Abusive Ad Hominem – This argument is an attempt to discredit an opponent by making an irrelevant personal attack in order to undermine his or her argument. It is also an attempt to put someone on the defensive so that he or she will stop making the actual argument and answer to the irrelevant attack. Logically valid arguments stand on their own merits. Personal qualities of those presenting them have no bearing upon the argument.
Anecdotal Evidence – This fallacy involves accepting a few known first-hand or second-hand accounts over accepted research or facts that state the contrary. (i.e. “Yeah, I know that some well educated animal behaviorists and veterinarians say that pit bulls suffer from a genetically inherited brain disorder that presupposes them to explosive aggression, but my brother owns pits, and they’ve never hurt a fly. They must be harmless.”) In choosing anecdotal evidence, many will also cherry-pick the anecdotes for that which supports their position best without considering the consequences.
Anthropomorphism – The act of attributing human abilities, knowledge, or value to an animal or an inanimate object. Often used in conjunction with appeal to emotion or pity, it is an effort to manipulate emotions rather than appeal to reason.
Appeal To Authority – One form of irrelevant appeal, an appeal to authority cites the thoughts or opinions of a perceived authority about the issue as a resolution to the debate. The weight of the appeal is only as good as the actual expertise of the authority in question and worthless when the alleged authority has no formal accredited training, education, or experience in the field(s) in which cited.
Appeal To Consequences – A form of irrelevant appeal, this tactic is an effort to persuade based on the attractiveness of a belief (such as all dogs are the same regardless of breeding) or the undesirability of the alternatives (such as, “Your dog is next!”). It has no basis in fact and lies solely in the realm of supposition and conjecture.
Appeal To Emotions Or Pity – A form of irrelevant appeal, an appeal to emotions or pity seeks to sway by virtue of evoking feelings such as outrage or sympathy in the listener rather than using fact and reason. While often effective, it has no basis in logic.
Appeal To Force – This form of irrelevant appeal is basically an intimidation or scare tactic. The one presenting the argument tries to threaten a listener into compliance or agreement by expressly stating or implying a threat to their safety, financial security, etc. (i.e. “Lay off calling animal control on my roaming pit bull, or I’ll poison your dog in your own back yard!”)
Appeal To The People – Also known as mob appeal, this argument is an irrelevant appeal made when one argues that because the majority of people believe that something is true or false or say that it is true or false, it must be true or false. A lie repeated by a thousand people is still a lie. Fact checking and careful citing of reputable references can easily counter this appeal.
Argument From Ignorance – Accepting lack of knowledge of the truth of a statement as evidence that it is false. (i.e. “Nobody ever told me pit bulls are genetically inclined to explosive aggression before; therefore, it can’t be true.”) Alternately, it is taking lack of knowledge that something is false as proof that it is true. (“I never knew the nanny dog story was made up, so it means the nanny dog story is true.”) There is a distinct lack of critical thinking in this particular fallacy.
Avoiding The Issue – Occurs when someone presenting an argument goes off on a tangent in an effort to draw the conversation away from the actual topic at hand, usually with the knowledge that his or her position is weak.
Avoiding The Question – A sub-set of avoiding the issue, this is a tactic of refusing to answer the question asked and instead answering the question one would rather discuss or push. This is a very common tool in the realm of politics and lobbying.
Black-Or-White – With this tactic, the presenter sets up an unfair set of choices as the ONLY choices and tries to force a decision. (i.e. “Either you agree that BSL penalizes all dogs for the misdeeds of a select few, or you’re a dog hater!”) It is an attempt to direct a person to follow the lesser of two evils, when there are actually a myriad of options between choice A and choice B.
Cherry-Picking The Evidence – The act of accepting only facts that support a specific argument while ignoring relevant facts that refute it. It should be noted that anecdotal evidence is not the same as a fact.
Circumstantial Ad Hominem – Also known as the guilt by association argument, this is an attempt to discredit a speaker and detract attention from the argument by the group with which he or she is associated. (i.e. “You can’t believe a word she says about pit bulls. She’s with PETA!”)
Common Cause – This argument tries to connect two facts to prove that one is the cause of the other in an effort to obscure the actual connection. (i.e. “People who are being attacked by pit bulls scream. Therefore, screaming causes pit bulls to attack.”)
Complex Question – This is a way of phrasing a question which already presupposes a damning conclusion. (i.e. “Do you believe that the waste of time and resources of implementing a pit bull ban is really a good idea for our community?”) The only proper answer to such a question is to refute the initial premise first before answering. (i.e. “Banning pit bulls is worth the time and resources spent to insure public safety, and public safety is always a good idea for any community.”)
Confirmation Bias – The act of looking only for evidence that confirms what one already wants to believe and to ignore any evidence to the contrary. (i.e. “I know my pit bull is the most loving dog on earth because even though he snapped at me yesterday, he didn’t break the skin when he could have. He may have killed my neighbor’s cat, but he hasn’t killed my other dog, and when they’ve fought it has been because my other dog had something he wanted. He only growls at my friends because he’s protective of me, and he only growls at me because I was stupid enough to try to sit in his favorite chair. If he didn’t love me, he’d kill me. I know he can. The fact that he doesn’t makes him the best dog on earth.”)
Converse Accident – The act of paying too much attention to exceptions to the rule rather than to the rule itself. (i.e. “Because I know ten pit bulls that have never attacked or killed other dogs or people, pit bulls must not really be dog or human aggressive.”)
Cum Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc – A fallacy of false cause that takes unrelated facts and attempts to pin one as a cause of the other. (The most common example of this fallacy in the pit bull community is to try to point to a rise in overall dog bites in an area as being caused by the passage of BSL or a pit bull ban, when in reality it is usually the result of better education, better tracking of bites, and a rise in the overall human and dog population since the time of the passage of the BSL or bans.)
Double Standard – The judgment of two things that ought to be judged by the same standard by different ones. (i.e. Claiming that man biters were always culled in the past only to try to prevent a man biter from being humanely euthanized today.)
Exaggeration – Overstating a fact that is crucial in the reasoning process. (i.e. “Only a dog hater would ever argue that any dog should be put down, so anybody arguing for this pit bull that killed two children to be euthanized must hate dogs! Do you want policy decided by dog haters?”)
False Cause – The act of assigning an arbitrary cause to a conclusion. (i.e. “My pit bull always goes berserk when he hears the mailman. Therefore, he must have attacked my other dog because the mailman was on the porch.”)
Far-Fetched Hypothesis – The act of stretching for the most unlikely and bizarre explanation for an occurrence that has far more plausible explanations without ever considering the more plausible explanations first. (i.e. “That pit bull bit off the baby’s genitals because she was trying to change his dirty diaper. It’s what nanny dogs do! It was just an accident.” Sadly this example is a real life example taken from a comment in a news story about a baby whose genitals were bitten off by his mother’s boyfriend’s pit bulls.)
Faulty Comparison – The act of trying to make a point about something by comparing it to the wrong thing. (i.e. “Chihuahuas bite more frequently than pit bulls”–a statement not backed up by bite statistics–“therefore, chihuahuas are far more dangerous than pit bulls.”)
Gambler’s – This is the assumption that an outcome can be known based on other previous outcomes. (i.e. “My pit bull has never attacked anyone; therefore, my pit bull never will attack anyone.”)
Group Think – When identification with a group overrides the ability to reason or think critically. (i.e. “I’m a proud pit bull owner, and I’m in great company, so you can’t tell me anything I say about pit bulls is wrong. You don’t own one!”)
Hedging – The act of making a claim only to refine it every time counter-evidence is presented and pretend that the new parameters are what you actually meant. (i.e. “Pit bulls are just like any other dog.” “Then why do you say they’re not for inexperienced owners?” “They’re just like any other high energy dog.” “What about the dog aggression?” “It’s normal for pit bulls to be dog aggressive.” “It’s not normal for most dogs to be dog aggressive.” “You can manage it in a pit if you’re careful.” Etc.)
Hooded Man – An error of reasoning when one assumes that lack of knowledge of something under its various names means lack of knowledge of that thing altogether. (This game is played very deliberately with all of the obfuscation and re-naming of various pit bull breeds in an attempt to disguise the full impact of their dangerous genetic heritage.)
Hyperbole – Hyperbole is a rhetorical device in which statements are exaggerated in order to evoke strong feelings or create a strong impression, but it is not meant to be taken literally.
Inconsistency – The act of accepting two claims that contradict one another. (i.e. “Pit bulls are just like any other dog. It’s all in how you raise them.” And “Pit bulls aren’t man aggressive, because man biters were always culled.” One view negates the heritability of temperament while the other presents it as factual and somehow reassuring.)
Irrelevant Appeal – An attempt to sway the listener or reader with information that may be persuasive but is irrelevant to the issue at hand. There are several types of irrelevant appeals. A common characteristic of all of them is lack of actual evidence.
Irrelevant Conclusion – A case where the premises miss the point. (i.e. A pit bull kills a neighbor’s dog. The owner claims that because the pit bull never killed his own other dog, there is no way his pit bull is the one that killed the neighbor’s dog, despite any evidence to the contrary, bloody muzzle, hole under the fence, witnesses, etc.)
Irrelevant Reason – The premise is wholly irrelevant to the conclusion. (i.e. “Pit bulls were popular mascots during World War II; therefore, pit bulls are the best pet one could ever have.”)
Loaded Language – Emotive terminology disguised as an objective description. (i.e. “Pit bulls are extremely loyal dogs who only want to please their masters,” presented as a breed standard rather than just the opinion of certain owners or fanciers.)
Lying – Stating something with the knowledge that it is false and the intention to deceive. (i.e. the nanny dog myth, blaming the victim, hiding the pit bull, etc. Countless examples of lying can be found in the pit advocacy and dogfighting world.)
Misleading Vividness – A particular type of anecdotal evidence, misleading vividness focuses interest and attention on the particular anecdote while giving no weight to credible evidence or research to the contrary. (i.e. “Yes, I read behaviorist Alexandra Semyonova’s research on the heritability of abnormal aggression in canines, but you should see my aunt’s pit bull! She flies through the house with her whole butt wiggling, and won’t be satisfied until she mushes you into the couch and licks your face until you’re covered in slobber. Then she’s as gentle as a lamb with the 6 month old baby. That dog would never hurt a fly!”)
Naturalistic – Drawing a moral conclusion from the nature of an object, animal, or person. (i.e. “Pit bulls are superior fighting dogs. Therefore, non-pit bulls that are killed by pits deserve it for being unable to defend themselves.” In the pit community, this faulty reasoning often extends to human beings who are harmed by these dogs.)
Opposition – Taking exception to another’s viewpoint based solely upon with whom they are associated. (i.e. “You can’t trust anything that person says about pit bulls. She’s a member of DogsBite.org!”)
Perfectionist – Making the argument that something shouldn’t be done or a claim should be rejected simply because it isn’t a perfect solution when a perfect solution isn’t required. (i.e. “We should never enact BSL because it does nothing to prevent all dog bites!”)
Persuasive Definition – Defining something in such a biased way that if one accepts the faulty definition, one is almost already persuaded by the argument. (i.e. “Let’s say that pit bulls are extremely loyal, loving dogs once known as ‘the nanny dog’ because of their extreme gentleness with children.” If one accepts the “nanny dog myth”, then one is likely to accept that pit bulls are excellent pets for households with children without ever doing further research. This particular persuasive definition kills.)
Proof Surrogate – Making distracting comments as a substitution for proof. (i.e. “Intelligent people know that pit bulls get a bad rap in the media.” It is an attempt to persuade the listener not to research for themselves or argue for fear of being viewed unintelligent.)
Rationalization – Substitution of a false, more reasonable or acceptable sounding reason or argument than the real one. Often done with full knowledge and closely related to lying. (i.e. “The chained pit bull was probably hungry which is why he bit the child when she came too close to his food dish.” When it is well known and accepted among most dog experts that chaining increases overall aggression, particularly in breeds with high prey drives.)
Red Herring – Bringing up a completely unrelated issue to take attention away from the issue at hand. (i.e. “How can we even think about BSL when there are no dog parks in this city? People deserve a place to go play with their pets!”)
Scapegoating – The act of unfairly blaming another group or individual for something unpleasant that has happened or gone wrong. (i.e. “A cougar attacked me!” when in actuality the attack was perpetrated by the owner’s pit bull. A very common tactic during and after bite investigations.)
Slippery Slope – Claiming that step A will lead to step B, then C, then D, then the absolute worst will happen when the likelihood of the absolute worst is slim to none. (i.e. “You just wait. You help them pass that pit bull ban, then dogfighters are gonna start fighting pugs. Next thing you know, pugs will be banned, and then you won’t be able to own any kind of dog at all!”)
Special Pleading – The fallacy of applying a general principle except in special circumstances, even when those circumstances still warrant the general principle. (i.e. “Blame the deed, not the breed.” Except when that deed is committed by one’s own dog, or one’s neighbor’s, or one’s family member’s, and then somehow, criminal charges shouldn’t be filed, and the dog shouldn’t be euthanized for aggression because it was really just one big accident.)
Straw Man Argument – To “attack a straw man” is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by substituting a superficially similar yet weaker proposition (the “straw man”), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position. (i.e. “The proponents of the BSL would have you believe that no dogs except pit bulls bite. I’m here to tell you that this BSL will do nothing about the dachshunds and Jack Russell Terriers biting small children and should therefore be thrown out.”)
Style Over Substance – Presenting an argument in such a slick, flashy way that it distracts from its lack of merit. (i.e. designing a website that promotes pit bulls with lots of give-aways, contests, and fun activities that might entice the average consumer and gloss over any negatives involved with owning the breed.)
Subjectivist – Determining that a claim is only valid for one group, but not another without good, solid evidence to back the determination. (i.e. “The average person should not own a pit bull, but I am knowledgeable and special, so pit bulls are good pets for me.”)
Tokenism – Presenting an inadequate gesture as evidence of sincerity. (i.e. “I said I was sorry when my pit bull attacked you. How can you expect me to pay your medical bills?!” Or, “Our organization is called DAG, ‘Dog Advocacy Group’. How can you accuse us of only lobbying for the pit bull industry?” )
Traditional Wisdom – Making the argument that if something was done in the past, it must be the right course of action to take in the present with no consideration as to changing times, mores, or practicality. (i.e. “Dogfighting is OK because it has been done for centuries.”)
Two Wrongs Make A Right – The illogical assumption that simply because one has been wronged in some way, it is therefore acceptable to turn around and wrong another.
Unfalsifiability – A fallacious argument made on the basis that the reason given cannot be fact checked one way or the other. (i.e. “His pit bull attacked him because he abused it all the time!” Absent the actual evidence of abuse, such as vet trips, obvious neglect, or reliable witnesses, it is impossible to prove what went on behind closed doors, making such a claim invalid.)
Willed Ignorance – My mind is made up, so don’t bother trying to confuse me with the facts.
Wishful Thinking – Choosing to believe a cherished fantasy rather than accepting facts. (i.e. “Pit bulls are just like any other dog, not genetically hardwired to fight.”)