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Genetic Fallacy

(also known as: fallacy of origins, fallacy of virtue)

Description: Basing the truth claim of an argument on the origin of its claims or premises.

Logical Form:

The origin of the claim is presented.

Therefore, the claim is true/false.

Example #1:

Lisa was brainwashed as a child into thinking that people are generally good.  Therefore, people are not generally good.

Explanation: That fact that Lisa may have been brainwashed as a child, is irrelevant to the claim that people are generally good.

Example #2:

He was born to Catholic parents and raised as a Catholic until his confirmation in 8th grade.  Therefore, he is bound to want to defend some Catholic traditions and, therefore, cannot be taken seriously.

Explanation: I am referring to myself here.  While my upbringing was Catholic, and I have long since considered myself a Catholic, that is irrelevant to any defenses I make of Catholicism -- like the fact that many local churches do focus on helping the community through charity work.  If I make an argument defending anything Catholic, the argument should be evaluated on the argument itself, not on the history of the one making the argument or how I came to hold the claims as true or false.

Exception: At times, the origin of the claim is relevant to the truth of the claim. 

I believe in closet monsters because my big sister told me unless I do whatever she tells me, the closet monsters will eat me.

References:

Engel, S. M., Soldan, A., & Durand, K. (2007). The Study of Philosophy. Rowman & Littlefield.



Registered User Comments

Anthony
Thursday, May 17, 2018 - 11:58:20 AM
Do I also commit the genetic fallacy if I tell a christian that he should not celebrate christmas because of it pagan origin while refering to biblical texts that are against pagan activities.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Thursday, May 17, 2018 - 12:32:19 PM
Not really, because the truth of a claim is not in question here.

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Krista Neckles
Friday, May 04, 2018 - 07:53:23 AM
Hello Sir,

Some people in the autism advocacy community have argued that the current diagnostic criteria for the disorder may not be applicable to females because it was written based on the behavior of males. If an arguer says this is it the genetic fallacy?Can diagnostic tests still be applicable to both boys and girls even though the criteria was originally writen with boys in mind?

Thank you Sir.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Friday, May 04, 2018 - 08:27:39 AM
I think you are taking "genetic" literally here. This fallacy uses "genetic" figuratively, as in origin. Regardless, one would have to provide a compelling reason by gender/sex difference matters in the diagnostics. This is not my area of specialty so I don't know if such a reason exists.

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Krista Neckles
Friday, May 04, 2018 - 09:35:52 AM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: Hello Sir. I was not thinking of "genetic" literally. What i meant was that because the diagnostic criteria originated from men, and there is speculation that girls are undiagnosed, some say that the criteria is set out to exclude females who really could have autism.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Friday, May 04, 2018 - 10:40:08 AM
@Krista Neckles: I see. In research, the sample used is different from what is meant by origin in this fallacy. It is more mean to be source of information... perhaps the journal in which the study is published.

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Krista Neckles
Saturday, May 05, 2018 - 09:07:00 AM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: Oh thank you sir I understand.

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NJH
Sunday, December 10, 2017 - 09:49:25 PM
There seems to be two conclusions in here: "he is bound to want to defend some Catholic traditions and, therefore, cannot be taken seriously."
- The former, I would say, has a likelihood of following on from the premise ie Catholics tend to want to defend RC traditions (pace lapsed Catholics etc). The other is that Catholics cannot be taken seriously. And the latter is presented as following from the former, which is an opinion. It reads: "He is a Catholic (he is very Catholic}, so cannot be taken seriously."
It might be valid to say, however, that someone who is brainwashed and inculcated into a cult from an early age may display biases and faulty thinking that would disqualify him from being taken seriously. But you would still have to show your workings here: what specific thinking disqualifies him or her.

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Jay
Thursday, September 07, 2017 - 03:53:55 PM
Is this a genetic fallacy? The argument is that television is good for children, she states- Australians have the right to keep or do whatever they want in the privacy of their own homes, as long as it is legal. These rights are at the core of Australia's values and traditions. All true Australians must hope that Trumble's recommendations are not followed.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Friday, September 08, 2017 - 10:07:35 AM
I see this as more of an opinion or perhaps a non-sequitur. It does not follow that because people can do whatever they want in their own homes as long as it's legal, then television is good for children. Good and legal are very different.

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