Christmas Eve Party Game: Spot the Logical Fallacy!

What better way to celebrate Christmas Eve than with a game the whole family can play? So gather round the tree, load up the eggnog with some Barbancourt 5 star, and stand by for fun!

Rules: Each question begins with an illustrative scenario, after which follows one or more puzzlers. Points are awarded based on difficulty.

  1. Shauna Wilton, a female professor of political sciences at the University of Alberta has it in for Thomas the Tank Engine, which is England’s version of Barney, but on wheels. Wilton has academically analyzed 23—count ’em!—Thomas episodes and doesn’t like the way they portray women! She wants it changed! Now! Here’s what she says:

    The female characters weren’t necessarily portrayed any more negatively than the male characters or the male trains, but they did tend to play more secondary roles and they’re often portrayed as being bossy or know-it-alls.

    Bossy. Hmmm. More from the story:

    [Wilton] also objected to the way the show portrays Thomas, Percy and James slaving away for wealthy bosses like the Fat Controller.

    Turns out that that darn Thomas is a…a…a conservative! And the children that watch him “will [someday] attain full political citizenship, and the opinions and world outlook they develop now, partially influenced by shows like Thomas, are part of that process.”

    10 points Now for the question, in the form of a statement: The University of Alberta charges its students tuition. Criticize.

    Hat tip to reader and contributer Ari Schwartz.

  2. Paul Kotta, a Livermore, California resident, in a letter to the New York Times (D) called people who do not subscribe, as he religiously does, to the Anthropogenic Greenhouse Warming theory of climate, “deniers.” He argues that “[o]ver the years, various industries have launched coordinated propaganda efforts to deny now accepted facts like the cancer-causing effects of tobacco or that seat belts save lives.” He adds that some industries now deny “the role of pollution in climate change.” Therefore, AGW is true.

    20 points Question: has Kotta soaked up too much California sun, or has he hit upon a brand new logical proof of AGW?

  3. Houston Baker, now a “distinguished” professor of English at Vanderbilt, was a professor at Duke, and was one of the 88 professors who published an open letter condemning the Lacrosse team players falsely accused of rape.

    In June 2006, Baker falsely suggested that Duke lacrosse players had raped other women. In a pervasively ugly response to a polite e-mail from the mother of a Duke lacrosse player, he called the team “a scummy bunch of white males” and the woman the “mother of a ‘farm animal.’ “

    What fun! And what a beautiful use of the English language from a “distinguished” professor of the same. (Nobody has ever discovered whether he apologized—-but your intrepid reporter has emailed him: hold your breath until we receive a response.)

    Vanderbilt loved Baker’s prose, even if you didn’t, and they hired him away from Duke. (Diversity! Diversity!) There, he wrote the book Betrayal: How Black Intellectuals Have Abandoned the Ideals of the Civil Rights Era, which accuses many black intellectuals of, among other crimes, “centrism”, which are activities conducted at the expense of the “black majority.”

    One of his arguments is that the prison population is rising (it has since fallen), and that some prisoners are black (they are). Baker suspects the “prison-industrial complex”, whereby some private companies build and run prisons, of making profits (they do). His implication is that the new prisons that are built must be filled else the companies involved won’t profit (true). Therefore, the “complex”, through nefarious means, generates incarcerations.

    10 points Question 1 (non-logical): Define distinguished.

    30 points Question 2: What came first, the criminal or his cage?

  4. Congressman Alan Grayson (D – Florida), who hobbies include chasing ambulances and soliciting for his own personal “money bomb“, was irked, irritated, and downright incensed that citizen Angie Langley created the voodoo website So peeved was Grayson that he wrote our illustrious Attorney General (the same gentleman who wants to bring the 9/11 murderers to New York City because, uh, well, just because) and demanded that the United States government “imprison [Angie Langley] for 5 years” for speaking poorly of him.

    Part of the United States’s Constitution—the supreme law of the land, trumping, for now, even “progressive” politicians—says, and I quote:

    Congress shall make no law..abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press

    To repeat: Congressman Alan Grayson (D – Florida) is a congressman, a guardian of our Constitution.

    10 points Question 1 (non-logical): How much money could an energetic trial lawyer hope to pull down in a year if he charges a contingency fee of thirty-three percent?

    40 points Question 2: How many people can you arrest for political dissent before you violate the Constitution.?

That’s it for now. Have a ball and be sure to check back for our New Year’s game: What Kind of a Dumb Idea Was That?


  1. DAV

    1. I don’t think I ever met a political science prof. who wasn’t a bossy know-it-all. When the shoe fits …. But, in any case, slaving away for a Fat Cat University is not the same thing as they are showing good thoughts by hiring bossy, know-it-all political science professors.

    2. I emphatically deny being a denier

    3. turns out my definition of distinguished more aptly applies to extinguished so I distinguished it

    4. What could possibly be wrong here? The answer to the 40 point question is 27.5 with a 95% confidence interval [-30, -5]

    I recently came across a blatant unscientific statement on a MSM outlet (ESPN): “If your parents never had children chances are neither will you.” Obviously, this will require many years and many careful statistical analyses. It’s doubtful that ESPN conducted any. I will gladly accept a position on the faculty of the University of Alberta provided I don’t have to associate with bossy, know-it-all political science types.

  2. MrCPhysics

    1. Slippery slope. Assuming necessary causal linkages resulting in a series of increasingly horrifying consequences, where none of the causal linkages are supported with evidence.

    2. False analogy. Tobacco “science” back then is not remotely similar to modern skeptical science concerning the climate. Too many differences to list them, but one primary difference is that the oil companies did not control the release of the results, as the tobacco companies did.

    3. Lack of causal support. Arguing that the black prison population increasing benefits organization A does not mean that organization A caused the increase. Sunshine benefits plant life–did the plants cause the sun to shine?

    4. Special pleading (ad hoc argumentation). A simple example of someone saying “these are the rules, but pay no attention to them when it comes to how they affect me.”

    #4 seems less like a logical fallacy and more like abject stupidity, since the congressman isn’t really making an argument.

    Even if one does not ask or pretends not to see the rope and the flashing red flag draped around the philosophical question standing solemnly at attention in the middle of the room, it remains apparent that the mere presence of a private “for profit” driven prison business in our country undermines the U.S Constitution and subsequently the credibility of the American criminal justice system. In fact, until all private prisons in America have been abolished and outlawed, “the promise” of fairness and justice at every level of this country’s judicial system will remain unattainable. We must restore the principles and the vacant promise of our judicial system. Our government cannot continue to “job-out” its obligation and neglect its duty to the individuals confined in the correctional and rehabilitation facilities throughout this nation, nor can it ignore the will of the people that it was designed to serve and protect. There is urgent need for the good people of this country to emerge from the shadows of indifference, apathy, cynicism, fear, and those other dark places that we migrate to when we are overwhelmed by frustration and the loss of hope.
    My hope is that you will support the National Public Service Council to Abolish Private Prisons (NPSCTAPP) with a show of solidarity by signing “The Single Voice Petition”

    Please visit our website for further information:

    –Ahma Daeus
    “Practicing Humanity Without A License”…

  4. Speed

    1. Life is not fair — get over it.

    2. Tobacco causes cancer. Cancer causes inflammation. Inflamed tissue is usually warm. Tobacco causes Global Warming.

    3a. Distinguished is the opposite of Extinguished. For example, “He distinguished the flames by pouring gasoline on the fire.”
    3b. The egg.

    4a. All of it. See answer 1 above.
    4b. You can’t arrest people for political dissent, you have to call it “loitering.” Sometimes “attempted loitering.”

    What do I win, Johnny?

  5. 49erDweet

    –Ahma Daeus. You need more practice, bro, ‘cuz right now you are only up to the blithering idiot level and there are many more “miles to go before you sleep”.

    Recently noted in passing the governator cancelled state contracts with two private prisons for low risk prisoners in northern Kern County because of “under utilization”. “Under utilization” is a code term meaning the unionized prison staff won’t de-classify enough prisoners to make them eligible for “farming out” to the privates. Can Ahma Daeus say “job protection”? Makes no difference, of course, that it costs 3x+$ to jam them into public prisons.

  6. Les Johnson

    As an alumni of the U of A, it pains me to see such reports from that university.

    Sadly, there are more, and worse examples.

    That university is an enclave of liberals and centralization, in an endless landscape of conservatives and libertarianism. The University staff must feel much like the British at Isandlwana, or the US army at Little Big Horn.

    Anyway, to all a Merry Christmas, or Happy Chanukah, or Eid Mubarak, or Happy Dvali.

    Or, if those are not PC enough for the U of A, Happy Fesitvus.

  7. Ray

    “deny now accepted facts like the cancer-causing effects of tobacco”

    Kotta has obviously missed the obvious and doesn’t know how to fact check or use GOOGLE. No one knows what causes cancer. The causal mechanism and etiology are unknown. Anybody that tells you this or that causes cancer or this or that will prevent or cure cancer is BSing you.

    Here are the facts. In 1971 the National Cancer Institute was tasked to find the cause of cancer and they confidently predicted they would find the cause within 5 years, by 1976. Well, have you ever seen the NCI announce they have discovered the cause of cancer? The answer is no. The last time I checked they were confidently predicting they would discover the cause of cancer by 2015. Look at this NCI website, the next to last paragraph .

  8. Joe Triscari

    The “tobacco companies funded junk science therefore AGW is true” argument is one of the surest signs of scientific illiteracy these days.

    Let’s review what tobacco company funded junk science looked like. First and most important, it was irreproducible. If someone from the outside tried to reproduce the work they might be confronted with idiotic excuses for not receiving the data like, “it’s proprietary” or “we lost the data when we changed offices.” If it’s not reproducible it’s not science. Second, a cigarette company would cherry pick data. If a rat died in an experiment, the “scientist” would look for an excuse to exclude it from the study. Finally, the work published by cigarette company scientists was published in peer reviewed journals where the editorial process was manipulated.

    You don’t have to look far in the AGW debate for these practices and it’s not happening on the side of “deniers.”

  9. Briggs


    OK, let’s accept your premise that private prisons are amoral. Now let’s take a whack at those questions.


    Seems to me the ESPN argument is spot on (and it even incorporates the likelihood of clone’s reproducing, given their inherent instability).


    You win our gratitude.


    Merry Christmas!

  10. Greg

    q1) It’s a crime that U of A charges tuition. With stellar academics, such as Prof. Wilton, the U of A should be paying people to attend.

    q2) Since the AGW crowd denies the variability of natural climate change, and since they deny the good mathematics required to make decent graphs of temperature trends, and since they deny the observed reality of climate change (such as the current cooling, the increased global biomass from increased CO2, the longer growing seasons, and the increased ranges of all sorts of plants and critters) then I argue that the term “denier” is placed upon the heads of the wrong group of people.

    q2, answer 2) Given the above realities, Mr. Kotta has not only soaked up too much sun, he’s also soaked up too much in the way of illegal chemicals. AlGorebatrol, for one.

    q3) Distinguished: Any professor that advances leftist philosophy.

    4a) $37, 484, 293.12

    4b) He’s a Democrat. The only answer is, “What constitution?” Or… “Are you kidding me???”

    Merry Christmas to all of you and yours.

  11. DAV


    SHHHH! You’ll ruin everything!

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