The Genetic Fallacy

Written By: Ariana Karounos

Teacher: Mr. Jimmy Schambach

Class: Informal Logic: Art of Argument, Section 2

Issue: Set to Appear in the February Issue of the Newsletter

 

If I told you not to trust a word your doctor is telling you because he is overweight, would you give me credibility? Just because your doctor is obese, that doesn’t mean the information he provides you with about how to improve your health is invalid. Generally speaking, arguments stand or fall on their own merits and not on those of their sources. As you can see from my example, it is fallacious to either endorse or condemn an idea based on its past. This is called committing the genetic fallacy. Despite its name (coming from Ancient Greek as genesis, meaning beginnings), the genetic fallacy has nothing to do with genetic patterns, but rather, it refers to a type of logical fallacy in which an argument is rated on the basis of where it
comes from. The genetic fallacy is committed whenever an idea is evaluated based upon irrelevant history.

The genetic fallacy occurs when a claim is accepted as true or false based on the origin of the claim. When in an argument, this fallacy is used by not looking at the actual merits of the claim, but by judging the idea based on its origin. A lot of misconceptions are made while
looking at individuals who are Christian. It may be thought that the person is only christian due to their parents’ beliefs. However, often times the children of atheists convert to christian or another God believing religion. The genetic fallacy in this example is found where you assume that the person is christian due to where they came from, what their parents believed, or what the environmental factors were. It is irrelevant that the idea is judged by someone or something’s
history.

Let’s just say someone gives progressive reasons to explain their beliefs. The problem is explaining the cause for the claim is usually irrelevant to whether the claim is true. For example, let’s say there is evidence that Mia snuck and ate a chocolate bar. The first question in a relevant argument would be “where is the proof?” not “who told you that Mia ate a chocolate bar?” Therefore, this fallacy is used to make the argument sound as if it is has proven facts, to get people to believe why the argument is made (in a one-sided view) rather than how logical it is.

Fallacies are attempts to neglect the steps of a logical argument for the purpose of winning it. The genetic fallacy follows this pattern, as you may have read about within the past few minutes. The genetic fallacy is fallacious because the truth of a statement is in no way based on the origin of the concept. When evaluating an argument, keep in mind it is more valuable to question the validity of the information over the source. Next time you are in a debate, pay attention to the truth claim of the argument on the legitimacy of the idea or facts rather than the origin of its claim or premise!

 

Works Cited

College, Ivy Tech Community. “English 112: Exposition and Persuasion.” Lumen, https://
courses.lumenlearning.com/ivytech-engl112/chapter/formal-and-informal-fallacies/.
“Genetic Fallacy.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 25 Oct. 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/
wiki/Genetic_fallacy.

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