the phrase as a whole having two distinct meanings. The Fallacy of Equivocation occurs when an equivocal word or phrase makes an unsound argument appear sound (Equivocation, n. d).

A number of people object to Freemasonry (often quite vocally) on a religious basis, claiming that Masonry is a religion, supplants their religion, or is not "the way to Heaven". Much of these concerns come from critics taking a few passages of Masonic ceremony, applying their interpretation to the words, then condemning the organization. In 1993, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) issued a report enumerating certain issues with Freemasonry that they deemed as incompatible with Christianity. One of these issues was "the prevalent use of offensive concepts, titles, and terms such as 'Worshipful Master' for the leaders of the lodge (Southern Baptist, 1993)."

(Southern Baptist, 1993)With respect to the title "Master" the SBC was quick to quote Matthew 23:10: "Neither be ye called masters. For one is your Master, even Christ." Does this also call for the abolition of scoutmasters, concert masters, ships masters, or master craftsmen? Maybe if the SBC took a closer look at the dictionary, the authors of the report may



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