All the chewy goodness of fallacious reasoning in new fun-sized bites!

According to author Mark B. Woodhouse, the genetic fallacy is that which “occurs whenever someone assesses the value of a view or practice on the basis of the origins (genesis) of the view or practice.”[1] In other words, if Peter tries to argue that drinking Coca Cola is bad because it was originally invented to cure headaches, he is committing a genetic fallacy. Just because the recipe for Coca Cola formulated out of mistaken thinking does not inveigh against its current value or benefit.

An example of a genetic fallacy:

  1. Cornflakes were originally invented by a quack doctor as a cure for an imaginary sexual malady.[2]
  2. Therefore, eating cornflakes is bad.

Another, more popular, genetic fallacy that is lobbed against Christians:

  1. The only reason you’re a Christian is because your parents were Christian.
  2. Therefore, Christianity is false.

Often, the conclusion is never explicitly stated. Nevertheless, this particular genetic fallacy has been employed against Christians, even by the likes of atheist intellectuals like Richard Dawkins. It doesn’t matter whether a smart person (like Dawkins) or a dull person makes comments like these, they are still logically fallacious.

To see an interaction I had with someone attempting to use the genetic fallacy against me, click here.

The best way to point out someone’s fallacy is by using the Columbo tactic as laid out in the Funsized Tactics series. There are plenty of excellent resources available in book, e-book, or PDF format. Two good places to start, with regard to formal and informal fallacies, are A Preface to Philosophy by Mark B. Woodhouse and Schaum’s Outlines: Logic by John Nolt, Dennis Rohatyn, and Achille Varzi.

[1] Mark B. Woodhouse, A Preface to Philosophy (Belmont: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2006), 84.

[2] Ibid.

Speaker, Educator, President of A Clear Lens, Inc. and host of A Clear Lens Podcast. B.Sc., M.Ed. Lives in Las Vegas with his wife, two sons, and dogs.