How not to debate!

1O Commandments of Logic

I was meeting a fellow professor who said he was having a hard time with people who do not read the literature outside of their own peer group on Climate Change.  As we talked–the topic of creation came up and he basically said he will not engage the evidence for God. Ironic? Yes. He said he was quite unwilling to ascribe any reality at all, to the creationism doctrine. He said that he believed the idea that creationists have an equal place at the table with scientists borders on the absurd. By being unwilling to engage the scientific evidence against his position, he was making the same error he was claiming that the others were making.  How many of us are doing the same thing?

I came across the following 10 commandments of Logic which I found helpful and humorous!

The 10 Commandments of Rational Debate [logical fallacies explained]

These are 10 of the more popular logical fallacies, but there are many others you need to learn in order to master the art of debate…

The 10 Commandments of Rational Debate and Logical Fallacies

The 10 Commandments of Rational Debate

1. Thou shall not attack the person’s character, but the argument itself. (“Ad hominem”)

Example:  Dave listens to Marilyn Manson, therefore his arguments against certain parts of religion are worthless. After all, would you trust someone who listens to that devil worshiper?

2. Thou shall not misrepresent or exaggerate a person’s argument in order to make them easier to attack. (“Straw Man Fallacy”)

Example:  After Jimmy said that we should put more money into health and education, Steve responded by saying that he was surprised that Jimmy hates our country so much that he wants to leave it defenceless by cutting military spending.

3. Thou shall not use small numbers to represent the whole. (“Hasty Generalization”)

Example:  Climate Change Deniers take a small sample set of data to demonstrate that the Earth is cooling, not warming. They do this by zooming in on 10 years of data, ignoring the trend that is present in the entire data set which spans a century.

–Notice in 3,  the writer is calling people who disagree a politically charged negative term “climate change deniers” or “haters” or something similar that people do to discredit the other side without reading or engaging their evidence!

4. Thou shall not argue thy position by assuming one of its premises is true. (“Begging the Question”)


Sheldon: “God must exist.”
Wilbert: “How do you know?”
Sheldon: “Because the Bible says so.”
Wilbert: “Why should I believe the Bible?”
Sheldon: “Because the Bible was written by God.”
Wilbert: “WTF?”

Here, Sheldon is making the assumption that the Bible is true, therefore his premise – that God exists – is also true.

This can be turned upside down on the atheist too

Sheldon: “God must NOT exist.”
Wilbert: “How do you know?”
Sheldon: “Because the reason says so.”
Wilbert: “Why should I believe reason?”
Sheldon: “Because  it is reasonable!”
Wilbert: “WTF?”

5. Thou shall not claim that because something occurred before, but must be the cause. (“Post Hoc/False Cause”).

This can also be read as “correlation does not imply causation”.

Example:  There were 3 murders in Dallas this week and on each day, it was raining. Therefore, murders occur on rainy days.

6. Thou shall not reduce the argument down to only two possibilities when there is a clear middle ground. (“False Dichotomy”)

Example:  You’re either with me, or against me. Being neutral is not an option.

7. Thou shall not argue that because of our ignorance, the claim must be true or false. (“Ad Ignorantiam”).

Example:  95% of unidentified flying objects have been explained. 5% have not. Therefore, the 5% that are unexplained prove that aliens exist.

8. Thou shall not lay the burn of proof onto him that is questioning the claim. (“Burden of Proof Reversal”).

Example:  Marcy claims she sees the ghosts of dead people, then challenges you to prove her wrong. The burden of proof is on Marcy, not you, since Marcy made the extraordinary claim.

9. Thou shall not assume that “this” follows “that”, when “it” has no logical connection. (“Non Sequitur”).

Similar, but the difference between the post hoc and non sequitur fallacies is that, whereas the post hoc fallacy is due to lack of a causal connection, in the non sequitur fallacy, the error is due to lack of a logical connection.

Example: If you do not buy this Vitamin X supplements for your infant, you are neglecting your her.

10. Thou shall not claim that because a premise is popular, therefore, it must be true. (“Bandwagon Fallacy”).

Example: Just because a celebrity like Dr. Oz endorses a product, it doesn’t make it any more legitimate.


Also, check out this wonderful pseudo debate that you must watch!


A transcript of the show is available here

What do you think?


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Miles Fender

    Thou, not Though. Thou shall turn off the auto-correct… 🙂

    • It is corrected!! “He who hates correction is a fool” or Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge, but he that hateth reproof is brutish. Proverbs 12:1

      Thank you.

  • Joe McClendon

    Tonight’s topic: Islam vs. Christianity – Which is Right?

    This skit was very humorous, nevertheless, it did bring up a valid point. How do we know one religion is right and other religions are wrong? So tell me Dr. Sweis, what is the formula for determining a religion is right or wrong?

    • I wrote a post on that Joe.
      See what you think 🙂

      • Joe McClendon

        Hello Dr. Sweis,

        My question would be when is it a “Cult” or “False Religion”? Both take away an individual right to think on their own and discourage logical questions being asked. Both take on the brainwashing aspect. So would it be a logical conclusion to say a “Cult”, births a “False Religion?”

        • Hi Joe.
          I would classify a cult as a religious movement that claims to be part of another major religion but deviates in this essential characteristics like Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons would be theologically cults of original Christianity. The nation of Islam may also be classified as a cult of original Islam.
          But cult also has a sociological reference. Meaning some cults use miss information and manipulation of its members. Although they are theologically cults are not sociological cults and the FBI will not be watching them.

  • Pingback: The Best from the Blogosphere |()

  • N.Nelson

    Trump and other Presidential candidates use lots of illogical fallacies. One I often hear him use is Slippery Slope. He said since ford built a plant in Mexico, therefore illegal immigrants are going to drive Fords across the border. He said, if you vote for him, you will make the country great.

    • N.Nelson

      Trump and other Presidential candidates use lots of logical fallacies.
      One I often hear him use is Slippery Slope. He said, since Ford built a
      plant in Mexico, therefore illegal immigrants are going to drive Fords
      across the border. He said, if you vote for him, you will make the
      country great.