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“The Foole Rides Me” woodblock Ignoratio Elenchi,
Straw Man,
Red Herring, and Non Sequitur Examples: Self-Quiz with Answers

Abstract: Ignoratio Elenchi, Straw Man, Red Herring, and Non Sequitur examples are provided and analyzed for credibility in a self-scoring quiz.

Fallacy Practice Directions:

(1) Study the features of the Ignoratio Elenchi, Straw Man, Red Herring, and Non Sequitur from this web page: Ignoratio Elenchi and Related Fallacies.

(2) Read and analyze the following passages.

(3) Explain with a sentence or two as to whether or not you judge any of these fallacies to be present.

  1. “In 2016, the U.S. government announced that Harriet Tubman will become the face of the $20 bill. If you need proof that America can still get it right, there it is.”[1]

    Ignoratio elenchi or non sequitur: The selection of an image of Harriet Tubman on $20 bill, although pleasing to many, is not an action which is, strictly speaking, a right or wrong action. It is a question of attitudinal approval or disapproval.

  2. “It is incredibly simple to gain body fat. In fact, it is so basic that it commonly happens without intent; even worse, it happens when a person is trying to avoid fat gain. Surely, if a problem arises so naturally and simply, the solution must be equally simple and natural.”[2]

    Ignoratio elenchi or non sequitur: There is no necessary correlation between the relative difficulty of the origin of a problem and relative difficulty of the solution to that problem.

  3. “Secretary of State John Kerry says that there is less violence than usual in the world right now. Meanwhile the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, says the opposite, that terrorism is more violent and dangerous than ever. Since Clapper is Director of National Intelligence, maybe Kerry should have the title Director of National Stupidity.”[3]

    Since there is no explicit argument in this passage, there is no fallacy committed. Name-calling per se is not a fallacy. Implicitly it might be argued that the argument is an ad hominem attack on Secretary Kerry for his opinion that there is less violence in the world. There is also equivocation on the word “intelligence” — “ability to understand” and “information obtained by surveillance.”

  4. “Five years ago, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ordered manufacturers of extended-release and long-acting (ER/LA) opioids to offer clinicians training on how to prescribe the drugs for pain to prevent patients from getting addicted or overdosing.

    Now the FDA is proposing an expansion of that educational mandate for opioid makers — to teach physicians how to manage pain with yoga, cognitive therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic, and other nonpharmacologic methods.

    ‘Nobody has overdosed from too much mindfulness,’ said Corey Waller, MD, who chairs the legislative advocacy committee of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), in an interview with Medscape Medical News.”[4]

    Ignoratio Elenchi: The fact that one cannot overdose from mindfulness or yoga is not a reason for using an ineffective control for serious pain. Although the technique of “mindfulness” or “the practice of paying attention to our awareness in the present moment without judgment” can relieve stress and some chronic pain, the technique is not effective for severe pain.

  5. “You've probably heard the New York mayor has proposed a ban on selling supersized, sugary drinks. Here's what I want to respectfully say to Mayor Bloomberg: ‘Really?’ Terrorist cells might be lurking about and multiplying like bacteria on a dish sponge, homeless people are sleeping in alleys and Mayor Bloomberg is in a tizzy about Big Gulps being sold at the 7-Eleven?”[5]

    Ignoratio Elenchi: The fact that there are problems in New York more serious than the sale of supersized drinks is not relevant to the contention that the consumption of supersized, sugary drinks is a problem worth addressing.

  6. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has chosen to appoint women to half the positions in his Cabinet.

    Why did he do it? ‘Because it's 2015,’ the new PM said.[6]

    Ignoratio Elenchi as well as Non Sequitur: The decision to appoint half of the Canadian cabinet positions to women is based on other factors than the specific number of the calendar year in which it occurs.

  7. “Now, what else would stamp a murder as being a most atrocious crime? … It may be that the state's attorney would think that it was particularly cruel to the victim because he was a boy. Well, my clients are boys, too, and if it would make more serious the offense to kill a boy, it should make less serious the offense of the boys who do the killing.”[7]

    Ignoratio Elenchi: The conclusion is irrelevant to the premise. Although the seriousness of a crime is sometimes mitigated by the youthfulness of the perpetrator and is sometimes amplified by the youthfulness of the victim, the truth of one of the relations is not logically dependent on the other.

  8. ““My point is that scientists got obsessed with the Mediterranean diet in large part because it's a great place to go for scientific conferences.”[8]

    Ignoratio Elenchi: the medical evidence for beneficial effects of the Mediterranean diet is irrelevant to the question of a choice of location for a scientific conference on the Mediterranean diet.

  9. “The Trump administration is being sued over its plans to include a question about citizenship in the 2020 Census, which California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) says ‘is not just a bad idea — it is illegal.’ No, it's not. There is nothing wrong with asking about citizenship. Canada asks a citizenship question on its census. So do Australia and many other U.S. allies.”[9]

    Ignoratio Elenchi: What is legal in the U.S. is not determined by what is legal in other countries. The fallacy can also be classified as an ad populum. The fact that many countries ask a citizenship question on their census does not provide sufficient evidence that the U.S. should also do so also.

  10. ”We request your help in compiling a book which recalls memories from our parents' first 50 years of marriage. On the enclosed sheet, we ask that you write one memory or event that you have shared with them, and return it to us by April 25. We believe that loving memories they have shared with you, their friends, would be the most treasured gift they could receive; therefore, we request that no other gift be sent.”[10]

    Even though the word “therefore” appears before the request, the purpose of the passage is not to prove the conclusion that no gifts are sent, but rather to request that no gifts be sent. Since no argument is present, no fallacy is present.

  11. “The latest protests in Iran by people angry about the Iranian military's missile launch that ‘unintentionally’ downed a Ukrainian jetliner killing many Iranians, Canadian and others, is different from past protests …

    Interviewed on [U.S. TV's] ABC's Last Week last Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appeared to minimize the significance of the demonstrations. Host George Stepanopoulos asked her if she supported the demonstrations and whether it would be good for the regime to collapse. She replied: ‘The protesters are protesting — as I understand it, this brand of protesters — about the fact that that plane went down. And many students were on that plane, and these are largely students in the street.’”[verbatim from source][11]

    The answer to a question is not a fallacy in the sense of of logical rule violation. If a fallacy is defined as deceptive reasoning, then Nancy Pelosi's response is a red herring since she attempts to divert attention from the questions asked by George Stepanopoulos.

  12. “A scholar traveyling, and having noe money, call'd at an alehouse, and ask'd for a penny loafe, then gave his hostesse it againe, for a pot of ale, and having drunke it of, was going away. The woman demanded a penny of him.

    ‘For what?’ saies he.

    Shee answers, ‘For ye ale!’

    Quoth hee, ‘I gave you ye loafe for it.’

    ‘Then,’ said shee, ‘pay for ye loafe.’

    Quoth hee, ‘Had you it not againe?’ which put ye woman to a non plus, that ye scholar went free away.”[12]

    Ignoratio Elenchi (“shifting ground”): The scholar frames his justification by deceptively pronouncing that the loaf was his to begin with and so was his to be bartered.

    (The story is taken from Sir John Harringtons, Epigrams (1615), published before English spelling was standarized.)

  13. “If you will follow me while I attempt to analyze the arguments of my Opponents … about the probability of the United States having war. This argument reminds me of a baby's colic. It's a little tedious, somewhat annoying, but not serious. He [my opponent] has absolutely ignored the three questions I presented to him, and especially that third question.”[13]
    Red Herring: The speaker states he is going to analyze the arguments of his opponent, but instead he ignores those arguments and diverts attention with the declaration his opponent has failed to answer questions he put to him earlier.

  14. “[T]he film community's growing interest in direct political action is no surprise. … When evaluating whether Hollywood figures deserve that [political] influence or ‘belong” in politics, it makes more sense to discuss these basic trends than the propriety of ill-informed actors mouthing off about issues they do not understand. … But politicians often do the same thing. The real problem is that political debate is being reduced to symbols and sound bites, not that Hollywood figures are increasingly being used to supply them.”[14]
    Ignoratio Elenchi: The author's argument begins as an evaluation of Hollywood political influence but immediately shifts attention away from the argument that actors are ill-informed to emphasize instead the frequent vapid political debate of the politicians themselves.”

  15. “Many of these … arguments are ingenious and calculated to deceive the causal reader. … The [argument] before me … is by Hon. J. T. McCleary … Mr. McCleary must be a lawyer; his argument reminds me of the smart boy, who, standing with his companion on one side of a river, offered to prove that they stood on the opposite side:

    ‘Over yonder is one side, isn't it?’


    ‘This is the other side, isn't it?’

    ‘Yes!’ repeated his companion.

    ‘Then ain't we on the other side?’”[15]

    Ignoratio Elenchi: Rather than evaluating the “ingenious” argument of Mr. McCleary, the speaker disparages Mr. McCleary's arguments by characterizing them as reminiscent of a traditional sophism.


Hyperlinks go to page cited

1. Hillary Rodham Clinton, What Happened (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017), viii.

2. C. Everett Koop, “The Importance of Drinking Plenty of Water for Enhancing Weight/Fat Loss,Dedicated Strength: Tag Archives: C. Everett Koop (December 11, 2013)

3. Thomas Sowell, “Random Thought on the Passing Scene,” Index-Journal (March 5, 2015) 97 No. 14, 6A.

4. Robert Lowes, “Opioid Makers May Have to Teach Physicians About Yoga,” Medscape News (12 May 2017).

5. Mary Ann Crum, “Change Hearts, Not Menus,” Index-Journal, 94 No. 54 (June 23, 2012), 7A.

6. Daniel White, “Here Are All the Women in Justin Trudeau's New CabinetTime World (November 4, 2015).

7. Clarence Darrow, The Plea of Clarence Darrow In Defense of Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, Jr. on Trial for Murder (Chicago: Ralph Fletcher Seymour, 1924). 14.

8. Tricia Ward and Nina Teicholz, “An Interview With The Big Fat Surprise Author Nina Teicholz,” Medscape Multispecialty.

9. Marc Thiessen, “There is Nothing Wrong with a Census Question About Citizenship,” 100 no. 16 Index-Journal (April 3, 2018), 8A.

10. Abigail Van Buren “Dear Abby,” Index-Journal (February 2, 1980), 14.

11. Cal Thomas, “The Iran Protests,” Index-Journal 101 no. 305 (January 17, 2020), 7A. Transcript: ABC News, “This Week Transcript 1-12-20: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi …ABC News (January 12, 2020).

12. Passage from Sir John Harrington's Epigrams (1615) quoted in John Ashton, Humor, Wit, & Satire of the Seventeenth Century (London: Chatto and Windus, 1883), 354.

13. Judson C. Francis,“Naval Disarmament: Second Affirmative Rebuttal“ University Debater's Annual ed. E. C. Mabie (New York: H.W. Wilson, 1922), 277.

14. Ronald Brownstein, “Hollywood Hardball,” Mother Jones 16 no. 1 (February, 1991), 87.

15. H. W. Reed, “Government Notes vs. Bank Currency,” Money: A Monthly Magazine 4 no. 1 (July, 1900), 70.



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