10 Points to Guard Against Fallacious Thinking

Back when I began learning a thing or two about apologetics, I thought I was ready to get out there and begin converting atheists. Boy, was I massively naïve. With the best of intentions, armed with a few good classes under my belt, I started a Twitter account aimed at converting the lost, correcting misinformation about the faith, and sharing the evidence for Christianity. But my first few attempts on Twitter somehow landed me into a ‘tweet-feeding frenzy’ of angry atheists. I was swirling around in this frenetic mess of tweet assaults, as it seemed like every atheist online was swarming on me, hashtagging this budding apologist into a mess that I didn’t know how to escape. Every response I tweeted was slammed back in my face as I was quickly losing a battle that I didn’t know I started. And then someone said I was “straw-manning” them. Um…wut? Was this like some kind of weird scarecrow thing? To say the least, I was clueless.

The Straw Man Fallacy is often when we over simplify an opposing viewpoint. (I am guilty of this one!)

I kept seeing these terms like straw manred herring, and ad hominem. I didn’t know what these terms meant, but I quickly learned they were related to erroneous thinking that occurs when making arguments. I then realized that they had to do with logic, but I was the least logical person I knew. Seriously. Logical arguments are kind of like mathematical equations using words. I hated math and I was certain I wouldn’t like logic any better. As my apologetics studies continued, I knew I needed a course on logic. I had to learn how to argue better and understand what I was doing wrong, e.g. using that “straw man” fallacy.

Every thoughtful Christian should know a bit about fallacies. So, what is a fallacy? A fallacy is a deceptive, misleading, or erroneous argument or way of reasoning; the argument [1] contains a specific defect that can distort how clearly a person views reality.

It makes sense that fallacies often go undetected since many don’t know what they are or have not been trained in recognizing them. So, how can we guard against fallacious thinking? We have to learn how to avoid common missteps in the reasoning process by studying what makes an argument sound and what constitutes fallacious reasoning.

Here are 10 Points you can incorporate into your thinking:

  1. Focus on backing an argument with solid support.
  2. Acknowledge your presuppositions and avoid unwarranted assumptions.
  3. Be cautious when analyzing cause-and-effect connections.
  4. Present substantive evidence to support an argument. 
  5. Reflect clarity of thought and expression.
  6. Identify evidence that is useful for supporting an argument. This includes facts, documentation, or testimony that strengthens a claim.
  7. Respond directly to an opponent’s argument without attacking character (the ad hominem fallacy; Latin for “against the man”), unless the person’s character is the logical issue. 
  8. Avoid distorting the opposing viewpoint or oversimplifying it; take time to respond intelligently to their position (the straw man fallacy). 
  9. Stay on topic—don’t introduce a diversion that distracts or misleads people away from the main argument (the red herring fallacy).
  10. Be fair with opposing evidence and show intellectual integrity by acknowledging an opposing point well-made.

Read this rest of this article here, on the Women in Apologetics site. (I am a Senior Writer for this ministry.)