LSAT Kung Fu Blog / ALDY and the False Choice
ALDY and the False Choice
Have you guys ever been to one of the American Family Association’s all-night raves? Those things are awesome, man. Glow sticks, dancers, girls wearing only paint and bright beads handing out fistfuls of baby aspirin (I guess that’s what it was - the pills were small and colorful with festive stampings). Clothing may be optional, but it’s not a very popular option! When you think of American Family Association, think world’s bitchingest party, is what I’m saying.
Why all the festivity? Because the American Family Association is all about freedom. They love freedom the most, man. I know this for sure because Bryan Fischer, the man they sent to speak on their behalf at this weekend’s Values Voters summit at the Omni hotel (and bar) in Washington, DC, located just two blocks south of the National Zoo, told me so. Because of his organization’s heartfelt dedication to American Freedom, he was able to wrest a standing ovation from the Values Voters in attendance for his speech in which he said:
[T]he homosexual agenda represents the greatest immediate threat to every freedom and right that is enshrined in the First Amendment...We need a president who understands that we must choose as a nation between homosexuality and liberty, because we cannot have both.
He said that. With his mouth. Using exactly those words. And it’s sentences like those that tell us that this is a man - representing an organization - that is totally about freedom.
But I don’t really want to talk about freedom. I want to talk about the False Choice flaw.
On the LSAT, one of the surest routes to success and efficiency is the ability to recognize problems within arguments by type. If we can learn to see things as belonging to families of sameness, then we can identify right answer choices more quickly and more easily than if we have to analyze each argument as though it existed unto itself. One of the most commonly-occurring flaw types on this test is the one I refer to as the False Choice flaw.
This flaw - like every flawed argument on this test - involves assuming some evidence to be true that isn't on offer. In particular, the false choice is the assumption that there are no options other than those mentioned by the arguer. In rhetoric, this can be an effective tactic for engaging action - think "You're either with us or you're with the evildoers" - but it always fails as a logical construct.
In this instance, Mr. Fischer has assumed that there are only two possible states of being in the world - homosexuality and freedom. He has offered no evidence that those are, in fact, the only two possibilities, and that fact is the reason his argument fails. There are two things worth considering here:
First, it's possible that there are in fact other options besides freedom without homosexuality and homosexuality without freedom. It may be possible, in other words, to have a free society even without dictating the actions within people's homes. In fact, it's even possible that such a society would be MORE free, not less so.
Second, although the content of Mr. Fischer's remarks may tend to inflame in its extreme irrationality, we should note that his argument would be no better if he had instead said that we must choose between bigoted imbeciles and freedom. That argument, too, would fail as a logical argument (though it might be less douche-baggy). Here's a short list of other things that would be equally false as choices:
- Peeled carrots vs. Freedom
- The sound of children's laughter vs. Freedom
- Iced cupcakes vs. Freedom
- Paul Giamatti's left testicle vs. Freedom
- The contents of Marcus Bachman's inner life vs. Freedom
And do you know what peeled carrots, iced cupcakes, children’s laughter, Paul Giamatti’s left testicle and Marcus Bachmann’s inner life have to do with homosexuality? They are all equally proven to be incompatible with freedom. In that none of them are so proved.
And the fun thing about this argument, as it relates to LSAT preparation, is that it is presented in pretty much exactly the same way that we will expect the false choice to be rendered in the LSAT Logical Reasoning sections - we’ll be given an argument that asserts that one thing must happen or else another thing will happen, or that if one option isn’t true, only one other option remains open to us.
In all cases in which a choice is made, that choice is a false choice unless we are told what all of our options are. Bryan Fischer didn’t make any mention whatsoever of the possibility of other options besides homosexuality and freedom. For that lack, he committed the false choice flaw. And for that flaw, I’m formally submitting his name for consideration for Anti-Logical Douchebag of the Year.
Oh, yeah, and before we go, I did want to mention that Mr. Fischer said some pretty awesome stuff about Muslims, too (just in case you were wondering whether his love of freedom extended to include religious freedom. It so, totally, does!) You want to know what he said? OK. He said that the greatest long-term threat to our country is... Islam. Not the disappearing middle class. Not the economic threat from a crashing Eurozone and growing China. Not the fact that only 32% of American schoolchildren are proficient in mathematics. Not even a nuclear-capable North Korea. Nuh-unh. And there was one point that he felt he needed to be particularly clear on. Here’s what he said:
The threat is not radical Islam, but Islam itself. This is not Islamophobia, this is Islamorealism.
Yes! He so did say that! So, Bryan Fischer. Anti-Logical Douchebag? For sure. Anti-Logical Douchebag of the Year? Well, we’ve got two and a half months to go, but he’s making a strong showing.
And speaking of showings: how do you think we’re doing? Check us out online or drop us a line at Info@VelocityLSAT.com, and visit The Forum (http://www.VelocityLSAT.com/Forum) to join the conversation, to ask questions about the false choice flaw or Marcus Bachmann’s inner life, or to suggest topics for future conversations.
Until next week, keep fightin’ for Freedom.