Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Fallacy of Phantom Distinction
"A certificate of live birth is not the same thing by any stretch of the imagination as a birth certificate." - Donald Trump
Excuse me sir, what?
In Donald Trump's infamous search for the "long lost" birth certificate of Barack Obama, he made an argument that absolutely everyone could deny. A birth certificate's information is copied directly from a certificate of live birth from the hospital by a public agency, but Trump tried to differentiate between the two in order to be "right." Here, we have a perfect example of the fallacy of phantom distinction.
According to palomar.edu, fallacy of phantom distinction is defined as an argument that "appeals to a distinction that ultimately cannot be explained of defended in a meaningful way."
Counselor to the President of the United States Kellyanne Conway loves a good phantom distinction, and might have created the most impressive one yet. When asked in an interview why the public was given false information about the crowd size at Donald Trump's inauguration, she simply stated that the numbers were not lies, but instead "alternative facts." Facts that aren't true are just that, lies. The "Trump Train" might want to hit the brakes and leave the phantoms on the track.
Take your ultra-conservative grandparents for example, who "don't believe in gay marriage" but are progressive enough to believe that "gay couples should be allowed civil unions with the same rights as heterosexual couples." So, you mean exactly like marriage, right?
This argument is often used to make beliefs sound "less ugly." While gay marriage is an extremely controversial topic, "civil unions" just sounds a tad less contentious.
In any argument in which the distinctions have no meaningful differences, you will find yourself a phantom distinction.