False Equivalence

False Equivalence: Definition & Helpful Examples of False Equivalence Fallacy

What is false equivalence fallacy? When thinking about logical fallacies in the English language, there are many different types and this can be confusing when trying to understand them all. However, one of the best ways is to learn about each one in depth, therefore gaining a greater understanding.

In this article, we are going to be looking at false equivalence fallacy a little more closely. We are going to take a look at what it is and how it works as well as taking a look at some examples to further show its function.

False Equivalence

What Is False Equivalence Fallacy?

The false equivalence fallacy is one where the speaker or writer compares one thing to another to try to draw a logical conclusion, when in fact no such similarity exists meaning that no such conclusion can be drawn. To look at it in even more simple terms, you might say that ‘that is not equal to this’ in essence disproving a claim containing a false equivalence fallacy. In many cases, upon first hearing a false equivalence fallacy, one might automatically assume that the opposing arguments are in fact, logically equal but upon closer inspection, it becomes obvious that they are not.

This type of fallacy shows a cognitive bias in which ideas, situations, objects or events are compared to one another by the writer or speaker who claims that they are the same as each other when in reality there are many differences between the two. The differences within a false equivalence fallacy can be made up of anything such as quantity, appearance, and many others. It is very easy for this type of fallacy to make its way into the conversation and it quite often makes an appearance in the media.

False Equivalence Examples

Now that we have a better understanding of what this type of fallacy is, we need to take a look at some examples to further demonstrate how it works within a conversation.

One of the most common examples is made when describing the false equivalence fallacy as ‘comparing oranges to apples.’ One might assume that this could be done as the two have one thing in common – they are both fruit, but this does not mean that they are at all similar. On closer inspection, we see that they are two completely different things. Let’s now take a look at some more examples of the false equivalence fallacy.

  • Mr. Brown has committed fraud on many occasions and has served time in prison, Mr. Black once got a speeding ticket, they are both criminals. – In this example a comparison is made between two people, clearly, they have both committed illegal acts but they are so far separated that they simply cannot be logically compared.
  • Dynamite and a knife are both weapons are therefore the same thing. – Clearly both items can be used as weapons but that is as far as their similarities go and therefore it would be completely absurd to say that both things are the same when they have more differences than not.
  • You cannot judge the company for dumping bio waste in the oceans when you threw a soda can on the floor at the park – In this statement, the speaker is making a comparison between two forms of ‘environmental damage’ which are at either end of the extremes. Whilst they are both damaging, they are nowhere near close to one another and have a huge amount of differences and therefore cannot be logically compared.
  • Hamsters and horses can both be kept as pets, therefore they are the same. – The speaker in this example is assuming that because the two animals share one thing in common that they are both equal when in reality these two creatures could not be more unalike, making this an example of a false equivalence fallacy.

Conclusion

The false equivalence fallacy is one which shows up regularly in day to day conversation as well as in written pieces such as newspaper articles and other media. Quite often, it is not an intended fallacy and one may assume to begin with that the comparison between two things is logical, however upon closer inspection, these are seen to be illogical and therefore a fallacy.

False Equivalence Fallacy Infographic

False Equivalence Fallacy

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