If Your Friends Jumped Off A Cliff….

The Logical Fallacy for today is called The Appeal To Common Practice. The format looks like this:

1) X is a common action.

2)Therefore X is correct/moral/justified/reasonable, etc.

The basis of this fallacy is that since most people do/say X then X is the right or acceptable thing to do or say.

This fallacy is used to promote and justify bigotry, inequitable practices and general assholery. A more formal model looks like this:

1) It is common practice to treat people of type Y in manner X and to treat people of type Z in a different manner.

2)There is no relevant difference between people of type Y and type Z.

3) Therefore people of type Z should be treated in manner X, too.

An example would be: “Sure, some people buy into that equality crap. However, we know that everyone pays women (type Y) less (manner X) than men (type Z). It’s okay, too. Since everyone does it, it can’t really be wrong.”

This is a nested example and can be a bit confusing. In this argument it is acceptable for Women (Type Y) to be paid less (Manner X) than Men (Type Z) because “everyone does it”.

The logical part of the argument continues that because there is no relative difference between women (Type Y) and men (Type Z), therefor men should be paid less (Manner X) too.

Unfortunately because “everybody does it”, it is socially/morally.ethically acceptable. This, dear reader, is a logical fallacy. Just like your Momma used to say “If all your friends jumped off a cliff would you do the same thing?” Simply because everyone else is doing something doesn’t automatically presume the correctness of the action or attitude.

I know…I know.. Some of you out there are thinking “Well if I had a parachute or a hang glider…” If you had one of those items, then sure, jump off the cliff. Just don’t let yourself “fall” into using that fallacy to justify an argument. Always reference the data. Find out what the correct information is. Don’t take everyone else’s word for something until YOU know it to be true or false.



  1. October 5, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    I agree. People tend to believe in something because most of the population believe in that too. Since every one thinks independently, I think we should encourage ourselves to have ideas and beliefs of our own.

    • Herbwoman said,

      October 6, 2009 at 10:12 am

      Sure, it’s always best to think for yourself. It’s even MORE important to analyze those thoughts and be certain that those ideas are based in fact. And even MORESO be willing to be flexible in our ideas. Science is finding new things every day so to stick with an idea even though there is concrete evidence to the contrary will just end up causing problems in the end.

      For instance, I used to think I could see auras. Then I became a skeptic and realized I was probably deluding myself. THEN a friend of mine on Facebook in a quantum physics group I belong to sent me a group of articles about how some rare individuals can see into the near infrared spectrum of light. This rare ability could be interpreted as seeing auras. So it’s important to be open minded yet examine everything.

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