Argumentum ad martyrdom

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But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.
Carl Sagan[1]

Argumentum ad martyrdom is a pseudo-Latin term used for two different logical fallacies favoured by some Christians:

  1. that something becomes true if the person asserting it is perceived to be hated for it (a variation on the Galileo gambit);
  2. that martyrdom is evidence for the truth of a proposition as martyrs would not die for nothing (argument from personal certainty, a form of argument by assertion).

Galileo gambit variation[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Galileo gambit
Argumentum ad martyrdom -- I perceive that they don't like me, therefore I am correct.
—Tinker Grey, 24th November 2009, 01:25 PM.[2]

This version typically stems from a belief that the message being conveyed is one that makes people hostile because of its truth. This usage was originally coined by "Tinker Grey," a secular member of Christian Forums who saw that refuting an argument of a member who was under the impression that other members hated them resulted in a bolstering of their confidence in their refuted argument.

The argument is reportedly popular with Christians as the Bible says to expect persecution for your beliefs, and that persecution indicates you are right. e.g. Matthew 5:11-12:

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

(And lots more.[3])

Personal certainty[edit]

This usage is the argument that Christianity (or, for that matter Islam[4] or whatever) is true because people would not martyr themselves for it if it were false, sometimes presented in the rhymed statement that martyrs wouldn't "die for a lie". Thus, the martyrs' assumed personal certainty is being advanced as evidence for a proposition.

This usage precedes the "Galileo gambit" usage[5] and in Christianity it goes back to the 2nd/3rd Church father TertullianWikipedia's W.svg who claimed that "the blood of the martyrs is seed", i.e. that the examples of martyrs dying for the Christian faith would convince others that Christians must be on to something that good.[6]

Argument from personal certainty is trivially false: through history, many people have died in the service of provable lies. As this is a common argument, detailed refutations have been compiled.[7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]