Exposing PseudoAstronomy

November 19, 2009

Logical Fallacies: Straw Man Argument


Introduction

In my ongoing series about logical fallacy types, the discussion this time is about the “Straw Man.”

What is the “Straw Man” Fallacy?

In a nutshell, a “Straw Man” is an argument against a claim that was never made. An extreme case would be that someone claims, “The sky is blue,” and then the person who argues against it says that that person actually said, “The sky is green” and chose to argue against the sky being green.

Example from Creationism

As seems to be the case so far, my example from Creationism of this claim is the origin of the universe. Cosmologists argue that the Big Bang was the first thing that happened in our universe. From this event, everything that we know originated. Cosmologists do not know how the Big Bang happened/occurred/originated, but there are several different hypotheses that are being worked on (bubble universes, brane theory, etc.). For two sentences, that’s a fair description of the state of things.

However, what you will often see creationists argue is that we came from “Nothing.” Yep, the common claim is that, “Nothing happened to create something which created us.” They then go through hoops to effectively say, “Well isn’t that silly,” or, “Isn’t that the same thing as God created everything?”

But, what the creationist argument really is, is simply a Straw Man — they are taking something that astronomers never claimed and then arguing against it. This is done usually because either (a) they don’t actually understand the claim and hence the difference between it and what they argue, or (b) because they are purposely trying to make the original claim or claimant appear foolish.

Final Thoughts

Straw Man arguments are usually fairly easy to pick out if the incorrect argument is actually stated. To use my original contrived example of the color of the sky, if the second person does not explicitly state something to the effect of, “Well if the sky is green …” to indicate that is what they are arguing against, it can be a little tricky. That’s because you will have to pay careful attention to how and what they argue in order to see what they are actually arguing against.

8 Comments »

  1. Just take note that not all Creationists take “Straw Man” Positions in these matters. Very easy for people on either side of the fence to fall into this fallacy.

    Comment by Shaine — November 26, 2009 @ 4:58 am | Reply

    • Again, I’m not trying to say that YECs are the only ones who commit these. There are plenty of people who will mischaracterize the YEC argument, as well. And there are plenty of creationists who actually understand the scientific position. Rather, this was just an example of what some do.

      Comment by astrostu206265 — November 26, 2009 @ 8:21 am | Reply

  2. I honestly can’t say I’ve never seen a creationist who doesn’t employ a large number of straw men in his clutch of arguments against evolution. If Shaine is aware a high profile creationist that doesn’t make regular use of the straw man fallacy, I’d like to hear about him.

    Comment by kamamer — November 27, 2009 @ 9:38 am | Reply

    • I would also like to hear of any (even low-profile will do!) creationists who do not use straw men, since in several years of searching I haven’t found any. Not a single one.

      Comment by KT_trebor — January 10, 2010 @ 7:32 am | Reply

  3. […] all radiometric dating into question,” but at least it’s not based on quite an obvious straw man. Thank you KT_trebor for pointing out the revision! Possibly related posts: (automatically […]

    Pingback by The Age of the Solar System Needs to Be Recalculated – Could Young-Earth Creationism Be Right?! « Exposing PseudoAstronomy — January 27, 2010 @ 10:47 am | Reply

  4. […] field you’re trying to refute. Another con is that you run the risk of presenting a straw man argument – though I try to make very clear that I am only addressing specific claims, not the […]

    Pingback by Is Debunking a Fringe Person Still Worth It? « Exposing PseudoAstronomy — March 8, 2010 @ 3:58 pm | Reply

  5. […] Recently, though, I’ve been seeing some blog posts and some posts on creationist sites that disagree with this, trying to back up a very fallacious idea that “theory” in science means what the general public uses it for. Unfortunately, when I decided to write this post, I could not readily locate an example, and for that I apologize. But I promise you that unless I was having some very realistic dreams across multiple nights, this is not a straw man argument. […]

    Pingback by What’s a Theory? Dictionary versus Science « Exposing PseudoAstronomy — May 25, 2010 @ 2:39 pm | Reply

  6. […] a copy of the page like all the sites I talk about as evidence that I wasn’t trying to make straw man arguments. She’s also still claiming that she is, “Terry Nazon, World Famous Celebrity […]

    Pingback by Ah, the Joys of Stepping on Someone’s Toes: Terry Nazon Redux « Exposing PseudoAstronomy — June 2, 2010 @ 11:42 pm | Reply


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