The 10 Commandments of Rational Debate [logical fallacies explained]

September 3, 2013 23
The 10 Commandments of Rational Debate [logical fallacies explained]

Looking for an edge so you can win your next big argument?

Learn the 10 Commandments of Rational Debate and use them against your enemy as you obliterate their argument point by point (rationally, of course).  Knowing your logical fallacies and how the brain can deceive even the brightest of minds is the first step towards winning an argument.

These are 10 of the more popular logical fallacies, but there are many others you need to learn in order to master the art of debate…

The 10 Commandments of Rational Debate and Logical Fallacies

The 10 Commandments of Rational Debate

1. Though shall not attack the person’s character, but the argument itself. (“Ad hominem”)

Example:  Dave listens to Marilyn Manson, therefore his arguments against certain parts of religion are worthless. After all, would you trust someone who listens to that devil worshiper?

2. Though shall not misrepresent or exaggerate a person’s argument in order to make them easier to attack. (“Straw Man Fallacy”)

Example:  After Jimmy said that we should put more money into health and education, Steve responded by saying that he was surprised that Jimmy hates our country so much that he wants to leave it defenceless by cutting military spending.

3. Though shall not use small numbers to represent the whole. (“Hasty Generalization”)

Example:  Climate Change Deniers take a small sample set of data to demonstrate that the Earth is cooling, not warming. They do this by zooming in on 10 years of data, ignoring the trend that is present in the entire data set which spans a century.

4. Though shall not argue thy position by assuming one of its premises is true. (“Begging the Question”)


Sheldon: “God must exist.”
Wilbert: “How do you know?”
Sheldon: “Because the Bible says so.”
Wilbert: “Why should I believe the Bible?”
Sheldon: “Because the Bible was written by God.”
Wilbert: “WTF?”

Here, Sheldon is making the assumption that the Bible is true, therefore his premise – that God exists – is also true.

5. Though shall not claim that because something occurred before, but must be the cause. (“Post Hoc/False Cause”).

This can also be read as “correlation does not imply causation”.

Example:  There were 3 murders in Dallas this week and on each day, it was raining. Therefore, murders occur on rainy days.

6. Though shall not reduce the argument down to only two possibilities when there is a clear middle ground. (“False Dichotomy”)

Example:  You’re either with me, or against me. Being neutral is not an option.

7. Though shall not argue that because of our ignorance, the claim must be true or false. (“Ad Ignorantiam”).

Example:  95% of unidentified flying objects have been explained. 5% have not. Therefore, the 5% that are unexplained prove that aliens exist.

8. Though shall not lay the burn of proof onto him that is questioning the claim. (“Burden of Proof Reversal”).

Example:  Marcy claims she sees the ghosts of dead people, then challenges you to prove her wrong. The burden of proof is on Marcy, not you, since Marcy made the extraordinary claim.

9. Though shall not assume that “this” follows “that”, when “it” has no logical connection. (“Non Sequitur”).

Similar, but the difference between the post hoc and non sequitur fallacies is that, whereas the post hoc fallacy is due to lack of a causal connection, in the non sequitur fallacy, the error is due to lack of a logical connection.

Example: If you do not buy this Vitamin X supplements for your infant, you are neglecting your her.

10. Though shall not claim that because a premise is popular, therefore, it must be true. (“Bandwagon Fallacy”).

Example: Just because a celebrity like Dr. Oz endorses a product, it doesn’t make it any more legitimate.



Image (and Idea for Article) Source:  reddit

  • Dee Shneiderman

    Thou shalt learn to spell!

    • Suzanne M. Lambert

      Or at least copy and paste.

  • Eric

    But 6 is only a fallacy if there are more than two possibilities.

  • Bill Perron

    If the debate is about ethics of members of the professional pseudo skeptic movement none of these rules apply because the open minded search for truth is nonexistent in members of that group. James Randi and Michael Shermer are examples of a professional pseudo skeptics at their worst, and all the thought nazi doctrine they endorse.

  • Todd

    “According to Strauss, the Reductio ad Hitlerum is an informal fallacy that consists of trying to refute an opponent’s view by comparing it to a view that would be held by Adolf Hitler or the Nazi Party.” Reductio ad Hitlerum is sometimes called “playing the Nazi card.” The suggested rationale is one of guilt by association. It is a tactic often used to derail arguments, because such comparisons tend to distract and anger the opponent.”

    Case and point: the guy above.

    • Bill Perron

      Todd that is probably true in most instances, but what if the “guy above” is correct? What if the “guy above” is telling the truth from objective experience? What if the “guy above” is seeking justice, what then? What if the “guy above” can back up his claim with proof?

  • Bill Perron

    Todd has had 48 hours to reply and he hasn’t, bit of a cowardly hypocrite I’d say, he makes his own ad Hitlerum then runs, but isn’t that what pseudo skeptics do best, make claims they can’t back up, call others who see the world differently stupid names, then run. Thanks Todd for proving me right again.

    • Tessa

      Not to sound like a jerk but September 15, 2013 at 1:35 pm – September 14, 2013 at 3:05 pm does not equal 48 hours. More like a day, yes?

      Anyways, Todd has no reason to reply because discussing things with irrational people is a huge waste of time.

      You’re an Internet Troll, plain and simple.

      From Wikipedia… In Internet slang, a troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a forum, chat room, or blog), either accidentally or with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

      I’m not going to respond either because, like Todd, I’m not going to waste time arguing with people who are unwilling to follow the “10 commandments of rational debate”. Or at least a few of them…

      Over and out.

      • Bill Perron

        Tessa you already proved yourself a liar because you already responded to what you consider a huge waste of time. Tessa you must consider fighting for justice a waste of time too, because justice is all I have ever wanted. Toddy -Boy quotes Strauss and Tessa quotes Wikipedia, can’t any of you pseudo skeptics think for yourselves? I asked three questions but none here seems capable of answering, but are capable of making false accusations, name calling, and bigoted statements. Yet you smugly consider yourselves intellectually relevant, remember the words of George Orwell, “There are ideas so stupid only an intellectual could believe them.” That is why I do this because I care about the truth, Randi lied when he weaseled out of my challenge for his million dollar publicity stunt money and I promised him I’d be on his boney ass until he admitted publicly he lied and apologizes to me and all of you, or until he dies, which ever comes first. Just keeping my word folks.

  • Kira Krumpet

    Ad hominem is a bit too simplified here.

    A lot of people confuse insulting someone after (or even before) their opponents argument has been addressed and refuted with being an Ad hominem and therefore invalidating their argument.

    It needs to be pointed out to people that insulting the, ripping into their character or just otherwise personally attacking them is NOT an Ad hominem UNLESS it is tied in to the argument as to why they are wrong.

    Example A: “[argument] therefore you’re wrong, you fucking fat moron”

    Example B: “You’re wrong, you fucking fat moron”

    Example B is an Ad hominem, while example A is not. The argument has already been presented and it has been established why they are wrong. Anything after that, as long as it doesn’t back up the reasons why their argument is wrong, is NOT an Ad hominem.

    Ad hominems need to be the reasoning or predominant reasoning behind the refutation of an argument in order to be considered an Ad hominem.

    • Thank you, now I know why Michael Shermer and other devotees of the liar James Randi will take just about any criticism and call it an ad hominem attack, it is because the geniuses don’t know the difference.

      • James Randi MOFO

        I get it. You are all into psychics aren’t you? Do you pretend to be one? OR are you just a fanboy? Let me guess you got all exacerbated because James Randi has shown time and again that people who claim to have supernatural abilities are charlatans.Very irascible aren’t you lad? I hope that you don’t claim any powers, that would provide me with everything that i need to know about you. That is what seems to be the case.

    • Suzanne M. Lambert

      Interesting — and idiosyncratic — attempt at a definition of ad hominem, which is simply incorrect.

      Neither example is an ad hominem. Both are merely insults.

      There are four types of ad hominem arguments :

      Abusive — “Only an idiot like you would believe that.”

      Tu quoque — “I learned it by watching you.”

      Circumstantial — “Of course you believe in global warming. You’re working for NOAA.”

      Guilt by association — “You spoke at a banker’s association meeting, so you must be as corrupt as they are.”

  • sean


    • Suzanne M. Lambert


  • Peter

    Actually, it is Al Gore and his followers who zoom in on tiny samples of data to support their claims.

    It fits a couple of others, or how about Number 11: “Thou shalt not assert a belief is true, just because it is popular.”

    (BTW, a hundred years is also a very small sample in the history of the world, even if there were facts to back your assertation.)

    • Scott

      Peter – you clearly missed the entire point of this article. The author was just using that as an example, not making a statement on climate change. I’m sure there are plenty of other place, more suited for you (Breitbart, the Blaze, etc) to make your arguments. Bringing up Al Gore….too funny…

  • En Ink

    Great post. Please correct the typos as it is detracting from a very interesting piece, E.g. “Though” instead of “thou” etc

  • But 6 is only a fallacy if there are more than two possibilities….

    • Willybite

      There are always more than two possibilities because the universe is not static.

      • goonninja87

        That’s not true there are plenty of legitimate dichotomies. Are you left handed or right handed. Heads or Tails. Were you born with a Penis or a Vagina. Are you tall enough to ride the roller coaster (yes/no).

        Those are some basic ones but hopefully you catch my drift.

        • Suzanne M. Lambert

          What is your argument? The statement says, “Thou shalt not reduce the argument . . . ”

          Nothing you’ve used as an example is actually an argument, and I would point out that some people are ambidextrous and some people are born with both sets of genitalia, i.e., hermaphrodites.

          In fact, I believe that you have engaged in the logical fallacy of the “straw man.”

          • goonninja87

            Ok no. I will concede that you’ve given other options for genitals and hand preference and to be frank i fired those off without a whole lot of consideration. However you didn’t give options for tall enough to ride the roller coaster or heads/tails.

            My argument is simply that there is controls that create two and only two possibilities therefore willybite’s claim that there are no dichotomies that there are always more than two possibilities is false.

            I did not engage in a straw man because I have not misrepresented willybite’s position in any way I’ve simply rebutted his claim. If there is a straw man it is your post. Because you have falsely represented my post as a rebuttal to the 6th commandment in the article, when I am not at all doing that, I am actually rebutting willybite.