This fallacy occurs when a person assumes that asserting "I must respect all opinions" (or some variation) ends the need for further consideration of an issue.
It takes the following form:
- "I must respect all opinions" (or some variation is presented).
- Therefore I cannot say which opinions are better or worse.
This line of reasoning is fallacious because, although it is important to respect and care for the person who presents a position or opinion, it is obviously balderdash to then assume that all opinions are on logically equal footing.
Presumably, the assumption underlying this fallacy is that arguing against the content of an opinion is the same as attacking the person's right to have an opinion. Yet the mere fact that someone says "we must respect all opinions" hardly proves that there is no better or worse position on the issue at hand!
This is really a sub-species of the appeal to ignorance hiding behind a socially acceptable veneer of being "tolerant."
- Person A: Abortion is just like murder!
Person B: I totally disagree. I think a woman can make a choice about what's in her best interest regarding having a baby.
Person C: Well, I think abortion is okay under certain circumstances....
Person D: Look, I respect all of your opinions. I think what's most important here is to respect each other's rights to have their own views - and then let it go at that.
I would also add that this evasive technique aims at a false sense of unity and a false pride. The appeal to tolerance often turns quite intolerant, as many of us have learned while trying to share the claims of Jesus Christ to a world steeped in secular humanism and relativism.