The Genetic fallacy

Posted on Jun 18, 2011 in Logical Fallacies

This is where a conclusion is suggested based solely on something or someone’s origin rather than its current meaning or context.

This fallacy can be broken down into two sections (a) It’s a line of reasoning in which a perceived fault in the origin of a claim is taken to be evidence that discredits the claim itself. (b) It is also a line of reasoning in which the origin of a claim is taken to be evidence for the claim.

Example 1 for (a): “You’re not going to wear a wedding ring, are you? Don’t you know that the wedding ring originally symbolized ankle chains worn by women to prevent them from running away from their husbands?”. Just because you know the sexist origin of the wedding ring, it is logically inappropriate to reject it based on this argument alone. This actually also commits the Etymological fallacy which suggests that the historical meaning of a word or phrase is necessarily similar to its actual present-day meaning.

Example 2 for (a): “We don’t need God, we can explain that faith originated as a result of fear and anxiety”. Firstly, that is not how faith started, but even if it were true, it commits The Genetic Fallacy – it suggests that “just because that’s the way the belief originated, therefore the belief is false”.

Example 3 for (a): “Your God can’t be true, because you were just brought up to believe in him”. Just because you were brought up to believe in God, it doesn’t follow that believing in God is invalid. The statement commits The Genetic Fallacy.

Example 4 for (b): “I know evolution is true because I was taught it all my life in school”. Just because you were taught something all your life, doesn’t make it necessarily true! After all, for centuries they taught the Earth is flat.

Just because they taught it, it didn’t make it true.

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