Appeal to Ridicule

reductio ad ridiculum

(also known as: appeal to mockery, the horse laugh)

Description: Presenting the argument in such a way that makes the argument look ridiculous, usually by misrepresenting the argument or the use of exaggeration.

Logical Form:

Person 1 claims that X is true.

Person 2 makes X look ridiculous, by misrepresenting X.

Therefore, X is false.

Example #1:

It takes faith to believe in God just like it takes faith to believe in the Easter bunny -- but at least the Easter bunny is based on a creature that actually exists!

Explanation: Comparing the belief in God to belief in the Easter bunny is an attempt at ridicule, and not a good argument.  In fact, this type of fallacy usually shows desperation in the one committing the fallacy.

Example #2:

Evolution is the idea that humans come from pond scum.

Explanation: It is ridiculous to think that we come from pond scum, and it is not true.  It is more accurate to say that we come from exploding stars as every atom in our bodies were once in stars.  By creating a ridiculous and misleading image, the truth claim of the argument is overlooked.

Exception: It is legitimate to use ridicule when a position is worthy of ridicule.  This is a risky proposition, however, because of the subjectiveness of what kind of argument is actually ridicule worthy.  As we have seen, misplaced ridicule can appear as a sign of desperation, but carefully placed ridicule can be a witty move that can work logically and win over an audience emotionally, as well.

Matt: You close-minded fool!  Seeing isn’t believing, believing is seeing!

Cindy: Does that go for the Easter Bunny as well, or just the imaginary beings of your choice?

Tip: Do your best to maintain your composure when someone commits this fallacy at your expense.  Remember, they are the ones who have committed the error in reasoning.  Tactfully point it out to them.


0 #1 Dimond 2014-01-18 22:57
How is comparing the belief in god to the belief in the Easter Bunny a fallacy? The only difference is that the delusional superstition about god is more complex, but the premise is the same: belief in a supernatural entity were there is no evidence to support such belief. Granted, it is more accurate to compare god to Santa Claus, since Santa is claimed to also have a "naughty/nice" list, and most people grow out of the more childish superstitions as they grow older, but the premise is still the same. But, other than the difference in complexity, these are all delusional superstitions, which makes them similar enough to logically compare.
+2 #2 Bo Bennett 2014-01-19 07:01
There are many bright adults who believe in god. While there might be silmilarites with the Easter bunny and god, it could easily be argued that it is a weak analogy. More specifically, the intent is choosing obvious ridicule over a compelling argument. Keep in mind that fallacies are very effective at changing minds, that is why they are so commonly used. Also keep in mind that fallacies are arguments--if this example is a fallacy or not is up for debate as all informal fallacies are.
0 #3 Dimond 2014-01-20 11:03
So, you are using an Appeal to Popularity fallacy to argue that this is a Appeal to Ridicule fallacy? That doesn't make sense.

Religion is clearly a delusional superstition, no matter how many "bright people" accept it. I really don't see how it could be argued that it is a "weak analogy". There is just as much evidence for the Easter Bunny as there is for god. The only difference is that the fairy tales about god are more complex and are specifically designed to control the masses. Well, that and no one kills in the name of the Easter Bunny.

The comparison is in no way ridiculous except in the mind of the religious, but then ANY questioning of their religion is ridiculous, so, according to religious people, every single argument against religion is an Appeal to Ridicule.
0 #4 Bo Bennett 2014-01-20 11:19
If I were appealing to popularity, I would say that because many bright people believe in God then God exists. My mention of the many bright adults is to contrast the analogy of the Easter Bunny—I think we can both agree that there are probably no bright adults who believe in the Easter Bunny.

Theists would not agree that there is no evidence for their beliefs, just that they accept evidence that we don't—such as the legitimacy and veracity of ancient texts. They also might look at a tree and see that as "evidence" of God—so they clearly have a different concept of evidence.

I am not religious and I see this as ridicule, but I am just one person attempting to see arguments from an unbiased perspective. Again, fallacies are arguments. If you feel you have a strong argument for why God=Easter Bunny, then you are certainly free to make that argument and fight for it. As a fellow atheist and student of cognitive/socia l psychology, my advice to you is to avoid this comparison and focus on one of the many better arguments.
0 #5 Dimond 2014-01-20 13:09
I absolutely agree that there are better arguments. And that ridicule is certainly a valid form of argument/persua sion and theists most definitely accept things as evidence that aren't.

When debating theists, I seldom use this mechanism, but rather tend to specifically address why their claimed evidence is invalid. I completely agree with you that there are better arguments and that we should use those before or instead of ridicule. Good advice! :-)
0 #6 Seth 2014-03-02 09:04
Is this fallacy not the same as the straw man fallacy?
0 #7 Bo Bennett 2014-03-02 09:15
It is close, a strawman can be a completely different argument, where an argument from ridicule is more of an exaggeration—an d exaggeration with the specific goal of making the argument look ridiculous (rather than the goal of the strawman which is to make the argument easy to defeat).
0 #8 jnobles06 2014-04-25 00:23
How is comparing God to the Easter bunny a fallacy? The Easter bunny is just as valid as God as there are theories associating the Easter bunny and the traditions associated with it to other deities. I see the point that you are trying to make; I just don't think it's a good example.
0 #9 Bo Bennett 2014-04-25 09:47
@jnobles, have a look at my response to the above commenter. Thanks!

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