Stephen E. Jones

Projects: "Problems of Evolution" (Outline): 2. Philosophy (5): Fallacies used to support evolution

[Home] [Site map] [Updates] [Projects] [Contents; 1. Introduction; 2. Philosophy (1), (2), (3), (4) & (6); 3. Religion (1) & (2); 4. History (1), (2) & (3); 5. Science; 6. Environment (1), (2) & (3); 7. Origin of life (1), (2) & (3); 8. Cell & Molecular (1), (2) & (3); 9. Mechanisms (1), (2) & (3); 10. Fossil Record; 11. `Fact' of Evolution; 12. Plants; 13. Animals; 14. Man (1) & (2); 15. Social; 16. Conclusion; Notes; Bibliography A-C, D-F, G-I, J-M, N-S, T-Z]

1.	Evolution and philosophy
2.	Materialism
3.	Naturalism (Anti-supernaturalism)
4.	Uniformitarianism
5.	Reductionism
6.	Scientism
7.	Logical problems
8.	Fallacies used to support evolution
	1.	Equivocation (ambiguity)
	2.	Personal attack (ad hominem)
	3.	Begging the question (petitio principii)
	4.	Circular reasoning
	5.	Special pleading (double standard)
	6.	Straw man
	7.	False alternative (false dilemma)
	8.	False analogy (faulty analogy, imperfect analogy)
	9.	Genetic fallacy
	10.	False cause (post hoc ergo propter hoc)
	11.	Argument from authority, appeal to authority (argumentum ad verecundiam)
	12.	Composition
	13.	True by definition
	14.	Appeal to force (ad baculum)
	15.	Appeal to the people (ad populum)
	16.	Irrelevant thesis, conclusion (ignoratio elenchi)
	17.	Argument from ignorance (argumentum ad ignorantiam)
9.	Falsehoods used to support evolution


8.	Fallacies used to support evolution
	1.	Equivocation (ambiguity)
The fallacy of equivocation is also known as the fallacy of ambiguity (Copi, 1996, p.113; 
Geisler & Brooks, 1990, p.91). Equivocation is the confusing of two or more different senses 
of the same term (Dembski, 1998b, p.24), without distinction in the same context (Flew, 1976, 
p.13). The fallacy of equivocation occurs when the meaning of one or more key terms (Engel, 
1990, p.97) are shifted (Fearnside & Holther, 1959, p.159; ReMine, 1993, p.107) within an 
argument (Schick & Vaughn, 1995, p.287).

The fallacy of equivocation can be both unintentional or deliberate (Flew, 1976, p.13), order 
to promote one's agenda (Dembski, 1998b, p.24). Darwin's success was in part due to his 
intentional use of ambiguity and equivocation in his arguments (Darlington, 1959a, pp.60,63; 
Darlington, 1959b; Davidheiser, 1970, p.64). The Darwinian establishment, to maintain its 
cultural power, consistently employs the fallacy of equivocation in use of the terms "creation" 
and "evolution" (Dembski, 1998b, p.24; Dembski, 1999a, p.115).

Ernst Mayr pointed out that Darwin had at least nine theories of evolution, which Mayr
reduced to five, and referred to as "The Manifold Meanings of `Evolution'":
"Discrimination among his various theories has not been helped by the fact that Darwin treated speciation under natural selection in ... the Origin and that he ascribed many phenomena, particularly those of geographic distribution, to natural selection when they were really the consequences of common descent. Under the circumstances I consider it necessary to dissect Darwin's conceptual framework of evolution into a number of major theories that formed the basis of his evolutionary thinking. For the sake of convenience I have partitioned Darwin's evolutionary paradigm into five theories, but of course others might prefer a different division. The selected theories are by no means all of Darwin's evolutionary theories; others were, for instance, sexual selection, pangenesis, effect of use and disuse, and character divergence. However, when later authors referred to Darwin's theory they invariably had a combination of some of the following five theories in mind: (1) Evolution as such. This is the theory that the world is not constant nor recently created nor perpetually cycling but rather is steadily changing and that organisms are transformed in time. (2) Common descent. This is the theory that every group of organisms descended from a common ancestor and that all groups of organisms, including animals, plants, and microorganisms, ultimately go back to a single origin of life on earth. (3) Multiplication of species. This theory explains the origin of the enormous organic diversity. It postulates that species multiply, either by splitting into daughter species or by "budding," that is, by the establishment of geographically isolated founder populations that evolve into new species. (4) Gradualism. According to this theory, evolutionary change takes place through the gradual change of populations and not by the sudden (saltational) production of new individuals that represent a new type. (5) Natural selection. According to this theory, evolutionary change comes about through the abundant production of genetic variation in every generation. The relatively few individuals who survive, owing to a particularly well-adapted combination of inheritable characters, give rise to the next generation. For Darwin himself these five theories were apparently a unity, and someone might claim that indeed these five theories are a logically inseparable package and that Darwin was quite correct in treating them as such. This claim, however, is refuted by the fact ... that most evolutionists in the immediate post-1859 period-that is, authors who had accepted the first theory- rejected one or several of Darwin's other four theories. This shows that the five theories are not one indivisible whole." (Mayr E., "One Long Argument: Charles Darwin and the Genesis of Modern Evolutionary Thought," Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA, 1991, pp.36- 37)
"The Manifold Meanings of `Evolution' ... Darwin's Origin of Species established five major theories relating to different aspects of variational evolution: (1) that organisms steadily evolve over time (this we might designate as the theory of evolution as such), (2) that different kinds of organisms descended from a common ancestor (the theory of common descent), (3) that species multiply over time (the theory of the multiplication of species, or speciation), (4) that evolution takes place through the gradual change of populations (the theory of gradualism), (5) and that the mechanism of evolution is the competition among vast numbers of unique individuals for limited resources, which leads to differences in survival and reproduction (the theory of natural selection)." (Mayr E.W., "This is Biology: The Science of the Living World," Belknap Press: Cambridge MA, 1997, Sixth printing, 1998, pp.176-178. Emphasis original)
Evolutionists routinely use "evolution" in the same arguments to mean either the largest-scale biological change over time and the smallest-scale a change in gene frequencies in a population (ReMine, 1993, p.298). This is a "bait and switch" tactic, in first defining "evolution" in a harmless way that no one would disagree with like "dog breeding" and then when the bait has been taken, the definition of "evolution" is switched to mean that all living things are the products of a purposeless natural process (Johnson, 1997, p.44). The term "evolution" can mean the unguided natural process that is responsible for all of life, or "evolution" can mean the mere modification of existing traits (Hunter, 2001, p.95). "Evolution" can mean both minor, limited variation and the emergence of novel structures (Pearcey, 2000a). So the one word "evolution" can mean something so tiny it hardly matters, or so big it explains the whole history of life (Johnson, 1997, p.45). So when evolutionists claim that "evolution is fact," it is an equivocation on the word "evolution" (Dembski, 1998b, p.24; Dembski, 1999a, p.115). It is a fact that organisms have changed over time, but is it equally a fact in the same sense that all of life has evolved through purposeless naturalistic processes (Dembski, 1998b, p.24; Dembski, 1999a, p.115)? Another main area where evolutionists routinely commit the fallacy of equivocation in their use of the words "creation" and "creationist" to mean young earth creation(ist), ignoring the fact that many (if not most) creationists are old-earth. Johnson has called this "the `official caricature' of the creation-evolution debate," being "a distortion that is either explicit or implicit in nearly all media and textbook treatments of the subject," in which "`evolution' is a simple, unitary process that one can see in operation today" and that "[e]veryone accepts the truth of evolution except ... biblical fundamentalists, who insist that the earth is no more than ten thousand years old and the fossil beds were laid down in Noah's flood." (Johnson, 1995b, p.73). The remedy for the fallacy of equivocation is to define terms clearly and unambiguously (Copi, 1986, p.132; Fearnside & Holther, 1959, p.159) and then use them consistently (Johnson, 1992f; Johnson, 1992a, p.17). But this is regarded with suspicion and hostility by evolutionists who thrive only in the midst of ambiguity and confusion and so have a powerful vested interests in resisting the defining of terms like "evolution" and "creation" precisely and then using them consistently (Johnson, 1992f). Examples of "evolution" used in multiple senses in the same argument are: Devore E., "Teach Evolution: Leave No Child Behind," SETI Institute,, 10 February 2005). Dawkins, after a bit of bluster, "That's ludicrous. That's ridiculous", commits the fallacy of equivocation on the word "random", i.e. "allow[ing] a key word in an argument to shift its meaning in the course of the argument" (Engel S.M., "With Good Reason: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies," St. Martin's Press: New York, 1990, pp.97-98). That is, Dawkins is asked, in effect, whether "evolution" is "random" in the sense of "chance". He then defines "random" in the sense of "not anticipatory of what's needed" and then says "Natural selection is anything but random":
"[S]You said in a recent speech that design was not the only alternative to chance. A lot of people think that evolution is all about random chance. [D]That's ludicrous. That's ridiculous. Mutation is random in the sense that it's not anticipatory of what's needed. Natural selection is anything but random. Natural selection is a guided process, guided not by any higher power, but simply by which genes survive and which genes don't survive. That's a non-random process. The animals that are best at whatever they do-hunting, flying, fishing, swimming, digging-whatever the species does, the individuals that are best at it are the ones that pass on the genes. It's because of this non-random process that lions are so good at hunting, antelopes so good at running away from lions, and fish are so good at swimming." (Laura Sheahen, "The Problem with God: Interview with Richard Dawkins," Beliefnet, 15 December 2005)
Now natural selection also is "random in the sense that it's not anticipatory of what's needed." Remember, it was Dawkins himself who coined the term "the blind watchmaker" (emphasis his) to make the point that "Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process ... has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind's eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all" (Dawkins R., "The Blind Watchmaker," W.W Norton & Co: New York, 1986, p.5. my emphasis). So by Dawkins' own definition of "random", "not anticipatory of what's needed," natural selection is "random." Dawkins also commits the fallacy of equivocation on the word "guided". There clearly is a vast difference between "guided" in the sense of "by [a] ... higher power" and "guided" by a "blind, unconscious, automatic process" that ""has no purpose in mind. ... has no mind and no mind's eye. ... does not plan for the future. ... has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all"! Here is a good (bad?) example of an evolutionist committing the Fallacy of Equivocation (i.e. using "the same word in different meanings in an argument, implying that the word means the same each time round") by playing on that most flexible word, "evolution". In one breath "evolution" it is just "an established scientific theory" and in the next breath "evolution" is "the `common language' that unites all areas of academic inquiry", the "lens" through which "students will learn how to study every subject, no matter their major or profession" (my emphasis)!:
Evolution for everyone: For biologist David Sloan Wilson, evolution is the core curriculum for all academic disciplines, Science & Theology News, Liz Kemmerer , March 17, 2006 . In Wilson's Evolution Studies track, evolution is the "common language" that unites all areas of academic inquiry. Evolution is famously controversial, despite being an established scientific theory. Many who accept the theory of evolution don't relate it to matters of importance in their own lives. There appears to be two walls of resistance, one denying the theory altogether and the other denying its relevance to human affairs. But according to David Sloan Wilson, an evolutionary biologist at Binghamton University in New York, everyone can be a good evolutionist - at least if you take Wilson's interdisciplinary classes in evolution. Wilson initiated, developed and directs the university's new Evolutionary Studies track, or "EvoS" for short, which seeks to explore all of creation with the basic principles of evolution. According to Wilson, it is "perhaps the first program that attempts to make evolution a common language for the study of all human- related subjects, in addition to the natural world, at a campuswide scale." EvoS, which began in 2002, includes more than 50 faculty members representing 15 departments. Wilson hopes that the program becomes a model for evolution education that can be copied at other colleges and universities. Wilson, who is jointly appointed in the biology and anthropology departments at Binghamton, describes himself as "an evolutionary biologist who studies humans as part of the rest of life." He designed his program based upon the discussions and publications of his fellow evolutionary-minded colleagues. He hopes to teach students the basics and implications of evolution so that they can continue to develop their interests throughout their college career. In doing so, students will learn how to study every subject, no matter their major or profession, "through the lens of evolution," he said. ... [top]
2. Personal attack (ad hominem) The term ad hominem means "to (or against) the man" (Copi, 1986, p.92; Engel, 1990, p.189). An ad hominem argument is committed when, instead of a attacking a person's argument, the person himself is attacked (Copi, 1986, p.92). Also known as the fallacy of personal attack, an ad hominem argument seeks to divert attention away from the question being argued by focusing instead on those arguing it (Engel, 1990, p.189). Often it takes the form of the abusive ad hominem, which includes insult or abuse in the personal attack (Engel, 1990, p.190), in an attempt at character assassination (Geisler & Brooks, 1990, pp.93-94; Fearnside & Holther, 1959, p.99). Evolutionists routinely employ ad hominem arguments in the defence of evolution. For example, leading evolutionist Richard Dawkins has declared that anybody who "claims not to believe in evolution ... is ignorant, stupid or insane ... or wicked" (Dawkins, 1989a). Dobzhansky claimed that, "Evolution ... can be doubted only by those who are ignorant ... or are resistant to evidence, owing to emotional blocks or to plain bigotry" (Dobzhansky 1973). Geneticist Hardin warned that anyone "who fails to honor" Darwin "inevitably attracts the speculative psychiatric eye to himself" (Hardin, 1959, p.249). Evolutionists use pejorative terms like "Biblical fundamentalist" (Sagan, 1996, pp.199-200), or "flat-earthism" (Medawar & Ridley, 1999, p.293) of their opponents so that their objections to evolution need not be taken seriously . Such unfair tactics are designed to "poison the well" by discrediting in advance the source from which evidence and arguments against their position can be made (Engel, 1990, pp.195-196). [top] 3. Begging the question (petitio principii) The fallacy of petitio principii, or "begging the question," is when one assumes as a premise of one's argument, the very conclusion that needs to be proved (Copi, 1986, p.101; Engel, 1990, pp.134-135). It is therefore also called "circular reasoning" (Geisler & Brooks, 1990, p.100; Fearnside & Holther, 1959. p.164). Evolutionists so pervasively commit the fallacy of begging the question, that it seems they are genuinely unaware they are doing it. Evolutionists beg the question that natural selection must have the creative power to design complex organs like the eye, because it is the only known materialistic-naturalistic mechanism available. For example, evolutionist philosopher Kim Sterelny, reviewing Dawkins' "The Blind Watchmaker," questioned whether it is "really true that natural selection is so fine-grained that, for a protostick insect, looking 5% like a stick is better than looking 4% like one?" because "Dawkins' adaptive scenarios make no mention of the costs of allegedly adaptive changes" (Sterelny, 1988; Dawkins, 1986b, pp.82-83). However, as Sterelny points out, "Nothing is free; none of Dawkins' historical sketches mention the costs-energetic and opportunity-of evolving adaptations. The resources spent on building a 9% lung could be spent instead on building more or sharper teeth." (Sterelny, 1988). But then, Sterelny lamely backs down, saying, "Still, I do think this objection is something of a quibble because essentially I agree that natural selection is the only possible explanation of complex adaptation. So something like Dawkins' stories have got to be right" (Sterelny, 1988). Daniel Dennett, another evolutionist philosopher, commenting on Sterelny's review, admits that Dawkins' stories "beg the question", but brazens it out exclaiming, "but what a question it begs!" (Dennett, 1995, pp.250-251). As Johnson observed, "An essential step in the reasoning that establishes that Darwinian selection created the wonders of biology ... is that nothing else was available," but "Theism is by definition the doctrine that something else was available." (Johnson, 1992f). [top] 4. Circular reasoning Evolutionists routinely claim that science, by definition excludes supernatural explanations. For example, evolutionist philosopher Michael Ruse claims that even if a supernatural explanation was true it could not be accepted by modern science: "Furthermore, even if Scientific Creationism were totally successful in making its case as science, it would not yield a scientific explanation of origins. Rather, at most, it could prove that science shows that there can be no scientific explanation of origins. The Creationists believe the world started miraculously. But miracles lie outside of science, which by definition deals only with the natural, the repeatable, that which is governed by law. Hence, Creationism can aspire only to a Pyrrhic victory: that the evidence of nature and the methodology of science show that no natural laws explain the ultimate past" (Ruse, 1982, pp.322-323. Emphasis in original). Similar statements that modern science would always reject a true supernaturalistic explanation in favour of a false naturalistic explanation have been made by other leading evolutionists: "For instance, Niles Eldredge says, "It could even be true-but it cannot be construed as science" (Eldredge, 1982, p.134) while Douglas Futuyma adds, "It isn't necessarily wrong. It just is not amenable to scientific investigation" (Futuyma, 1982, p.169) Michael Ruse agrees: "It is not necessarily wrong ... but it is not science" (Ruse, 1996, p.301) (Ratzsch, 1996, p.168) . But apart from modern science then having departed from its original definition of "science" as "a search for the truth: "One characterization of science that has been popular among scientists is that it is `a search for truth, no holds barred.' On the present view, though, if one had some rationally defensible grounds for thinking that God had ... created ... one would evidently as a scientist by definition have to pretend that one really did not know that particular truth. That particular hold would be barred. (Ratzsch, 1996, p.168), if evolutionists define "science" as excluding supernatural explanations, then that is only by definition true. But then, being only "true by definition" it is "innocent of any factual substance" and "give[s] no information about the world ... such truth is tautological or trivial" (Fearnside & Holther, 1959, pp.136-137). Such "a definition which attempts to resolve a point at issue by defining a term so as to preempt the point. ...`begs the question'" and is "circular in the sense that the defining term and the term to be defined are interchangeable " (Fearnside & Holther, 1959, p.165) . [top] 5. Special pleading (double standard) Evolutionists regularly commit the fallacy of special pleading, which is to apply a double standard: one standard for themselves and a stricter one for their rivals (Engel, 1990, p.145). Special pleading is an attempt to "have it both ways", by refusing to apply the same disadvantageous principle to oneself that one applies to others (Fearnside & Holther, 1959, p.108). It is an attempt to "stack the deck" so that one's argument cannot lose (Geisler & Brooks, 1990, p.102). A common example of the fallacy of special pleading employed by evolutionists, is where they employ a double standard of in the use of scientific evidence and arguments to support their own personal religious philosophy of atheism/agnosticism, yet when theists try to present counter-arguments and evidence in defence of theism, it is ruled out of court without a hearing as "unscientific" (Glynn, 1996)! But if it is unscientific to say that the Universe displays purpose, then it is equally unscientific to say that it is "pointless" (e.g. Weinberg, 1977, pp.148-149) but scientists employ a double-standard in allowing scientific statements about lack of purpose but not the reverse (Shallis, 1984). Another common example of scientific double standards is the erection of demarcation criteria against creation in favour of the scientists own personal philosophy of naturalism: "behind every double standard lies a single hidden agenda" (Meyer, 1994, pp.100-101). As Johnson points out, "if you have a question, the answer yes and the answer no to the question are still in the same subject area. ... It can't be that the yes answer is science and the no answer is religion." (Johnson, 1999a). Much of Darwin's Origin of Species was devoted to special pleading (Matthews, 1972, p.xiii). In particular Darwin's "early scientific experience was primarily as a geologist," yet his arguments "on the imperfections of the geological record" was "one long , special-pleading argument designed to rationalize, to flat-out explain away, the differences between what he saw as logical predictions derived from his theory and the facts of the fossil record" (Eldredge, 1985, pp.27-28; Augros & Stanciu, 1987, p.160). By so employing "a double standard of explanation," Darwin "fathered ... [a]n illegitimate progeny of double standards ... and populated every field of the science of life" (Darlington, 1959a, p.67). And once in power, Darwin and his followers proceeded to apply a double standard in favour of those accepting natural selection and making all the exceptions in their own favor (Barzun, 1941, p.119). However, while special pleading can be deliberately employed as a dishonest trick, it is more usually the result of being blinded by prejudice (Thouless, 1973, p.156; Engel, 1990, p.135). Other examples of special pleading include: evolutionists regarding it as somehow improper "that proponents of `intelligent design' -- a `theory' [note the quotation marks] that challenges the validity of Darwinian evolution ... operate simply by casting doubt on evolution" ("God and Darwin," Washington Post, January 24, 2005; p.A14). But it is normal and proper in science to cast doubt on scientific theories. Physicists routinely try to "cast doubt on" physics theories like Einstein's Theory of Relativity, with the blessing of other physicists. It is special pleading for the proponents of the theory of evolution to demand that their theory be treated differently from other scientific theories. See also ID FAQ: "ID does not explain the origin of the designer". [top] 6. Straw man The straw man fallacy is the tactic of misrepresenting an opponent's position, so that it can more easily be refuted (Walton, 1995, p.176; Sagan, 1996, p.203; Johnson, 1997, p.41). Then going ahead and arguing against the misrepresentation as though it was the opponent's position (Walton D.N., 1995, p.176). Evolutionists routinely set up a straw man of creationism as though all creationists are Young-Earth and maintain that the days of Genesis 1 were literal 24-hour days, the Earth is about 10,000 years old and the fossil record was laid down by a worldwide Noah's flood. When in reality, many (if not most) creationists are Old-Earth, and interpret the days of Genesis 1 as symbolic for long periods of time, accept the scientific evidence that the Earth is billions of years old and interpret Noah's flood as regional rather than global. For example, Hazen and Trefil in a book about achieving scientific literacy, set up a straw man that there are only two "views about the origin of our planet and its life," that of "Biblical Creationists" and the "scientific theory of evolution" (Hazen & Trefil, 1991, pp.243-244). "Biblical Creationists accept on faith the iteral Old Testament account of creation," including "a young earth ... less than 10,000 years old", "a worldwide flood, as the origin of the earth's present form," and "miraculous creation of all living things, including humans, in essentially their modern forms" (Hazen & Trefil, 1991, p.243). This is constrasted with the "scientific theory of evolution," which "has been developed and modified, challenged and tested, over centuries of geological and biological observations,"and "leads to specific predictions regarding location of fossils, age of rock formations, and genetic similarities of different species" (Hazen & Trefil, 1991, pp.243-244). The straw man is in setting up a grossly oversimplified stereotype of two complex positions, creation(ism) and evolution(ism), such that the position that Hazen and Trefil hold, wins hands down. A common straw man tactic of evolutionists is to set up "creation" as being directly ex nihilo (out of nothing), as though God could not also create via natural process, with "evolution" then being everything else (Fix, 1984, p.195). Darwin himself was guilty of this in his Origin of Species, contrasting "a miraculous act of creation" with "an ordinary birth" and portraying creation as "certain elemental atoms" having "been commanded suddenly to flash into living tissues" (Darwin, 1872, p.457). Modern day evolutionists continue with Darwin's straw man assumption that creation must be ex nihilo. For example, Oxford evolutionary biologist Mark Ridley, ironically in a book called "The Problems of Evolution," sets up a straw man called "Separate creation" which he claims "states that species do not change and that there were as many origins of species as there have been species" (Ridley, 1985, p.3). Ridley reinforces his straw man by emphasising that those "origins of species" by separate creation were not "by modifying existing ones, not by creating them from nothing (Ridley, 1985, p.14. My emphasis). That no leading creationist has held that extreme creationist position for at least half a century (Ratzsch, 1996, pp.88-89) is evident in that Ridley provides no references to anyone who actually maintains it. Then all Ridley needs to do is cite one example of a species arising from another species to demolish his straw man. This he does, citing examples of dog breeding (which he admits are able to interbreed and so are not new species in the normal reproductive sense), plant breeding and in nature (Ridley, 1985, pp.4-6). So having set up and then demolished his strawman, Ridley triumphantly concludes that it is "another powerful argument for evolution" that "No sensible alternative is known" and "The absence of any coherent alternative to natural selection as a mechanism of creating species is by itself a powerful reason for accepting evolution," and "it is not really possible for anyone (who is not a fanatic) to doubt what the conclusion must be" (Ridley 1985, p.14). However, the glaring weakness in Ridley's straw man creationist alternative to evoluton is his implicit assumption that creation by God must be "by creating them [species] from nothing" and not "by modifying existing ones" (Ridley, 1985, p.14). But quite clearly if even man can create new species by modifying existing species in animal and plant breeding (to use Ridley's own examples) then God could also do that and more! Perhaps the most pervasive straw man tactic that evolutionists employ is the contrasting of "creationism" (an ideology) with "evolution" (a fact). (Johnson, 1997, p.124). For example, evolutionist book titles such as "The Triumph of Evolution: And the Failure of Creationism" (Eldredge, 2000), "Evolution Versus Creationism: The Public Education Controversy" (Zetterberg, 1983); "Evolution and the Myth of Creationism" (Berra, 1990); "Dictionary of Science & Creationism" (Ecker, 1990) and "Science and Creationism" (Montagu, 1984). As in National Academy of Sciences President Bruce Alberts' article "Evolution Versus Creationism: Don't Pit Science Against Religion" (Alberts, 1996), a straw man is set up as pitting creationism (an ideology) against evolution (no -ism and therefore a fact), and no matter what evidence may then be presented, the result is already a foregone conclusion in those terms, since an ideology can never beat a fact (Johnson, 1997, p.124). Darwin was not only "opposed to the biblical model" as but, as Gillespie points out, his "preoccupation with the belief that God had separately and individually created each of the animal and plant species in the world" was a deliberate strategy (as it is today): ... That is because by "1859 [there were only] a minority of naturalists ... who believed in miraculous creation" (i.e. "the biblical model") but the majority still believed in some form of "divine intervention." "All of these save the third [i.e. "a small minority, who had accepted the descent theory"] combined willy-nilly [i.e. willingly or unwillingly] to create a genuine obstacle in the path of the project Charles Darwin had undertaken", i.e. "to promote the restructuring of biology along positivist [i.e. "committed to thoroughly naturalistic explanations based on material causes and the uniformity of the laws of nature"] lines." So "Darwin, then, was not engaged in anachronistic shadowboxing, but had selected his target well and knew exactly what he was doing. His attack on special creation" was (as it is today) "not a harmless straw man" but a deliberate "straw man":
"Charles Darwin's hostile preoccupation with the belief that God had separately and individually created each of the animal and plant species in the world is one of the most intriguing but neglected features of the Origin of Species. Historians have disagreed about what to make of it. ... Some have accused Darwin of setting up a straw man in order to improve the appearance of his own case. Lastly, there are those who believe, correctly I think, that Darwin's rejection of special creation was part of the transformation of biology into a positive science, one committed to thoroughly naturalistic explanations based on material causes and the uniformity of the laws of nature, a change to which the Origin was a signally important contribution. ... Consequently, it was not a harmless straw man, but a traditional bias found among scientists and laymen alike and one that stood in the path of any novel way of viewing the problem of species. Darwin, then, was not engaged in anachronistic shadowboxing, but had selected his target well and knew exactly what he was doing. His attack on special creation was a response to the crisis and an attempt to resolve it by helping to promote the restructuring of biology along positivist lines. The critique of special creation in the Origin was systematically organized to that end. ... There were then, in 1859, a minority of naturalists, some of them influential, who believed in miraculous creation; others, of shifting number, who believed in direct divine intervention in some mysterious but lawful manner to create each new species; a third group, a small minority, who had accepted the descent theory; a fourth, larger group who were moving away from a belief in direct divine intervention in favor of a natural cause, but who were either skeptical of its being found or who were engaged in a quest for laws rather than true causes; and, lastly, a group that busied itself with practical work and renounced theory altogether. All of these save the third combined willy-nilly to create a genuine obstacle in the path of the project Charles Darwin had undertaken." (Gillespie N.C., "Charles Darwin and the Problem of Creation," University of Chicago Press: Chicago IL, 1979, pp.19-20,39)
"Nothing could be further from Mr. Darwin's mind than any, however small, intentional misrepresentation; and it is therefore the more unfortunate that he should not have shown any appreciation of a position opposed to his own other than that gross and crude one which he combats so superfluously-that he should appear, even for a moment, to be one of those, of whom there are far too many, who first misrepresent their adversary's view, and then elaborately refute it; who, in fact, erect a doll utterly incapable of self-defence, and then, with a flourish of trumpets and many vigorous strokes, overthrow the helpless dummy they have previously raised. This is what many do who more or less distinctly oppose theism in the interests, as they believe, of physical science; and they often represent, amongst other things, a gross and narrow anthropomorphism as the necessary consequence of views opposed to those which they themselves advocate." (Mivart S.J., "On the Genesis of Species," Macmillan & Co: London & New York , Second edition, 1871, p.19. Emphasis original)[top]
7. False alternative (false dilemma) The fallacy of false alternative (or false dilemma) occurs when an argument presumes that only two alternatives exist, usually undesirable (Fearnside & Holther, 1959, p.32), when in reality there are more than two (Schick & Vaughn, 1995, p.285; Geisler & Brooks, 1990, p.110). A common example of this fallacy by evolutionists is assuming that the only two alternatives among Christians are liberal Christians who regard the Bible as making few if any scientific claims and young-Earth creationists who regard the Bible as virtually a science textbook. For example, Goldsmith presents a false alternative between those Christians who believe that intelligent life is "elsewhere in the universe" and those who believe "Earth is the only planet with intelligent life ... on a par with ... humanity" are "fundamentalist Christians" whose theology is that "God created the world in six days, and each of those days contained twenty-four hours" (Goldsmith, 1997, pp.234-236). That there is a third group of Christians who believe that intelligent life is unique to Earth but who are not young-Earth creationists, for example Old-Earth creationists like Hugh Ross (Ross, 1991, pp.129ff; Ross, 1993, pp.111ff; Ross, 1994, pp.165ff). The evolutionists claim that intelligent design theorists are guilty of positing a "God of the gaps" is another example evolutionists' employing a logical fallacy in support of evolution, in this case the fallacy of false alternative. It should be "supernaturalism of the gaps" as opposed to "naturalism of the gaps", since theists do not maintain that God (or His activity) is only present in the gaps in natural causation. For example, Jesus turning water into wine (John 2) is an example of supernatural causation by God intervening in natural causation by God, since the Bible also says that God is the Creator of both water and wine naturally (Psalm 104:10-15) "He [the LORD] makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains. They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. The birds of the air nest by the waters; they sing among the branches. He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work. He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate- bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart."
"Several eminent naturalists have of late published their belief that a multitude of reputed species in each genus are not real species; but that other species are real, that is, have been independently created. This seems to me a strange conclusion to arrive at. They admit that a multitude of forms, which till lately they themselves thought were special creations, and which are still thus looked at by the majority of naturalists, and which consequently have all the external characteristic features of true species,- they admit that these have been produced by variation, but they refuse to extend the same view to other and slightly different forms. Nevertheless they do not pretend that they can define, or even conjecture, which are the created forms of life, and which are those produced by secondary laws. They admit variation as a vera causa in one case, they arbitrarily reject it in another, without assigning any distinction in the two cases. The day will come when this will be given as a curious illustration of the blindness of preconceived opinion. These authors seem no more startled at a miraculous act of creation than at an ordinary birth. But do they really believe that at innumerable periods in the earth's history certain elemental atoms have been commanded suddenly to flash into living tissues? Do they believe that at each supposed act of creation one individual or many were produced? Were all the infinitely numerous kinds of animals and plants created as eggs or seed, or as full grown? and in the case of mammals, were they created bearing the false marks of nourishment from the mother's womb? Undoubtedly some of these same questions cannot be answered by those who believe in the appearance or creation of only a few forms of life, or of some one form alone. It has been maintained by several authors that it is as easy to believe in the creation of a million beings as of one; but Maupertuis's philosophical axiom `of least action' leads the mind more willingly to admit the smaller number, and certainly we ought not to believe that innumerable beings within each great class have been created with plain, but deceptive, marks of descent from a single parent.' (Darwin C.R., `The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection,' [1872], Everyman's Library, J.M. Dent & Sons: London, 6th Edition, 1928, reprint, pp.456-457) [top]
8. False analogy (faulty analogy, imperfect analogy) An argument from analogy asserts that things which are similar in some respects are also similar in other respects (Fearnside & Holther, 1959, p.22; Schick & Vaughn, 1995, p.289; Thouless, 1973, p.140). Something less known and understood is likened to something that is more known and understood and to which it bears a significant resemblance (Engel, 1990, p.150). However, not all analogies are valid (Geisler & Brooks, 1990, p.109). The problem is that things which are alike in some respects differ in others (Thouless, 1973, p.140). So every analogy must break down at some point since the class members are similar but not identical (Fearnside & Holther, 1959, p.23; Thouless, 1973, p.141). Therefore arguing from analogy can be useful as long as the two things being compared resemble each other in important respects and differ only in unimportant respects (Engel, 1990, p.150). But if there is a critical difference in the things compared, then the analogy is invalid (Geisler & Brooks, 1990, p.109). Analogies have been useful in science, but they have all broken down at some point (Thouless, 1973, p.142). Therefore analogies can never be conclusive, so they should always be accepted with caution, and more direct proof is required (Thouless, 1973, pp.142-143). Arguments from analogy tends to be very convincing (Geisler & Brooks, 1990, p.109). Often the mere fact that an argument is in the form of an analogy is enough to gain immediate irrational acceptance even by highly intelligent people (Thouless, 1973, p.146). The fallacy of false analogy (or imperfect analogy) arises when the things compared are alike in unimportant or superficial resemblances but different in important or essential details (Engel, 1990, p.150). It consists in assuming that superficial shared properties are essential (Geisler & Brooks, 1990, p.109). Darwin's theory of natural selection was based on an analogy between animal and plant breeders and the weeding out of less fit animals and plants in the wild (Thouless, 1973, p.142; Dawkins, 1986, p.200; Futuyma, 1983, p.117; Gould, 1978, p.41; 1993, p.360; Ridley, 1981; Bethell, 1988, p.186; Greene, 1959, pp.261-264; 1999; Grene, 1959, p.53; Hardin, 1959, p.22; Livingstone, 1987, p.46). This was "the key analogy that powers the entire Origin of Species" (Gould, 1993, p.358). However, Darwin's analogy would only be valid to the extent that unintelligent nature resembles the activities and products of intelligent human breeders (Farrington, 1966, pp.99-100; Johnson, 1992c). And in several important respects (Johnson, 1993, pp.17-20; 1994a; Lester & Bohlin, 1989, pp.95-96), including the inability of breeders to produce new species by selective breeding, it didn't (Desmond & Moore, 1991, p.475). Darwin himself admitted in his Origin of Species that "analogy may be a deceitful guide" (Darwin, 1872, p.458).
"`I won't defend evolution,' Dr. Scott said in exasperation one evening. `We don't defend the spherical Earth.'" (Wilgoren J., "Seeing Creation and Evolution in Grand Canyon," The New York Times, October 6, 2005)
"Regardless of one's point of view, it's actually quite easy to see that Darwinism is not in the same league as the hard sciences. For instance, Darwinists will often compare their theory favorably to Einsteinian physics, claiming that Darwinism is just as well established as general relativity. Yet how many physicists, while arguing for the truth of Einsteinian physics, will claim that general relativity is as well established as Darwin's theory? Zero." (Dembski W.A., "Introduction: The Myths of Darwinism," in Dembski W.A., ed., "Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing," ISI Books: Wilmington DE, 2004, p.xxi) [top]
9. Genetic fallacy
"Fallacies of personal attack can take various forms, depending on the nature of the attack. ... One of the simplest is genetic fallacy, a type of argument in which an attempt is made to prove a conclusion false by condemning its source or genesis. Such arguments are fallacious because how an idea originated is irrelevant to its viability. Thus it would be fallacious to argue that, since chemical elements are involved in all life processes, life is therefore nothing more than a chemical process; or that, since the early forms of religion were matters of magic, religion is nothing but magic. Genetic accounts of an issue may be true, and they may be illuminating as to why the issue has assumed its present form, but they are irrelevant to its merits." (Engel, 1990, p.188)
"To argue that proposals are bad or assertions false because they are proposed or asserted by radicals (of the right or left) is to argue fallaciously and to be guilty of committing an argumentum ad hominem (abusive). This kind of argument is sometimes said to commit the Genetic Fallacy, because it attacks the source or genesis of the opposing position rather than that position itself. The way in which this irrelevant argument may sometimes persuade is through the psychological process of transference. Where an attitude of disapproval toward a person can be evoked, it may possibly tend to overflow the strictly emotional field and become disagreement with what that person says. But this connection is only psychological, not logical." (Copi, 1986, p.92)
"TO argue that a claim is true or false on the basis of its origin is to commit the genetic fallacy. For example: 'Jones's idea is the result of a mystical experience, so it must be false (or true).' Or: 'Jane got that message from a Ouija board, so it must be false (or true).' These arguments are fallacious because the origin of a claim is irrelevant to its truth or falsity. Some of our greatest advances have originated in unusual ways. For example, the chemist August Kekule discovered the benzene ring while staring at a fire and seeing the image of a serpent biting its tail. The theory of evolution came to British naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace while in a delirium. Archimedes supposedly arrived at the principle of displacement while taking a bath, from which he leapt shouting, `Eureka!' The truth or falsity of an idea is determined not by where it came from, but by the evidence supporting it" (Schick & Vaughn, 1995, p.287)
"Genetic Fallacy. This is a special type of reductive fallacy in which the single issue focused on is the source or origin of an idea. The argument demands, `Something (or someone) should be rejected because it (or he) comes from a bad source.' This is an attempt to belittle a position by pointing out its inauspicious beginnings. .... By this criterion, we should not believe our model for the benzene molecule because its founder based it on a dream of a snake biting its tail. One prominent use of this objection in recent years has been to criticize creationism as a scientific view because it comes from Genesis, a religious source. But that is completely irrelevant. Creation science is a theory that must be evaluated on its own merits and cannot be ruled out simply because it comes from a religious source." (Geisler & Brooks, 1990, pp.107-108)
"Damning the Origin: "consider the source". The opposite of regarding argument as established through an appeal to authority ..., is the so-called fallacy of origin, that is, rejecting an argument on account of its undesirable source. The force of an argument does not lie in the nature of the source which advances it. Plato makes this point in one of his dialogues, the Phaedrus. Here Plato depicts Socrates as illustrating an argument by inventing a little myth about ancient Egypt, whereupon Phaedrus replies by remarking that Socrates could, of course, invent tales about Egypt or any other place he chose. Socrates then answers the implied criticism by inventing still another myth. `There was a tradition in the temple of Dodona that oaks first gave prophetic utterances. The men of old, unlike in their simplicity to young philosophy, deemed that if they heard the truth even from `oak or rock,' it was enough for them; whereas you seem to consider not whether a thing is or is not true, but who the speaker is and from what country the tale comes.' Plato, The Phaedrus. Socrates' rebuke is justified. It is true that we want to take into account the reliability of a man before adopting some view of his or before believing without other warrant something he tells us. But even a notorious liar or a man strongly motivated by selfinterest can on occasion tell the truth. ... Socrates is reminding us that what we should want to know about a statement is whether or not it is true, and that it is irrelevant where the statement originates, whether in a tree or a rock-or a myth for that matter." (Fearnside & Holther, 1959, p.97).
"The genetic fallacy is the error of drawing an inappropriate conclusion about the goodness or badness of some property of a thing from the goodness or badness of some property of the origin of that thing. For example, `This medication was derived from a plant that is poisonous; therefore, even though my physician advises me to take it, I conclude that it would be very bad for me if I took it.' The error is inappropriately arguing from the origin of the medication to the conclusion that it must be poisonous in any form or situation. The genetic fallacy is often construed very broadly making it coextensive with the personal attack type of argument (see the description of argumentum ad hominem below) that condemns a prior argument by condemning its source or proponent." (Audi, 1995, p.373).
"Laughter may not be unique to humans Many animals may have their own forms of laughter, says a US researcher writing in the magazine Science. Professor Jaak Panksepp says that animals other than humans exhibit play sounds that resemble human laughs. These include the panting sounds made by chimps and dogs when they play and chirping sounds observed in rats. This suggests that the capacity for laughter may be a very ancient emotional response that predates the evolution of humankind, says Panksepp. Such knowledge may help to reveal how joking and horsing around emerged Jaak Panksepp... suggests the capacity for human laughter preceded the capacity for speech. ...Other researchers prefer to view laughter and joy as uniquely human traits. ... " (Animal laughs no joke says expert," BBC, 1 April, 2005)
As Antony Flew pointed out (see quote), this is a common evolutionist form of the Genetic Fallacy , that "if this [laughter] evolved from that [panting], then this must always be that; or at least, it must always be really or essentially that" (i.e. "panting" is "laughter"), but "this argument is absurd. For to say that this evolved from that implies that this is different from that, and not the same."
"The Genetic Fallacy really is a fallacy, and it consists in arguing that the antecedents of something must be the same as their fulfilment. It would be committed by anyone who argued, presumably in the context of the abortion debate, that a foetus, even from the moment of conception, must really be, because it is going to become, a person. But the fallacy is more usually exemplified in equations moving in the opposite direction, from the actual or supposed antecedent to the developed whatever it may be. ... Consider a recent best- seller, hailed by its delighted publishers as `a wildly successful book'. My copy of The Naked Ape reports that the reviewer for The Times Educational Supplement described it as `brilliantly effective, cogently argued, very readable'. Marshall McLuhan agreed: `As with the title, the entire book is full of fresh perception.`Explaining that wildly successful title the author says: 'There are one hundred and ninety three living species of monkeys and apes. One hundred and ninety two of them are covered with hair. The exception is a naked ape, self-named homo sapiens' [Morris D., "The Naked Ape," Corgi: London, 1968, p.9]. ... Since McLuhan went out of his way to commend the title, it is just worth pointing out that the opposites of 'naked' and .'covered with hair' are, respectively, `clothed ' and `hairless '. So any `fresh perception ' here has resulted in a misdescription. It is, however, a misdescription which suits the author's purpose. This is metaphorically to strip man and, as he was to express it in a sequel `to reveal' a human animal, a primitive tribal hunter, masquerading as a civilized, super-tribal citizen ' ... [Morris D., "The Human Zoo,"Jonathan Cape: London, 1970, p.248]. Certainly it can be salutary to be reminded that, whatever else we are or may become, we remain animals:' Even a space ape must urinate' ... [Morris, 1968, p.21]. And certainly it is useful to insist that as animals we have inescapable problems generated by our fertility. But simply to identify us with our nearest ancestors on the evolutionary family tree is an altogether different thing. It is this which, again and again, Morris does: ` Behind the facade of modern city life there is the same old naked ape. Only the names have been changed: for `hunting' read `working', for `hunting grounds' read `place of business', for `home base' read `house', for `pair bond' read `marriage', for `mate' read `wife', and so on' (Ibid. p. 74.). Once more: ` When you put your name on a door, or hang a painting on a wall, you are, in dog or wolf terms, for example, simply cocking your leg on them and leaving your personal mark there' (Ibid. p. 161). ... The nerve of the argument, and it is an argument which comes up all over the place, is that if this evolved from that, then this must always be that; or at least, it must always be really or essentially that. Yet a moment's thought shows that this argument is absurd. For to say that this evolved from that implies that this is different from that, and not the same. It is, therefore, peculiarly preposterous to offer as the fruit of evolutionary insight a systematic development of the thesis that we are what our ancestors were. Oaks are not, though they grow from, acorns; and-for better or for worse-civilized people are not, though they evolved from, apes." (Flew A.G., "Thinking About Thinking: Or, Do I Sincerely Want to be Right?," [1975], Fontana/Collins, Revised, 1976, pp.101-102)
For a "passionate rationalist" Wolpert (as well as Hamer and Dennett) below is an irrationalist! He has here written a book-length example of the Genetic Fallacy, confusing the origin of a belief with its truth. Consider the two propositions: 1) Christianity is true (which it is); and 2) humans have a "hardwired instinct to link cause with effect." Propositions 2) does not contradict 1). Only by tacitly assuming that an "evolutionary" (i.e. `blind watchmaker') explanation of the mind renders it false, would it. But then we could not trust our minds to know that "evolutionary" explanations are true. This is another example of Darwin's "horrid doubt" (see "Problems of materialism ... Self-refuting"):
The Evolution of Faith: A passionate rationalist explores the scientific roots of religious belief, superstition and plain old luck, TIME, Michael Brunton, Apr. 01, 2006 What's the first thing you do if the ground beneath you starts to rumble and the walls begin to shake? Grab the kids and run? Check your home- insurance policy? Fall on your knees and pray for deliverance? All logical enough reactions, but not your very first one. Instead, even when faced with imminent disaster, you'll spend precious time asking, "What was that?" It's called the cognitive imperative, the uniquely human, hardwired instinct to link cause with effect that gave us a vital evolutionary advantage over other animal species. After all, the noise could be just a passing truck and nothing to lose precious sleep over. Delineating how we react to an earthquake is just one example of the cognitive imperative described in Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast, British scientist Lewis Wolpert's enquiry into the evolutionary origins of belief. If the theme sounds familiar, that's because the search for scientific roots of religious faith is a hot, and heatedly debated, issue of the day. In his 2004 book The God Gene, U.S. molecular biologist Dean Hamer claimed to have located one of the genes he said was responsible for spirituality. Last month, the American philosopher and evolutionary theorist Daniel Dennett provoked more controversy with Breaking the Spell, in which he cast religion in terms of memes - cultural ideas that can spread, mutate and survive in our minds, whether or not they are good for us. . Wolpert, 76, was prompted to write the book by the shock of a conversation with his son Matthew, who had joined a fundamentalist Christian church. the parent in him now accepts that the church was a great benefit to his son. Religious beliefs will endure, Wolpert writes, "not only because mysticism is in our brains, but also because it gives enormous comfort and meaning to life." ... top]
10. False cause (post hoc ergo propter hoc)
"The fallacy of false cause consists of supposing that two events are causally connected when they are not. People often claim, for example, that because something occurred after something else it is caused by it. Latin scholars dubbed this the fallacy of post hoc, ergo propter hoc, which means `After this, therefore because of this.' Such reasoning is fallacious, because from the fact that two events are constantly conjoined, it doesn't follow that they are causally related." (Schick & Vaughn, 1995, p.290).
"The Fallacy of False Cause has been variously analyzed in the past and given alternative Latin names, such as non causa pro causa and post hoc ergo propter hoc. The first of these is more general and means to mistake what is not the cause of a given effect for its real cause. The second is the inference that one event is the cause of another from the mere fact that the first occurs earlier than the second. We shall regard any argument of either sort as an instance of the Fallacy of False Cause. What actually constitutes a good argument for the presence of causal connections is perhaps the central problem of inductive logic or scientific method ... It is easy to see, however, that the mere fact of coincidence or temporal succession does not establish any causal connection. Certainly we should reject the primitive's claim that beating drums is the cause of the sun's reappearance after an eclipse, despite the evidence offered that every time drums have been beaten during an eclipse, the sun has reappeared! " (Copi, 1986, pp.100-101).
"The fallacy of false cause is an argument which suggests that events are causally connected when in fact no such causal connection has been established. ... Analysis of some instances of false cause reveals that two events may be related even though neither is the cause of the other. In such instances, both are effects of a third event, which is the cause of each of them. An interesting historical example concerns the ibis, a bird sacred to ancient Egypt. Egyptians worshiped the ibis because each year, shortly after flocks of ibis had migrated to the banks of the Nile river, the river overflowed its banks and irrigated the land. The birds were credited with causing the precious flood waters when in fact both their migration and the river's overflow were effects of a common cause, the change of season. ... Neither immediate temporal succession or more remote temporal succession is sufficient for establishing causal connection. The fact that homo sapiens follows the ape in the succession of primates is no proof that we are descended from the ape; nor is the fact that the Roman Empire declined after the appearance of Christianity proof that Christianity was the cause of its decline. " (Engel, 1990, pp.153,156. Emphasis in original)
Examples of this fallacy in support of evolution includes: evolutionists assuming that because water is a condition of life, therefore it is a cause of life; and that natural selection is the cause of a new species rather than a new species needing to be consistent with natural selection, which as Haldane pointed out, "is a very different matter":
"But if we come to the conclusion that natural selection is probably the main cause of change in a population, we certainly need not go back completely to Darwin's point of view. In the first place, we have every reason to believe that new species may arise quite suddenly, sometimes by hybridisation, sometimes perhaps by other means. Such species do not arise, as Darwin thought, by natural selection. When they have arisen they must justify their existence before the tribunal of natural selection, but that is a very different matter." (Haldane, 1932, p.75) [top]
11. Argument from authority, appeal to authority (argumentum ad verecundiam) Evolutionists often appeal to authority, e.g. "few, if any, reputable biologists in the country subscribe to intelligent design," (Holub R., "Deans' Corner-Unintelligent Designs and the Responsibility of Educators," The Daily Californian, March 14, 2005), which apart from whether it is false (there could be a silent but sizeable minority of biologists who do "subscribe to intelligent design"), how many biologists are experts in "intelligent design"? As mathematician/philosopher David Berlinski responded, "But what is at issue, of course, is not what reputable biologists believe, but whether it is true." (Berlinski D., "Academic Extinction: More and More, Evolutionary Theory is Becoming Nothing More than Darwinian Mantra," The Daily Californian, March 14, 2005). [...]
"Argumentum ad Verecundiam (appeal to authority). "Accept this because some authority said its As we all know, Authorities" can be wrong, and often are. Furthermore, there are conflicting authorities. Which one should I accept? The mere appeal to authority should never be substituted for evidence or a good argument. However, it is not always wrong to trust an authority. We should trust an authority if we have good reason to believe he is in possession of relevant evidence we don't have. In brief, we trust an authority if he is trustworthy. ... Authorities out of their field have no authority. ... A good example of an authority overstepping his bounds is Isaac Asimov's Guide to the Bible. Now, the man certainly is an expert in physics, biochemistry, science fiction, cosmology, and humanism, but he has no authority in writing about the Bible. ... Even legitimate authorities may disagree. Just because one authority says something does not mean that all authorities agree with him. Whenever there is controversy over an issue, the appeal to authority is weakened in direct proportion to the strength of the controversy. Sooner or later we have to appeal to the evidence itself, about which the authorities are arguing. After all, we only asked the authority because he had the evidence. ... The bottom line is this: all appeals to authority ultimately rest on the evidence that the authority has. The only reason to quote an authority is that he knows the evidence better than we do. The letters after his name don't mean a thing without the evidence to back up his position." (Geisler N.L. & Brooks R.M, "Come, Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking," Baker: Grand Rapids MI, 1990, pp.98-99)
"Appeal to Authority We often try to support our views by citing experts. This sort of appeal to authority is perfectly valid-provided that the person cited really is an expert in the field in question. If not, it is fallacious. Celebrity endorsements, for example, often involve fallacious appeals to authority, because being famous doesn't necessarily give you any special expertise. The fact that Dionne Warwick is a great singer, for example, doesn't make her an expert on the efficacy of psychic hotlines. Similarly, the fact that Linus Pauling is a Nobel Prize winner doesn't make him an expert on the efficacy of vitamin C. Pauling claimed that taking massive doses of vitamin C would help prevent colds and increase the life expectancy of people suffering from cancer. That may be the case, but the fact that he said it doesn't justify our believing it. Only rigorous clinical studies confirming these claims can do that." (Schick T. & Vaughn L., "How to Think About Weird Things: Critical Thinking for a New Age," Mayfield: Mountain View CA, California, Second edition, 1995, p.289)
"THE FALLACY OF APPEAL TO AUTHORITY We make an appeal to authority whenever we try to justify an idea by citing some source of expertise as a reason for holding the idea. Appeals to authority are often valid, as when we tell someone to use a certain medicine because the doctor has prescribed it. But appeals to authority can be fallacious, as when we cite those who have no special competence regarding the matter at hand. The fallacy of appeal to authority, therefore, is an argument that attempts to overawe an opponent into accepting a conclusion by playing on his or her reluctance to challenge famous people, time- honored customs, or widely held beliefs. The fallacy appeals, at base, to our feelings. of modesty ["The British philosopher John Locke gave this fallacy its Latin name, argumentum ad verecundiam, literally, an argument addressed to our sense of modesty." Verecundiam carries connotations of shame as well as modesty, emphasizing how we may be browbeaten into accepting an erroneous conclusion because we are ashamed to dispute supposed authority] , to our sense that others know better than we do. ... Even experts do not ask that their opinions be accepted because they say so but because those opinions are derived from evidence. The human race, and science in particular, has sometimes paid a steep price for this reverence for authority that seems ingrained in us. ... Authority in one domain does not imply authority in unrelated areas" (Engel S.M., "With Good Reason: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies," St. Martin's Press: New York, Fourth Edition, 1990, pp.208-209)
"Argumentum ad Verecundiam (appeal to authority) In attempting to make up one's mind on a difficult and complicated question, one may seek to be guided by the judgment of an acknowledged expert who has studied the matter thoroughly. One may argue that such and such a conclusion is correct because it is the best judgment of such an expert authority. This method of argument is in many cases perfectly legitimate. For most of us the reference to an admitted authority in the special field of that authority's competence may carry great weight and constitute relevant evidence. If nonexperts are disputing over some question of physical science and one appeals to the testimony of Einstein on the matter, that testimony is very relevant. Although it does not prove the point, it certainly tends to support it. This is a relative matter, however, for if experts rather than nonexperts are disputing over a question in the field in which they themselves are experts, their appeal would be only to the facts and to reason, and any appeal to the authority of another expert would be completely without value as evidence. But when an authority is appealed to for testimony in matters outside the province of that authority's special field, the appeal commits the fallacy of argumentum ad verecundiam. If in an argument about morality one of the disputants appeals to the opinions of Darwin, a great authority in biology, the appeal is fallacious. Similarly, an appeal to the opinions of a great physicist like Einstein to settle a political or economic argument would be fallacious. The claim might be made that people brilliant enough to achieve the status of authorities in advanced and difficult fields like biology or physics must have correct opinions in fields other than theirspecialties. But the weakness of this claim is obvious when we realize that, in this day of extreme specialization, to obtain thorough knowledge of one field requires such concentration as to restrict the possibility of achieving authoritative knowledge in others. Advertising "testimonials" are frequent instances of this fallacy. We are urged to wear garments of such and such a brand because a champion golfer or football star affirms their superiority. And we are assured that such and such a cosmetic is better because it is preferred by this opera singer or that movie star. Of course, such an advertisement may equally well be construed as snob appeal and listed as an example of an argumentum ad populum. But where a proposition is claimed to be literally true on the basis of its assertion by an "authority" whose competence lies in a different field, we have a fallacy of argumentum ad verecundiam." (Copi I.M., Introduction to Logic," [1953], Macmillan: New York, Seventh Edition, 1986, pp.98-99)
"Darwin's theory clearly emerged as the victor during the evolutionary synthesis of the 1940s, when the new discoveries in genetics were married with taxonomic observations concerning systematics, the classification of organisms by their relationships. Darwinism is now almost unanimously accepted by knowledgeable evolutionists. In addition, it has become the basic component of the new philosophy of biology." (Mayr E.W., "Darwin's Influence on Modern Thought," Scientific American, Vol. 283, No. 1, pp.67-71, July 2000, p.69)
"If a scientist finds evidence that contradicts a hypothesis, law, or principle, then, in the scientific spirit it must be changed or abandoned. Revision is called for regardless of the reputation or authority of the persons advocating the belief ... In the scientific spirit, however, a single verifiable experiment to the contrary outweighs any authority, regardless of reputation or the number of followers or advocates. In modern science, argument by appeal to authority has little value. Scientists must accept their experimental findings even when they would like them to be different. They must strive to distinguish between what they see and what they wish to see, for scientists, like most people, have a vast capacity for fooling themselves. ... In your education it is not enough to be aware that other people may try to fool you; it is more important to be aware of your own tendency to fool yourself." (Hewitt P.G., "Conceptual Physics," Addison Wesley Longman: Reading MA, Eighth Edition, 1998, p.9)
"The Framework's [Science Framework for California public schools, California State Board of Education, 1990] most constructive recommendation is that teachers and textbook writers should avoid terminology that implies that scientific judgments are a matter of subjective preference or vote-counting. Students should never be told that `many scientists' think this or that. Science is not decided by vote, but by evidence. Nor should students be told that `scientists believe.' Science is not a matter of belief; rather, it is a matter of evidence that can be subjected to the tests of observation and objective reasoning.... Show students that nothing in science is decided just because someone important says it is so (authority) or because that is the way it has always been done (tradition). The Framework immediately contradicts that message, however, by defining `evolution' only vaguely, as `change through time.' A vaguely defined concept cannot be tested by observation and objective reasoning. The Framework then urges us to believe in this vague concept because so many scientists do: `It is an accepted scientific explanation and therefore no more controversial in scientific circles than the theories of gravitation and electron flow.' An appeal to authority is unavoidable, because Darwinist educators cannot afford to reveal that their theory rests squarely on what the Policy Statement calls philosophical beliefs that are not subject to scientific test and refutation." (Johnson P.E., "Darwin on Trial," [1991], InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, Second Edition, 1993, pp.145-146)
"There is no other species on Earth that does science. It is, so far, entirely a human invention, evolved by natural selection in the cerebral cortex for one simple reason: it works. It is not perfect. It can be misused. It is only a tool. But it is by far the best tool we have, self-correcting, ongoing, applicable to everything. It has two rules. First: there are no sacred truths; all assumptions must be critically examined; arguments from authority are worthless. Second: whatever is inconsistent with the facts must be discarded or revised. We must understand the Cosmos as it is and not confuse how it is with how we wish it to be. The obvious is sometimes false; the unexpected is sometimes true. " (Sagan C.E., "Cosmos," [1980], Macdonald: London, 1981, reprint, p.333)
"What sceptical thinking boils down to is the means to construct, and to understand, a reasoned argument and, especially important, to recognize a fallacious or fraudulent argument. The question is not whether we like the conclusion that emerges out of a train of reasoning, but whether the conclusion follows from the premises or starting point and whether that premise is true. Among the tools: ... * Arguments from authority carry little weight- 'authorities' have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science there are no authorities; at most, there are experts." (Sagan C.E., "The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark," [1996], Headline: London, 1997, reprint, pp.197-198. Emphasis in original)
"... it is said that there is no place for an argument from authority from science. The community of science is constantly self-critical ... It is certainly true that within each narrowly defined scientific field there is constant challenge to new technical claims and to old wisdom. ... But when scientists transgress the bounds of their own specialty they have no choice but to accept the claims of authority, even though they do not know how solid the grounds of those claims may be. Who am I to believe that quantum physics if not Steven Weinberg, or about the solar system if not Carl Sagan? What worries me is that they may believe what Dawkins and Wilson tell them about evolution." (Lewontin, Richard., "Billions and Billions of Demons," review of "The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark", by Carl Sagan, New York Review, January 9, 1997, pp.30-31)
Examples of the use of the argument from authority to support evolution. include:
"However, our review of the KSES [Kansas Science Education Standards] ... finds that evolution is singled out as an area of science where there is major scientific controversy because of alleged weaknesses in the theory. In fact, the vast majority of scientists accept evolution as the most compelling explanation for how the diversity of life arose on this planet. Data collected from scientists in many disciplines and published in tens of thousands of peer-reviewed papers both support and continue to strengthen evolution as the underlying basis for understanding biology. The only controversies lie in understanding the possible mechanisms by which evolution operates, but these kinds of disagreements are found in all areas of science. Indeed, they are essential to scientific progress. The revised KSES attempts to portray evolution as a theory in crisis and raises "controversies" (e.g., the Cambrian explosion) that evolutionary scientists have refuted many times using the available evidence." (Cicerone R.J., President, National Academy of Sciences, letter to Dr. Alexa Posny, Assistant Commissioner of Education, Kansas State Department of Education, Topeka, Kansas, October 26, 2005. )[top]
12. Composition A form of the "fallacy of composition" is assuming that what is true of a part of a thing, is therefore true of the whole thing:
"Related to faulty analogy is the fallacy of composition; this is to assume that what holds true for each member of a class standing alone will hold true for all members of the class taken together. Since a whole sometimes does and sometimes does not exhibit the characteristics of its parts, it is not possible to assume that parts and whole will share the same characteristics in any given case. Illustrations are easy to produce. Someone might argue that since each member of the Supreme Court possesses his own personal prejudices, the decisions of the Court as a whole are bound to be the product of these personal elements. In fact, the very reason for group decisions is that a pooling of knowledge makes for sounder judgment than any individual member of the group is apt to produce." (Fearnside W.W. & Holther W.B., "Fallacy: The Counterfeit of Argument," Prentice-Hall: Englewood Cliffs NJ, 1959, 25th printing, pp.27-28)
"The term `Fallacy of Composition' is applied to both of two closely related types of invalid argument. The first may be described as reasoning fallaciously from the attributes of the parts of a whole to the attributes of the whole itself. A particularly flagrant example would be to argue that since every part of a certain machine is light in weight, the machine `as a whole' is light in weight. The error here is manifest when we consider that a very heavy machine may consist of a very large number of lightweight parts. Not all examples of this kind of fallacious composition are so obvious, however. Some are misleading. I have heard it seriously argued that since each scene of a certain play was a model of artistic perfection, the play as a whole was artistically perfect. But this is as much a Fallacy of Composition as it would be to argue that since every ship is ready for battle, the whole fleet must be ready for battle." (Copi I.M., Introduction to Logic," [1953], Macmillan: New York, Seventh Edition, 1986, p.117)
Evolutionists commit a fallacy of composition when they assume that "evolution" is a single process, such that to prove something minor called "evolution" is to prove that the evolution as a whole true:
"The central point is that to define the question as whether `evolution' is `good science' is to allow naturalistic categories to define the terms of the debate and thus to control the outcome. `Evolution' stands for the modest knowledge that science actually has gained about how organisms vary, and also for the vast naturalistic creation story about how mutation and selection brought life to its present complexity. Do you admit or deny the `fact of evolution'? Deny it and you seem to be denying that island species vary from mainland ancestors, or that dog breeders have produced St. Bernards and dachshunds from an ancestral breed. Admit it and you are taken to have admitted, quite without support in the evidence, that an ancestral bacterium changed by a vast series of purposeless adaptive steps to produce today's whales, humans, insects, and flowers. If `evolution' is assumed to be a single process, then to admit any aspect is to admit the entire story." (Johnson P.E., "Darwin on Trial," [1981], Inter Varsity Press: Downers Grove IL, Second Edition, 1993, p.167).
"The Weiner article and book review illustrate what I would call the `official caricature' of the creation- evolution debate, a distortion that is either explicit or implicit in nearly all media and textbook treatments of the subject. According to the caricature, `evolution' is a simple, unitary process that one can see in operation today and that is also supported unequivocally by all the fossil evidence. ... According to the official caricature, the finch-beak variation that the Grants observed on Daphne Island is fundamentally the same process that brought birds into existence in the first place. Essentially the same process, extended over immense stretches of geological time, produced complex plants and animals from single-celled microbes. Biological evolution at all levels is thus fundamentally a single process, which one either accepts or (irrationally) rejects. ... Of course the official caricature utterly misrepresents the scope of the controversy. ... Critics of evolutionary theory are well aware of the standard examples of microevolution, including dog breeding and the cyclical variations that have been seen in things like finch beaks and moth populations. The difference is that we interpret these observations as examples of the capacity of dogs and finches to vary within limits, not of a process capable of creating dogs and finches, much less the main groups of plants and animals, in the first place. This skepticism about the extrapolationist view of evolution is hardly unreasonable, because many distinguished evolutionary biologists have also written that large-scale evolutionary change cannot be explained as a product of merely the accumulation of generation-to- generation variations. As any creationist (and many evolutionists) would see the matter, making the case for `evolution' as a general theory of life's history requires a lot more than merely citing examples of small-scale variation. It requires showing how extremely complex biological structures can be built up from simple beginnings by natural processes, without the need for input or guidance from a supernatural Creator." (Johnson P.E., "Reason in the Balance: The Case Against Naturalism in Science, Law, and Education," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1995, pp.73-74) [top]
13. True by definition

See also Tautology above.

"There is a third variety of true sentences which logicians frequently speak of, "true by definition." ... Like the other kinds of logical truth, definitional truth is also innocent of any factual substance - the only information it gives is that if you define a term in a certain way, then, the conditions of the definition being met, you can use the term. ... They give no information about the world, but only about the use of language in reasonable discourse. It is this lack of material content that is referred to when it is said that such truth is tautological or trivial." (Fearnside W.W. & Holther W.B., "Fallacy: The Counterfeit of Argument," Prentice- Hall: Englewood Cliffs NJ, 1959, 25th printing, pp.136-137)
"A tautology is a contentless statement; something true by definition and uninformative of the real world. `All bachelors are unmarried men' is a tautology, as is `All triangles have three sides.' Neither statement informs us that the subject exists. They only mean, `If X exists, then it is X.' If there are any bachelors in the universe, they are unmarried. The tautology does not tell us that a bachelor really exists. ... Tautologies are usually contrasted with empirical statements that have content: `The tree outside my window is an oak.' `The car in my yard is black.' While empirical statements have content, they are not logically necessary. That is, they may be false. Tautologies, on the other hand, are logically necessary, since they are true by definition. They do not say a thing, but they are necessarily true." (Geisler N.L., "Tautology," in "Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics," Baker Books: Grand Rapids MI, 1999, p.714)
"Natural selection is the central concept of Darwinian theory-the fittest survive and spread their favored traits through populations. Natural selection is defined by Spencer's phrase `survival of the fittest,' but what does this famous bit of jargon really mean? Who are the fittest? And how is `fitness' defined? We often read that fitness involves no more than `differential reproductive success'-the production of more surviving offspring than other competing members of the population. Whoa! cries Bethell, as many others have before him. This formulation defines fitness in terms of survival only. The crucial phrase of natural selection means no more than `the survival of those who survive'-a vacuous tautology. (A tautology is a phrase-like `my father is a man' -containing no information in the predicate ('a man') not inherent in the subject ('my father'). Tautologies are fine as definitions, but not as testable scientific statements-there can be nothing to test in a statement true by definition.)" (Gould S.J., "Darwin's Untimely Burial," in "Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History," [1978], Penguin: London, 1991, reprint, p.40)
"Methodological Naturalism is True By Definition. So why must a scientist proceed in accordance with methodological naturalism? Michael Ruse suggests that methodological naturalism or at any rate part of it is true by definition: `Furthermore, even if Scientific Creationism were totally successful in making its case as science, it would not yield a scientific explanation of origins. Rather, at most, it could prove that science shows that there can be no scientific explanation of origins. The Creationists believe that the world started miraculously. But miracles lie outside of science, which by definition deals only with the natural, the repeatable, that which is governed by law.' [Ruse M.E., "Darwinism Defended," Addison-Wesley: Reading MA, 1982, p.322. Emphasis original] By definition of the term 'science' one supposes; Ruse apparently holds there is a correct definition of 'science', such that from the definition it follows that science deals only with what is natural, repeatable, and governed by law. ... [A] ... puzzling thing about Ruse's claim: it is hard to see how anything like a reasonably serious dispute about what is and isn't science could be settled just by appealing to a definition. One thinks this would work only if the original query were really a verbal question -- a question like: Is the English word 'science' properly applicable to a hypothesis that makes reference to God? But that wasn't the question. The question is instead: Could a hypothesis that makes reference to God be part of science? That question can't be answered just by citing a definition." (Plantinga A., "Methodological Naturalism? Part 2," 1997. Origins & Design 18:2, Access Research Network, January 1, 1998. Emphasis original]
"Third, Emilio has to learn that `science' as defined in our culture has a philosophical bias that needs to be exposed. On the one hand, science is empirical. This means that scientists rely on experiments observations and calculations to develop theories and test them. On the other hand, contemporary science is naturalistic and materialistic in philosophy. What this means is that materialist explanations for all phenomena are assumed to exist. And what that means is that the NABT's definition of evolution as an unsupervised process is simply true by definition-regardless of the evidence! It is a waste of time to argue about the evidence if one side has already won the argument by defining the terms." (Johnson P.E.*, "Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1997, p.21)
"Darwin's theory of evolution was originally stated in risky form. It predicted, for example, that fossil hunters would eventually find a great many transitional intermediates between the major groups (they didn't) and that animal breeders would succeed in creating distinct species (they didn't). Today the theory is usually stated in risk-free form. Naturalistic evolution is identified with science itself, and any alternative is automatically disqualified as `religion.' This makes it impossible to hold a scientific debate over whether the theory is true (it's virtually true by definition), which explains why Darwinists tend to think that anyone who wants such a debate to occur must have a `hidden agenda.' In other words, critics couldn't seriously be questioning whether the theory is true, so they must have some dishonest purpose in raising the question." (Johnson P.E., "Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1997, pp.43-44) [top]
14. Appeal to force (ad baculum)
"Marginalized by his university colleagues, ridiculed as a quack by the scientific establishment, Michael Behe is thankful for the one thing that allows him to continue his work in relative peace: tenure. As one of the nation's leading proponents of intelligent design, the mild-mannered Lehigh University biochemistry professor has sought to provide academic heft to a movement that seeks to change the way Darwin's theory of evolution is taught in public schools. In papers, speeches and a 1996 best seller called `Darwin's Black Box,' Behe argues that Darwinian evolution cannot fully explain the biological complexities of life, suggesting the work of an intelligent force. Mainstream scientists, including those in his own department, reject Behe's assertions as profoundly unscientific. The debate has moved into a federal courtroom in Harrisburg, where Behe is scheduled to testify this week in a landmark case that will determine whether a public school district can include a statement about intelligent design in its biology curriculum. `The fact that most biology texts act more as cheerleaders for Darwin's theory rather than trying to develop the critical faculties of their students shows the need I think for such statements,' Behe [said in] ... his first public comments since the trial got under way last month. ... Critics say intelligent design is merely `creationism in a cheap tuxedo' - a thinly disguised repackaging of the biblical account of creation, whose teaching in public schools was barred in 1987 by the U.S. Supreme Court. Advocates say the principles of ID were in development years before that ruling. Behe, who is a practicing Roman Catholic, said his religious views do not color his work. `I don't have a theological dog in this fight. I'm just trying to do my job as a biochemist,' he said. But Behe's own biology department recently distanced itself from him. In August, the department posted a statement on its Web site that says intelligent design `has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific.' The faculty, the statement adds, `are unequivocal in their support of evolutionary theory.' Neal Simon, the department's chairman, said the intelligent design issue had become sufficiently public that the faculty felt the need to `actively and forcefully' condemn Behe's work. `For us, Dr. Behe's position is simply not science. It is not grounded in science and should not be treated as science,' Simon said. While life on the academic fringes can be lonely, Behe finds community in an e-mail discussion group that he said has 500 members and includes like-minded faculty from universities around the nation. Most keep their views to themselves, Behe said, because `it's dangerous to your career to be identified as an ID proponent.' Indeed, campuses around the nation are rebelling against intelligent design. Earlier this month, the University of Idaho banned the concept from being taught in hard science classes such as biology, a move widely seen as a rebuke of university biologist Scott Minnich, a prominent supporter of ID. At Iowa State University, astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez's support of ID prompted a fierce backlash among faculty. ... Mainstream scientists `ascribe either diminished intelligence or evil motives or financial incentives or some less-than-respectable motivation to people who do not share their framework,' said Behe, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank that advocates intelligent design.." (Rubinkam M., "Intelligent design proponent an outcast at own university,", October 15, 2005).
[This shows how the Darwinists seek (as they have always sought) to protect their theory, not by evidence and arguments, but by a form of the fallacy of argumentum ad baculum (appeal to force) or "appeal to fear":
"The argumentum ad baculum is the fallacy committed when one appeals to force or the threat of force to cause acceptance of a conclusion. It is usually resorted to only when evidence or rational arguments fail. The ad baculum is epitomized in the saying `might makes right.' The use or threat of `strong-arm' methods to coerce political opponents provides contemporary examples of this fallacy. Other appeals to nonrational methods of intimidation may of course be more subtle than the open use or threat of concentration camps or `goon squads.' The lobbyist uses the ad baculum when he reminds a representative that he (the lobbyist) can influence so many thousands of voters in the representative's constituency, or so many potential contributors to campaign funds. Logically these considerations have nothing to do with the merit of the legislation the lobbyist is attempting to influence. But they may be, unfortunately, very persuasive. On the international scale, the arguments ad baculum means war or the threat of war." (Copi I.M., Introduction to Logic," [1953], Macmillan: New York, Seventh Edition, 1986, pp.91-92. Emphasis original)
These examples of the argumentum ad baculum are relevant: "You don't want to be a social outcast, do you?"; "university... faculty members who think [intelligent design is true]... will discover their error at the next tenure review"; "Appeals to fear tend to multiply during periods of stress or conflict":
"The fallacy of appeal to fear [As the Latin word for stick or staff is baculum, this argument is known in Latin as argumentum ad baculum] is an argument that uses the threat of harm to advance one's conclusion. It is an argument that people and nations fall back on when they are not interested in advancing relevant reasons for their positions. Also known as swinging the big stick, this argument seldom resolves a dispute. This argument should be distinguished from an all-out threat. If someone should hold a gun to your back and say, `Your money or your life,' it would not do to reply, `Ah ha! That's a fallacy!' It is not a fallacy because it is not an argument. Although the gunman is appealing to your sense of fear, and even offering a reason why you should do what he tells you, he is not offering evidence in support of the truth of some statement. He is not arguing with you; he is simply ordering you. ... An appeal to fear therefore offers fallacious evidence. In some cases the evidence will be brief and implicit ... in other cases it may run to pages or even volumes. ... We may encounter the appeal to fear in language like the following: ... Don't argue with me. Remember who pays your salary. ... You don't want to be a social outcast, do you? Then you'd better join us tomorrow. ... This university does not need a teacher's union, and faculty members who think it does will discover their error at the next tenure review. These arguments are crude forms of the fallacy. They are explicit about the threats being issued. The fallacy also lends itself to veiled threats. ... Appeals to fear tend to multiply during periods of stress or conflict, both among nations and among individuals. ... As in all fallacies of irrelevance, the object of the argument is an appeal to emotion rather than to reason." (Engel S.M., "With Good Reason: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies," St. Martin's Press: New York NY, Fourth edition, 1990, pp.216-220. Emphasis original)
"This type of argument ... seeks to persuade by force. It is ... argument by intimidation":
"Argument ad Baculum (appeal to force). This type of argument does not even attempt to be relevant. It simply says, `Accept this argument, or I'll beat you up!' It seeks to persuade by force. It is a threat, reasoning through blackmail, argument by intimidation. It assumes that might makes right. What does that have to do with logic? "... they had nothing to say in reply.... And when they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which they might punish them).... and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them to speak no more in the name of Jesus...." [Acts 4:14, 21; 5:40]" (Geisler N.L. & Brooks R.M., "Come, Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking," Baker Book House: Grand Rapids MI, 1990, p.93. Emphasis original) [top]
15. Appeal to the people (ad populum)

Evolutionists use a form of the argumentum ad populum to ridicule those who oppose evolution, playing on the human fear of being thought foolish or backward for disagreeing with the scientific elite:

"The argumentum ad populum is sometimes defined as the fallacy committed in directing an emotional appeal `to the people' or `to the gallery' to win their assent to a conclusion unsupported by good evidence. But this definition is so broad as to include the ad misericordiam, the ad hominem (abusive), and most of the other Fallacies of Relevance. We may define the argumentum ad populum fallacy a little more narrowly as the attempt to win popular assent to a conclusion by arousing the emotions and enthusiasms of the multitude rather than by appeal to the relevant facts. This is a favorite device with the propagandist, the demagogue, and the advertiser. Faced with the task of mobilizing public sentiment for or against a particular measure, they will avoid the laborious process of collecting and presenting evidence and rational argument by using the shortcut methods of the argumentum ad populum. ... It is to the huckster, the ballyhoo artist, the twentieth-century advertiser that we may look to see the argumentum ad populum elevated almost to the status of a fine art." (Copi I.M., Introduction to Logic," [1953], Macmillan: New York, Seventh Edition, 1986, pp.96-97)
"Argumentum ad Verecundiam (appeal to authority) ... Advertising "testimonials" are frequent instances of this fallacy. We are urged to wear garments of such and such a brand because a champion golfer or football star affirms their superiority. And we are assured that such and such a cosmetic is better because it is preferred by this opera singer or that movie star. Of course, such an advertisement may equally well be construed as snob appeal and listed as an example of an argumentum ad populum." (Copi I.M., Introduction to Logic," [1953], Macmillan: New York, Seventh Edition, 1986, p.99)
"Popular Passions: `ad populum appeals' The appeal ad populum or `to the people' is characteristic of addresses to the uninformed. (Bacon named them `idols of the market-place.') The man who conjures with racial or religious hatred, the agitator who stirs passions by pointing to the evils of colonial government without acknowledging any of its accomplishments, the demagogue who resorts to name calling and in this country brands proposals which he does not like as `communist' or `fascist' or in the USSR similarly applies the word `capitalist' all these are either relying on popular passion or invoking the self-interest of the crowd." (Fearnside W.W. & Holther W.B., "Fallacy: The Counterfeit of Argument," PrenticeHall: Englewood Cliffs NJ, 1959, 11th printing, pp.94-95)
"Argumentum ad Populum. This is the fallacy of deciding truth by opinion polls. It says, `Accept this because it has popular appeal.' It is the kind of argument that plays to the galleries, not to the facts. It is an attempt to win by fashionable ideas, not by good arguments. These arguments have `snob appeal' because they agree with an elite or select group and demand that everybody jump on the bandwagon." (Geisler N.L. & Brooks R.M., "Come, Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking," Baker: Grand Rapids MI, 1990, p.97)
An example of this is the use of ridicule (or the fear of it) in persuading the people of Kansas (and others) to not adopt science standards which permit evolution to be criticised:
Kan. Agency to Review Evolution Proposal: Kansas Agency to Review Proposed Science Standards Over How Evolution Is Taught in Schools, ABC News/Associated Press, John Hanna, Jun. 15, 2005 - Three State Board of Education members who drafted proposed science standards contend they're not taking a position on intelligent design, but some Kansas scientists think they're pushing it as an alternative to evolution. An ongoing debate over how evolution should be taught has again brought international attention to Kansas. Public hearings in May attracted journalists from Canada, France, Great Britain and Japan. The latest proposed standards are designed to expose public school students to more criticism of evolution. The recommendations were approved last week by board Chairman Steve Abrams, and members Kathy Martin and Connie Morris. All are skeptical of some parts of evolutionary theory. The entire board was to review their draft Wednesday and decide whether it needed more work. Conservatives have a 6-4 majority, so much of what the three members proposed if not all of it is likely to survive. The standards determine how fourth-, seventh- and 10th graders are tested on science. They currently describe evolution as a key concept for students to learn before graduating from high school, treating it as the best explanation for how life developed and changed over time. State law requires the board to update its academic standards regularly, setting up this year's debate over evolution. In 1999, the Kansas board deleted most references to evolution from the science standards, bringing international condemnation and ridicule to Kansas. Elections the next year resulted in a less conservative board, which led to the current, evolution-friendly standards. Conservative Republicans recaptured the board's majority in 2004 elections. .. (my emphasis)
Kansas Evolution Debate Heading for Vote, Los Angeles Times/Associated Press, November 5, 2005 By John Hanna ... TOPEKA, Kan. -- Kansas' long-running war over the teaching of evolution is headed for another showdown this week between science and the advocates of intelligent design. The state Board of Education plans to vote Tuesday on academic standards that will direct the development of student tests used to measure how well Kansas' public schools teach the sciences. Six of the 10 board members have previously endorsed language sought by advocates of intelligent design, a theory that says the universe is so complex it must have been created by a higher force. Advocates of the theory say the state should give students a more balanced view of evolution. President Bush has even weighed in on the issue, saying schools should present both concepts when teaching about the origins of life. Opponents of teaching intelligent design as science argue that it's largely creationism -- a literal reading of the Bible's story of creation -- camouflaged in scientific language. The state's new academic standards won't dictate what classroom teachers actually teach, that will be left to the local school boards. But some educators worry the state standards will encourage evolution opponents to pressure their local boards. "At some point, teachers in some districts are going to say it's not worth the hassle," said Ken Bingman, who teaches biology at Blue Valley West High School in the Kansas City area. Others states have also dealt with conflicts over the teaching of evolution and intelligent design. In Pennsylvania, a federal judge is expected to rule soon in a lawsuit against a school district policy that requires students hear about intelligent design. But Kansas' debate over evolution has drawn international attention -- and ridicule -- since it began in 1999. That year, the board struck most references to evolution from the standards. ... (my emphasis)
Kansas School Board Votes Against Science, Livescience/Associated Press, John Hanna, 8 November 2005 ... TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Risking the kind of nationwide ridicule it faced six years ago, the Kansas Board of Education approved new public-school science standards Tuesday that cast doubt on the theory of evolution. The 6-4 vote was a victory for "intelligent design'' advocates who helped draft the standards. Intelligent design holds that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by a higher power. Critics of the new language charged that it was an attempt to inject God and creationism into public schools in violation of the separation of church and state. All six of those who voted for the new standards were Republicans. Two Republicans and two Democrats voted no. "This is a sad day. We're becoming a laughingstock of not only the nation, but of the world, and I hate that,'' said board member Janet Waugh, a Kansas City Democrat. Supporters of the new standards said they will promote academic freedom. "It gets rid of a lot of dogma that's being taught in the classroom today,'' said board member John Bacon, an Olathe Republican. The new standards say high school students must understand major evolutionary concepts. But they also declare that the basic Darwinian theory that all life had a common origin and that natural chemical processes created the building blocks of life have been challenged in recent years by fossil evidence and molecular biology. In addition, the board rewrote the definition of science, so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena. ... (my emphasis) [top]
16. Irrelevant thesis, conclusion (ignoratio elenchi)

The fallacy of irrelevant thesis (or conclusion) is where the point advanced or defended is not the one at issue:

"The fallacy of irrelevant thesis, therefore, is an argument in which an attempt is made to prove a conclusion that is not the one at issue. This fallacy assumes the form of an argument that, while seeming to refute another's argument, actually advances a conclusion different from the one at issue in the other's argument. Of all the fallacies studied thus far none is potentially more deceptive-or, for that matter, more interesting-than irrelevant thesis. This fallacy goes by a variety of names: irrelevant conclusion, ignoring the issue, befogging the issue, diversion, and red herring. Red herring may seem a puzzling name. It derives from the fact that escapees sometimes smear themselves with a herring (which turns brown or red when it spoils) in order to throw dogs off their track. To sway a red herring in an argument is to try to throw the audience off the right track onto something not relevant to the issue at hand. The fallacy of irrelevant thesis derives its persuasive power from the fact that it often does prove a conclusion or thesis (though not the one at issue)." (Engel S.M., "With Good Reason: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies," St. Martin's Press: New York NY, Fourth Edition, 1990, pp.162-163. Emphasis original)
"Ignoratio Elenchi (irrelevant conclusion). This is the more subtle of the two tactics, but the effect is the same. An irrelevant conclusion gets the focus off of the point to be proved by substituting a related, but logically irrelevant, point for it. `Accept this because a loosely associated (but irrelevant) premise is true.' The two subjects are similar, but proving one does not say anything about the other. This type of argument is a kind of positive guilt by association. It changes the subject by proving a different conclusion (an irrelevant one) from the one that needs to be proven." (Geisler N.L. & Brooks R.M, "Come, Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking," Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, MI, 1990, p.103)
"Ignoratio Elenchi (irrelevant conclusion). The fallacy of ignoratio elenchi is committed when an argument purporting to establish a particular conclusion is instead directed to proving a different conclusion. ... How do such arguments ever fool anybody? Once it is seen that the conclusion is logically irrelevant, why should anyone be misled by it? In the first place, it is not always obvious that a given argument is an instance of ignoratio elenchi. ... The other part has to do with the fact that language may serve to evoke emotion as well as to communicate information. ... Although every emotional appeal is logically irrelevant to the truth or falsehood of one's conclusion, not every case of ignoratio elenchi need involve an emotional appeal. An argument may be stated in cold, aseptic, neutral language and still commit the fallacy of irrelevant conclusion. It does so if its premisses are directed toward a conclusion different from the one that is supposed to be established by them." (Copi I.M., Introduction to Logic," [1953], Macmillan: New York, Seventh edition, 1986, pp.103-104) [top]
A common example of evolutionists employing the fallacy of irrelevant thesis is in their attacks on the theory of Intelligent Design (ID). Evolutionists often defend examples of `evolution' which Intelligent Design does not dispute. For example, in 2005 Science journal hailed three examples of "evolution in action" as the "breakthrough of the year". In articles on the story, science journalists made the connection between the award being an attempt to attack the theory of Intelligent Design. However, the three examples cited: 1) the sequencing of the chimpanzee genome providing further evidence that chimps and humans share a common ancestor; 2) the sequencing of the 1918 bird flu virus genome confirming that it is closely related to today's bird flu; and 3) that changes within a species of stickleback fish may be due to a single gene mutation:
Darwinism hailed as breakthrough of year in snub to creationists, Steve Connor, 23 December 2005 ... American scientists have cocked a snook at new-age creationists who peddle the idea of intelligent design by voting Darwinian evolution as breakthrough of the year. The editors of the journal Science said several studies published in 2005 have shown beyond any doubt how evolution underpins all aspects of modern biology. "Painstaking field observations shed new light on how populations diverge to form new species - the mystery of mysteries that baffled Darwin himself," they wrote. "Ironically, also this year some segments of American society fought to dilute the teaching of even the basic facts of evolution. With all this in mind, Science has decided to put Darwin in the spotlight by saluting several dramatic discoveries, each of which reveals the laws of evolution in action." In 2005, scientists decoded the genome of the chimpanzee to confirm that the chimp is our closest living relative, descended from a common ancestor. Other researchers sequenced the genome of the 1918 flu virus retrieved from the frozen corpse of an Alaskan victim of the pandemic. A second team of scientists used the sequence to rebuild the virus in the laboratory in order to analyse why it was so deadly. They also found that it had evolved directly from a bird flu virus. "Understanding the evolution of last century's deadly bird flu may help us to predict and cope with the current bird flu threat," said the Science editors. Other studies showed how small changes or mutations in the DNA of a species can result in dramatic evolutionary transformations, such as the creation of two species from one. "Researchers found that a single genetic change can be all it takes to turn one species into many, as in the case of the Alaskan stickleback fish that lost its armour and evolved from an ocean- loving species to a variety of landlocked lake dwellers," the journal said. David Kingsley, professor of developmental biology at Stanford University in California, said the stickleback research in 15 different species of fish showed for the first time that a single genetic mutation was responsible for evolutionary changes. "People who believe in intelligent design argue that such major changes cannot come about through Darwinian evolution but this is obviously false, said Professor Kingsley. "Sticklebacks with major changes in skeletal armour and fin structures are thriving in natural environments. And the major differences between forms can now be traced to particular genes."
are not disputed by Intelligent Design theory (and nor are they evidence for Darwinian evolution)! See my blog post, "Darwinism hailed as breakthrough of year in snub to creationists". Here is another example of the fallacy of irrelevant thesis being used in support of evolution. Two cases of possible sympatric speciation (i.e. speciation without geographical separation) are cited, it is declared that "Darwin was right - again," and then Intelligent Design's "teach the controversy" position is attacked, as though ID (or creationism for that matter) denies that speciation can occur (i.e. that a fish species can split into two fish species or a palm species can split into two palm species):
Darwin was right - again, Christian Science Monitor, February 09, 2006, Robert C. Cowen ... Critics of evolution cite scientific debates to undercut Darwin's credibility. That strategy fails when research clears up some of the issues. Results from two separate research projects announced this week make that point. They deal with Darwin's controversial suggestion that new species can arise within an ancestral population even when there is no way to separate the diverging groups geographically. There's plenty of evidence that new species arise when segments of a single population become geographically separated, as Darwin also theorized. His other suggestion has lacked such evidence. It has remained what Axel Meyer and his colleagues at the University of Konstanz in Germany call "one of the most controversial concepts in evolutionary biology." They present in the journal Nature what they consider "a convincing case" that Darwin was right. They found their proof in Nicaragua's isolated volcanic crater Lake Apoyo. There, two species of cichlid fish - Midas cichlid and Arrow cichlid - live together. Detailed genetic, morphological, and ecological study confirms their relationship as separate species that evolved from a common ancestor. They live separate lives in the same geographical space. Misas feeds along the bottom. Arrow exploits the open water. The two do not interbreed. The researchers explain why they are convinced that the two species did not evolve elsewhere and then invade the lake after it formed about 23,000 years ago. Once the ancestral population was established, however, evolution progressed rapidly. The team estimates that the new species appeared in less than 10,000 years - a blink of the eye in geological time. Vincent Stavolainen at Britain's Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew and nine fellow scientists find what they call "clear support" for Darwin's idea in palm trees on Lord Howe Island 600 miles east of Australia. Two species of the trees live side by side. The scientists find it "highly unlikely" that they evolved while geographically separated. There is strong reason to conclude that they evolved from a common ancestor without geographical separation. The two species appear to have gone separate ways because they flower at different times. This may originally have been due to differences in local soil conditions. In their report on Nature's online publication site, the researchers say the flowering times of the two species correlate with their soil preferences. In the case of Lake Apoyo, the differences in the feeding habits of the fish may have provided the opportunity for those two species to diverge. There's a larger lesson in this scientific nitty-gritty. It's taken more than a century and a half to resolve what, for scientists, was an important controversy. Patient research finally paid off. Proponents of creationism theories plead that high school science classes should "teach the controversy." They have a point, although it is not the point they think they are making. There is no "evolution versus creationist" scientific controversy. It's a political and philosophical controversy. Yet evolutionary biology has plenty of genuine scientific controversy. If schools taught that kind of controversy and how patient research can eventually resolve it, classroom science would be enriched. ...

The relevant question is not whether Darwin's theory can explain these trivial and easy cases, but whether it can plausibly explain important and hard cases, like assembling "30 protein parts" into a rotary motor, complete with rotor, stator, O-ring, bushings, U-joint and drive shaft:

"In recent years, biologists have discovered an exquisite world of nanotechnology within living cells - complex circuits, sliding clamps, energy-generating turbines and miniature machines. For example, bacterial cells are propelled by rotary engines called flagellar motors that rotate at 100,000rpm. These engines look like they were designed by engineers, with many distinct mechanical parts (made of proteins), including rotors, stators, O-rings, bushings, U-joints and drive shafts. The biochemist Michael Behe points out that the flagellar motor depends on the co-ordinated function of 30 protein parts. Remove one of these proteins and the rotary motor doesn't work. The motor is, in Behe's words, `irreducibly complex'. This creates a problem for the Darwinian mechanism. Natural selection preserves or "selects" functional advantages as they arise by random mutation. Yet the flagellar motor does not function unless all its 30 parts are present. Thus, natural selection can `select' the motor once it has arisen as a functioning whole, but it cannot produce the motor in a step-by-step Darwinian fashion. Natural selection purportedly builds complex systems from simpler structures by preserving a series of intermediates, each of which must perform some function. With the flagellar motor, most of the critical intermediate structures perform no function for selection to preserve. This leaves the origin of the flagellar motor unexplained by the mechanism - natural selection - that Darwin specifically proposed to replace the design hypothesis." (Meyer S.C., "Intelligent design is not creationism," Daily Telegraph, 28 January 2006)

That is what ID means by a "controversy"! The fact that Darwinists always point to easy cases to confirm their theory and never to hard cases (like the bacterial flagellar motor) to severely test and falsify it, shows that they themselves lack confidence in Darwin's theory.

By the way, these two cases do not prove that "Darwin was right." First, there is no evidence that the natural selection of random micromuations (which is Darwin theory) was responsible for these two claimed speciations. Second, while Darwin downplayed the importance of geographic isolation (Origin of Species, 1872, 6th edition, pp.82, 100) - in which he was wrong by the way (Mayr E.W., "Evolution and the Diversity of Life: Selected Essays," Belknap: Cambridge MA, 1976, pp.120-121) - Darwin also specifically denied the importance for speciation of "any small isolated area, such as an oceanic island" (p.101. My emphasis) and stated that he believed "that largeness of area is still more important" (p.101)! [top]

17. Argument from ignorance (argumentum ad ignorantiam) The fallacy of argument from ignorance takes two mirror-image forms: 1) it is concluded that something is true because it has not been proved false; or 2) that something is false because it has not been proved true:
"Argumentum ad Ignorantiam (argument from ignorance). The fallacy of argumentum ad ignorantiam is ... committed whenever it is argued that a proposition is true simply on the basis that it has not been proved false, or that it is false because it has not been proved true. But our ignorance of how to prove or disprove a proposition clearly does not establish either the truth or the falsehood of that proposition. This fallacy often arises in connection with such matters as psychic phenomena, telepathy, and the like, where there is no clear-cut evidence either for or against. It is curious how many of the most enlightened people are prone to this fallacy, as witnessed by the many students of science who affirm the falsehood of spiritualist and telepathic claims simply on the grounds that their truth has not been established." (Copi I.M., Introduction to Logic," [1953], Macmillan Publishing Co: New York NY, Seventh Edition, 1986, p.94)
"The fallacy of appeal to ignorance [The Latin name of this fallacy is argumentum ad ignorantiam] is an argument that uses an opponent's inability to disprove a conclusion as proof of the conclusion's correctness. By shifting the burden of proof outside the argument onto the person hearing the argument, such an argument becomes irrelevant. One's inability to disprove a conclusion cannot by itself be regarded as proof that the conclusion is true." (Engel S.M., "With Good Reason: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies," St. Martin's Press: New York, Fourth Edition, 1990, p.214)
"There are those, however, who measure the credibility of a claim not in terms of the evidence in its favor, but in terms of the lack of evidence against it. They argue that since there is no evidence refuting their position, it must be true. Although such arguments have great psychological appeal, they are logically fallacious. Their conclusions don't follow from their premises because a lack of evidence is no evidence at all. Arguments of this type are said to commit the fallacy of appeal to ignorance. Here are some examples: No one has shown that Jones was lying. Therefore he must be telling the truth. No one has shown that there are no ghosts. Therefore they must exist. No one has shown that ESP is impossible. Therefore it must be possible. All a lack of evidence shows is our own ignorance; it doesn't provide a reason for believing anything. .... The principle here: Just because a claim hasn't been conclusively refuted doesn't mean that it's true. A claim's truth is established by the amount of evidence in its favor, not by the lack of evidence against it. ... It's not only true believers who commit the fallacy of appeal to ignorance, however. Skeptics often take this approach: No one has proven that ESP exists, therefore it doesn't. This, too, is fallacious reasoning; it's an attempt to get something for nothing. The operative principle here is the converse of the one cited earlier: Just because a -claim hasn't been conclusively proven doesn't mean that it's false. (Schick T. & Vaughn L., "How to Think About Weird Things: Critical Thinking for a New Age," Mayfield: Mountain View CA, California, Second edition, 1995, pp.18-19. Emphasis original)
"Argumentum ad Ignorantiam (argument from ignorance). This type of thinking assumes that something should be believed until it is shown to be false. One who uses this fallacy says, `Accept this because you can't prove it isn't true.' In other words, if you don't know something is wrong, you should embrace it. But what would happen if someone approached a snake with the attitude of, `Well, I can't prove that it is poisonous, so I guess it's safe to pick it up'? There is a place for closed-mindedness. Propositions, unlike defendants in a court of law, are not presumed true (innocent) until proven false (guilty). Ignorance proves nothing, and all that can be concluded from nothing is nothing. ... That is no way to find truth! Let positive evidence be presented and evaluated for both sides, and the truth can be known. As Aquinas said, `the contrary of a truth can never be demonstrated.'" (Geisler N.L. & Brooks R.M., "Come, Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking," Baker: Grand Rapids MI, 1990, pp.95-96)
As pointed out by Himmelfarb, Darwin relied heavily on "an ingenious argument from ignorance" in his Origin of Species:
"Somehow the fact that no adequate explanation suggested itself today seemed a warrant for the belief that such an explanation would suggest itself in the future, and that the explanation, moreover, would be bound to vindicate his theory. Thus the argument from ignorance was made the prelude to a confident affirmation:
`We are far too ignorant, in almost every case, to be enabled to assert that any part or organ is so unimportant for the welfare of a species that modifications in its structure could not have been slowly accumulated by means of natural selection. But we may confidently believe...' [Origin, 1st edition, p.175]
It may be objected, however, that in the logic of science, as in the logic of grammar, three negatives do not normally constitute a positive. To be sure, a scientific theory that explains equally well a variety of contradictory phenomena may still be true; there are reputable theories that cannot, in this sense, be falsified, [Polanyi, Personal Knowledge, p.47] and hypothetical reasoning is a legitimate, even necessary, scientific technique. The difficulty with natural selection, however, is that if it explains too much, it also explains too little, and that the more questionable of its hypotheses lie at the heart of its thesis. Posing as a massive deduction from the evidence, it ends up as an ingenious argument from ignorance." (Himmelfarb G., "Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution," [1959], Elephant Paperbacks: Chicago IL., 1996, reprint, p.336)

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Created: 3 November, 2003. Updated: 3 March, 2014.