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Appeal to ridicule, also called appeal to mockery, the Horse Laugh,[1] or reductio ad ridiculum (Latin: "reduction to the ridiculous"), is a logical fallacy which presents the opponent's argument in a way that appears ridiculous, often to the extent of creating a straw man of the actual argument. For example:

  • If Einstein's theory of relativity is right, that would mean that when I drive my car it gets shorter and heavier the faster I go. That's crazy! (This is, in fact, true, but the effect is so minuscule a human observer will not notice.)
  • If the theory of evolution were true, that would mean that all the apes wouldn't be here any more, since they all would have evolved into humans! (False, since the theory states that not every individual of a species will evolve along with the environment; or that all remaining individuals of a species will cease to exist when the environment changes.)

This is a rhetorical tactic which mocks an opponent's argument, attempting to inspire an emotional reaction (making it a type of appeal to emotion) in the audience and to highlight the counter-intuitive aspects of that argument, making it appear foolish and contrary to common sense. This is typically done by demonstrating the argument's logic in an extremely absurd way or by presenting the argument in an overly simplified way, and often involves an appeal to consequences.

Appeal to Ridicule is often found in the form of challenging one's credentials or maturity;

  • Nobody believes in socialism after college! Grow up.

The argument is ridiculed on the basis that having a view commonly associated with youth is somehow invalid.

Other such fallacious arguments may include:

  • You haven't even graduated from college yet! Come back and talk to me when you have your Ph.D
  • It's funny you think you know so much about people, even though you're not a psychologist.
  • It's funny you think you know so much about money, even though you're not an economist.
  • He is not married, therefore he must not know anything about relationships!
  • She is not a parent, therefore she must not know anything about children!
  • She is not a man, therefore she must not know anything about men!
  • She is younger than I am, therefore she cannot know more than I do!
  • Don't like X? What's the matter? Too deep for you?

Although they appear very similar, this fallacy should not be confused with reductio ad absurdum, which is a valid type of logical argument. It should also not be confused with ridiculing the person making the argument, which is a form of the ad hominem fallacy.

See also

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