Straw man

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A straw man is a logical fallacy in which one person deliberately misrepresents the position of another. The person then defeats the misrepresentation and declares that the original argument has also been defeated. The analogy is that the person making the argument is setting up a scarecrow that looks like his opponent, but is easy to knock down and will not put up a fight.

Examples

  • "Atheists say that the Bible isn't true. But archeologists have found many of the cities mentioned in the Bible, so clearly the atheists are wrong." (No reasonably informed atheist believes that nothing in the Bible is true. Also, even if a book contains some historically true elements, that does not prove that every single thing in the book is also true.)
  • "Abortion advocates want to kill babies. This is monstrous and must be stopped." (The debate over abortion is largely centered on the distinction between a "baby" and a "fetus," and claiming that advocates "want to kill babies" is a leap to attribute a position to the opposition that they do not believe. In addition, the vast majority of pro-choice advocates would like for there to be fewer abortions, but recognize that sometimes they are preferable to the alternative of unwanted children.)
  • "Evolution is wrong. No one has ever seen a dog give birth to a cat." (Evolution does not say that one species suddenly gives birth to a completely different species.)
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