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Old 4th May 2012, 06:29 AM   #1
HansMustermann
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Is there some snappy name for this fallacy sub-case?

So repeatedly I run into people doing an exact implementation of the following: support some weak and uninteresting proposition X, then pretend that they just supported the much grander claim Y.

As a trivial example of what's wrong with it, in case someone needs it, imagine I said that the florist down the road must be doing some mafia stuff, because he drives a Ferrari. But when asked how do I know he drives a Ferrari, I'd back into something like, "well, he lives in the next town. What? Do you think he walks to work?" Effectively the only claim I actually supported is that he must use SOME form of transportation, but then pretend I can just sneak in such extra attributes as that I know he drives a car, and even what make of car.

And while hopefully everyone can see what's wrong with it when put like that, it is annoyingly pervasive for other kinds of woowoo.

E.g., take the Kalām cosmological argument:
1. Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence;
2. The universe has a beginning of its existence;
Therefore:
3. The universe has a cause of its existence.
To which the theistic apologist then promptly adds:
4. And that first cause is what we call God.

Now the argument in 1 to 3 is already flawed, and probably everyone on these boards has seen it used and taken appart. But that's not what bothers me.

What bothers me is number 4. "And that is what we call God." No it isn't. What we call God has an intelligence, a plan, a moral code, some kind of senses, makes certain promises, he judges, etc. Even if I were to get a stroke, lose 100 IQ points and suddenly think that the argument in points 1 to 3 is ok, the problem still remains that number 4 sneaks in a much grander claim than what 3 actually "supported."

E.g., take the ID argument or the watchmarker argument, or several such arguments from creation. Let's say I was actually stupid enough to buy the flawed "irreducible complexity" arguments, and conclude that indeed, the flagellum or the eye must have been designed. I.e., to think that the existence of a designer is supported. But then invariably someone jumps from that to acting like they just proved that the universe is 6000 years old, atheists don't have morals, and gays shouldn't be allowed to marry. That's already a heck of a lot of extra claims snuck in there, that weren't even mentioned or handwaved in the "support" part for the "designer". Nowhere was it supported at all that you can look at the complexity of an eye or of a tree, and deduce from its design that whoever made it hates gays.

E.g., same deal for the Anselm-style ontological argument. Even if I'm to buy it that somewhere there is the greatest being that both exists and is imaginable, and that, really, by our standards that would be A God, there is nothing in there to support the other attributes given to specifically the Christian God. It's not a given that the greatest imaginable being that exists, created the Earth, or is anthropomorphic, or that it gives a damn about whether humans worship it, or anything. In fact even just going by "greatest imaginable", there is nothing in the argument that says an imagined being that is generous and just wouldn't be greater than the petty and insecure God that Christians imagine.

Etc.

And to be fair, it's not just the God squad that does it.

Now I know that it's technically covered by "non sequitur", because there are claims in the conclusion that are not supported by the premises. But invariably degenerates in the same handwaving routine in which they claim that, no, see, they did support it. How can you say they didn't support God, when they just gave you the beginnings and causes speech? Etc.

So is there some snappy name for exactly this sub-case of non-sequitur where a claim was stealthily enlarged to something much grander than what was actually supported?
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Old 4th May 2012, 07:03 AM   #2
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Upbringing. The people who do it don't even know they are doing it. For them, the characteristics of "God" are intrinsic.

Not technically an answer to your question, I know.

Argument from inconsistent revelations, maybe?
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Old 4th May 2012, 07:11 AM   #3
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I've never heard it called anything, but I vote for "expanding the goalposts" as it's essentially making a target bigger so it's easier to hit.
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Old 4th May 2012, 07:16 AM   #4
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I know exactly what you mean and I think it's why it's very important when discussing such topics with a believer that you ask them which God they believe in? Because if you are saying you believe in Yahweh as God then, as you pointed out, he is not a mysterious unknown, he's a character we know quite a lot about.

I call what you are talking about, shoving everything into the "God pile." God as the pile for every potential origins of life or mysterious unknown. Ex. say down the line Aliens are found to have been responsible for planet earth and much on it, people will say "Well that's what we were calling Gods and Angels" No it's not.

Drives me nuts, nice to see someone else who gets it.
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Old 4th May 2012, 07:24 AM   #5
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http://www.fallacyfiles.org/taxonomy.html

I think you're talking about something in the redefinition/equivocation area.
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Old 4th May 2012, 07:33 AM   #6
HansMustermann
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Well, I suppose for examples pertaining to religion, I can see how upbringing or revelations play a role in it. But the technique of supporting some weak claim, then pretending to have supported something bigger is used on non-religious domains too.

E.g., I remember a couple of years ago someone claiming that they discovered the formula for procrastination. Effectively they had taken some platitudes like that some people procrastinate more than others, and put it into a formula with such cutesy variables as "resistance to procrastination". The problem is that nowhere did they even define the units for that, nor how to measure it, and there was nothing to even suggest that there was a linear relationship there to put in a formula as X/Y or X*Y. Effectively what they had actually supported was pretty much some vague truisms, but what they pretended to have discovered was a mathematical formula. The two are not even vaguely the same thing, and maths is not something one can use as some metaphorical language.
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Old 4th May 2012, 07:33 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post

What bothers me is number 4. "And that is what we call God." No it isn't. What we call God has an intelligence, a plan, a moral code, some kind of senses, makes certain promises, he judges, etc. Even if I were to get a stroke, lose 100 IQ points and suddenly think that the argument in points 1 to 3 is ok, the problem still remains that number 4 sneaks in a much grander claim than what 3 actually "supported."
I'm not in a position to argue the point but Aquinas covered all of that. If your curious you can read the Shorter Summa, there may be an online version.
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Old 4th May 2012, 07:41 AM   #8
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Oh, I've read Aquinas. He has some partial excuses, the biggest one being that actually he doesn't do that. Those aren't independent arguments of God, but part of a whole where he does support every single idea about God that he sets out to support. Just because in half a dozen places he does go "and that's what we call God", doesn't mean that he's making the jump from something like "unmovable mover" to God based just on that. Most of the rest of the attributes for his God aren't just snuck in, but simply supported somewhere else in the book.

Granted, his support is flawed by our standards, and in some places based on provably wrong premises. But by the standards of philosophy at the time, he was doing a pretty decent job.

The ones who take one such snippet from Aquinas and pretend it does prove God by itself, though... well, ok, those do exactly that kind of goalpost magic I was talking about, and usually don't even realize it.

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Old 4th May 2012, 07:47 AM   #9
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I've always called "Arguing through variable vagueness." in that they will only define what they are arguing for enough to avoid having to argue for it.

Religious people are the worst for this. To practically every religious person God is an all powerful being with clear traits, goals, a personality and such. But the second you ask them to defend their belief intellectually their God becomes the most amorphous concept in history a vague "Well there's kinda thing that's sorta outside the understanding of science and outside the universe" bullhockey.
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Old 4th May 2012, 08:44 AM   #10
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Garbage-in, garbage-out.

1 is false, therefore 3 is false, therefore 4 is nonsense.

2 may also be false.
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Old 4th May 2012, 09:47 AM   #11
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The particular example of the Kalam argument is just a regular non sequitur.
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Old 4th May 2012, 09:53 AM   #12
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Bait & switch?
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Old 4th May 2012, 01:46 PM   #13
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I would say equivocation. But that equivocation is not necessarily happening within a given argument. Its more that this is happening between arguments.

I also like bait and switch. You are basically being offered a replacement product.


(On the other hand, the Kalaam argument as heard from Craig does sport libertarian free will. The thing is, discussions about that argument just almost never seem to get that far. Sporting free will gets Kalaam at least a little into the direction of "an intelligence, a plan, a moral code, some kind of senses, makes certain promises, he judges, etc." )
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Old 4th May 2012, 02:05 PM   #14
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Revelation: Am unimpeachable source told me X is true.

X is not true.

Therefore the source is not unimpeachable.
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Old 4th May 2012, 05:24 PM   #15
HansMustermann
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Originally Posted by Lord Emsworth View Post
I would say equivocation. But that equivocation is not necessarily happening within a given argument. Its more that this is happening between arguments.
Hmm. I can certainly see how the concept and basic idea behind it are similar to those of equivocation, but strictly speaking it isn't.

Originally Posted by Lord Emsworth View Post
I also like bait and switch. You are basically being offered a replacement product.
Hmm, yeah, I think I'll start calling it that.

Originally Posted by Lord Emsworth View Post
(On the other hand, the Kalaam argument as heard from Craig does sport libertarian free will. The thing is, discussions about that argument just almost never seem to get that far. Sporting free will gets Kalaam at least a little into the direction of "an intelligence, a plan, a moral code, some kind of senses, makes certain promises, he judges, etc." )
Not by much though. And definitely not enough. Covering just a little more of the total claim, but still just a tiny part of it, is still bait and switch. IMHO.
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Old 4th May 2012, 06:52 PM   #16
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It's a formal fallacy, Affirming the ConsequentWP, which has the form:

IF p, THEN q
q
THEREFORE
p

The OP's examples can be rewritten:

IF (the florist drives a Ferrari / the universe is created by God), THEN (the florist uses transportation / the universe is created)
the florist uses transportation / the universe is created
THEREFORE
the florist drives a Ferrari / the universe is created by God

Basically, it's arguing from a less definite fact to a more definite claim.
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Old 4th May 2012, 07:42 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by blobru View Post
It's a formal fallacy, Affirming the ConsequentWP
Thanks for that. it was enlightening.
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Old 4th May 2012, 08:57 PM   #18
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No problem, Ray (nice to get one right for a change [at least i think it's right]; I'm much more used to apologizing for getting them wrong).
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Old 4th May 2012, 09:04 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by blobru View Post
It's a formal fallacy, Affirming the ConsequentWP, which has the form:

IF p, THEN q
q
THEREFORE
p

The OP's examples can be rewritten:

IF (the florist drives a Ferrari / the universe is created by God), THEN (the florist uses transportation / the universe is created)
the florist uses transportation / the universe is created
THEREFORE
the florist drives a Ferrari / the universe is created by God

Basically, it's arguing from a less definite fact to a more definite claim.
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Old 4th May 2012, 09:33 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Marquis de Carabas View Post
I've never heard it called anything, but I vote for "expanding the goalposts" as it's essentially making a target bigger so it's easier to hit.
Hmmm, Appeal to Inflation maybe?
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Old 5th May 2012, 06:56 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by truethat View Post
I know exactly what you mean and I think it's why it's very important when discussing such topics with a believer that you ask them which God they believe in?
I've found on this forum that people are more inclined to tell me what God I believe in.
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Old 5th May 2012, 11:13 AM   #22
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Well you did ask for snappy comebacks, so if I encountered it on a message board I might repoly
So your argument boils down to
A some stuff I don't understand
B some principle I am misquoting
C ???
D Therefore whatever I want to believe is true
Or I might go with
Oh, I'm sorry, you cannot use the Kalām cosmological argument with me because it was first told to me by a Hindu and therefore I have concluded that it only works with Vishnu and not Jesus. But I'm sure you'll understand more after a couple of reincarnations.
Or perhaps.
Hold up there little buckaroo, I missed the step which went from (n) there is a prime mover to step (n+1) therefore my personal inconsistent, self-contradictory, and bloodthirsty definition of God must be accurate
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Old 6th May 2012, 07:34 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by blobru View Post
It's a formal fallacy, Affirming the ConsequentWP, which has the form:

IF p, THEN q
q
THEREFORE
p

The OP's examples can be rewritten:

IF (the florist drives a Ferrari / the universe is created by God), THEN (the florist uses transportation / the universe is created)
the florist uses transportation / the universe is created
THEREFORE
the florist drives a Ferrari / the universe is created by God

Basically, it's arguing from a less definite fact to a more definite claim.
I don't think that's quite what he's after. Basically, his problems is when people call "God" and try to give it the various attributes we expect God to have, while in fact only arguing for one attribute (Creator of the Universe).

You can often rewrite specific examples in the form of various fallacies. E.g. below an example of denying the antecedent:

If the universe was created spontaneously
then God did not create the universe

The universe was not created spontaneously
Therefore God created the universe

But that doesn't quite get at the meat of the issue, which is with swapping or equivocating what you mean by "God".
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Old 6th May 2012, 08:33 AM   #24
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Sure. That's why those who make these sorts of arguments for God's existence don't realize they're actually committing formal fallacies. They think Universe Creator <-> [necessarily equals] God.

While it's obvious with the florist's transportation that "transportation" doesn't necessarily equal "Ferrari" (because Ferrari is a proper subset of transportation), it's not as obvious perhaps that "universe is created" doesn't necessarily equal "God" (because God is a proper subset of what might create a universe). God doesn't include Big Bang, for example, which you may have to point out.*

If you then rewrite the OP arguments, about the florist and God, into a logically equivalent p -> q implication and deduction, it should be obvious - hopefully - it's affirming the consequent, and why (the arrow's going the wrong way).

*Note: the informal fallacy involved here would be "mistaking a part for the whole"; there may be some snappier name for that... I forget (it's a sort of equivocation, at least).
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Old 6th May 2012, 01:07 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by blobru View Post
*Note: the informal fallacy involved here would be "mistaking a part for the whole"; there may be some snappier name for that... I forget (it's a sort of equivocation, at least).
"Fallacy of division"

I wouldn't say that the argument is committing any given, specific FORMAL logical fallacy - it's committing lots of them, depending on how you formulate it. So I would just boil it down to "bad form". Of course, the more general idea of what the fallacy is doing might be applicable to other cases.

It's not clear, anyway, that the FORM of the argument is the primary problem, the primary problem is the meaning of the variable "god". e.g.

Everything that begins to exist has a cause
The universe began to exist
Therefore the Universe has a cause
We CHOOSE TO CALL this cause "God."

^the above follows from its premises, and we're free to call the cause whatever we want.
...

..."And as God, the creator for the universe, said: Love thy neighbour as thee loveth thyself."
^HERE we have a problem, because we're equivocating our definition of God (Cause of the universe) with the creature from the Bible.
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Old 6th May 2012, 02:35 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Ladewig View Post
Well you did ask for snappy comebacks, so if I encountered it on a message board I might repoly
So your argument boils down to
A some stuff I don't understand
B some principle I am misquoting
C ???
D Therefore whatever I want to believe is true
Or I might go with
Oh, I'm sorry, you cannot use the Kalām cosmological argument with me because it was first told to me by a Hindu and therefore I have concluded that it only works with Vishnu and not Jesus. But I'm sure you'll understand more after a couple of reincarnations.
Or perhaps.
Hold up there little buckaroo, I missed the step which went from (n) there is a prime mover to step (n+1) therefore my personal inconsistent, self-contradictory, and bloodthirsty definition of God must be accurate
Oh, I'm perfectly able to come back with some sarcastic snark. I was just hoping there was some formal name for it, so I can just point someone at the fallacy definition instead of having to explain yet again "no, you didn't support THAT".
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Old 6th May 2012, 04:58 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by TubbaBlubba View Post
"Fallacy of division"
Yes... sort of. Except that generally refers to a thing, when a property that relies on the sum of its functioning parts is attributed to a part, not a class. I enjoy ice cream. My left elbow is part of me. Therefore, my left elbow enjoys ice cream.

Quote:
I wouldn't say that the argument is committing any given, specific FORMAL logical fallacy - it's committing lots of them, depending on how you formulate it. So I would just boil it down to "bad form". Of course, the more general idea of what the fallacy is doing might be applicable to other cases.
There is a specific formal fallacy being committed. In the OP, Hans is concerned with the arguer sneaking in extra attributes. That's a formal fallacy: claiming that what's true for some member(s) of a class must be true for some member(s) of a sub-class. In general, it's the fallacy of the undistributed middleWP. In the affirmative case given, transportation -> Ferrari, it's affirming the consequent.

Quote:
It's not clear, anyway, that the FORM of the argument is the primary problem, the primary problem is the meaning of the variable "god". e.g.

Everything that begins to exist has a cause
The universe began to exist
Therefore the Universe has a cause
We CHOOSE TO CALL this cause "God."

^the above follows from its premises, and we're free to call the cause whatever we want.
...
As long as we accept that any name we choose arbitrarily has no properties except those listed (here, "God" = cause of the universe). But I know what you mean, and you make a very good point. The problem is that once we allow the choice of the name "God", then the arguer believes she can move from the less definite cause-of-the-universe God to the more definite anthropomorphic God (affirm the consequent) because she equivocates the two senses of "God": the one we just assigned arbitrarily and the one we're familiar with.

Quote:
..."And as God, the creator for the universe, said: Love thy neighbour as thee loveth thyself."
^HERE we have a problem, because we're equivocating our definition of God (Cause of the universe) with the creature from the Bible.
Right. The informal fallacy involved is equivocation. One might say equivocation is the means to the end of affirming the consequent (and smuggling in all those god-licious extra properties: biblical, parted the Red Sea, died on the cross, promised to return and avenge the faithful, etc).
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Old 7th May 2012, 03:09 AM   #28
HansMustermann
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The more I think of it, the more the equivocation theory seems to have merit. I mean, almost invariably there is some element of basically "I choose to call my transportation a horse, therefore it has hooves" involved in glossing over the enlarging the claim from what was supported to what it's then treated as.
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Old 7th May 2012, 04:05 AM   #29
Fast Eddie B
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
I mean, almost invariably there is some element of basically "I choose to call my transportation a horse, therefore it has hooves" involved in glossing over the enlarging the claim from what was supported to what it's then treated as.
A little off topic, but I was debating someone yesterday who got into "energy fields". When I mentioned that "energy" has a specific definition, and is not some vague, nebulous "concept"*, they replied, "maybe that's how science defines it, but there may be much more to it".

I pointed out that communication is difficult, if not impossible, if everyone is free to use their own definitions.

*Brian Dunning had a Skeptoid devoted to that very topic.

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Old 7th May 2012, 04:37 AM   #30
blobru
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
The more I think of it, the more the equivocation theory seems to have merit. I mean, almost invariably there is some element of basically "I choose to call my transportation a horse, therefore it has hooves" involved in glossing over the enlarging the claim from what was supported to what it's then treated as.
Still, such a common fallacy... really needs a snappy name all its own... how about:

"God"cha!
God in thru the Gaps
God under Wraps
U Godda B Kiddin
No Way, Yahweh
TubbaBlubba's Lemma
blobru's folly
Mustermann's Complaint
Breaking the 1st Commandment (having more than one god)
Messiah surprise
Savior applause
Elohim? I barely know him
or...
.
.
.
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Old 7th May 2012, 04:52 AM   #31
HansMustermann
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Originally Posted by Fast Eddie B View Post
A little off topic, but I was debating someone yesterday who got into "energy fields". When I mentioned that "energy" has a specific definition, and is not some vague, nebulous "concept"*, they replied, "maybe that's how science defines it, but there may be much more to it".

I pointed out that communication is difficult, if not impossible, if everyone is free to use their own definitions.

*Brian Dunning had a Skeptoid devoted to that very topic.
I don't think it's necessarily off-topic, because, yes, the same kind of enlarging the claim by stealth of tongue is often involved in that kind of thing. The reusing terms from science like "energy", "quantum", etc, is precisely because they are supported already by science and everyone can take them as real things. But then the definition is enlarged to something that is no longer supported by anything at all.

And I mean, really, in the case of energy, it's not even a word that existed all along with parallel meanings. it's a word derived from Greek by Leibniz to explain mechanics. All the metaphorical and woowoo meanings were attached to it later.
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Old 7th May 2012, 06:07 AM   #32
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I think it's the equivocation fallacy.

Basically equivocating an initial cause with a personal, intelligent cause.

Usually theists will use the cosmological argument to establish the existence in first cause, and then use another argument to argue that this cause is intelligent and personal, and sometimes they'll go even further to establish that this is the Catholic God for example.

Hope that helps.
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Old 7th August 2012, 11:46 AM   #33
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I just had to bump this thread, because I now think I know what the fallacy is called. It is ignoratio elenchi.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignoratio_elenchi

Excerpt from the (short) Wiki-article:
Ignoratio elenchi, also known as irrelevant conclusion,[1] irrelevant thesis or fallacy of distraction,[2] is the informal fallacy of presenting an argument that may in itself be valid, but does not address the issue in question. Arguments which shift the focus of debate to "safer" but less relevant ground fall into this category.[2]
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Old 10th August 2012, 06:37 PM   #34
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Taken at face value, we have a Non SequiturWP.

eg:
P1: If A then B
P2: A
C: Therefore C.




Alternatively, with the application of the principle of charityWP argument analysis does strongly suggest there was a hidden premise:

eg:
P1. Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence;
P2. The universe has a beginning of its existence;
Therefore:
C1. The universe has a cause of its existence.
P3. The only thing that can cause a universe is God. <- inferred hidden premise
C2: That first cause is God.

In which case, we're not dealing with any fallacy, simply doubtful premises.
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Old 10th August 2012, 07:03 PM   #35
Myriad
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Synecdoche is considered a figure of speech rather than a form of fallacy, but it becomes a fallacy when taken literally (that is, when used to equivocate between a component part and the whole or between a class and a specific member of the class). So I'd call it equivocation by synecdoche.

Often seen in the 9/11 CT subforum as well: "I found a flaw in Bazant's second progressive collapse paper, thus proving the entire "official" story is false."

Respectfully,
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Old 11th August 2012, 06:24 AM   #36
HansMustermann
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Hmm, not sure it's an argument by synecdoche, which would actually be a sub-category of the plain old equivocation, since it's not necessarily using a word for a related entity.

As I was saying in the first post, it's more like someone has (inadequately) supported a more mundane claim, like "the universe has a cause" (which can just mean some phenomenon lacking any intelligence or intent or rules to give), but then they pretend they actually proved God, which is an entirely different claim.

In essence it's like Blutoski said: there is invariably some hidden premise -- or sometimes several premises -- that just get snuck in.
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