Fallacies Critical Thinking Skills Require Term Paper

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According to Miller and Wright (2002), "When it comes to plea bargaining, we have created a false dilemma. The dilemma grows out of the central reality of criminal adjudication in the United States. The vast majority of criminal cases are resolved through guilty pleas rather than trials. Most of those guilty pleas result from negotiations between prosecution and defense" (p. 29).

Straw Man.

According to Walton (2004), "The straw man fallacy is committed when the proponent's argument is based on premises that do not represent the commitments of the other party in the dispute, and where his argument used a distorted version of these commitments to try to refute the other party" (p. 25). The straw man fallacy represents a common technique that is used to divert attention away from the actual issues involve to irrelevant or even imaginary ones that can be impossible to defend against. In this regard, according to Walton (2004), "Straw man, as a fallacy, is defined as misrepresentation of an arguer's position. When an opponent's position is distorted or exaggerated in a straw man argument, the effect is often to divert the line of argument to irrelevant issues. So the straw man argument, as typically used, involves an aspect of irrelevance.... Straw man is getting your opponent's position wrong and then refuting that wrongly attributed position" (Walton, 2004, pp. 22-4).

Some organizational uses of the straw man fallacy can be found among physical education professionals and the scientific community when assertions as to race accounting for superior performance are made. For example, Entine (2001) points out that, "Some race realists seduce themselves into believing that they are being intellectually honest in pointing out the 'natural' advantages of certain 'races,' but they reach beyond limited data to speculative and sweeping conclusions. The consequences of such disingenuousness are serious and mounting" (p. 294). The casual observer might ask what damage was possibly being done by such assertions, but Entire emphasizes that the effects can be profound.
Citing the example of a scientist at a prominent national conference, Entine reports that he "declared that there is no 'running gene,' as if that somehow resolved the debate over the causes of black domination of running. Such bluster is a classic straw man. No scientist claims there is a 'running gene.' That's a dodge of the real question: Do genes prescribe possibility in some sports, running most specifically, and are there some population-based patterns? The answer is an indisputable yes" (2001, p. 294).


In a day and age where a "culture of fear" is being foisted on the American public by politicians and the media alike, critical thinking skills have become more important that ever. The research showed that there are a number of fallacies that can adversely affect the critical thinking process, and these techniques are widely used by those who are unable or unwilling to prosecute their points in a straightforward and reciprocal manner. The research also showed that three common fallacies are ad hominem arguments, which are personal attacks on the answerer himself; the false dilemma, wherein an insufficient number of alternative outcomes are presented to develop an informed decision; and the straw man fallacy, which is the misrepresentation of an opponent's position to divert attention away from the true issues under consideration. In the final analysis, these and other fallacies represent a major threat to critical thinking skills.


Baarsma, W. (2002). Shafer v. South Carolina: Another missed opportunity to remove juror ignorance as a factor in capital sentencing. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 93(1), 23.

Entine, J. (2001, September). The straw man of 'race.' World and I, 16(9), 294.

Hutchenson, M. (2006). AP English Language Definitions. Retrieved July 4, 2006 at http://annahutcheson.tripod.com/id8.html.

Miller, M., & Wright, R. (2002). The screening/bargaining tradeoff. Stanford Law Review, 55(1), 29.

Spiro T. Agnew. (2006). Rotten.com Library. Retrieved July 4, 2006 at http://www.rotten.com/library/bio/usa/spiro-t-agnew/.….....

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