Winning Discussions: The Genetic Fallacy (Effective Pirating)

Winning Discussions: The Genetic Fallacy (Effective Pirating)

Logical fallacies are techniques that people use to make an argument appear convincing even when it is wrong. Learning how to identify and refute logical fallacies is one of the best ways to win in a discussion. Catching an opponent committing a fallacy will force him to retract his error or he will appear foolish or manipulative to his audience. There is a dark side to this. Once you learn to identify logical fallacies you will also be able to use them. Do not deliberately use them against fellow Pirates; it is extreme bad manners and you will most probably be caught out.

The Logical Fallacy – The Genetic Fallacy

This is where someone tries to prove (or disprove) an argument based on the ‘origin of something’ (or using a person). It does not account for changes that have occurred in the meantime and often imputes things that are irrelevant to the current situation.

An idea that came from a source that may have been suspect in the past does not become invalid just because of where it came from. Many people would be averse towards drinking water that was recycled from animal urine, no matter how pure the final product becomes. However, it is a fact that everyday we drink water that has passed through the kidneys of dinosaurs. To think that there is some sort of residual trait, that lasted millions of years, is absurd but most of us will experience some unease at the thought.

Another form for the genetic fallacy is similar to the ad hominem fallacy. People are wary of something associated with someone. If someone is regarded as evil, like serial killer Fred West, then objects belonging to them become “evil” as well (would you wear Fred West’s sweater?). Thus people can be persuaded to reject an argument from a person or a group, if they are regarded as less good.

Any argument or refutation based on the origin of an argument, or the person making the argument, can be a genetic fallacy. The claim may be true but it is not relevant to the context of the argument.  To put it simply: the source, whether person, place, time or of the argument makes it wrong or questionable.


This policy is from a socialist/capitalist writer and therefore must be opposed.

Corporal punishment is in the Bible therefore it must be right

The accusation was made on Fox News. Fox news is trustworthy so the accusation must true.

She is a Catholic and will support Catholic dogma meaning her ideas cannot be take seriously.



You can read more about the genetic logical fallacy in a wikipedia post and logical fallacies in general in this wikipedia article.
Remember that just because someone commits a logical fallacy it does not mean their argument is necessarily incorrect. If you have the time and resources then use the principles of scepticism to test their reasoning objectively.

This article is a part of a series called Effective Pirating:

Winning Discussions: The Genetic Fallacy (Effective Pirating) /06/15
Winning Discussions: If-By-Whiskey (Effective Pirating)
Winning Discussions: Special Pleading (Effective Pirating) 04/05/15
Winning Discussions: Argument from Repetition – ad nauseum (Effective Pirating) 02/04/15
Winning Discussions: No True Scotsman (Effective Pirating)
Winning Discussions: The Fallacy Fallacy (Effective Pirating) 09/01/15
Winning Discussions: The Gambler’s Fallacy (Effective Pirating)
Winning Discussions: argumentum ad ignorantiam (Effective Pirating)
Winning Discussions: post hoc, ergo propter hoc (Effective Pirating)
Winning Discussions: Ad Hominem (Effective Pirating)
Winning Discussions: Appeal to Fear (Effective Pirating) 21/10/14
Winning Discussions: Begging the Question (Effective Pirating) 17/8/14
Winning Discussions – The Bandwagon Fallacy (Effective Pirating) 11/8/14
Effective Pirating: Winning Discussions – Tu Quoque 24/7/14
Effective Pirating: Winning Discussions – The Straw Man 17/7/14
Effective Pirating: Choose your Opponents Carefully 7/7/14

Featured image: CCBY-NC-SA Neal Fowler