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

Ignoratio Elenchi in Latin means “irrelevant conclusion”

The fallacy of irrelevant conclusion is, according to Dr. Norm Geisler in his book Come Let Us Reason, one of two tactics (the other is the red herring fallacy) that fall under the broader category of diversion. Irrelevant conclusion “gets the focus off of the point to be proved by substituting a related, but logically irrelevant, point for it.”[1] In other words a change of subject is used in order to persuade or win an argument.

For example, consider this religious claim:

“Reincarnation is true because past-life regression answers a lot of questions and helps people make sense out of their lives.”[2]

Perhaps “past-life regression” does answer questions; and perhaps people do have the ability to make sense out of their lives because of these particular experiences. None of these things, however, prove that reincarnation is true. To appeal to these things is simply to change the subject while seeming to offer reasons why the assertion about reincarnation is true. Always ask yourself whether the reasons given for a particular point of view are 1) actual reasons and 2) sound.

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] Norman L. Geisler and Ronald M. Brooks, Come Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1990), Kindle edition.

[2] Ibid.