In my article on the appeal to emotion, I wrote about how we can address the consequences of abortion being banned and where that will lead. Some readers familiar with logic might have recognized that such talk can be close to what is called the “slippery slope” fallacy.
This is an important fallacy to cover, since it’s often used by politicians to point out the disastrous results if a certain bill or measure is passed or not passed. Now to say that X will happen if we do or do not do Y is not necessarily fallacious. What is fallacious is when no necessary correlation can be shown between X and Y. It also does not mean the person has to be absolutely right when they predict what will or will not happen. They just have to show a correlation.
This can be done on both sides in the religious debate, and keep in mind that a fallacy is a fallacy no matter who says it. For instance, some say that if we were to allow prayer in schools, then we’re right on our way to becoming a theocracy and Christianity will rule the nation. On the other hand, some will suppose that if we were to accept (which I don’t) the incrimination that there might be an error in the Bible, then the whole of Christianity is false,nothing in the Bible is true, and we are still in our sins. Both examples are slippery slope fallacies.
The slippery slope is just starting with one small piece of data and going on to larger conclusions that are not supported by the data. If prayer is allowed in schools, does that mean that all of a sudden Christians will rise up and take over the government? No. If there is an error in the Bible, does that mean we are to doubt that Jesus existed and the crucifixion took place? No. Even liberal New Testament scholars who don’t accept Inerrancy do not question that Jesus existed and was crucified. This is panic-button pushing, and the great danger is that if you fall for one slippery slope argument, you’ll fall for all of them.
That last statement is the great joke to help you learn about slippery slopes. Falling for one fallacy does not necessarily lead to falling for all of them. A great place to learn to control this is in our own thinking. Imagine a guy going on a date with a girl, looking back over the evening, and realizing one goof he made. Now you can imagine the mental talk he’s having.
“I can’t believe I did that. What a goof I was. She must think I’m really weird. She’ll never want to go out with me again. Who would? I’ll never find someone right for me. I’ll just be single for the rest of my life. I’m such a loser.”
Meanwhile, if we check with the young lady, it could be she might not even know what the guy is worrying about, or she thought it was cute. Romeo on the other hand is in a panic about something that could be totally ignored or could even be a benefit in his favor. Romeo is falling for slippery slope thinking.
Let’s conclude with this reminder: Good logic is not just a matter of pointing out errors in the thinking around you--it’s also pointing out errors in your own thinking. We all want to think logically as good followers of Christ. Part of that is avoiding slippery slopes.
Nick Peters is a social media and communications specialist for Ratio Christi and in charge of their Issues and Answers service. You can support Nick’s ministry at Ratio Christi.