How to Defeat a Straw Man Argument

Your brain doesn’t always think rationally. Sometimes, it makes mistakes called logical fallacies, aka, thinking errors. One of the most common logical fallacies in the health industry is the straw man.

You’ve almost certainly encountered the straw man argument before. You may have made it yourself. The straw man argument is a common diversion people use to discredit your ideas, especially when they’re defending a position that lacks evidence.

Using a straw man argument makes you look silly.

Using a straw man argument makes you look silly.

In this podcast, you’ll learn how to identify and defeat a straw man argument. Most importantly, you’ll learn how to avoid making one yourself.

Death to Straw Men (Arguments)

0:25 – A quick example of the straw man fallacy: “fructose makes you fat and sick.”

2:09 – What is a straw man fallacy?

3:25 – How to spot the three kinds of straw man arguments.

3:55 – How to avoid making, or being fooled by, the straw man argument.

Click the Player to Listen:


Show Notes

Weightology Weekly

Thinking Better, Part 1: The False Dichotomy

Thinking Better, Part 2: Confirmation Bias

Thinking Better, Part 3: Non Causa Pro Causa

Thinking Better, Part 4: The Straw Man

Thinking Better, Part 5: The Ad Hominem

Other Listening Options

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People on the Show

James Krieger

Armi Legge

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1. Silbernagel G, Machann J, Unmuth S, et al. Effects of 4-week very-high-fructose/glucose diets on insulin sensitivity, visceral fat and intrahepatic lipids: an exploratory trial. Br. J. Nutr. 2011;106(1):79–86. doi:10.1017/S000711451000574X. Abstract: | Full Text:

2. Stanhope KL, Schwarz JM, Keim NL, et al. Consuming fructose-sweetened, not glucose-sweetened, beverages increases visceral adiposity and lipids and decreases insulin sensitivity in overweight/obese humans. J Clin Invest. 2009;119(5):1322–1334. doi:10.1172/JCI37385. Abstract: | Full Text:

3. Teff KL, Elliott SS, Tschop M, et al. Dietary fructose reduces circulating insulin and leptin, attenuates postprandial suppression of ghrelin, and increases triglycerides in women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2004;89(6):2963–2972. Abstract: | Full Text:

4. White JS. Straight talk about high-fructose corn syrup: what it is and what it ain’t. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;88(6):1716S–1721S. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2008.25825B. Abstract: | Full Text:

5. Guthrie JF, Morton JF. Food sources of added sweeteners in the diets of Americans. J Am Diet Assoc. 2000;100(1):43–51– quiz 49–50. doi:10.1016/S0002-8223(00)00018-3. Abstract: | Full Text:

6. Fulgoni V3. High-fructose corn syrup: everything you wanted to know, but were afraid to ask. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;88(6):1715S. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2008.25825A. Abstract: | Full Text:

7. Forshee RA, Storey ML, Allison DB, et al. A critical examination of the evidence relating high fructose corn syrup and weight gain. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2007;47(6):561–582. doi:10.1080/10408390600846457. Abstract: | Full Text:


  1. jasey katon says

    The podcast does more to identify the strawman, which in my mind is the easy part. My boss and his boss regularly and purposely use this technique to shut me down when my arguments are backed by simple facts. I was hoping that the defense had some stronger techniques rather than saying, “That’s not what I said”. It makes the defender sound weak. One of the few counter techniques I found by google-ing was to use charity, but I didn’t understand what that meant. Have you since found any better techniques to defend against the strawman?


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