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Fallacies Revealed

Entry 1390, on 2012-05-18 at 14:09:25 (Rating 2, Skepticism)

This is my evaluation of the logical fallacies in the blog post I did yesterday. Many of these are open to interpretation so you might not totally agree with my analysis. Also in the small space available I haven't had time to discuss the full detail of these fallacies. However I hope this makes my point.

So here's the argument from yesterday with my explanation of the fallacies in square brackets [like this]. Remember that this is a fictitious example which I made up but it is based on real arguments I have heard from creationists. Also note that I personally do not believe any of this stuff!

Before you listen to an evolutionist you should know that science rejects God as the cause of life, so their opinion is hardly worth listening to. [poisoning the well: setting up the argument so that the opposition is already disadvantaged before his point is even considered] And remember that if we believe that evolution is true the next thing will be that we have to reject God and start worshipping Satan instead. [slippery slope: the first step doesn't have to lead to the most extreme case, believing in evolution doesn't make you a Satanist] Is that what we want as moral Christians? [wishful thinking: just because we want to believe something is true doesn't mean it is; loaded question: the question is phrased in a way which only allows one answer]

As well as being immoral, evolution makes no sense. The Darwinists say that we evolved from monkeys [false premise: evolution does not say humans evolved from monkeys] by pure chance [false premise: natural selection is not driven by simple chance]. How can they believe that? If we evolved from monkeys why are there still monkeys? [non sequitur: even if we did evolve from some monkeys the un-evolved monkeys could still exist] Plus it has been mathematically shown that the complexity of modern life cannot have arisen by chance. [straw man: changing the opposition's argument so that it is easier to refute, evolution does not say complex life evolved by simple chance]

If you look at the theory of evolution (and it is just a theory) [ambiguity: the word "theory" can mean several things and the wrong one is deliberately chosen here] you will see that it is far from perfect and scientists are still debating it. [nirvana fallacy: the theory isn't perfect but it is very good] So we cannot use it as a reasonable explanation of the origin of life. Yet despite all the problems with evolution Darwinists still criticise the Bible for errors they imagine are there. [tu quoque: avoiding a criticism of your argument by turning it back on the other person]

You will notice that very few evolutionists - even their high priest Richard Dawkins [tu quoque: trying to suggest science has a religious element by giving Dawkins a religious title; ad hominem: attacking the person instead of the argument] - try to debate against creationists which shows that they know that evolution can't stand up to a fair comparison with creation. [argument ad nauseam: after hearing the same invalid argument too many times people stop trying to refute it]

When I went to a debate between a well known creationist and an evolutionist the evolutionist didn't have many good answers to the creationists questions. He used a fallacy to defend his position which is obviously wrong. [fallacy fallacy: just because the evolutionist used a logical fallacy doesn't mean he's wrong]

But many well known scientific figures such as Isaac Newton have been Christians and their theories were shown to be true science. [genetic fallacy: the origin of the idea doesn't prove its truth; appeal to authority: authority figures aren't always right; composition/division fallacy: information sources can be right on some points and wrong on others] And even Einstein said that "God doesn't play dice" so he obviously believes in a god [ambiguity: Einstein didn't believe in a personal god, he used the word as a metaphor] who personally controls the universe. Why don't other scientists accept what this great person said? [appeal to authority: even if Einstein had believed in a god his opinion would not have proved the idea]

I just cannot believe that this whole beautiful universe works the way scientists say. It makes so much more sense just to accept the fact that a god is responsible for all of this. Nothing else makes sense. [fallacy from personal incredulity: just because a person doesn't understand or accept something doesn't mean it's not true]

So evolution makes no sense. What about Christianity? As you will see from my points below it is undeniably a better worldview...

Believing in a god is just a natural part of human nature [appeal to nature: what is natural isn't necessarily true] and every culture in the world has a god belief. If there is no god where does this belief come from? And more people believe Christianity than any other religion. Why would they do that if it wasn't real? [bandwagon, also known as appeal to popularity: a widely accepted idea isn't necessarily true]

The Bible is the word of God so how can it possibly be untrue? [begging the question: the conclusion is contained in the initial premise - we have no proof that the Bible is the word of God] It's illogical to reject it. The Bible is either true or it isn't [black and white: the Bible contains some truth but a lot of myth as well] and many parts of the Bible have been shown to be true by archaeologists and historians so it's obviously a book of fact, not fiction. [composition/division fallacy: parts of the Bible might be historical but many other parts aren't]

Some people say that every religion has some element of truth and others say that they are all wrong. The reality is between those extremes: one religion is right and the rest are wrong. [middle ground fallacy: sometimes the extreme position is true] But Christianity isn't just another religion and it needs to be treated differently because its teaching is from a higher plain of truth. [special pleading: one side of the argument demands special treatment, such as less scrutiny, than the other]

Christianity gives us eternal life which is better than a final death like the atheists believe in. [wishful thinking: immortality is a nice idea but that doesn't make it true] You should be a Christian because you do want to be a good person, don't you? [loaded question: everyone wants to be a good person but the question leads to a false conclusion based on this (that you need to be a Christian to be good)] Because they have no basis for their morality, the people who reject Christianity are immoral and their opinion cannot be trusted. [ad hominem: attacking the person; poisoning the well: trying to reject the opposition's argument before it is even heard]

How can morality be good or even real if it comes from a species who evolved from monkeys? [false premise: humans didn't evolve from monkeys; non sequitur: the conclusion doesn't necessarily follow from the initial statement because a species which evolved from monkeys could still be moral] Morality can only make sense if it was created by God. [genetic fallacy: the source of a phenomena shouldn't be used to prove or disprove its truth]

Some people criticise Christianity because they think Christians have been responsible for atrocities in the past, but the people who burned witches, killed the Jews and Muslims in the Crusades, and started holy wars weren't true Christians. [no true Scotsman: anything which doesn't fit the argument is rejected as not being part of the group under discussion]

If you join Christianity you will have great friendship and happiness by participating in the church's inspirational worship. [appeal to emotion: producing a positive emotion doesn't imply truth]

We all know that God exists, so it's up to atheists to show he doesn't. [burden of proof: the person making the claim must provide the evidence of its accuracy] They just don't seem to be able to do this. [ad ignorantiam, or appeal to ignorance: something cannot be accepted just because the contrary argument cannot be completely proved]

If you're still doubtful then explain these real events...

How is it that the Earth has just the right temperature, gravity, and many other things for human life to exist? [the Texas sharpshooter: taking the final result and fitting a cause to it after the fact] This seems to show that God created it that way. [confirmation bias: only believing the material which agrees with what you want to believe and ignoring the rest (there are many things about the universe which make it less suitable for life)]

In the last week three friends I know have had their children accepted for prestigious universities, [the gambler's fallacy: a string of similar events does not prove a link] but I heard that an atheist in the neighbourhood has been sent to prison. [anecdotal: uncontrolled and unreliable examples of a phenomenon cannot be used as proof]

Finally, my neighbour had cancer and our church prayed for him and now he's feeling better. [false cause, post hoc ergo propter hoc: a result which follows an event isn't necessarily caused by that event; anecdotal: people recover from illness purely by chance] The doctor's can't explain how this happened.

So that's it. Remember the fallacy fallacy: despite all of those fallacies being found the argument could still be true. But it seems unlikely!


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