In many debates in various fields of political science, it happens that historical events are called upon to make a case or support an argument. However, it also happens quite often that a debater, in such a scenario, selects only part of the facts so that the narrative she sought to adhere to would be corroborated by those facts. Is there a name for such a fallacy? What strategy is there to cope with such a fallacy? How to intellectually cope with such a debater?

PS: An example of such fallacy is common in the context of political conflicts when debaters try to clarify the source of the conflict and thus cling to historical facts, but then one or more of them reconstruct the history by describing a chain of events while omitting the causes of those events, and by so doing can even manifest negationism or arrive at mere propaganda.

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    As noted, it's called cherry picking, but in as much as one person could be selectively picking facts, the other person could be distracting from the pertinent details by focusing on an overly-broad context or on irrelevant facts, which shouldn't actually change the conclusion. In either case, one should focus on why something is (or is not) relevant.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 22:30

3 Answers 3


It is the cherry picking fallacy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherry_picking

Edit: Thanks to gidds for pointing out the number of different names for this fallacy. Here are a few:

Cherry Picking (also known as: ignoring inconvenient data, suppressed evidence, fallacy of incomplete evidence, argument by selective observation, argument by half-truth, card stacking, fallacy of exclusion, ignoring the counter evidence, one-sided assessment, slanting, one-sidedness)

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    Wikipedia notes that it's also known as the fallacy of incomplete evidence, which may be a more formal name for it.  (It's certainly known very widely as cherry-picking.)
    – gidds
    Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 10:37
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    @gidds IMHO, cherry-picking can be done with complete evidence; pick what supports your argument. "fallacy of incomplete evidence" implies a fallacy from not having enough information. It's a subtle difference but it's why I prefer "the cherry-picking fallacy". Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 17:50
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    Doesn't the fallacy name indicate that you present incomplete (and biased) evidence, rather than that you made a biased selection from incomplete evidence?
    – gidds
    Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 17:54
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    @gidds. The presentation of incomplete evidence can be completely accidental and without bias. Cherry-picking is a deliberately biased action. Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 18:10
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    @IdiosyncraticSoul, thanks. Have any suggestions or know of any strategies to cope with such debaters?....
    – SAFI
    Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 18:34

The selective use of history to explain or justify an argument could fall under multiple fallacies. Their argument could be based on confirmation bias because they have focused a portion of history that supports their argument, to the exclusion of considering further historical material. This bias risks failing to observe or account for other history that may be pertinent to the discourse, compelling and contradictory. If the individual makes an argument that relies on their limited memory or knowledge of history, it could be an example of availability bias. They assume the history they are citing is strongly compelling because they are unaware of history that contradicts their arguement. The individual could also be committing a sample size fallacy because the portion of history they reference is an outlier and fails to observe trends that exist over larger time frames or trends that repeat and demonstrate patterns. As to addressing the individual’s argument- it’s worth learning: Do they have a broader and deeper general command of history on the topic? And do you? If so, you can broaden the discussion. If you’re denying with the logic behind their arguments, can you respect and validate the emotions behind it? (Granted: The last consideration may or may not be germane.)

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    – Meanach
    Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 13:04

There is no single strategy for dealing with fallacies. This is because there are both psychological and philosophical aspects to a debate. This online article (https://effectiviology.com/guide-to-logical-fallacies/#:~:text=To%20counter%20the%20use%20of,argument%20that%20counters%20it%20implicitly.) is a nice start and contains some useful information for dealing with fallacies and include examples:

To counter the use of a logical fallacy, you should first identify the flaw in reasoning that it contains, and then point it out and explain why it’s a problem, or provide a strong opposing argument that counters it implicitly.

...Accordingly, you should accept the fact that in some cases, the best way to respond to a logical fallacy in practice isn’t necessarily to properly address it from a logical perspective. For example, your best option might be to modify your original argument in order to counter the fallacious reasoning without explicitly addressing the fact that it’s fallacious, or your best option might be to refuse to engage with the fallacious argument entirely.

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