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Friday, March 22, 2013

The Straw Man.

Iv'e noticed members of the online autism community have increasingly taken to using the term 'Straw Man'. I guess this was inevitable given how many people connected to autism also read sites dedicated to challenging quackery especially those that purport to 'cure' ASD, or those that claim autism is caused by vaccines. Two areas in which Strawman fallacy, ad hominem attack and Godwin's law  are well worn strategies used in arguments and debates.

A Straw Man argument is essentially a refutation of a point of view that does not actually address the specific points of that view.

It is not disagreement on a point. Nor is it seeking to clarify a point, or even extrapolating on a point, as long as you are aware of the original and acknowledge it. It may happen by misunderstanding a point thereby not specifically addressing it, if we're being generous. It may even be an attempt to broaden the parameters of an argument in order to address a related issue you think is relevant. It is a way of seeking to argue against a position while misrepresenting the original point/s. And it's most often used by those who are determined to hold to their views thereby engaging in deliberate avoidance of any argument or fact that may challenge or contradict their perspective.

Ok, so just to repeat. If I ask you to clarify a point, or I ask a relevant question in relation to the topic, or simply state I disagree, this is NOT a Straw Man. No matter how much you enjoy using the term. Its just not always appropriate. Sometimes calling 'smart arse' is far more accurate.