All these statements involve the same logical fallacy. Can you figure it out without looking at the answers?
1) Muslims believe in holy war. We will never find a way to live in peace.[i]
2) Christians are a peaceful people.[ii]
3) Wars are the result of religious controversy. It would be better if religion disappeared completely.[iii]
4) You Christians are hypocrites. You accuse others of the sins you yourselves commit. Look at Jimmy Swaggart![iv]
5) If you’re not a Christian, you have no reason to be good.[v]
6) Christians are so loving.[vi]
These fallacies are associated with inductive arguments (that is, they begin with evidence and move toward generalization). It is important to remember that with inductive arguments, certainty is almost never attainable; rather the argument is more or less increasingly probable. This is in a persuasive sense problematic. The philosopher Alfred North Whitehead called inductive arguments “the despair of philosophy.” Those of us who seek to be persuasive and effective must remember the weakness of generalizations.
*= Most info taken from James Sire’s book, Why Good Arguments Fail.
[i] Dicto Simpliciter: This is a hasty and unqualified generalization. This statement may have a grain of truth but statements of this nature are so unqualified (and reliant on stereotypical understandings) they almost succeed in being false. As Sire reminds us, “we must guard against making claims like these. They weaken our credibility and end up belying the truth” (36).
[ii] Dicto Simpliciter: Some are, some aren’t. Most aren’t all the time.
[iii] Dicto Simpliciter: This statement is made often but is easily shown to not be universally true. Of course religious passions have been a factor in some wars. But when the conflicts are looked at more closely, other factors like economics and political power are many times more important.
[iv] Dicto Simpliciter: Some Christians are hypocrites and shouldn’t be defended. However, not all Christians are hypocritical. Billy Graham is one example of a Godly Christian example for genuine character and Christ-like behavior.
[v] Dicto Simpliciter: When we make these sorts of statements, we should expect to be challenged. Either this needs to be qualified and justified or it should not be said at all. For example, even if someone is not a Christian, they still may want to treat their spouse kindly for their own sake.
[vi] Dicto Simpliciter: haha, I’m not even gonna start. Unfortunately, this statement is known almost instantly and instinctively as hasty.