Logical Fallacies 06 Red Herring or Irrelevant Thesis Fallacy episode 327

red herring logical fallacy

Today were looking at the red herring or irrelevant thesis fallacy.  This is a very common fallacy that is committed by nearly everyone.  The red herring fallacy takes an argument away from the issue at hand and focuses on something irrelevant. In other words a red herring is an attempt to “prove a point, but not the point at issue” Jason Lisle Discerning Truth.

The name red herring refers to a legend (not sure if it’s true or not) that a stinky red herring could be used to distract hunting dogs during a fox hunt.  The dogs could be on the trail of the fox and then get distracted by the irrelevant stench of a rotting dead fish.  Likewise, you may find yourself successfully arguing a point only to get distracted by a stinky red herring argument.  Next thing you know, you are completely off track and feeling like something fishy just happened.

Examples of the red herring or irrelevant Thesis fallacy

Red Herrings in the abortion debate

Suppose your convincing someone of the pro-choice (pro-murder) position that the “fetus” inside the woman is in fact a real human being.  You’re making good points.  Your feeling like this is going well and then suddenly someone whips out a fish.  They ask “what about all the women who will die from coat hanger abortions in dark alleys”.  That, my friend, is a red herring and is completely irrelevant to the topic at hand.

Perhaps that same person responds with the question “what about all the women who have been raped?  Should we force them to live with the guilt by making them have the child?  Totally irrelevant.  If the fetus is a person, it has rights and should not be punished for its father’s bad behavior.

Bill Nye and his rotting red herring

Bill Nye the Science Guy, recently said in a video that Christians should teach their children to believe in evolution.  His reasoning was that if they don’t believe in evolution, America’s ability to produce innovative technologies will be hindered.  Whaaaaaa?  What does the belief in evolution have to do with producing competitive technology?

Red Herrings and Jehovah’s Witnesses

The red herring is the Jehovah’s Witnesses secret super power.  Never underestimate the power of a Jehovah’s Witness to get you off track.  It doesn’t matter what you’re arguing for, they are going to stop you in the middle of your offensive and get you distracted with a red herring.  Do not follow the fish!  Stay on topic and make your point.  Use the following tactic to disarm the red herring fallacy.

Refuting a red herring

Everybody wants a slam dunk quick fix argument to stop logical fallacies in their tracks.  It’s usually not that easy, but the red herring is simple to refute.  Memorize this easy one liner.  “True perhaps, but irrelevant”.  It’s that easy.  They try to get you off track with a well-placed red herring.  No problem.  Just say “true perhaps, but irrelevant”.  Don’t let them get you distracted.  Make your point.  You can always visit the stinky subject later if you think it deserves attention.
Here is the entire Logical Fallacies series in mp3 format ready for download.

{ 12 comments… add one }

  • nate June 6, 2016, 8:09 am

    LOL I love to see Christians blowing up ridiculous atheist nonsense

  • Wil Cruz January 6, 2015, 2:07 pm

    Buahahahahahhahahahaha. Keep doing your excuses, back-flips, contortions, lies, and, propaganda to support your belief in and invisible deity. Why is that the religious always brings arguments instead of evidence??? hahahha praise Zeus

    • Richard Jude Woerner April 5, 2016, 8:08 am

      So what is evidence Wil? What evidence are you talking about? This post is about a logical fallacy and seems to me that your actually committing exactly what the writer is talking about. What does creation have to do with this?

      It is obvious that your not addressing the logical fallacy but creating a false conclusion about something that is commonly committed by atheists, ergo “Why is that the religious always brings arguments instead of evidence?”

      This post is not an argument or evidence for creation. It is simply a definition. Since you got your panties in a bind, we can conclude that you commit the red herring fallacy on a regular basis.

      • NoNeedForAName June 6, 2016, 3:43 am

        There’s nothing more desperate than a Christian trying to claim they adhere to logic. All theists engage in the fallacy of shifting the burden of proof.

        Allah Ackbar, infidel.

  • chaz December 15, 2014, 6:41 pm

    Bill Nye was explaining how if you don’t teach your kids science the right way, for them to understand the core mechanics , there won’t be innovators. Because you Christians keep your kids in a protective shell and don’t expose them to ideas until they have been so brainwashed they become close minded.

    • Richard Jude Woerner April 5, 2016, 8:04 am

      ROFL, “Bill Nye was explaining how if you don’t teach your kids science the right way.” The right way according to who Chaz, you? Can you with authority tell what is the “right” way of teaching science? Seems to me, your trying to assert exactly what Nye is trying to say, without the teaching of evolution, then young minds would be too stupid to “produce competitive technology”? What does evolution have to do with technology when evolution is a biological concept?

      Actually, Christians should learn the false teaching of evolution and many of us do read and learn. Bill Nye and most all who propagate evolution create a slippery slope that intelligence is only found in accepting evolution as truth or else. Actually, those that have not looked into all the available arguments for God objectively are the closed minded ones.

      • Brian K April 8, 2016, 4:43 pm

        Irony – a post about logical fallacies and someone (Chaz) committing just that.

        “Bill Nye was explaining how if you don’t teach your kids science the right way, for them to understand the core mechanics , there won’t be innovators.”

        This is fallacious as it appeals to fear (do this, that, or the other, or there will be consequences). I could very well say, “We better teach kids about God in schools, or else they’ll turn into deviants and devils.”

        “Because you Christians keep your kids in a protective shell and don’t expose them to ideas until they have been so brainwashed they become close minded.”

        Here we have a fallacy of special pleading – a standard you want Christians to adhere to but not yourself.

        Your arguments, Chaz, have thus been reduced to sheer nonsense which does nothing to help your assertions.

        • NoNeedForAName June 6, 2016, 3:27 am

          It has always amazed me how Creationists take such issue w/ The Theory Of Evolution, yet are so noticeably silent on Germ Theory. WWJD? Oh, that’s right…

          … it’s like none of you have read your dogma. Utterly laughable.

      • NoNeedForAName June 6, 2016, 3:17 am

        > Actually, Christians should learn the false teaching of evolution and many of us do read and learn.
        Which is more likely? That the cornerstone of modern medicine & agriculture is so easily refuted, *or a Christian woefully ignorant*?

        Here’s a fallacy for you: argumentum ad ignorantiam; look it up. Evolution is demonstrable. Your god claim is not.

        • Anonymous November 13, 2017, 8:15 am

          Okay, there is a much better answer than to just argue over this. The answer is that most all of you are correct. I have been a christian for a long time, it was kind of forced on me. Chaz isn’t entirely wrong about the christian parents making their kids christian in that way. But throughout all the sunday shools and frustrating senslessnes, I figured out quite a bit. I’ve been homeschooled for a while, so even the science books talk from a christian point of view. In studying that science I learned that evolution doesn’t make sense. Survival of the fittest and natural selection, sure. but creatures turning into other creatures over time is a literal one in 100000000 chance. According to the scientific method and current scientific laws, its impossible. In looking at the world, the evidance that some allpowerful being created it is everywhere. But look at what he created. According to every bible and religion, the god who made everything is perfect and loving, but seriously, no. Think back to Adam and Eve. If he was truly all knowing, satan would never have made it to the garden. If eh is all knowing then he knew, he knew, that satan was going to corrupt man and did nothing. He let it happen, and doing so joined with it. So the conclusion is that a powerful being made the universe, but he sure as hell isn’t perfect and loving.

          • Anonymous November 13, 2017, 8:31 am

            This means that there is no current religion that can possibly be entirely correct, but the theory of evolution isn’t much better. Numerous times throughout history, there have been scientists who admit that they don’t actually believe that they are descended from monkeys, they simply don’t want to believe in a god, and that was the only alternative. Darwin himself doubted his theory at times. Evidence for evolution and similar theories has at times been faked, proven false, or without any true connections to the theory. Only about 10% of the evidence is truly related to that theory, and most of the evidence is that it can’t be real. There is much more evidence that there is a creator. But he is not a person to be worshipped. He may even be a person to abhore and fight against. All religion has ever done is start wars with casualties in the millions. The amount of bloodshed is ridiculous. So yes I believe that there is a creator, but I most certainly won’t be worshipping him.

  • Suwah Dogba June 9, 2014, 11:53 pm

    Hello Sir, I am writing a thesis on the topic: Logic and Fallacies of Logic (A method used against the Christian Faith). Please give me some good insight to defend this thesis. thanks and hope to hear from u.



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