Saturday, November 22, 2014

Logical Fallacies in Pop Culture

In nearly every episode of television series Scrubs, created by Bill Laurence, there are countless instances of logical fallacies presented. Scrubs centers on an emerging doctor dubbed J.D. and his life inside and out of Sacred Heart Hospital, where he learns of both medicine and life itself. Whether it be in general friendships or doctor-patient relationships, arguments erupt along with logical fallacies. In Season 7, Episode 3, "My Inconceivable Truth," centers around hypocrisy and arguments; an episode overflowing with logical fallacies.

Circular Reasoning
Definition: An argument that justifies itself.
Example: Circular reasoning is the first logical fallacy present in "My Inconceivable Truth." In the episode, the hospital gets a new patient scale. When Turk, a surgeon, asks his wife Karla, the head nurse of Sacred Heart, to see what her weight is, J.D. states that Turk cannot do this. J.D.'s argument is that women cannot be asked for their weight. His reasoning behind this argument is that it is because women say so.

Appeal to Pity or Sentiment
Definition: Attempting to win an argument with a pathetic appeal to the emotions of the opposition or the audience.
Example: In "My Inconceivable Truth," appeal to pity is overtly evident. When the janitor parks his car in the parking lot of Sacred Heart, Sacred Heart's Lawyer named Ted arrives on his bike and accuses the janitor as killing the earth because he leaves his car stalling all day and does not participate in carpooling. Ted then shows the janitor a video which illustrates the dying of the earth. After the video, teary-eyed Janitor becomes an environmentalist, monitoring the hospital and enforcing "green" rules.

Guilt by Association
Definition: Assuming because someone associates with someone else, they have the same qualities as the associate.
Example: Guilt by association is present through the janitor's environmentalist efforts. When Dr. Kelso, the chief of medicine, sees that the janitor is trying to preserve the earth, Kelso calls the janitor a "hippie" just because he associates hippies with environmentalist efforts.

Appeal to Tradition
Definition: When what has occurred in the past is used to bolster a present position.
Example: One of the main controversies in "My Inconceivable Truth" is between J.D. and his brother Dave. When Dave comes to town, J.D. expects it to boost his self esteem because his brother is considered to be a failure. Upon learning that Dave has bought J.D. a car and is now successful, J.D. turns on Dave. Dave does not understand why his brother is aggravated to which J.D. justifies as because Dave was always, and always supposed to be, the loser.

Ad Hominem
Definition: When a person attacks his opponent and not his opponent's argument.
Example: In "My Inconceivable Truth," ad hominem is present after Dave tells his brother that he needs to grow up. J.D. immediately reacts by attacking his brother instead of opposing the position that his brother is advancing.

Red Herring
Definition: A misleading clue that is introduced into an argument in order to divert attention away from an item of significance or from what is being argued.
Example: A red herring is present in the dispute between J.D. and his brother Dave. When J.D. is angry with Dave for stating that "you need to grow up," J.D. begins asking others if Dave is correct. When J.D. is around Dave, instead of talking their argument out, Dave becomes a "common questioner" and begins to ask countless questions that have nothing to do with the argument, in an attempt to distract J.D. from the argument at hand.

Failed Logic
The most overt example of a logical fallacy in "My Inconceivable Truth" has to do with Elliot, a doctor. Elliot is upset with Sacred Heart because of all of the hypocrites. One example she uses to support her belief is when the Chief of Medicine, Bob Kelso, tries to convince his lung cancer patient to stop smoking, while smoking a pipe. Elliot's logic is flawed because she accuses others as being hypocrites when she herself is also a hypocrite. Elliot is a hypocrite because she tells her patient that she needs to lose weight. Elliot agrees to also lose weight with her patient, but eventually gives up and even though Elliot weighs less than her patient, she still insists that her patient lose weight. Clearly, Elliot's logic is fallacious.

If you want to know how all of these logical fallacies play out and relate to one another, I strongly recommend watching the episode: Scrubs, Season 7, Episode 3.


  1. I love the show and I think it includes many good examples of logical fallacy. It is interesting because these examples illustrate not only how logical fallacy might be used by the characters to communicate with each other ineffectively, but also how the scriptwriters use logical fallacy to effectively create comedic situations.

  2. This was a great way to show examples of many forms of fallacies in one form of media.

  3. I love this and this show. You would never think about all these fallacies being in the show, but when pointed out they are so obvious and well explained. It's also cool how you stuck to one example in media to explain so many different logical fallacies.

  4. This so well done, that I actually used your examples as a reference while writing my post. You found a bunch of logical fallacy correlations in just one episode and that makes this all really good