Cheating in debates – don’t do it

This is an awesome page listing ways of “cheating” when debating. I have encountered many of these when discussing religion and evolution with friends, family and colleagues – to be fair I think they are just making logical mistakes and not actively cheating.

Here are some examples of the logical errors that have infuriated me in the past:

Argument from Personal Incredulity – arguing that because you personally cannot explain or understand something, it must therefore not be true. E.g. “I don’t believe we’re related to apes, therefore evolution can’t be true” or “quantum mechanics doesn’t make any sense to me, therefore it must be made up by scientists and can’t possibly reflect reality”

Shifting the Goalposts – moving the criteria for acceptance of an argument continually out of range of evidence, in order to ensure that regardless of the quality of evidence, the criteria for acceptance is never met. E.g. “Okay, I know i said that if you showed me proof of speciation i’d accept evolution, but what i really want is proof of…”

Currently unexplained does not imply unexplainable – Just because we don’t have an explanation for something now, does not imply that it is inherently unexplainable. E.g. “Scientists don’t currently know what caused the first instance of self-replicating life on earth, therefore no scientific explanation will ever be found, leaving only god as an explanation”

Argument from Popularity – arguing that because most people believe something to be true, it must be true. E.g. “every newspaper has a horoscope section, therefore astrology must work or it wouldn’t be so popular”

Straw Man – creating a charicature of an argument, because the charicature is more easy to destroy than the actual argument. E.g. “Evolution is a completely random process, and the likelihood of something as complex as humans arising from a completely random process is so small as to be impossible” – straw man, because evolution is not at all a totally random process, but is in fact dependent on non-random selection.

There are plenty more examples of fallacies on the page (which is incidentally an excellent South African blog).