Cherry Picking

(also known as: suppressed evidence, fallacy of incomplete evidence, argument by selective observation, argument by half-truth, card stacking, fallacy of exclusion, ignoring the counter evidence, one-sided assessment, slanting, one-sidedness)

Description: When only select evidence is presented in order to persuade the audience to accept a position, and evidence that would go against the position is withheld.  The stronger the withheld evidence, the more fallacious the argument.

Logical Form:

Evidence A and evidence B is available.

Evidence A supports the claim of person 1.

Evidence B supports the counter claim of person 2.

Therefore, person 1 presents only evidence A.

Example #1:

Employer: It says here on your resume that you are a hard worker, you pay attention to detail, and you don’t mind working long hours.

Andy: Yes sir.

Employer: I spoke to your previous employer.  He says that you constantly change things that should not be changed, you could care less about other people’s privacy, and you had the lowest score in customer relations.

Andy: Yes, that is all true, as well.

Employer: Great then.  Welcome to our social media team!

Explanation: Resumes are a classic example of cherry picking information.  A resume can be seen as an argument as to why you are qualified for the job.  Most employers are wise enough to know that resumes are one-sided, and look for more evidence in the form of interviews and recommendations to make a decision.

Example #2:

My political candidate gives 10% of his income to the needy, goes to church every Sunday, and volunteers one day a week at a homeless shelter.  Therefore, he is honest and morally straight.

Explanation: What information was left out of the example is that this same candidate gives 10% of his income to needy prostitutes in exchange for services, goes to the bar every Sunday after church (and sometimes before), and only works at the homeless shelter to get clients for his drug dealing business.

Exception: If the parts of the truth being suppressed do not affect the truth of the conclusion, or can reasonably be assumed, they could be left out of the argument.  For example, political candidates are not committing this fallacy when they leave out the fact that they will need about 8 hours of sleep each day.

Tip: If you suspect people are only telling you a half-truth, don’t be afraid to ask, “Is there anything you are not telling me?”


0 #1 Donald 2013-05-13 19:06
"He is a god who will allow 80% of humanity to suffer eternally in Hell. "

By "humanity", are you including those people who existed before Christianity even existed?
0 #2 Bo Bennett 2013-05-13 21:21
Giving God the benefit of the doubt :/
0 #3 Doug 2013-07-02 17:44
Bo, it seems to me you are doing a good bit of cherry-picking yourself, not the least with respect to the passage you cite. The wrongdoers mentioned in Psalm 5:5 are said to be "bloodthirsty and deceitful" (v. 6). These are the types toward whom God is full of wrath. And I for one am glad of it. You would prefer that he approved of it, or that he were indifferent?
0 #4 Bo Bennett 2013-07-02 18:55
Doug, the passage was purposely chosen to counter the cherry picked description of God—this is not cherry picking. Regardless who the Biblical god hates and kills, the point is he is not "all" about love and forgiveness. This is the point of the example. If you do want to debate the theological and moral implications of such a God, I invite you to As for the 80%, this is an estimate based on the world population that does not believe in Jesus. Of course, some Christians do not believe in a Hell, and some think everyone but a select few are going.
0 #5 Doug 2013-07-02 23:14
Bo, In that case you seem to commit the fallacy of accent, placing undue emphasis on the word "all," or using the word equivocally. In common parlance we use the word "all" in precisely this way when we don't really mean "all" and nobody understands us to mean "all" in a literal sense. It seems to me that most people would understand the statement--and I think that most Christians who would make the statement--"God is all about love and forgiveness," to mean that this is the the goal of his redemptive work in Jesus Christ. To focus on the word "all" as you have done seems to be a piece of nit-picking. Hmm, maybe a good name for a logical fallacy? ;-)
0 #6 Bo Bennett 2013-07-03 05:33
Doug, I cannot honestly say that I heard any Christian ever claim that god was "kinda" forgiving or even admit that he does hate. The term "omnibenevolent " leaves no room for hate. Regardless, no claim was made that all Christians hold that position. Again, this is a theological issue. The example used was to demonstrate the fallacy of cherry picking, which it did.
0 #7 Doug 2013-07-03 09:58
Back to the original statement: unless there is some reason to make us think that the person means ALL instead of all, it’s not cherry picking. NBA great, Bill Russell, says, “The game is all about buckets.” Should we take him to mean that the game is really ALL about buckets? Are we to interpret his statement to mean that he believes defense, rebounding, passing, screening…none of these things matter except making shots? No. He means that making shots is a vital part of the game. In everyday English we use “all” in this way all the time. I don’t mean ALL the time. I just mean all the time (i.e., a lot). The fact is, more context is needed in order to take the statement, “God is all about love and forgiveness," with the degree of literalness that you take it. Most people are going to understand the statement in a more commonsense way. If you want to retain the example, you should provide more context. It's all about context. But I don't mean it's ALL about context... :-)
0 #8 Bo Bennett 2013-07-03 10:07
Doug, I appreciate that you appear to have knowledge of the Bible and understand the complexities and fallacies involved in making absolute claims. I do think, however, that you are projecting your own views onto everyone else, thus in a way, making an absolute claim. I have actively debated religion for many years, and I can assure you that when people make absolute claims about God's forgiveness and goodness, they mean it. We both agree that this is an unreasonable position, which is precisely why it is a good example for this fallacy. What you seem to be claiming is that NOBODY holds this position. With this, I cannot agree. Regardless, this is a theological issue and not a logical one dealing with the described fallacy.
0 #9 Doug 2013-07-03 10:45
Add a little more context and you will have a fine example of cherry picking. Otherwise I must insist that you are committing the fallacy of accent by emphasizing the word “all”. We can leave the theological issues out of it or even re-work the sentence with an entirely different subject and predicate (as I have done with the Bill Russell example) and I think it's obvious. I know a lot of Christians who might make such a statement about God’s forgiveness, but would object to be understood in the way you have taken it. It makes me wonder who you have debated and whether you have understood them correctly or if they are just as poor in the theology as you suggest.
0 #10 Bo Bennett 2013-07-03 11:25
Fair enough, Doug. Thank you for your feedback :)
+1 #11 Doug 2013-07-04 08:09
Thank you for your interaction and your fine site.

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