Appeal to Personal Incredulity

Appeal_to_Personal_Incredulity_LargeThe Appeal to Personal Incredulity is the conclusion that something must or must not be true, simply because another possibility is unimaginable.

The word ‘incredulous’ should conjure images of flustered bureaucrats pointing their index fingers in the air, yelling “Preposterous!”

This argument is not really an argument at all, it’s a rejection. Just because someone has difficulty understanding or accepting how something works, doesn’t make it not so, nor does it validate other explanations.

It can also be used as an arguing tactic against others. When someone says “How could anyone possibly think of another reason for this yellow puddle on the floor?! Obviously, the dog spilled apple juice!” they would be appealing to their own incredulity, in addition to making anyone else feel like a dope for suggesting anything to the contrary. This is a silencing tactic is designed to reinforce a single view-point and squelch debate.

This fallacy is often categorized as a sub-fallacy of the ‘Argument from Ignorance’, which is also closely related to ‘God of the Gaps.’


Appeal to Nature


An Appeal to Nature is the assumption that something that is “Natural” is inherently better than something that is “Unnatural.”

This fallacy is not to be confused with “The Naturalistic Fallacy” which is a card for another day.

First off, “natural” is a loaded term(a link to that card is coming soon!), meaning it brings on certain feelings when it is used. In actuality the word is vague and thus not super useful when describing things.

Mostly this fallacy is used in the selling of products deemed to be better for you because of their ‘naturalness’. Certain industrial processes can indeed take away nutritional value from your food, but since the term ‘natural’ doesn’t have a specific definition(nor regulation on its use), including it in marketing only helps in conjuring positive images, as apposed to relaying any real information about a product.

The term is vague because there is no clear destination between natural and unnatural. Is heating food natural? Farming? Fermenting? Cross-breeding plants?

It is also fair to question feelings the term ‘natural’ brings. Here is a list of ‘natural’ things that will kill you soon as look at you: snakes, hemlock, flesh-eating bacteria, allergic reactions, and bears. Although if you ate bear you’d probably be okay. There are also loads of man-made ‘unnatural’ things/processes that have improved, extended and saved countless lives such as vaccines, indoor plumbing, and agriculture.

While there are certainly arguments to be made when considering the source, contents, and processing of food/other products, anything using the term”natural” is probably worthy of a raised eyebrow.



Poisoning the Well

Poisoning_the_Well_LargePoisoning the Well is an attempt to bias an audience’s opinion before an opponent has had a chance to state their case.

This practice comes in a variety of flavors, and not tasty ones like guava or mango, probably most often taking the form of an ‘Ad-Hominem’ attack. Poisoning the Well is done in order to call into question any later statements from the opponent.


“He is going to say he didn’t use performance enhancing drugs. How are we going to believe him? His whole team used them!”

“Only a moron will believe this story.”

The first example of the term ‘poisoning the well’ being used in this context was by John Henry Newman in a published defense of his religious beliefs, ‘Apologia Pro Vita Sua’.The origin of the term comes from the Medieval, anti-Semitic notion that Jews spread Black Death via communal drinking wells. Needless to say, germ theory was not a thing at the time, and superstition most certainly was…   and still is…