A fallacy is a mistake in belief based on an unsound argument; so, an ignorance fallacy occurs when a person mistakenly believes something to be true that is not, because he or she does not know enough about the subject to know otherwise. For example, an argument based on stereotype or hasty generalization is an example of ignorance fallacy. Such an argument is persuasive because the audience is ignorant.
Finding an Ignorance Fallacy
Ignorance fallacies can be found everywhere in everyday conversation, in advertising, in politics and in history.
Some examples of ignorance fallacies include:
- You can’t prove that there aren’t Martians living in caves under the surface of Mars, so it is reasonable for me to believe there are.
- No one can actually prove that God exists; therefore God does not exist.
- A cat who has roamed freely around a house speaks to a mouse who is hiding behind the wall. Through the hole in the wall, the cat says to the mouse, "Come on out! All the furniture out here is made of cheese!"
- No matter what, a batter should always bunt the ball to try to score in that inning.
- You can’t prove that there isn’t a mirror universe of our own, so there must be one out there somewhere!
- If elected, Mitt Romney will take away all of my Social Security and Medicaid benefits.
- If the Republicans are elected, we will have women dying from back alley abortions.
- If Barack Obama is elected, the government will pay for all of my utility bills and I will get a new cell phone for free from the government.
- If the Democrats are elected, poverty will decrease because we will have less unwanted children, because everyone who wants an abortion will be able to get one.
- A woman living in Pennsylvania watches the nightly news, and sees reports of kidnappings and violence on the border between Arizona and Mexico. Her daughter lives in Arizona, several hours away from the border. Because the woman sees kidnappings and violence on the news, she tells her daughter that she better move out of Arizona or else she will be kidnapped.
- Israel is an ally of the United States; therefore, everything Israel does is good, and the United States should unquestionably back Israel in anything it does.
- Children in some countries are recruited into their nations’ armies at very young ages. They are indoctrinated to believe that people of other ethnicities or beliefs are evil and should be eliminated. The children have no way of knowing that this is not true, and therefore their ignorance is played upon as they are raised to believe false information.
- Joe McCarthy said he was presenting to the Senate cases in which it was clear that individuals had Communist connections. With one case, however, he said "I do not have much information on this except the general statement of the agency…that there is nothing in the files to disprove his Communist connections." His argument was that because there was no evidence against a Communist connection for a person, that person must be working with the Communists. Source: Richard H. Rovere, Senator Joe McCarthy (Methuen, 1960), pp. 106-107.
- When speaking to an audience who has never personally known a Jewish person, the speaker refers to Jewish people as being stingy, greedy, or otherwise obsessed with their money. The audience believes this assumption.
- The Crusades and Inquisition prove that the Catholic Church is evil.
- Some Catholic priests have been pedophiles, so all priests are pedophiles.
- I grew up listening to and watching the Beach Boys in warm and sunny southern California. It must always be hot and sunny there.
- Don’t move to Seattle because it rains all the time.
- There is no evidence for the Loch Ness monster; therefore, the Loch Ness monster does not exist.
- Since the class has no questions concerning the topics discussed in class, the class is ready for a test.
- No one on the council objected to the idea that he proposed, so everyone must think it’s a great idea.
- When speaking to an audience of people who hate sports, a speaker says "Sports have nothing to do with the American culture" and the audience agrees.
- She didn't say that I couldn't borrow her car, so I figured it was just fine if I borrowed it for the weekend.
So, now you have seen a lot of different ignorance fallacies. Be on the lookout and make sure you don't believe any yourself.