Straw Men on Parade: When Research Findings Get Misrepresented

The simplest way to explain a straw man argument is that it is a fallacy based upon the misrepresentation of an opponent’s position.

It may oversimplify the opponent’s position or quote it out of context, stacking the deck so one’s argument may run over the opponent with the crushing totality of a Panzer tank division. In its worst incarnation, the straw man misrepresentation is deliberate and only the weakest target is chosen- that target is then held to represent the totality of the opponet’s being.

What is obvious and disturbing is that straw men are not just marketing ploys that we’ve become jaded to seeing in television commercials; they are found even in the highest echelons of peer-reviewed journals in medical literature. Straw men seem to have been particularly dominant in publications critical of alternative medical approaches, even appearing in at least one instance in a pharmaceutical company’s attempt to denigrate another company

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