Fallacy of the bad slope: stopping change by resorting to fear

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Joe Dispenza
@joedispenza
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A fallacy is an argument that at first appears to be valid, but in reality it is not. We all fall into the trap. Some fallacies are intentionally committed to persuade or manipulate others, while others are not intentional but due to errors in the logic of thought or ignorance. The bad slope fallacy, also known as the slippery slope fallacy or the inclined plane fallacy, is one of the most common and harmful, but it is poorly understood, so it is difficult to detect and eliminate.



What is the fallacy of bad china?

This fallacy is based on the idea that taking action A will drag us down a slippery slope that will inevitably lead us to action B. And, of course, B is horrible. Therefore, if we don't want to end up in scenario B, it's best to never take action A.

Basically, it is a biased method of persuasion or manipulation that serves as a warning against an outcome that the person presenting the topic does not want to materialize because they consider it negative or even harmful.

However, in general terms, this reasoning is often incorrect because it does not provide arguments to prove the existence of the slippery slope. In other words, when inevitability is not proven, the reasoning becomes a fallacy.

The slippery slope fallacy is often used as an "argument" to hold new or different revolutionary proposals that generate fear in power or in a generally more conservative section of the population. For example, this argument was used to prevent the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes. The detractors of this proposal argue that it would pave the way for the full legalization of all types of drugs and, therefore, lead to an exponential increase in the consumption of harmful substances. However, legalizing a substance for medicinal purposes in no way implies legalizing the use of other harmful substances.



The fallacy of bad china has also been used against voluntary euthanasia to indicate that it should be banned from the start because if we don't, sooner or later we will be forced to accept other types of euthanasia that are unacceptable. But accepting voluntary euthanasia for the terminally ill does not necessarily mean accepting other forms of euthanasia.

Gun control laws in countries like the United States have also been challenged by arguments that leverage the slippery slope. There are those who argue that if any kind of gun control is imposed, the next step will be to eliminate them completely. And if that happens, they will not be able to defend themselves against criminals and terrorist attacks, in which case terrorists and criminals will eventually take over the country. Obviously, one thing does not inevitably lead to the other.

Risk and fear as deterrents

The fallacy of the inclined plane relies on the “inevitable” risk and the fear it generates. In this way, his arguments activate our emotional brain and deactivate our logical thinking, preventing us from rationally assessing the risks.

However, a risk is nothing more than the likelihood that an event with a negative impact will occur or that certain factors or decisions increase the likelihood of it happening. Life is a risk, but articulating narrative discourse around a chain of risks that do not necessarily have a causal relationship implies unnecessarily generating fear, anxiety and anger in order to manipulate.

When these affective states take over, there is a real emotional hijacking and we cannot think clearly. The mere possibility of B happening scares us so much that we prefer to avoid A, if only out of excessive caution.


But succumbing to the slippery slope fallacy can lock us into too narrow a comfort zone in which we never try anything new or dare to take on new projects. On a social level, this fallacy condemns us to immobility, binding us to conservative values ​​and old ways of doing things that do not involve natural evolution. Therefore, this overly cautious behavior ends up being maladaptive.


How to detect and dismantle the fallacy of the bad slope?

The best weapon we have against the fallacy of the slippery slope is critical thinking. Critical thinking will allow us to realize that there is no linear relationship between A and B. However, to think clearly, we must first take sufficient psychological distance to allow us to detach ourselves emotionally from the arguments presented by other people.

If B's ​​perspective generates fear and anxiety, we will not be able to realize the fallacy it hides. Therefore, we must ask ourselves: what is the relationship between A and B? Action A will inevitably lead to B? What can I do to avoid B? We must keep in mind that the simple "it could happen" is not a valid answer. Instead, it is necessary to anticipate the possible outcomes of action A by evaluating the real possibilities that B will occur.

In any case, we must keep in mind that we cannot predict the future, so it is not possible to guarantee with 100% certainty that a certain event will happen. In addition, there is a period of time between the occurrence of A and B in which various factors can intervene that increase or decrease the chances of the unwanted event occurring.


The slippery slope fallacy assumes that the transition process between A and B is direct and almost immediate, it does not provide for the possibility of stopping in the middle. But in real life, that's not always the case. In fact, we often have the opportunity to stop before reaching the point of no return. Many times we can stop the transition between the starting point and the ending point.

All slippery slope warnings are not fallacious

It is worth saying that all slippery slope arguments are not inherently fallacious. In some cases, the warning may be based on a logical form of reasoning that indicates a high likelihood of the undesired event occurring.


For example, thinking that allowing people to light fires in forests while leaving them unattended will likely end up with fires is not a fallacy, but a common sense prediction.

To determine whether a slippery slope really exists or is it a fallacy, it is necessary to consider all the factors leading to the final event (B) and the connection between them. The more factors are missing on that slope, the more disconnected they are and the greater the distance between point A and B, the more likely it is to be a fallacy.

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