[FAQ Submission] Fallacies and antievolutionists *long*

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John Wilkins

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Oct 10, 2005, 2:47:06 AM10/10/05
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I am putting this up for criticism and comment, but in particular for people
to find links to the Index of Creationist Claims or other places or posts
where these fallacies are found. Please add to each one when you have a
particularly nice instance.

FAQ: Creationists and fallacies
===============================

One of the enduring ways that those who attack science do so is by committing
some of the many fallacies of argument that have been identified over the past
2000 years. Alternately, they often accuse their opponents of committing
fallacies that are not, in fact, fallacies. While scientists and the
supporters of science are not immune from this, we should discuss the more
common examples of attacks on science founded on fallacies.

A fallacy is defined by one older authority (Joseph 1916, 566) as "an argument
which appears to be conclusive when it is not". The crucial elements here are
(i) argument, which is a logical term for a series of propositions and logical
relations that force the conclusion, and (ii) conclusion, which is the output,
as it were, of an argument. The listener is expected to follow the argument
from the initial and agreed propositions, known as the *premises* to the
conclusion. An argument (not a battle of wits, wills or interests, but a
logical sequence) succeeds only when this occurs in a proper manner, and such
an argument is known as a *valid* argument. If the premises actually *are*
true, then a valid argument is also compelling.

There is no canonical list of fallacies, despite the existence of several
websites and books on failures of reasoning. The reason for this is pretty
obvious - while there are a limited number of valid formal rules of inference,
and a rather larger set of accepted rules of rhetorical argument, there are
indefinitely many ways to make a mistake. Think of the equivalent case in
mathematics - could we put together a book that exhaustively and accurately
listed all the mathematical errors one might commit? I think not.

Fallacies as given arise from the understanding of logic in the middle ages.
During that time there were approved forms of reasoning based on the logic of
the "syllogism", and most of our modern fallacies are errors in applying
these. But while logic has changed, none of the fallacies are now regarded as
valid, so we can stick with the traditional kinds.

Fallacies are broken up in two ways most of the time - into formal fallacies
(arguments that break the rules of logical form), and informal or rhetorical
(or material) fallacies. The rhetorical ones are an attempt to force the
listener to conclude something that has not been shown true or likely on the
basis of the *style* of argument alone. Bullying the listener by, for example,
piling example on example without leaving time to consider each one is a
rhetorical fallacy, for example (known as the fallacy of many questions).

So what I'll do is list a number of common logical fallacies, explain why each
one is fallacious, and then give an example of how it is used by creationists
or other antievolutionists. This isn't a comprehensive list either of
fallacies or the fallacies committed by opponents of science. Go visit some of
the links given at the end for more information.

Comments in square brackets [] are comments on examples.

Argumentum ad hominem - arguing to the man
------------------------------------------

Form: X's argument cannot be believed because X is an A

Reason: X's argument can be correct or true even if X is a complete and utter
rotter, or fool, or is ignorant. The argument must be considered on its own
merits. This is a rhetorical fallacy. It invites the listener to not hear the
argument because of the personal nature of the person who happens to be
arguing it. [If a saint were to deliver the argument, would it now be worth
hearing?]

Discussion: this one has an interesting history. Locke called a quite
different argument ad hominem - for him it meant assuming that the opponent's
premises were correct, inferring a conclusion (perhaps to show it is absurd),
and then (here's the fallacy) accepting the conclusion (forgetting that you
don't adopt the premises). Sometime in the 19thC this changed.

It is not a fallacy to reject an argument because the person making it lacks
authority but claims it. If your plumber argues against, say, the big bang
because it seems wrong to him or her, it is no ad hominem to say the plumber
is ill equipped to make that judgement, for the judgement *relies* on the
nature of the person making the argument. The fallacy lies in arguing that the
argument is false *because* the person is A (whatever bad thing A is). It
might be valid anyway; but the plumber has not given any good reason to think
the big bang is untrue. If Stephen Hawking gave that argument, and could back
it up with the standards of physics, then the argument would carry weight.

Example: Richard Dawkins is an atheist, so Darwinism is false.

Argument from Consequences
--------------------------

Form: If X were true, Y would follow. Y is bad, therefore X is not true

Reason: X can be true no matter what follows from it.

Discussion: For example, if physics is correct, the Sun will expand to become
a red giant and consume the earth some six billion years from now. Many people
think this is a bad thing, but nobody thinks that physics is false because of
it. A closer to home version is "if our actions are caused by our
neurophysiology, we would have no free will. Therefore our actions are not
caused by our neurophysiology".

Example: If evolution were true, we'd be animals.

False correlation - post hoc ergo propter hoc
---------------------------------------------

Form: X happened at the same time as Y, so X caused Y

Reason: Both X and Y might have no causal link, or they may be caused by some
prior cause they both share.

Discussion: A false correlation is called a Type I error in statistics. Things
can rise and fall in frequency or occur together without being related by a
causal factor one way or the other. For example, I see a man enter a building.
Later I find that someone else was killed in there shortly after. I conclude
he did it. It turns out, though, that he went to apartment 210, while the
killing occurred in apartment 320.

Alternatively, both phenomena might be caused by the same thing. At the same
time as literacy increased in Europe, so did personal religion. Did literacy
cause personal religion or vice versa? In fact it may be that the invention of
printing caused both, by printing personally affordable copies of the Bible
[this is a gross oversimplification of the real story - I'm just using it as
an illustration].

Also known as the False Cause fallacy, or non causa pro causa.

Example: Racism [or eugenics, the Holocaust, etc.] followed the publication of
the Origin of Species, and so evolution thinking causes racism [or eugenics,
the Holocaust, etc.].

False dichotomy, and Black and white fallacy
--------------------------------------------

Form: If not X then Y and only Y. Not X, therefore Y

Discussion: this covers two fallacies. One is the fallacy of a false dichotomy
(from the Greek roots dicho- = two, and tomos = cut). According to this only
one of two options are possible. I might say that O. J. Simpson is either
guilty or uninvolved in Jessica Simpson's murder. But he might have been
involved even if he didn't do it himself [made up example, of course].

The other is the fallacy of black and white thinking. According to this there
are only extremes rather than a graded series between them. For example, one
might say, if one is not tall, one is short. But in fact we know sizes range
across a distribution, so the terms are not discrete (broken into sharp
categories).

Example: Either Darwinism is true or creationism is true. [But neither of
these may be true].

Either you are a Christian or you are an evolution-accepter [there are
Christians who accept all kinds of evolutionary facts, and these range from
acceptance of some kind of common descent to the full modern package]

Either an animal gives rise to something like itself, or something of another
species (e.g., cats giving birth to dogs) [But evolutionary theory says that
the changes are gradual and cumulative].


Argument from authority
-----------------------

Form: X is true because A says it is

Discussion: Appeal to authority is a legitimate move. If I want to know what
the function of the pancreas is, I have two options - go study the pancreas
for decades, or ask somebody who already has, or somebody who knows what
somebody who already has found out.

But the point of an appeal to authority is that you have to ask somebody who
really *is* an authority. It is no good asking a dentist for evidence of the
truth or otherwise of evolution (although four out of five dentists recommend
the theory of evolution!). Nor is it any good asking an engineer about
theoretical physics, or a medical doctor about population genetics.

Each of these individuals can *also* be experts in the field, but they are not
experts in virtue of having qualifications outside the field. Moreover, merely
because somebody is an expert does not make them right - they are still open
to (expert) challenge. So dueling experts can be misleading - a better measure
of truthlikeness in science is whether the majority consensus is in agreement.
So appealing to an expert is really appealing to an entire discipline in the
proxy of the expert.

Example: Evolution is under threat because 100 scientists challenge it [even
though most of these people are not scientists, and those who are are mostly
not in a relevant field].

Non sequitur - it doesn't follow
--------------------------------

Form: X. Therefore P.

Discussion: Not really a fallacy so much as a failure to argue, non sequitur
(Latin meaning "does not follow") is the assertion of something that doesn't
come from the argument. It is often an attempt to change the subject or imply
that some (accepted) premises support a conclusion when they don't. This is
also sometimes called Ignoratio Elenchi, but that is a larger group of errors
than just this one. Sometimes this forms what logicians call an enthymeme, an
argument with missing premises, and the fallacy can be filled out with those
premises (which can then be inspected for truth). Non sequitur is a form of
affirming the consequent.

Example: Evolution says we are animals. Therefore we should all rape each
other. [Make it an enthymeme by adding the premise "animals rape each other by
nature" and it becomes a valid argument that is not compelling due to the
falsity of that premise.]

Affirming the consequent - using the conclusion to prove the premises
---------------------------------------------------------------------

Form: If X therefore Y. Therefore Y, therefore X.

Discussion: This is a rather subtle error. It often comes when you note that
the conclusion is compatible with the premises, and that this is evidence of
the premises being true. A classic example is the Anthropic Principle - the
universe is exactly right for us to live, therefore it was designed for us to
live. See also Begging the Question.

Example: The biological world is full of design. Therefore living things were
designed.

Begging the question - assuming what you set out to prove
---------------------------------------------------------

Form: If X then Y. Y, therefore X, therefore Y.

Discussion: The most common form of fallacy - used with great gusto by
lawyers, politicians, journalists, and, of course, antiscientists. It works by
taking what is to be shown as true, arguing that if it were true then the
facts of the premises would be true, and concluding from that the truth of the
conclusion.

Example: The Bible cannot tell a lie because it is the word of God and
reliable in all things. It says so, and the Bible never lies. Therefore
evolution, which is inconsistent with the Bible, must be false. The use of
proof texts from the Bible is a form of begging the question.


Equivocation - amphiboly (No True Scotsman) (Strawman) (Shifting the goalposts)
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Form: To use a word in several different senses without making clear
discriminations between them.

No True Scotsman: All X's are Y. Counterexample - But this X is not Y.
Response - All True X's are Y.

Discussion: Amphiboly means "to throw both ways". This fallacy is common also.
It relies on the fact that words can have several meanings one can equivocate
between. It also applies when the goalposts are shifted rapidly. Another form
of amphiboly is to set up a Strawman to argue against. In this case the
amphiboly lies in the equivocation between the *actual* target, and the
simplistic, misrepresented or simply false target by the same name. A straw
target is easier to knock over.

Examples: one might say that "Love conquers all. I love you. Therefore I
conquer you." The first "love" is a universal noun, representing an abstract
quality. The second "love" is an active verb. So the properties of the first
do not necessarily apply to the qualities of the second.

Creationists equivocate when they shift from demands for small evolution
(which they typically call "microevolution")to demands for oservations of
large evolution (which they typically call "macroevolution"), when the initial
request requires only small-scale evolution. This is called Shifting the
Goalposts.

A Strawman is often constructed when creationists refer to "evolutionism" or
"Darwinism", which has an *actual* meaning in the history of science, and a
straw meaning, which carries all the connotations the antiscientists wants to
imply are the result of evolutionary theory. See also Poisoning the Well.

The No True Scotsman move was named by Antony Flew (see references). It is a
reverse amphiboly, which redefines terms on the gallop. It allows the reasoner
to avoid accepting the logical consequences of their argument when it doesn't
suit them.

Example: No Christian believes in evolution. But Bishop Polkinghorne believes
in evolution. No *real* Christian believes in evolution (Bp Polkinghorne is
therefore not a real Christian).

Fallacy of composition
----------------------

Form: X is composed of Ys. All Ys are P, therefore X is P

Discussion: This fallacy assumes that the properties of the parts must give
the whole the same property. That this doesn't follow is due to the fact that
the parts might be self-canceling, or might have properties only *parts* can
have, and so on.

Example: Christians form society. All Christians have faith. Therefore society
has faith (eg., America is a Christian nation).

Fallacy of division
-------------------

Form: X is P. Therefore all parts of X are P.

Discussion: This is the inverse of the fallacy of composition.

Example: All parts of the brain must be conscious because the brain is
conscious. [Or, all parts of the world must be conscious because the world is
a mind.]

Fallacy of many questions (Gish gallop)
---------------------------------------

Form: ask one or more questions that cannot be answered without accepting the
way the debate is framed.

Discussion and examples: There are many instances of this. The classical
example is: "Have you stopped beating your wife?", which is really two
questions - "do you beat your wife?" and if so, "have you stopped?". Another
famous example is known among those who deal with creationists as the Gish
Gallop. In this case, also used by other creationists such as Kent Hovind, it
consists of throwing out scores or even hundreds of claims, each of which
takes more than a sentence to refute. The time taken to refute the errors thus
rises exponentially with the time taken to throw doubt on evolution. The
listener concludes there is something wrong with evolution simply because the
answers are not short and snappy. This makes it a, if not *the* rhetorical
fallacy.

Slippery slope - Sorites
------------------------
Form: If X is a Y, then X+n is a Y. Therefore all Xs+ns are Ys.

Discussion: The Sorites (named from the Greek word for "heap"
<http://setis.library.usyd.edu.au/stanford/archives/fall1997/entries/sorites-paradox/>)
is an old problem in philosophy. It is sometimes called The Fallacy of the
Beard when inappropriately applied to be a fallacy. It works on the idea that
if two things are indiscernibly similar, then they share the same property,
and fallaciously concludes that all things in a continuum or spectrum are the
same.

Examples: A fetus at 40 weeks is a person. A fetus at 39 weeks is therefore a
person. (iterate many times) A fetus at conception is a person.

Creationists use this to imply that any shift in the absoluteness of a belief
leads to atheism or apostasy.

Fallacy of misplaced concreteness - reificationism
--------------------------------------------------

Form: Some abstract thing has noun term. Therefore that abstract thing is real.

Discussion: This tends to rely on the meanings of words, and inferences from
the noun form of terms for general notions to their reality or not. Sometimes
called "reificationism" from the Latin for "thing" - "res". Note: it is *not*
a fallacy to infer from a scientific theory that a given term in a
well-supported theory represents a physical entity or quality. All indirectly
observable entities, such as electrons and genes, were first postulated
theoretically.

Examples: Natural selection is a selecting agent. Evolution denies religion.
[Natural selection is a scheme of an explanation, and is basically the claim
that the better forms will spread over time. Evolution is a process - it
doesn't deny or believe anything. Some *people* who accept the fact of
evolution or the efficacy of selection processes may believe or deny religion.]

Argumentum ad populum - argument from popularity
------------------------------------------------

Form: Most Xs believe Y, therefore Y is true.

Discussion: An old song <http://www.reference.com/browse/wiki/1927_in_music>
said that "50 million Frenchmen can't be wrong". They can. The majority is not
always right, particularly when it comes to scientific matters. It is also not
the case that what all scientists think is therefore right - scientists who
speak outside their speciality are no more likely to be correct than the rest
of us. However, it is the case that the majority of specialists are likely to
be correct; that is part of what being a specialist is about (see Argument
from authority).

Examples: 100 scientists reject evolution [claim made by various creationist
and ID sources. Of course, over 99.5% of scientists *do* agree with evolution,
and in the relevant field, that figure rises, not falls.]

Tu quoque - you're one too!
---------------------------

Form: X's arguments are bad. Response - Y's arguments are worse.

Discussion: The argument tries to support a position by showing that its
shortcomings are shared by an opposing position. In effect, the argument says,
"My position may be bad, but you should accept it because my opponent's
position is just as bad."
<http://www.cuyamaca.net/bruce.thompson/Fallacies/tuquoque.asp>

Examples: Creation science is just a religious position. <Creationist reply>
Evolution is just a religion too.

Poisoning the Well - the fallacy of Guilt by Association
--------------------------------------------------------

Form: A accepts X, therefore X is wrong (because A is a bad person or group)

Discussion: this is very popular among those who want to argue from history.
Some reviled individual or group accepted an idea therefore the idea is false.

Examples: Hitler accepted evolution [or vegetarianism, or animal rights]
therefore that idea is wrong.

Conceptual fallacy (Argument from incredulity)
----------------------------------------------

Form: X cannot be believed (or conceived of). Therefore not X.

Discussion: This is a form of argument from our own inabilities to the truth
of the statement or its denial. But there are many things I can't conceive
that are true, and many things I can conceive (or believe) that aren't.

Example: Nothing can come from nothing, therefore everything came from
something. [Why not? Modern physics allows quantum foam to come from nothing.]

I cannot conceive how the eye could have evolved, therefore it didn't. [You
may not know the intermediate steps, or you may not be able to understand them.]

Conclusion
----------

There are many other fallacies, listed and discussed in the references below.
These are merely the most common ones used against evolutionary theory. Before

References and further reading:
-------------------------------

Books:

Whatley, R. (1875, orig 1827). Elements of logic. London, Longmans, Green & Co.

Sidgwick, A. (1883). Fallacies: a view of logic from the practical side.
London, Kegan Paul, Trench & Co.


Joseph, H. W. B. (1916). An introduction to logic. Oxford, Clarendon Press.
Second edition.

Mill, J. S. (1930). A system of logic, ratiocinative and inductive: being a
connected view of the principles of evidence and the methods of scientific
investigation. London, Longmans Green. [Book V]

Hamblin, C. L. (1970). Fallacies. London, Methuen.


Hodges, W. (1977). Logic. Harmondsworth; New York, Penguin.

Salmon, W. C. (1963). Logic. Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Prentice-Hall.

Flew, A. (1971). An introduction to western philosophy: Ideas and arguments
from Plato to Sartre. London, Thames and Hudson. [Author engagingly discusses
fallacies throughout, often giving them nicer names. See if you can match
Flew's names to the classical ones]

Flew, A. (1975). Thinking about thinking: or, Do I sincerely want to be right?
Glasgow, Fontana/Collins.

Audi, R. (1989). Practical reasoning. London; New York, Routledge.

Copi, I. M. and C. Cohen (1998). Introduction to logic. London, Prentice-Hall
International.

Priest, G. (2000). Logic: a very short introduction. Oxford; New York, Oxford
University Press.

Web references:

http://www.datanation.com/fallacies/
[Very good list]

http://www.infidels.org/news/atheism/logic.html
[Targeted to arguments against religion]

http://www.drury.edu/ess/Logic/Informal/Overview.html

http://www.fallacyfiles.org/

http://www.math.toronto.edu/mathnet/falseProofs/fallacies.html
[Probably the best of the lot]

--
John S. Wilkins, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Biohumanities Project
University of Queensland - Blog: evolvethought.blogspot.com
"Darwin's theory has no more to do with philosophy than any other
hypothesis in natural science." Tractatus 4.1122

--
John S. Wilkins, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Biohumanities Project
University of Queensland - Blog: evolvethought.blogspot.com
"Darwin's theory has no more to do with philosophy than any other
hypothesis in natural science." Tractatus 4.1122

Kleuskes & Moos

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Oct 10, 2005, 7:49:51 AM10/10/05
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John Wilkins schreef:

A long, very good article on rethorical and logical fallacies.

A few minor nitpicks...

1. I enjoyed reading it. It is well written an to the point.
2. Well structured, you could dish it out with a PHP app.

3. At the top of the document you have entries entitle "Reason",
stating, the reson, in the latter part you do the same stating
"Discussion". Wouldn't it be better to be consistent, or is there a
subtle reason for this?

4. You say:

<quote>


I might say that O. J. Simpson is either
guilty or uninvolved in Jessica Simpson's murder. But he might have
been
involved even if he didn't do it himself [made up example, of course].

</quote>

Wouldn't it be better just to say

<proposal>
A policeman investigating a murder can regard any suspect as either
guilty of murder or innocent, but in fact the suspect might just be an
accomplice, not the actual murderer but certainly not innocent.
</proposal>

Since it alleviates you of the task of saying it's "a made up example,
of course" and keeps the whole thing in the abstract explicitly. It
also avoids the question "Who is O.J. Simpson?".

5. You mark
<quote>

</quote>

I don't disagree that it's a very good site, but it does rather focus
on flaws in mathematical proof (ways to proof that 1 = 2), while your
list mainly refers to rethorical or logical flaws in a debate. I found
the recoomendation a tad misleading, however enjoyable the site (fun
with math: spot the error or suffer your axioms desintegrating).

John Wilkins

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Oct 10, 2005, 8:13:24 AM10/10/05
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Kleuskes & Moos wrote:
> John Wilkins schreef:
>
> A long, very good article on rethorical and logical fallacies.
>
> A few minor nitpicks...
Thanks...

shane

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Oct 10, 2005, 8:39:12 AM10/10/05
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John Wilkins wrote:

One minor nitpick and one question.

"indefinitely many ways" seems a rather non-intuitive way of wording this.

> mathematics - could we put together a book that exhaustively and accurately
> listed all the mathematical errors one might commit? I think not.

Argument from incredulity?

<snip>

--
shane

catshark

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Oct 10, 2005, 9:50:03 AM10/10/05
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On Mon, 10 Oct 2005 16:47:06 +1000, John Wilkins <jo...@wilkins.id.au>
wrote:

[...]

>Poisoning the Well - the fallacy of Guilt by Association
>--------------------------------------------------------
>
>Form: A accepts X, therefore X is wrong (because A is a bad person or group)
>
>Discussion: this is very popular among those who want to argue from history.
>Some reviled individual or group accepted an idea therefore the idea is false.
>
>Examples: Hitler accepted evolution [or vegetarianism, or animal rights]
>therefore that idea is wrong.

Here is a "nice" example, "Darwin’s Disciples: The Modern Epicureans" by
Wayne Jackson, _Christian Courier: Penpoints_ because it not only uses the
"usual suspects" in Hitler, racists, sexists, pagans and "brutalists" (he
just missed perfection by failing to call them "social Darwinists") but
jumps on the less widely reviled Epicureans as well.

<http://www.christiancourier.com/penpoints/modernEpicureans.htm>

Understandably, the article also totters on the edge of Ad Hominen but the
author doesn't quite say that Darwin was wrong *because* he was a sexist,
racist, father rapist, etc. It comes close on Argument from Consequences as
well but just misses saying the bad consequences make evolution wrong.

First, the stage is set:

If the Epicurean/Darwinian dogma is accepted, and practiced
consistently, it will lead humanity into a downward spiral that
results in a despicable morass of violence and debauchery that is
unimaginably horrible. Modern society is on its way in that
“descent of man,” and it has by no means reached the bottom of
the abyss.

The examples given:

Charles Darwin was a sexist. Some moderns would label him a “sexist
pig,” were he not the darling of their biological fantasy. For
instance, Darwin argued that the male is considerably superior to the
female in intellect. Hear him: “...[T]he chief distinction in the
intellectual powers of the two sexes is shewn [shown] by man attaining
to a higher eminence, in whatever he takes up, than woman can attain –
whether requiring deep thought, reason, or imagination, or merely the
use of the senses and hands” (The Descent of Man, London: John Murray,
1871, 2.327). Is it any wonder that the demeaning of womankind
accelerated in the post-Darwin regime?

Darwin was a racist. He held that those “savages” beyond the pale of
Caucasian boundaries would eventually become extinct – hopefully!
“At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries,
the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and
replace throughout the savage races throughout the world ... The break
between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will
intervene between man in a more civilized state, as we may hope, even
than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as the baboon, instead of as now
between the negro [sic] or Australian and the gorilla” (Descent, 1.201).
It certainly was not through the influence of evolutionary dogma that
the evil of slavery was abolished in civilized lands.

Darwin was a tooth and claw brutalist who lamented the fact that modern
man seeks to preserve the lives of his sick and weak peers. For example,
he bemoaned the medical reality that vaccinations have “preserved
thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed
to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate
their kind ... this must be highly injurious to the race of man.” The
foremost apostle of evolution criticized the construction of hospitals
for the crippled, sick, and mentally handicapped. He felt it unfortunate
that doctors labor so to preserve human lives down to their concluding
hours. He protested laws that were designed to care for the poor. These
facts are beyond dispute (see: Descent, 1.168).

And the point is then driven home:

This was the philosophy that Adolf Hitler found so refreshing
in his quest to eliminate millions of “inferior” folks in the days
of his infamous regime. Modern advocates of evolutionary theory
choke on this paganistic drivel from their philosophical father, but
they do not know how to effect disconnection from him.

Conclusion

Darwinists, of course, loudly protest that they repudiate these
conclusions. Of course they do; such premises are too hideous to
advocate without resulting embarrassment and recrimination.

--
---------------
J. Pieret
---------------

In the name of the bee
And of the butterfly
And of the breeze, amen

- Emily Dickinson -

Do you think everyone should have a blog?
Here is the counter-evidence: <http://dododreams.blogspot.com/>

The Ghost In The Machine

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Oct 10, 2005, 10:00:10 AM10/10/05
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In talk.origins, John Wilkins
<jo...@wilkins.id.au>
wrote
on Mon, 10 Oct 2005 22:13:24 +1000
<didlsi$l40$1...@bunyip2.cc.uq.edu.au>:

> Kleuskes & Moos wrote:
>> John Wilkins schreef:
>>
>> A long, very good article on rethorical and logical fallacies.
>>
>> A few minor nitpicks...
> Thanks...

http://www.infidels.org/news/atheism/logic.html

has a few more; it's largely redundant but might have a few more
for your purposes. :-)

--
#191, ewi...@earthlink.net
It's still legal to go .sigless.

Robert Carroll

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Oct 10, 2005, 10:38:49 AM10/10/05
to

"John Wilkins" <jo...@wilkins.id.au> wrote in message
news:didlsi$l40$1...@bunyip2.cc.uq.edu.au...
John: excellent post. But it's Nicole Brown Simpson, not Jessica.

Bob

Beagle

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Oct 10, 2005, 11:56:08 AM10/10/05
to
Darwin was a racist, so he contemptuously refused to learn taxidermy
skills from a freed slave at Edinburgh.

Darwin was a sexist, which is why women's suffrage was abolished soon
after his books were published.

But that's not the sum of his sins, dear me no!

Darwin was in fact Jack the Ripper! He was
a. in England at the time the murders was committed
b. totally evil
c. had the requisite surgical knowledge
and d. wrote screeds of mad, atheist stuff - and the Ripper could
write, too!

'Red Jack' Darwin's laughably weak alibi was that he was 'dead' - one
of those absurd, materialist concepts that no person of true faith
accepts for a minute.

Being buried in Westminster Abbey was just a cunning ploy to throw
Inspector Lestrade off the trail, but Holmes was onto him. It's all in
my forthcoming novelette, 'The Adventure of the Iguana's Tail'.

boikat

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Oct 10, 2005, 1:04:58 PM10/10/05
to
"John Wilkins" <jo...@wilkins.id.au> wrote in message
news:didlsi$l40$1...@bunyip2.cc.uq.edu.au...
> Kleuskes & Moos wrote:
> > John Wilkins schreef:
> >
> > A long, very good article on rethorical and logical fallacies.
> >
> > A few minor nitpicks...
> Thanks...

"Argument from ignorance"?

Since one facet of "E" is unknown at this time, all of "E" is wrong.
(usually follwed by false dichotomy: Since "E" is wrong, "C" is right.)

An example that comes to mind is the claim "since evolutionists cannot show
how jellyfish evolved, the ToE is wrong" (and creationism is right), or
"Since nobody knows where Jack bought the bullets, he didn't shoot Joe,
(even though there's plenty of other evidence that Jack shot Joe (Therefore
Jill shot Joe)).

I'm not sure if that's the right form, but I think there's a subtle
difference between the argument from incredulity and argument from
ignorance, even if it's followed up with false dichotomy.

Ready to stand corrected, Master. ;P

Boikat
--
<42><

Josh Hayes

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Oct 10, 2005, 2:11:18 PM10/10/05
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"Robert Carroll" <rwca...@optonline.net> wrote in news:02v2f.10023
$dl2....@fe08.lga:

Well, maybe Wilkins dislikes Jessica Simpson. Teeth too big, or something.

-JAH

Thompson

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Oct 10, 2005, 2:34:24 PM10/10/05
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Pigheadedness

'X is true because it just is. Y is false because it just is.'

Example:
'I refuse to believe it's our Gargantua.'
(Line from an old horror movie.)

Fallacy because it refuses to reason.


Example:
'God said it, I believe it, that settles it.'

Note: At first glance this cliche apears to be an appeal to authority.
The giveaway is that the deity mentioned in the statement ratifies only
ideas already held by the speaker. The possibility that a Supreme Being
could have more to say to the speaker about a subject is ruled out of
court beforehand. So is the possibility that any gap could exist
between reality and the speaker's beliefs about it. Even so, these
possibilities are reasonable to consider.

A deity permitted to 'speak' only the ideas already held by its
followers is no authority at all. It is a puppet. In this case, the
puppet is invoked as a sort of trump card to thwart contemplation of
other ideas.

Kleuskes & Moos

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Oct 10, 2005, 3:30:04 PM10/10/05
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shane schreef:

<snip>


> > could we put together a book that exhaustively and accurately
> > listed all the mathematical errors one might commit? I think not.
>
> Argument from incredulity?

Not really. Only an opinion is expressed, no conclusion is drawn.

--

Lubarsky's Law of Cybernetic Entomology:
There's always one more bug.

Ernest Major

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Oct 10, 2005, 3:53:47 PM10/10/05
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In message <did2pa$286u$2...@bunyip2.cc.uq.edu.au>, John Wilkins
<jo...@wilkins.id.au> writes

>Example: Evolution says we are animals. Therefore we should all rape
>each
>other. [Make it an enthymeme by adding the premise "animals rape each
>other by nature" and it becomes a valid argument that is not compelling
>due to the falsity of that premise.]

I think that this example is problematical. Behaviour describable as
rape has been observed in various species (e.g. orangs and mallards),
with the proviso that issues of homology vs analogy occur here. So the
added premise is not clearly false - perhaps you meant "all animals", in
which case it is false.

But, as presented, that argument also appears to commit the naturalistic
fallacy.
--
alias Ernest Major


--
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John Harshman

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Oct 10, 2005, 4:47:47 PM10/10/05
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John Wilkins wrote:

[snip]

> Argumentum ad hominem - arguing to the man
> ------------------------------------------
>
> Form: X's argument cannot be believed because X is an A
>
> Reason: X's argument can be correct or true even if X is a complete and utter
> rotter, or fool, or is ignorant. The argument must be considered on its own
> merits. This is a rhetorical fallacy. It invites the listener to not hear the
> argument because of the personal nature of the person who happens to be
> arguing it. [If a saint were to deliver the argument, would it now be worth
> hearing?]
>
> Discussion: this one has an interesting history. Locke called a quite
> different argument ad hominem - for him it meant assuming that the opponent's
> premises were correct, inferring a conclusion (perhaps to show it is absurd),
> and then (here's the fallacy) accepting the conclusion (forgetting that you
> don't adopt the premises). Sometime in the 19thC this changed.

This paragraph is seriously unclear, but it's also superfluous, so the
best solution is to remove it. However, I would personally appreciate a
clear explanation of what Locke meant. Perhaps an example?

You should put in the third possibility: that you have inverted the
order of causation and that B causes A instead of A causing B.

> Also known as the False Cause fallacy, or non causa pro causa.
>
> Example: Racism [or eugenics, the Holocaust, etc.] followed the publication of
> the Origin of Species, and so evolution thinking causes racism [or eugenics,
> the Holocaust, etc.].
>
> False dichotomy, and Black and white fallacy
> --------------------------------------------
>
> Form: If not X then Y and only Y. Not X, therefore Y

In this form, isn't it a correct syllogism? The way you put it, there is
merely a wrong premise, and you claimed that these fallacies are only
about inferences from premises, not about the truth of premises.

> Discussion: this covers two fallacies. One is the fallacy of a false dichotomy
> (from the Greek roots dicho- = two, and tomos = cut). According to this only
> one of two options are possible. I might say that O. J. Simpson is either
> guilty or uninvolved in Jessica Simpson's murder. But he might have been
> involved even if he didn't do it himself [made up example, of course].

Especially since Jessica Simpson seems still to be alive.

Don't like this one. First, it undermines your previous point that the
validity of an argument doesn't depend on its source. Second, it values
credentials over understanding. There may well be dentists who know more
about evolution than do some biologists. And it assumes expertise is
probative. Who is more expert on the subject of creationism than Henry
Morris? Try asking him if creationism is correct and using his response
as an argument. Any such argument is valueless unless it can be backed
up with reasoned argument.

> Each of these individuals can *also* be experts in the field, but they are not
> experts in virtue of having qualifications outside the field. Moreover, merely
> because somebody is an expert does not make them right - they are still open
> to (expert) challenge. So dueling experts can be misleading - a better measure
> of truthlikeness in science is whether the majority consensus is in agreement.
> So appealing to an expert is really appealing to an entire discipline in the
> proxy of the expert.

And entire disciplines can be wrong too. Pick any theory you like, and
there will be a time when the great majority of experts in the field did
not accept it. This is not a very useful argument at all. It may perhaps
not be totally useless. But it's pretty close.

> Example: Evolution is under threat because 100 scientists challenge it [even
> though most of these people are not scientists, and those who are are mostly
> not in a relevant field].
>
> Non sequitur - it doesn't follow
> --------------------------------
>
> Form: X. Therefore P.
>
> Discussion: Not really a fallacy so much as a failure to argue, non sequitur
> (Latin meaning "does not follow") is the assertion of something that doesn't
> come from the argument. It is often an attempt to change the subject or imply
> that some (accepted) premises support a conclusion when they don't. This is
> also sometimes called Ignoratio Elenchi, but that is a larger group of errors
> than just this one. Sometimes this forms what logicians call an enthymeme, an
> argument with missing premises, and the fallacy can be filled out with those
> premises (which can then be inspected for truth). Non sequitur is a form of
> affirming the consequent.
>
> Example: Evolution says we are animals. Therefore we should all rape each
> other. [Make it an enthymeme by adding the premise "animals rape each other by
> nature" and it becomes a valid argument that is not compelling due to the
> falsity of that premise.]
>
> Affirming the consequent - using the conclusion to prove the premises
> ---------------------------------------------------------------------
>
> Form: If X therefore Y. Therefore Y, therefore X.

Shouldn't this be "If X therefore Y. Y, therefore X". Y is a premise
(presumably empirically shown), not a conclusion. Or better, "Some X are
Y; Z is Y; therefore Z is X". Or is that a different fallacy?

> Discussion: This is a rather subtle error. It often comes when you note that
> the conclusion is compatible with the premises, and that this is evidence of
> the premises being true. A classic example is the Anthropic Principle - the
> universe is exactly right for us to live, therefore it was designed for us to
> live. See also Begging the Question.
>
> Example: The biological world is full of design. Therefore living things were
> designed.

Or: Designed things are complex. Life is complex. Therefore life is
designed.

> Begging the question - assuming what you set out to prove
> ---------------------------------------------------------
>
> Form: If X then Y. Y, therefore X, therefore Y.
>
> Discussion: The most common form of fallacy - used with great gusto by
> lawyers, politicians, journalists, and, of course, antiscientists. It works by
> taking what is to be shown as true, arguing that if it were true then the
> facts of the premises would be true, and concluding from that the truth of the
> conclusion.
>
> Example: The Bible cannot tell a lie because it is the word of God and
> reliable in all things. It says so, and the Bible never lies. Therefore
> evolution, which is inconsistent with the Bible, must be false. The use of
> proof texts from the Bible is a form of begging the question.
>
>
> Equivocation - amphiboly (No True Scotsman) (Strawman) (Shifting the goalposts)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
> Form: To use a word in several different senses without making clear
> discriminations between them.
>
> No True Scotsman: All X's are Y. Counterexample - But this X is not Y.
> Response - All True X's are Y.
>
> Discussion: Amphiboly means "to throw both ways".

I thought it was a family of silicate minerals with the general formula
W1X2Y5Z8O22(OH)2, where W, X, and Y are cations and Z is either silicon
or aluminum.

A sperm and egg are a person?

[snip]

Von R. Smith

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Oct 10, 2005, 5:05:55 PM10/10/05
to

John Wilkins wrote:

<snip>

> The crucial elements here are
> (i) argument, which is a logical term for a series of propositions and logical
> relations that force the conclusion,

No, it isn't.

Dana Tweedy

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Oct 10, 2005, 5:12:09 PM10/10/05
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"Von R. Smith" <trak...@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:1128978355.8...@g14g2000cwa.googlegroups.com...

That depends on if it's the 5 min argument, or the full half hour.

DJT


>

John Wilkins

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Oct 10, 2005, 6:41:14 PM10/10/05
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I must have thought I was referring to Jessica Rabbit. Don't know hoe that
happened...

John Wilkins

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Oct 10, 2005, 6:46:27 PM10/10/05
to
Do you two want Abuse?

bro...@noguchi.mimcom.net

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Oct 10, 2005, 9:53:45 PM10/10/05
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John Wilkins wrote:
> I am putting this up for criticism and comment, but in particular for people
> to find links to the Index of Creationist Claims or other places or posts
> where these fallacies are found. Please add to each one when you have a
> particularly nice instance.

I propose the fallacy of dismissing an argument by classifying it as a
fallacy. There are some outrageous examples of arguments which clearly
are fallacious, and I suppose it's fun to classify them. In many cases,
though, you can argue about whether the proposed argument does or does
not fit neatly into a particular dismissible category of error. Perhaps
it's better just to address the argument rather than trying to give it
a name.

I've rambled a bit below; this business of writing off the opponents'
argument by naming it is a pet peeve. There's something sort of snooty
about it to me. I like Latin as much as (maybe more than) the next guy,
but I'd rather just refute bad arguments instead of labeling them.

One may not reject an argument on ad hominem grounds, but it seems
perfectly reasonable to consider the person's motivation in making the
argument, likely biases, possible blind spots, etc. All arguments have
a context and it is rarely possible to abstract them completey from the
context.

In its barest form this is a fallacy. But we all have reasons for
exploring arguments. Physicists have aesthetic reasons for prefering
one theory over another, at least until enough data intervenes to
decide the issue. If you convince yourself that "good" scientists or
philosophers do not care, "at all" about the consequences of their
ideas you will have convinced yourself of something that is not true.
There are no totally pure, disinterested thinkers. Hopefully, even
those with a preference for how things turn out yield to data in the
end.

>
> False correlation - post hoc ergo propter hoc
> ---------------------------------------------
>
> Form: X happened at the same time as Y, so X caused Y
>
> Reason: Both X and Y might have no causal link, or they may be caused by some
> prior cause they both share.
>
> Discussion: A false correlation is called a Type I error in statistics. Things
> can rise and fall in frequency or occur together without being related by a
> causal factor one way or the other. For example, I see a man enter a building.
> Later I find that someone else was killed in there shortly after. I conclude
> he did it. It turns out, though, that he went to apartment 210, while the
> killing occurred in apartment 320.

That's not quite right, I think. A type I error in statistics means
that there is, in fact, no correlation. If you repeat the study you
will not find the same apparent correlation again, at least without a
second really unlucky type I error. It is possible to have
statistically valid correlations which do not imply causation, as you
describe below, but that's a separate issue from type I errors.

>
> Alternatively, both phenomena might be caused by the same thing. At the same
> time as literacy increased in Europe, so did personal religion. Did literacy
> cause personal religion or vice versa? In fact it may be that the invention of
> printing caused both, by printing personally affordable copies of the Bible
> [this is a gross oversimplification of the real story - I'm just using it as
> an illustration].
>
> Also known as the False Cause fallacy, or non causa pro causa.
>
> Example: Racism [or eugenics, the Holocaust, etc.] followed the publication of
> the Origin of Species, and so evolution thinking causes racism [or eugenics,
> the Holocaust, etc.].

This is a good example, to me, of the limited use of classifying
fallacies. The guys who make those arguments would probably recognize,
in the abstract, that post hoc ergo propter hoc is a fallacy. But in
this particular case they are convinced there is a causal relationship.
Better to refute them in detail than to pull out the Latin.


>
> False dichotomy, and Black and white fallacy
> --------------------------------------------
>
> Form: If not X then Y and only Y. Not X, therefore Y
>
> Discussion: this covers two fallacies. One is the fallacy of a false dichotomy
> (from the Greek roots dicho- = two, and tomos = cut). According to this only
> one of two options are possible. I might say that O. J. Simpson is either
> guilty or uninvolved in Jessica Simpson's murder. But he might have been
> involved even if he didn't do it himself [made up example, of course].
>
> The other is the fallacy of black and white thinking. According to this there
> are only extremes rather than a graded series between them. For example, one
> might say, if one is not tall, one is short. But in fact we know sizes range
> across a distribution, so the terms are not discrete (broken into sharp
> categories).
>
> Example: Either Darwinism is true or creationism is true. [But neither of
> these may be true].
>
> Either you are a Christian or you are an evolution-accepter [there are
> Christians who accept all kinds of evolutionary facts, and these range from
> acceptance of some kind of common descent to the full modern package]
>
> Either an animal gives rise to something like itself, or something of another
> species (e.g., cats giving birth to dogs) [But evolutionary theory says that
> the changes are gradual and cumulative].

There are, of course, also true dichotomies. So when you label
someone's fallcay as a false dichotomy all you are doing is taking a
brief detour from showing them why their dichotomy is false.

>
>
> Argument from authority
> -----------------------
>
> Form: X is true because A says it is
>
> Discussion: Appeal to authority is a legitimate move. If I want to know what
> the function of the pancreas is, I have two options - go study the pancreas
> for decades, or ask somebody who already has, or somebody who knows what
> somebody who already has found out.
>
> But the point of an appeal to authority is that you have to ask somebody who
> really *is* an authority. It is no good asking a dentist for evidence of the
> truth or otherwise of evolution (although four out of five dentists recommend
> the theory of evolution!). Nor is it any good asking an engineer about
> theoretical physics, or a medical doctor about population genetics.
>
> Each of these individuals can *also* be experts in the field, but they are not
> experts in virtue of having qualifications outside the field. Moreover, merely
> because somebody is an expert does not make them right - they are still open
> to (expert) challenge. So dueling experts can be misleading - a better measure
> of truthlikeness in science is whether the majority consensus is in agreement.
> So appealing to an expert is really appealing to an entire discipline in the
> proxy of the expert.
>
> Example: Evolution is under threat because 100 scientists challenge it [even
> though most of these people are not scientists, and those who are are mostly
> not in a relevant field].

Whether or not you call someone's argument an illegitimate appeal to
authority, you still have to deal with the substance of the argument,
right?

>
> Non sequitur - it doesn't follow
> --------------------------------
>
> Form: X. Therefore P.
>
> Discussion: Not really a fallacy so much as a failure to argue, non sequitur
> (Latin meaning "does not follow") is the assertion of something that doesn't
> come from the argument. It is often an attempt to change the subject or imply
> that some (accepted) premises support a conclusion when they don't. This is
> also sometimes called Ignoratio Elenchi, but that is a larger group of errors
> than just this one. Sometimes this forms what logicians call an enthymeme, an
> argument with missing premises, and the fallacy can be filled out with those
> premises (which can then be inspected for truth). Non sequitur is a form of
> affirming the consequent.
>
> Example: Evolution says we are animals. Therefore we should all rape each
> other. [Make it an enthymeme by adding the premise "animals rape each other by
> nature" and it becomes a valid argument that is not compelling due to the
> falsity of that premise.]

When you call something a non sequitur you are just asking the other
guy to explain the connection he presumably sees. What do you gain by
trying to label his error?

These are ususally the most fun errors to think about, but, again, I do
not see that you gain much by labelling them.

To what extent this is a fallacy depends on the specific case under
consideration, right?

>
> Examples: A fetus at 40 weeks is a person. A fetus at 39 weeks is therefore a
> person. (iterate many times) A fetus at conception is a person.
>
> Creationists use this to imply that any shift in the absoluteness of a belief
> leads to atheism or apostasy.
>
> Fallacy of misplaced concreteness - reificationism
> --------------------------------------------------
>
> Form: Some abstract thing has noun term. Therefore that abstract thing is real.
>
> Discussion: This tends to rely on the meanings of words, and inferences from
> the noun form of terms for general notions to their reality or not. Sometimes
> called "reificationism" from the Latin for "thing" - "res". Note: it is *not*
> a fallacy to infer from a scientific theory that a given term in a
> well-supported theory represents a physical entity or quality. All indirectly
> observable entities, such as electrons and genes, were first postulated
> theoretically.
>
> Examples: Natural selection is a selecting agent. Evolution denies religion.
> [Natural selection is a scheme of an explanation, and is basically the claim
> that the better forms will spread over time. Evolution is a process - it
> doesn't deny or believe anything. Some *people* who accept the fact of
> evolution or the efficacy of selection processes may believe or deny religion.]

These hardly seem like egregious examples of reification. It's prettyt
clear that "Evolution denies religion" is a shorthand for "If evolution
is correct, religion is incorrect." There are problems with that
argument, but they don't have to do with classifying it as reification.
Now, the ontological proof of God, that's a whopper of a reification.

>
> Argumentum ad populum - argument from popularity
> ------------------------------------------------
>
> Form: Most Xs believe Y, therefore Y is true.
>
> Discussion: An old song <http://www.reference.com/browse/wiki/1927_in_music>
> said that "50 million Frenchmen can't be wrong". They can. The majority is not
> always right, particularly when it comes to scientific matters. It is also not
> the case that what all scientists think is therefore right - scientists who
> speak outside their speciality are no more likely to be correct than the rest
> of us. However, it is the case that the majority of specialists are likely to
> be correct; that is part of what being a specialist is about (see Argument
> from authority).

Neither is it true, though, that the fact that a majority of people
believe something gives you absolutely no information about its likely
correctness. It mat well be wrong, but you may want to consider why
they all believe it. And you may legitimately engage in ad hominem
thinking to understand the possible sources of their error.

>
> Examples: 100 scientists reject evolution [claim made by various creationist
> and ID sources. Of course, over 99.5% of scientists *do* agree with evolution,
> and in the relevant field, that figure rises, not falls.]
>
> Tu quoque - you're one too!
> ---------------------------
>
> Form: X's arguments are bad. Response - Y's arguments are worse.
>
> Discussion: The argument tries to support a position by showing that its
> shortcomings are shared by an opposing position. In effect, the argument says,
> "My position may be bad, but you should accept it because my opponent's
> position is just as bad."
> <http://www.cuyamaca.net/bruce.thompson/Fallacies/tuquoque.asp>
>
> Examples: Creation science is just a religious position. <Creationist reply>
> Evolution is just a religion too.
>
> Poisoning the Well - the fallacy of Guilt by Association
> --------------------------------------------------------
>
> Form: A accepts X, therefore X is wrong (because A is a bad person or group)
>
> Discussion: this is very popular among those who want to argue from history.
> Some reviled individual or group accepted an idea therefore the idea is false.
>
> Examples: Hitler accepted evolution [or vegetarianism, or animal rights]
> therefore that idea is wrong.

Again, isn't it easier just to refute the nonsense by saying e.g.
Hitler believed in gravity, does that make gravity incorrect? But of
course, the argument is generally a bit less obvious. They usually mean
"there is something about evolution (unlike gravity) that was
particularly attractive to Hitler. So to deal with that argument you
need to deal with that argument. Naming it the fallacy of guilt by
association does't add much.


>
> Conceptual fallacy (Argument from incredulity)
> ----------------------------------------------
>
> Form: X cannot be believed (or conceived of). Therefore not X.
>
> Discussion: This is a form of argument from our own inabilities to the truth
> of the statement or its denial. But there are many things I can't conceive
> that are true, and many things I can conceive (or believe) that aren't.
>
> Example: Nothing can come from nothing, therefore everything came from
> something. [Why not? Modern physics allows quantum foam to come from nothing.]
>
> I cannot conceive how the eye could have evolved, therefore it didn't. [You
> may not know the intermediate steps, or you may not be able to understand them.]

OK, but incredulity can also be a good motivation for science, as long
as you are willing to go where the data leads. E.g. "everybody says
these little kinetoplast DNA minicircles are only important
structurally and nobody can find transcripts from them, but I just
can't believe it. Therefore I look especially hard for short RNAs from
the minicircles and find them."

Troy Britain

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Oct 10, 2005, 10:26:30 PM10/10/05
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"John Wilkins" <jo...@wilkins.id.au> wrote in message
news:did2pa$286u$2...@bunyip2.cc.uq.edu.au...

>I am putting this up for criticism and comment, but in particular for
>people
> to find links to the Index of Creationist Claims or other places or posts
> where these fallacies are found. Please add to each one when you have a
> particularly nice instance.
>
> FAQ: Creationists and fallacies
> ===============================

[snip a bunch of good stuff]

How about something on what one might call the "argument from implication",
where some sort of wrongdoing or malfeasances is implied but where no
explicit charge is necessarily made.

An example being a creationist speaker telling his/her audience about Peking
Man noting that all the original material "conveniently" disappeared during
WW2.

The implication being that the fossils were deliberately lost in order to
hide their true nature ("just monkey skulls") but no evidence is given that
anyone actually deliberately destroyed the material.

Many other examples, some more straight forward that others, could no doubt
be chosen.

Troy

John Wilkins

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Oct 10, 2005, 10:45:29 PM10/10/05
to
Useful comments all. I won't respond individually, but I'll incorporate them
in the revision. Keep 'em coming.

Scott Draper

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Oct 11, 2005, 12:45:46 AM10/11/05
to
<<A fallacy is defined by one older authority (Joseph 1916, 566) as
"an argument which appears to be conclusive when it is not". >>

Why ISN'T it conclusive? I can't tell from your first paragraph.
IMO, you would improve the article if you made the definition of a
fallacy less technical and more intuitive.


John Wilkins

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Oct 11, 2005, 2:27:27 AM10/11/05
to

Hmm. Each fallacy is inconclusive in its own way, just as every unhappy family
is unhappy in its own way. The reason you can't tell from my first or second
paragraphs is that I don't say what is common to all fallacies. In my third
paragraph, though, I do say this:

"There is no canonical list of fallacies, despite the existence of several
websites and books on failures of reasoning. The reason for this is pretty
obvious - while there are a limited number of valid formal rules of inference,
and a rather larger set of accepted rules of rhetorical argument, there are
indefinitely many ways to make a mistake. Think of the equivalent case in
mathematics - could we put together a book that exhaustively and accurately
listed all the mathematical errors one might commit? I think not."

If you can help me make that clearer, I'd appreciate it. I'll tone down my
natural technicalness...

Nantko Schanssema

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Oct 11, 2005, 7:08:23 AM10/11/05
to
John Wilkins <jo...@wilkins.id.au>:

>There is no canonical list of fallacies, despite the existence of several
>websites and books on failures of reasoning. The reason for this is pretty
>obvious - while there are a limited number of valid formal rules of inference,
>and a rather larger set of accepted rules of rhetorical argument, there are
>indefinitely many ways to make a mistake. Think of the equivalent case in
>mathematics - could we put together a book that exhaustively and accurately
>listed all the mathematical errors one might commit? I think not.

To misquote Tolstoy: "All correct arguments resemble one another, each
incorrect argument is incorrect in its own way."

regards,
Nantko
--
FDR calmed a nation when he said, "We have nothing to fear but fear
itself." But the Bush and Blair slogan is, "We have nothing to sell
but fear itself." - Greg Palast
http://www.xs4all.nl/~nantko/

zawa...@yahoo.com

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Oct 11, 2005, 7:49:48 AM10/11/05
to

John Wilkins wrote:
> I might say that O. J. Simpson is either
> guilty or uninvolved in Jessica Simpson's murder. But he might have
> been
> involved even if he didn't do it himself [made up example, of course].

Though many might wish Jessica Simpson dead (especially after her
reality show), she is still living and breathing. The woman is question
is Nichole Simpson.
That being said, Maggie did it.

allanm

unread,
Oct 11, 2005, 8:22:18 AM10/11/05
to

Argument from analogy (which, with a dose of incredulity, is what ID
boils down to).

"Organisms are like machines. Our machines are designed. Therefore
organisms must be designed also".

(without the explicit analogy: "I can't believe that such
complexity can arise without conscious input - because I know that's
how complexity arises").

As Hume said, if two analogized systems do not differ in any particular
whatsoever, then they are the same thing. If they do differ, it is up
for grabs whether a given known property of the one is in fact shared
by the other (unless the property is a defining property of both
phenomena, in which case it is a known property already).

Argument from analogy falls down at 3 levels to my mind:

1) The analogy may be a poor one, the link merely a matter of opinion
(organisms are nothing like machines)
2) As above, the possession of a property by known instances of
phenomenon A really doesn't say anything about unknown, non-defining
properties of similar-but-different phenomenon B
3) If the argument from analogy were permitted, other properties of
either system may with equal legitimacy be passed from one to the
other, which may not fit with the proposer's intention.... All
organisms are made of metal, plastic, stone, wood... Organism design is
the result of input from multiple separate intelligent entities...
Machines can self-replicate... Intelligence can only reside within a
designed physical medium... Organisms were designed to assist with a
specific mechanical task, beyond that of merely existing. Etc etc.

As with other fallacies, the conclusion may not be wrong, but the
reasoning is.

Analogies themselves can be useful tools - for illustrative purposes
only. Fundamentally, they demonstrate how the proposer visualizes the
systems in question, which may be an aid in getting an idea across, or
it may not.

Martin Hutton

unread,
Oct 11, 2005, 12:37:54 PM10/11/05
to

On 10-Oct-2005, John Wilkins <jo...@wilkins.id.au> wrote:

> I am putting this up for criticism and comment, but in particular for
> people
> to find links to the Index of Creationist Claims or other places or posts
> where these fallacies are found. Please add to each one when you have a
> particularly nice instance.

[snip good stuff]

IIRC there is a similar, but longer, list on About.com's atheism forum.

--
Martin Hutton

"The truths of religion are never so well understood as
by those who have lost the power of reasoning."
...Voltaire, "Philosophical Dictionary" 1764

David Wilson

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Oct 11, 2005, 3:18:55 PM10/11/05
to
In article <1128995625.4...@g44g2000cwa.googlegroups.com> on October
10th in talk.origins bro...@noguchi.mimcom.net wrote:

> John Wilkins wrote:
>
> ... [snip] ...
>
> > ... An argument (not a battle of wits, wills or interests, but a


> > logical sequence) succeeds only when this occurs in a proper manner, and such
> > an argument is known as a *valid* argument. If the premises actually *are*
> > true, then a valid argument is also compelling.
> >

The more common technical term for a valid argument with true premises is
"sound".

> >
> > Argumentum ad hominem - arguing to the man
> > ------------------------------------------
> >
> > Form: X's argument cannot be believed because X is an A
> >
> > Reason: X's argument can be correct or true even if X is a complete and utter
> > rotter, or fool, or is ignorant. The argument must be considered on its own
> > merits. This is a rhetorical fallacy. It invites the listener to not hear the
> > argument because of the personal nature of the person who happens to be
> > arguing it. [If a saint were to deliver the argument, would it now be worth
> > hearing?]
>

.... [snip] ....


>
> >
> > Discussion: this one has an interesting history. Locke called a quite
> > different argument ad hominem - for him it meant assuming that the opponent's
> > premises were correct, inferring a conclusion (perhaps to show it is absurd),
> > and then (here's the fallacy) accepting the conclusion (forgetting that you
> > don't adopt the premises). Sometime in the 19thC this changed.
> >

Are you sure about Locke's use of the terminology? I am aware that the meaning
of "ad hominem" has changed since his time, but my understanding is that it
was once used to refer to a _non-fallacious_ argument of the form which we
would today refer to as "reductio ad absurdam". For the sake of argument,
one adopts one's opponent's premises and shows that they lead to a conclusion
which he or she would reject, thus refuting his or her position.

> >
> > False correlation - post hoc ergo propter hoc
> > ---------------------------------------------
> >
> > Form: X happened at the same time as Y, so X caused Y
> >

The latin is usually translated as " _after_ this, therefore because of this",
and it is rather unusual (in fact, unheard of by me) for something to be
cited as a cause of an effect unless the former precedes the latter.
I would rephrase the "Form:" statement as:

X happened just after Y, so X caused Y

> > Reason: Both X and Y might have no causal link, or they may be caused by some
> > prior cause they both share.
> >
> > Discussion: A false correlation is called a Type I error in statistics. Things
> > can rise and fall in frequency or occur together without being related by a
> > causal factor one way or the other. For example, I see a man enter a building.
> > Later I find that someone else was killed in there shortly after. I conclude
> > he did it. It turns out, though, that he went to apartment 210, while the
> > killing occurred in apartment 320.
>
> That's not quite right, I think. A type I error in statistics means

> that there is, in fact, no correlation. ...

In fact, neither is correct. The terms "type I error" and "type II error"
are terms of art from the Neyman-Pearsonian theory of hypothesis testing.
They don't refer to any type of fallacy, but to errors resulting from the
inherent uncertainty in performing statistical tests. A type I error is
made when a null hypothesis fails a statistical test, and is consequently
rejected, even though it happens to be true. A type II error is made when
the hypothesis passes the test, and is consequently accepted, even though
it happens to be false.

> ... [snip] ....


> >
> >
> > False dichotomy, and Black and white fallacy
> > --------------------------------------------
> >
> > Form: If not X then Y and only Y. Not X, therefore Y
> >

I don't believe you need the "and only Y" here, and it seems to me to confuse
the issue. The false dichotomy fallacy occurs when one assumes a premise
of the form "If not X then Y" (or, equivalently, "X or Y" ) which happens to be
false---i.e. it is possible for neither X nor Y to be true. I think a better
way of presenting the form would be:

X or Y. Not X, therefore Y.

If you want to emphasize the dichotomy, I think it would now be reasonable to
put "only" before "X or Y".

It is worth noting that this argument is in fact valid, but if the premise
"X or Y" happens to be _false_ then the argument is unsound and commits the
fallacy of false dichotomy.

> > .... [snip] ....


> >
> > Argument from authority
> > -----------------------
> >
> > Form: X is true because A says it is
> >

> > Discussion: Appeal to authority is a legitimate move. ...

I would put "sometimes" (or perhaps "often") between "is" and "a".

> .... [snip] ...


> >
> > Affirming the consequent - using the conclusion to prove the premises
> > ---------------------------------------------------------------------
> >
> > Form: If X therefore Y. Therefore Y, therefore X.
> >

As someone else has also pointed out this should be:

If X therefore Y. Y, therefore X.

It might also be worth mentioning the contrary fallacy of denying the
antecedent here:

If X therefore Y. Not X, therefore not Y.

> > .... [snip] .....


> >
> > Begging the question - assuming what you set out to prove
> > ---------------------------------------------------------
> >
> > Form: If X then Y. Y, therefore X, therefore Y.
> >

I don't think this is a very informative illustration of the fallacy. The
problem is that the "Y, therefore X" commits the fallacy of affirming the
consequent, thus confusing the issue. An argument does not have to
include an affirmation of the consequent for it to be question-begging.
It seems to me to be very difficult, if not impossible, to give a
symbolic form for question-begging arguments which is sufficiently
informative to be useful.

> > Discussion: The most common form of fallacy - used with great gusto by
> > lawyers, politicians, journalists, and, of course, antiscientists. It works by
> > taking what is to be shown as true, arguing that if it were true then the
> > facts of the premises would be true, and concluding from that the truth of the
> > conclusion.

This suffers from the same problem as the symbolic version given above. I'm
sorry I don't have any constructive suggestions here. I have a few ideas
floating around in my head, but I don't think they're sufficiently well-
organised yet to be of much help.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
David Wilson

SPAMMERS_fingers@WILL_BE_fwi_PROSECUTED_.net.au
(Remove underlines and upper case letters to obtain my email address.

shane

unread,
Oct 11, 2005, 6:50:03 PM10/11/05
to
David Wilson wrote:
> In article <1128995625.4...@g44g2000cwa.googlegroups.com> on October
> 10th in talk.origins bro...@noguchi.mimcom.net wrote:
>
>
>>John Wilkins wrote:
>>
>> ... [snip] ...
>>
>>
>>>... An argument (not a battle of wits, wills or interests, but a
>>>logical sequence) succeeds only when this occurs in a proper manner, and such
>>>an argument is known as a *valid* argument. If the premises actually *are*
>>>true, then a valid argument is also compelling.
>>>
>
>
> The more common technical term for a valid argument with true premises is
> "sound".

Unfortunately some people think that the one that makes the most of it,
wins the argument.

John Wilkins

unread,
Oct 11, 2005, 9:34:17 PM10/11/05
to
David Wilson wrote:
> In article <1128995625.4...@g44g2000cwa.googlegroups.com> on October
> 10th in talk.origins bro...@noguchi.mimcom.net wrote:
>
>
>>John Wilkins wrote:
>>
>> ... [snip] ...
>>
>>
>>>... An argument (not a battle of wits, wills or interests, but a
>>>logical sequence) succeeds only when this occurs in a proper manner, and such
>>>an argument is known as a *valid* argument. If the premises actually *are*
>>>true, then a valid argument is also compelling.
>>>
>
>
> The more common technical term for a valid argument with true premises is
> "sound".

You know how sometimes one has a mental block? I racked my brain for hours
trying to remember that simple word...


>
>
>>>Argumentum ad hominem - arguing to the man
>>>------------------------------------------
>>>
>>>Form: X's argument cannot be believed because X is an A
>>>
>>>Reason: X's argument can be correct or true even if X is a complete and utter
>>>rotter, or fool, or is ignorant. The argument must be considered on its own
>>>merits. This is a rhetorical fallacy. It invites the listener to not hear the
>>>argument because of the personal nature of the person who happens to be
>>>arguing it. [If a saint were to deliver the argument, would it now be worth
>>>hearing?]
>>
> .... [snip] ....
>
>>>Discussion: this one has an interesting history. Locke called a quite
>>>different argument ad hominem - for him it meant assuming that the opponent's
>>>premises were correct, inferring a conclusion (perhaps to show it is absurd),
>>>and then (here's the fallacy) accepting the conclusion (forgetting that you
>>>don't adopt the premises). Sometime in the 19thC this changed.
>>>
>
>
> Are you sure about Locke's use of the terminology? I am aware that the meaning
> of "ad hominem" has changed since his time, but my understanding is that it
> was once used to refer to a _non-fallacious_ argument of the form which we
> would today refer to as "reductio ad absurdam". For the sake of argument,
> one adopts one's opponent's premises and shows that they lead to a conclusion
> which he or she would reject, thus refuting his or her position.

You seem to be right:

" 21. III. Argumentum ad hominem. Thirdly, a third way is to press a man with
consequences drawn from his own principles or concessions. This is already
known under the name of argumentum ad hominem." Essay on Human Understanding,
Bk IV chapter XVII

See also: http://www.cuyamaca.net/bruce.thompson/Fallacies/abusive.asp
<snip rest, to be dealt with later> - thanks.

John Wilkins

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Oct 11, 2005, 9:35:51 PM10/11/05
to
Who? I didn't even know Simpson lived in Springfield? What state is that?

John Wilkins

unread,
Oct 11, 2005, 9:36:37 PM10/11/05
to
Martin Hutton wrote:
> On 10-Oct-2005, John Wilkins <jo...@wilkins.id.au> wrote:
>
>
>>I am putting this up for criticism and comment, but in particular for
>>people
>>to find links to the Index of Creationist Claims or other places or posts
>>where these fallacies are found. Please add to each one when you have a
>>particularly nice instance.
>
>
> [snip good stuff]
>
> IIRC there is a similar, but longer, list on About.com's atheism forum.
>
Yes, but I didn't want to tie in anticreationism with atheism.

Walter Bushell

unread,
Oct 11, 2005, 11:11:27 PM10/11/05
to
In article <at6nk15p560hea5c3...@4ax.com>,
Nantko Schanssema <nan...@xs4all.nl> wrote:

> John Wilkins <jo...@wilkins.id.au>:
>
> >There is no canonical list of fallacies, despite the existence of several
> >websites and books on failures of reasoning. The reason for this is pretty
> >obvious - while there are a limited number of valid formal rules of
> >inference,
> >and a rather larger set of accepted rules of rhetorical argument, there are
> >indefinitely many ways to make a mistake. Think of the equivalent case in
> >mathematics - could we put together a book that exhaustively and accurately
> >listed all the mathematical errors one might commit? I think not.
>
> To misquote Tolstoy: "All correct arguments resemble one another, each
> incorrect argument is incorrect in its own way."
>
> regards,
> Nantko

Actually Aristotle classified all the illogical arguments and gave each
a number.

--
Guns don't kill people; automobiles kill people.

John Wilkins

unread,
Oct 11, 2005, 11:12:31 PM10/11/05
to
Where? I have the Categories, and various sundry works of Ari and I don't know
this list.

zawa...@yahoo.com

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Oct 12, 2005, 7:39:08 AM10/12/05
to

John Wilkins wrote:
> zawa...@yahoo.com wrote:
> > John Wilkins wrote:
> >
> >> I might say that O. J. Simpson is either
> >>guilty or uninvolved in Jessica Simpson's murder. But he might have
> >>been
> >>involved even if he didn't do it himself [made up example, of course].
> >
> >
> > Though many might wish Jessica Simpson dead (especially after her
> > reality show), she is still living and breathing. The woman is question
> > is Nichole Simpson.
> > That being said, Maggie did it.
> >
> Who? I didn't even know Simpson lived in Springfield? What state is that?
>
Springfield is in the state of ... donuts, someone brought in donuts!
woo-hoo! Mmmmmm- donut.

NOw, what was the question ?

Mark Isaak

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Oct 12, 2005, 3:23:06 PM10/12/05
to
On Mon, 10 Oct 2005 16:47:06 +1000, John Wilkins <jo...@wilkins.id.au>
wrote:

>I am putting this up for criticism and comment, but in particular for people
>to find links to the Index of Creationist Claims or other places or posts
>where these fallacies are found. Please add to each one when you have a
>particularly nice instance.
>

>FAQ: Creationists and fallacies
>===============================

>[...]


>Argumentum ad hominem - arguing to the man

>---------------------------------------------


>Form: X's argument cannot be believed because X is an A

CA002.2, CA005.1, CA005.2(?), CA005.3, CA131, CA321.1,
probably CA010, CI402.

>Argument from Consequences
>--------------------------
>Form: If X were true, Y would follow. Y is bad, therefore X is not true

CA009, CA602.1, CA640,
possibly CA301

What about the flip side: If X then Y. Y is good, therefore X is
true. Example: CH010: Creation, being Bible-based, is good.

>False correlation - post hoc ergo propter hoc
>---------------------------------------------
>Form: X happened at the same time as Y, so X caused Y

CA001, CA001.1, CA002.1, CH130-CH135.2, CJ530-CJ533,
possibly CG111, CI302.

>False dichotomy, and Black and white fallacy
>--------------------------------------------
>Form: If not X then Y and only Y. Not X, therefore Y

CA040, CA041, CA041.1, CA510, CA510.1, CA601-CA603, CA620, CA622,
CA650-CA652, CB360, CB360.1, CB901-CB902, CB902.2-CB925, CC050, CC201,
CD101, CH055, CH350, CH370, CI009,
possibly CB000, CD010-CD016,
CB130 uses this fallacy, too (some DNA is not junk, therefore, none is
junk).

>Argument from authority
>-----------------------
>Form: X is true because A says it is

CA110-CA118, CB102.1, CC040, CE010, CG001, CH100, CH100.1,
CH102.2-CH103, CH181, CI001.3, CI001.4,
possibly CA340-CA343

>Non sequitur - it doesn't follow
>--------------------------------
>Form: X. Therefore P.

CA009, CA221, CA250, CA610, CA620, CA622, CA650, CA652, CB926, CC150,
CC200.1, CG201, CH101.1, CH102.1-2, CH130, CH183, CI410,
possibly CB751, young-earth claims in CD and CE, CI190, CI191

>Affirming the consequent - using the conclusion to prove the premises
>---------------------------------------------------------------------
>Form: If X therefore Y. Therefore Y, therefore X.

CA612, CH050, CI101-CI111, CI301, CI302
possibly CB180, CC201.1, CI200

>Begging the question - assuming what you set out to prove
>---------------------------------------------------------
>Form: If X then Y. Y, therefore X, therefore Y.

CC362, CD200, CH101, CH102, CI100.1,
possibly CB810, CH200-CH910.

>Equivocation - amphiboly (No True Scotsman) (Strawman) (Shifting the goalposts)
>-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>Form: To use a word in several different senses without making clear
>discriminations between them.

CA201, CB704, CB902, CB910.1, CD200, CI001.2,
possibly CB801, CI111.

>Fallacy of composition
>----------------------
>Form: X is composed of Ys. All Ys are P, therefore X is P

CA620, CF002,
perhaps CB400-CB440.

>Fallacy of division
>-------------------
>Form: X is P. Therefore all parts of X are P.

CH101.1,
perhaps CB010.1.
Does CB090 (evolution baseless without abiogenesis) fit here?

>Fallacy of many questions (Gish gallop)
>---------------------------------------
>Form: ask one or more questions that cannot be answered without accepting the
>way the debate is framed.

Related to CA340, but no real examples in the Index (unless you count
the Index as a whole).

>[...]

That's enough for today.

--
Mark Isaak eciton (at) earthlink (dot) net
"Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of
the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are
being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and
exposing the country to danger." -- Hermann Goering

Scott Draper

unread,
Oct 13, 2005, 1:56:20 AM10/13/05
to
<<Hmm. Each fallacy is inconclusive in its own way, just as every
unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. The reason you can't tell
from my first or second >>

True, but the heart of teaching, IMO, is to find a common theme
running through a disparate group of ideas and impart that first, only
adding the details once you've laid the foundation. As has been said
many ways before, any good explanation is inherently inaccurate.

I suggest that a fallacy is any argument that can lead to a false
conclusion when all the supporting statements are true. Note that I
said "can", not "must". The conclusion may be true or false, but you
can't tell based on the argument. You can show the possiblity of a
false conclusion by using the same argument to "prove" something
patently false to the listener, which is enough to show that the
method of reasoning is faulty.


Kleuskes & Moos

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Oct 13, 2005, 3:49:12 AM10/13/05
to

Mark Isaak schreef:

<snip index>

You did quite a lot of work. The idea of actually crossreferencing
Creationist claims with logical fallacies is a very good one. Your
references should (i think) be included.

http://talkorigins.org/indexcc/index.html

> That's enough for today.

I think so.

Al

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Oct 14, 2005, 5:26:33 PM10/14/05
to

"John Wilkins" <jo...@wilkins.id.au> wrote in message
news:dihpcc$2q0i$3...@bunyip2.cc.uq.edu.au...

> Martin Hutton wrote:
> > On 10-Oct-2005, John Wilkins <jo...@wilkins.id.au> wrote:
> >
> >
> >>I am putting this up for criticism and comment, but in particular for
> >>people
> >>to find links to the Index of Creationist Claims or other places or
posts
> >>where these fallacies are found. Please add to each one when you have a
> >>particularly nice instance.

Hi John S. Wilkins
On my last download I saw to my surprise that I had written 160+ pages of
criticism of science (mainly evolution) on this NG.
Please indicate the fallacies therein in order for me to improve my
rhetorical skills.
Al
Independent researcher in the reasons for rejection of scientific theories.


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