Logic Me ThisSkepticism

Logic Me This: The False Dichotomy

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‘Logic Me This’ is a regular series on Teen Skepchick where we examine various logical fallacies in an attempt to help you think more like a Skeptic.

This week’s fallacy is a simple one: The False Dichotomy. It works like this: An arguer sets the situation so there are only two options. They then rule out one of the options. Thus, the other option must be true! It is typical black and white thinking, completely ignoring the shades of grey in the middle.

In logic this is called a tautology. However, a tautology takes the form ‘A’, or ‘not A’. You can then say “not ‘A’, therefore ‘not A’”. But a false dichotomy takes the form ‘A’, or ‘B’, then says “not ‘A’, therefore ‘B’”. It completely ignores C or D or any other letter of the alphabet you might choose to assign a premise to.

I had trouble thinking up super-contrived examples of this fallacy like I did last week, so I’ll skip to the chase and discuss some common uses. I didn’t have to go very far to find examples of this fallacy, because it is so typical of creationist arguments. They will pick holes in one particular aspect of evolutionary theory; say evolution is false, thus: Creation!

Top 10 Creationist Arguments:

Quite aside from the fact that this video slickly counters all of these arguments, all of them attack evolution and count this as a win for creation by default. Yet it isn’t necessarily the default, because creationists have set up a false dichotomy. If evolution weren’t true, then an adaptation of evolution that is considerably more robust and does explain what was unexplained would take its place. Just like quantum mechanics usurping classical Newtonian mechanics on an atomic level. Creation doesn’t win just because evolution loses. The Flying Spaghetti Monster could have snorted the universe out his nose by accident for all we know.

I jest. Evolution isn’t wrong, but even if it were, that doesn’t make creation valid. Watch out for false dichotomies in your own reasoning, and others. Especially those pesky creationists.

Do you have any other examples? Something in this post not sitting quite right? Do you have any other fallacies you’d like to hear about? Leave us a comment to let us know!

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Lauren is a Maths and Physics student from somewhere in the southern hemisphere. She has an affinity for reality, and you can find her on twitter @lolrj, or Google+.

1 Comment

  1. March 25, 2011 at 2:52 pm —

    Hey, great article. Love this site, and enjoyed the video, too. thanks for sharing!

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