Tuesday, December 7, 2010

On the Red Herring Fallacy

Source: Fallacy: Red Herring


I've recently had an individual show up, accusing me of inventing claims of anti-Catholicism on a blog I will not name.  Now, if the intent of that article had been to write against this blog itself, or specifically about refuting the claims of this blog, then his argument would have been valid.

However, this was not the intent of that article.  The intent was to challenge people to verify the truth of anti-Catholic claims before repeating them, and to remind them that one who repeats falsehoods bears false witness, and the obligation is to seek the truth before repeating claims from another.

The Red Herring Fallacy

To therefore argue about whether I should have linked to the blog in question is a Red Herring fallacy, which runs like this:

  1. Topic [A] is being discussed [In this case, "Repeating anti-Catholic claims as if they were true, without checking if they were true is to bear false witness"]
  2. Individual introduces Topic [B] which is irrelevant to topic [A] [In this case, "Demanding a link to the unnamed blog (which was used as an illustration of a point and was never quoted or deemed as relevant as anything other than an anecdote)"]
  3. Topic [A] is forgotten in the discussion of Topic [B] [In this case, if I had gone on to discuss the unnamed blog in detail, the point of the original article would have been overlooked]

Since the unnamed blog was irrelevant to my post except as an anecdote as to why I was annoyed (I did not quote him or discuss any specific claims from his site), it will remain unnamed.  The point I made was relevant: anywhere someone repeats a tired old anti-Catholic claim without verifying the truth of the claim, it is to bear false witness against us.

The Analogy as to Why the Charge Against Me is Invalid

Demanding I cite such sites to prove the validity of my claim is similar to insisting a Jewish person link to the site of a Holocaust denier to prove Holocaust denial exists before accepting his denouncing Holocaust denial.  The site of the individual Holocaust denier would be irrelevant to the argument of the Jewish person denouncing Holocaust Denial.

(And before a new Red Herring comes up, I am not equating anti-Catholicism with Holocaust Denial)

Does False Witness apply to my Own Article?

Thus, any claim that I am bearing false witness against the nameless blog is a distraction against the issue.  I have not harmed the good name of the individual.  Nor have I said any specific thing about the nameless blogger which would defame him.  (I've used the generic "he" for example and have no idea as to the gender of the nameless blogger).  Such accusations against me would only have validity if I named him and refused to cite my evidence against him… and this is not the case.

However, this is what an anti-Catholic does: names us as a Church or names our saints and makes a claim accusing us of doing evil or inventing doctrines which targets us without evidence. This is what I am objecting to, not some minor blogger nobody has ever heard of who merely repeats those claims.  Nor am I objecting to specific claims made.

I am pointing out that any claim which accuses the Catholic Church of doing something evil without verifiable proof we have done what was accused is a claim which lacks charity.

My Intended Point Remains Valid

That point remains valid.  Anyone who repeats a scandalous claim against a named individual or group is obligated to provide proof of the claim, and to merely repeat such a claim without checking into whether it is true does take part in bearing false witness if it is false.

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