Logical Fallacy: Circumstantial Ad Hominem Part 2
Mitch says, “In my opinion, position X provides the best framework from which to accurately interpret the Bible. I believe this to be true because of the large amount of evidence that supports position X.”
Rebecca replies, “It is not surprising that you accept position X, because you are employed at a Bible college which requires its faculty to accept that position. Therefore, because you are simply saying what you are required to say, I will look for an unbiased presentation of position X before I decide whether or not to accept it.”
Understanding Rebecca’s mistake:
See how Rebecca is not rejecting position X but is in fact, rejecting Mitch’s presentation of it due to her perception of Mitch’s motives. As already stated, just because someone is required to believe something in order to hold their position, that does not make their arguments invalid, nor does it excuse you from having to look at and consider their argument. It is true that in some cases, we are justified in seeking an unbiased source, as in the case of Michael Jordan being paid to endorse Wheaties. However, it is still fallacious to completely dismiss what someone is saying because of bias on their part. Refusing to consider an argument even if you know the speaker is biased, can be faulty logic as well.
Let us now see what specifically was wrong with Rebecca’s statement:
Just because Mitch is required to hold to a particular world-view in order to keep his position, this does not necessarily mean that he is biased and therefore can’t be trusted to give a fair analysis of the evidence for and against position X. After all, it is a stereotype to think that people who attend groups and colleges with doctrinal statement can not be trusted to fairly present both sides of an argument. This stereotype is false because people can be required to accept a belief and still be fair in their analysis of the evidence. They can also be willing to change if shown to be wrong.
Kimberly says, “I believe that the leadership of the Catholic Church is making some mistakes in how they govern their churches. For example…”
Kate interrupts: “You would think and say that, for your denomination disagrees strongly with what the Catholic Church teaches.”
Understanding Kate’s mistake:
Kate’s reply assumes that Kimberly’s denomination is teaching its people to think and talk negatively about the Catholic Church. In Kate’s mind, this negates what Kimberly is saying. This is a logical mistake because even if Kimberly’s denomination is teaching its people to view the Catholic Church negatively, that does not rebut Kimberly’s statement. It could very well be that Kimberly’s statement about the Catholic Church is true. If this in fact is the case, then her negative view of the Catholic Church is irrelevant.
Notice also how Kate rudely interrupted Kimberly and dismissed her argument before giving her a chance to defend herself. This too is fallacious.
In conclusion, it is a mistake to dismiss an individual’s argument simply because of perceived bias on their part. Don’t interrupt them. Give them a chance to present what could be a good argument. While you may prefer to hear it from an unbiased source, even the fact that someone is biased does not automatically mean you have a good reason to reject what they have to say.