Intellectual dishonesty takes many forms. One of the most common occurs when we look at the collection of arguments someone is making to support a claim, select the weakest among them, ignore the rest, and respond as though the weakest support is the only support.
Often, mockery follows. We heap scorn on the whole claim, emphasizing the absurdity of the one weak supporting idea.
I’m saying “we” here because it’s a common human failing. Some do it because the situation is emotionally charged and they haven’t learned to use analytical distance and other structured thinking skills.
That’s really not an excuse. That kind of interaction isn’t the way any lover of truth should behave. Upholding truth is more important than winning the fight.
An Emotionally Neutral (Hopefully) Example
Imagine someone gives a speech to a national audience promoting houseplants. The main idea of the speech is that every American should buy houseplants immediately. In support of his claim, the speaker uses the following arguments.