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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Straw Man

Suppose you wanted to win an argument without actually refuting the opponent’s position – what would you do? Well, you could try to set up a "straw man".

To "set up a straw man" is to create a position that is easy to refute, and then attribute that position to the opponent to make him look bad.
In other words, you could depict your opponent (or his ideas) in such a caricatured way that it trivializes them and they become easier to attack/refute.

Examples: "Scientists suppose that living things simply fell together by chance" - this formulation willfully ignores the central Darwinian insight, that Nature accumulates changes over time up by saving what works and discarding what doesn't. or you could try: "Anti-war protestors walk around with their scruffy hair, slovenly dress, and sloppy thinking saying "Peace" like that was somehow a solution to world political problems".

Subtitle of an interesting book named “Talking Right” by Geoffrey Nunberg:
"How Conservatives Turned Liberalism into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times-Reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show"

Is it a coincidence that I am finding straw man examples coming only from the Conservative camp?

Sir Dayvd ( out there, being Human ) of Oxfordshire

1 comment:

  1. I know these as "scarecrows" (One of the greatest Disney flicks ever -- "Dr. Syn, Alias The Scarecrow").

    Farmers set them up to keep away the liberal amount of birds that attack crops and steal what's not rightfully theirs.

    Just an observation.

    Sir Bowie of Greenbriar