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No True Scotsman is a logical fallacy by which an individual attempts to avoid being associated with an unpleasant act by asserting that no true member of the group they belong to would do such a thing. Instead of acknowledging that some members of a group have undesirable characteristics, the fallacy tries to redefine the group to exclude them. Sentences such as "all members of X have desirable trait Y" then become tautologies, because Y becomes a requirement of membership in X.
The term was coined by Antony Flew, who gave an example of a Scotsman who sees a newspaper article about a series of sex crimes taking place in Brighton, and responds that "no Scotsman would do such a thing". When later confronted with evidence of another Scotsman doing even worse acts, his response is that "no true Scotsman would do such a thing", thus disavowing membership in the group "Scotsman" to the criminal on the basis that the commission of the crime is evidence for not being a Scotsman. However, this is a fallacy as there is nothing in the definition of "Scotsman" which makes such acts impossible. The term "No True Scotsman" has since expanded to refer to anyone who attempts to disown or distance themselves from wayward members of a group by excluding them from it.
Broadly speaking, the fallacy does not apply if there is a clear and well-understood definition of what membership in a group requires and it is that definition which is broken (e.g., "no honest man would lie like that!", "no Christian would worship Satan!" and so on).
The True Scotsman fallacy can be used to uphold not only positive, but also negative stereotypes, by portraying people who do not conform to them as exceptions. An example would be claiming that feminists, being "well-educated and having strong opinions about gender issues", do not speak for "typical" women. (Where typical is apparently defined as conservative, uneducated, and gullible.)
 Prime examples
Phrases such as "un-American", "un-Christian" or "inhuman" are widely used in politics and media to distance oneself from a subject, defining them as outside the bounds of what the speaker considers to be truly 'American', 'Christian' or 'human' behaviour. These phrases strongly suggest the No True Scotsman fallacy, since the use, for example of "un-American" to describe specific political activities by some American citizens implies some special definition of "American" beyond mere nationality.
“”No man can ever be opposed to Christianity who knows what it really is.
With respect to religion, the fallacy is well used, often even overused. Religious apologists will repeatedly try to use the No True Scotsman argument to distance themselves from more extreme or fundamentalist groups but this does not prevent such extremists actually being religious - they themselves would certainly argue otherwise. Moderate Muslim leaders, for example, are well known for declaring Islamic extremists as "not true Muslims" as Islam is a religion of peace. Similarly, moderate Christians, such as those in Europe, sometimes aghast when viewing their right-wing counterparts in the US, immediately declare them "not true Christians", even though they believe in the same God and get their belief system of it from the same book. Modern pagans do it all the time, perhaps even more than other religions, due to the fact that there is no agreed-on orthodoxy for the whole group, with some well-established practices in one setting being considered unpalatable in others. Silver Ravenwolf, one of the best selling "leaders" of neopagans, has done this with multiple ancient, well-established practices.
Atheists can be guilty of the fallacy, such as someone hypothetically exclaiming that "true atheists" don't believe in ghosts or UFOs when such disbeliefs actually have nothing to do with an atheistic philosophy (although they can be linked by concepts of observational evidence and rationalism).
Another example would be Communism. Many of the world's most brutal Communists have been avowed atheists. Regardless of their irrational views on other matters, they did not believe in God. Similarly many socialists claim Stalin and Mao were not true socialists. But while these leading Communists were socialist and atheist, it is fallacious to suggest that all socialists and atheists are brutal murdering totalitarians.
 See also
- A hilarious spin-cycle in and out of No True Scotsmanism is here.
- A YouTube video on the fallacy is here.
- And you never were a Scotsman, either!
| Articles about logical fallacies|
|Affirming the consequent||Denying the antecedent|
No True Scotsman
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