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Tags bible , logical fallacies

Old 14th October 2004, 05:13 PM   #1
Johnny Pneumatic
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Logical Fallacies and The Bible

Ye list of logical fallacies that I know. As this thread is for a learning experience please input the fallacies I've left out if any. The goal is to have a complete list of the fallacies and to expose as many logical fallacies as we can that the bible writers are guilty of.

ad hominem: Latin for "to the man." An arguer who uses ad hominems attacks the person instead of the argument. Whenever an arguer cannot defend his position with evidence, facts or reason, he or she may resort to attacking an opponent either through: labeling, straw man arguments, name calling, offensive remarks and anger.

appeal to ignorance (argumentum ex silentio) appealing to ignorance as evidence for something. (e.g., We have no evidence that God doesn't exist, therefore, he must exist. Or: Because we have no knowledge of alien visitors, that means they do not exist). Ignorance about something says nothing about its existence or non-existence.

argument from omniscience: (e.g., All people believe in something. Everyone knows that.) An arguer would need omniscience to know about everyone's beliefs or disbeliefs or about their knowledge. Beware of words like "all," "everyone," "everything," "absolute."

appeal to faith: (e.g., if you have no faith, you cannot learn) if the arguer relies on faith as the bases of his argument, then you can gain little from further discussion. Faith, by definition, relies on a belief that does not rest on logic or evidence. Faith depends on irrational thought and produces intransigence.

appeal to tradition (similar to the bandwagon fallacy): (e.g., astrology, religion, slavery) just because people practice a tradition, says nothing about its viability.

argument from authority (argumentum ad verecundiam): using the words of an "expert" or authority as the bases of the argument instead of using the logic or evidence that supports an argument. (e.g., Professor so-and-so believes in creation-science.) Simply because an authority makes a claim does not necessarily mean he got it right. If an arguer presents the testimony from an expert, look to see if it accompanies reason and sources of evidence behind it.

argument from adverse consequences: (e.g., We should judge the accused as guilty, otherwise others will commit similar crimes) Just because a repugnant crime or act occurred, does not necessarily mean that a defendant committed the crime or that we should judge him guilty. (Or: disasters occur because God punishes non-believers; therefore, we should all believe in God) Just because calamities or tragedies occur, says nothing about the existence of gods or that we should believe in a certain way.

argumentum ad baculum: An argument based on an appeal to fear or a threat. (e.g., If you don't believe in God, you'll burn in hell)

argumentum ad ignorantiam: A misleading argument used in reliance on people's ignorance.

argumentum ad populum: An argument aimed to sway popular support by appealing to sentimental weakness rather than facts and reasons.

bandwagon fallacy: concluding that an idea has merit simply because many people believe it or practice it. (e.g., Most people believe in a god; therefore, it must prove true.) Simply because many people may believe something says nothing about the fact of that something. For example many people during the Black plague believed that demons caused disease. The number of believers say nothing at all about the cause of disease.

begging the question (or assuming the answer): (e.g., We must encourage our youth to worship God to instill moral behavior.) But does religion and worship actually produce moral behavior?

circular reasoning: stating in one's proposition that which one aims to prove. (e.g. God exists because the Bible says so; the Bible exists because God influenced it.)

composition fallacy: when the conclusion of an argument depends on an erroneous characteristic from parts of something to the whole or vice versa. (e.g., Humans have consciousness and human bodies and brains consist of atoms; therefore, atoms have consciousness. Or: a word processor program consists of many bytes; therefore a byte forms a fraction of a word processor.)

confirmation bias (similar to observational selection): This refers to a form of selective thinking that focuses on evidence that supports what believers already believe while ignoring evidence that refutes their beliefs. Confirmation bias plays a stronger role when people base their beliefs upon faith, tradition and prejudice. For example, if someone believes in the power of prayer, the believer will notice the few "answered" prayers while ignoring the majority of unanswered prayers (which would indicate that prayer has no more value than random chance at worst or a placebo effect, when applied to health effects, at best).

confusion of correlation and causation: (e.g., More men play chess than women, therefore, men make better chess players than women. Or: Children who watch violence on TV tend to act violently when they grow up.) But does television programming cause violence or do violence oriented children prefer to watch violent programs? Perhaps an entirely different reason creates violence not related to television at all. Stephen Jay Gould called the invalid assumption that correlation implies cause as "probably among the two or three most serious and common errors of human reasoning".

excluded middle (or false dichotomy): considering only the extremes. Many people use Aristotelian either/or logic tending to describe in terms of up/down, black/white, true/false, love/hate, etc. (e.g., You either like it or you don't. He either stands guilty or not guilty.) Many times, a continuum occurs between the extremes that people fail to see. The universe also contains many "maybes."

half truths (suppressed evidence): An statement usually intended to deceive that omits some of the facts necessary for an accurate description.

loaded questions: embodies an assumption that, if answered, indicates an implied agreement. (e.g., Have you stopped beating your wife yet?)

meaningless question: (e.g., "How high is up?" "Is everything possible?") "Up" describes a direction, not a measurable entity. If everything proved possible, then the possibility exists for the impossible, a contradiction. Although everything may not prove possible, there may occur an infinite number of possibilities as well as an infinite number of impossibilities. Many meaningless questions include empty words such as "is," "are," "were," "was," "am," "be," or "been."

misunderstanding the nature of statistics: (e.g., the majority of people in the United States die in hospitals, therefore, stay out of them.) "Statistics show that of those who contract the habit of eating, very few survive." -- Wallace Irwin

non sequitur: Latin for "It does not follow." An inference or conclusion that does not follow from established premises or evidence. (e.g., there occured an increase of births during the full moon. Conclusion: full moons cause birth rates to rise.) But does a full moon actually cause more births, or did it occur for other reasons, perhaps from expected statistical variations?

observational selection (similar to confirmation bias): pointing out favorable circumstances while ignoring the unfavorable. Anyone who goes to Las Vegas gambling casinos will see people winning at the tables and slots. The casino managers make sure to install bells and whistles to announce the victors, while the losers never get mentioned. This may lead one to conclude that the chances of winning appear good while in actually just the reverse holds true.

post hoc, ergo propter hoc: Latin for "It happened after, so it was caused by." Similar to a non sequitur, but time dependent. (e.g. She got sick after she visited China, so something in China caused her sickness.) Perhaps her sickness derived from something entirely independent from China.

proving non-existence: when an arguer cannot provide the evidence for his claims, he may challenge his opponent to prove it doesn't exist (e.g., prove God doesn't exist; prove UFO's haven't visited earth, etc.). Although one may prove non-existence in special limitations, such as showing that a box does not contain certain items, one cannot prove universal or absolute non-existence, or non-existence out of ignorance. One cannot prove something that does not exist. The proof of existence must come from those who make the claims.

red herring: when the arguer diverts the attention by changing the subject.

reification fallacy: when people treat an abstract belief or hypothetical construct as if it represented a concrete event or physical entity. Examples: IQ tests as an actual measure of intelligence; the concept of race (even though genetic attributes exist), from the chosen combination of attributes or the labeling of a group of people, come from abstract social constructs; Astrology; god(s); Jesus; Santa Claus, etc.

slippery slope: a change in procedure, law, or action, will result in adverse consequences. (e.g., If we allow doctor assisted suicide, then eventually the government will control how we die.) It does not necessarily follow that just because we make changes that a slippery slope will occur.

special pleading: the assertion of new or special matter to offset the opposing party's allegations. A presentation of an argument that emphasizes only a favorable or single aspect of the question at issue. (e.g. How can God create so much suffering in the world? Answer: You have to understand that God moves in mysterious ways and we have no privilege to this knowledge. Or: Horoscopes work, but you have to understand the theory behind it.)

statistics of small numbers: similar to observational selection (e.g., My parents smoked all their lives and they never got cancer. Or: I don't care what others say about Yugos, my Yugo has never had a problem.) Simply because someone can point to a few favorable numbers says nothing about the overall chances.

straw man: creating a false scenario and then attacking it. (e.g., Evolutionists think that everything came about by random chance.) Most evolutionists think in terms of natural selection which may involve incidental elements, but does not depend entirely on random chance. Painting your opponent with false colors only deflects the purpose of the argument.

two wrongs make a right: trying to justify what we did by accusing someone else of doing the same. (e.g. how can you judge my actions when you do exactly the same thing?) The guilt of the accuser has no relevance to the discussion.

Appeal to Nature: A common fallacy in political arguments. One version consists of drawing an analogy between a particular conclusion, and some aspect of the natural world -- and then stating that the conclusion is inevitable, because the natural world is similar:

"The natural world is characterized by competition; animals struggle against each other for ownership of limited natural resources. Capitalism, the competitive struggle for ownership of capital, is simply an inevitable part of human nature. It's how the natural world works."

Another form of appeal to nature is to argue that because human beings are products of the natural world, we must mimic behavior seen in the natural world, and that to do otherwise is 'unnatural':

"Of course homosexuality is unnatural. When's the last time you saw two animals of the same sex mating?"

No true Scotsman: Suppose I assert that no Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge. You counter this by pointing out that your friend Angus likes sugar with his porridge. I then say "Ah, yes, but no true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.

This is an example of an ad hoc change being used to shore up an assertion, combined with an attempt to shift the meaning of the words used original assertion; you might call it a combination of fallacies.
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Old 14th October 2004, 07:06 PM   #2
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I posted this once before but it seems worth repeating, there is of course some duplication with your list as there is a slightly different slant to it.


I have unashamedly plagiarised this from the talk origins board, (there are a few minor changes for clarity only, and shorted a little, I apologise to the author, ‘prof weird’ in advance).

After a few years in the creationism vs evolution debates, I noticed that there was a core of commonly used creationist 'arguments'. So, I compiled them and turned them into a game - Cretigo. It is played like Bingo, except the various creationist claims represent the letters and numbers. There are 28 arguments arranged into a 5 x 5 board (not all arguments are used on a single board), with the centre square free.

While debating a creationist, simply mark off the claims as they are used - the object is to get 5 in a row

Here are the claims :

1 God of the Gaps/Unsolved Mystery. Assumes that if science cannot presently explain something, there is no natural explanation.

2 Personal Incredulity. Assumes that their inability to comprehend or understand how something could have occurred naturally is proof that it did not.

3 Post-It Note God/Morris Effect. Gives a supernatural deity credit for a natural event, eg:
"well, god CUDDA done it that way !", or
"There is no observational fact imaginable that cannot, one way or another, be made to fit the creation model." - Henry Morris

4 Scriptural Assault. Use of bible verses as 'evidence'. Usually either as threats, or bribes. Also includes such gems as:
a "Jesus Loves You"
b "I'll Pray For You"
c "One day you will have to answer to Jesus Christ Himself, and then it won't be so funny when he throws your unrepentant soul into Hell !"
d "One day, when you're burning in Hell, you'll remember this conversation, and that I warned you !"

5 Discredited 'evidences', Hoaxes and errors. Otherwise known as PRATTs (Points Refuted A Thousand Times). Includes such things as the moon dust argument, the vapour canopy 'hypothesis', and the decaying c-factor hypothesis. These 'evidences' have been refuted (see Talk Origins for them), but creationists keep using them anyway.

Things like Nebraska Man, Piltdown Man, and the Lady Hope Story fit also fit in here. Somehow the FACT that scientists were the ones that figured out these were mistakes or hoaxes is always missed by creationists. Science works by correcting its errors, so hoaxes and frauds usually don't last very long.

6 Out of Context Quotes. THE classic creationist technique. If, at any time you see them claim that an 'evolutionist' says that evolution is false, you can be pretty certain the words have been carefully edited (like Darwin's 'Eye Quote', his 'Transitional forms should be everywhere' quote ... ).

7 2nd Law of Thermodynamics Arguments. The idea that evolution somehow violates this inviolable law of nature. In truth, it doesn't (in fact, life itself works in accordance to this law). Assumes that organisation/complexity cannot form unless directed by some sort of program (false).

8 (Mis)Information Theory. A relatively recent argument, it claims things like 'gains of genetic information are impossible', or 'mutations have never been observed'. Both statements are, of course, false.

9 Absolutism/Burden of Proof. Assumes:
a) if you are not 100% certain about how something happened, then you don't have a clue about how it happened, or
b) anything not proven true is automatically false (or, anything not proven false is automatically true).

10 Denial = Refutation/ex cathedra arguments/Zepellin Ego. The first two assume that just because the creationist has stated something, it is automatically true without the requirement for supporting evidence. ('Your statement is false. Now that I have refuted you, you MUST accept that my ideas are correct !')

Zepellin Ego - when opponent's ego is huge, bloated, full of gas, and explodes into flame with the least provocation (tends to go along with #17 - see below).

11 Semantic Games. Opponent will expect you to conform to HIS definition of words, not their REAL, currently accepted definitions. Example: claims that evolution MUST be only single point mutations (as in the Modern Synthesis – 1942 to 1982).

Also when evidence is redefined out of existence (ie, the invention of the 'dichotomy' between 'apparent' specified complexity vs 'real' specified complexity when it was demonstrated that a computer program using mutation/selection could produce a sentence exhibiting specified complexity. Sadly, without knowing the history of a process, it is IMPOSSIBLE to tell the 'difference' between 'real' and 'apparent' specified complexity.)

12 Number Games. Use of carefully selected growth rates to 'show' that the entire Earth's population could've been generated by 4 couples a few thousand years ago. Also the One Sided Equation – most processes on Earth are in equilibrium (there are just as many factors increasing something as decreasing it). A One Sided Equation ignores one or the other side of the equation - seen in the Helium escape argument, or erosion/build up of sediment type of arguments for a young Earth.

13 Transitional Form Complaints. They either claim:
a) “there are no transitional forms !!” (false), or
b) ”Those fossils are the wrong kind of transitional forms, and so aren't real transitionals !!”

The “fossils are fully formed whatevers” type arguments are included in here as well.

14 Conspiracy Theories. Two major types:
a) "All scientists/evolutionists KNOW that evolution is false, but they hide/distort the evidence to get people away from God !".
b) "Every field of science kneels before the altar of Evolutionary Theory !" - geologists must check with evolutionists so they know how old to say the Earth is, for example.

15 Cartoon Theory of Evolution. Evolution is just the study and explanation of how living things change over time. The Cartoon Theory of Evolution includes Cosmogony (origin of the universe), Nucleosynthesis (origin of substances heavier than hydrogen), Abiogenesis (origin of life from organic compounds) - from the Chick Tract 'Big Daddy" most likely.

16 Argument from Weak/Faulty Analogy. Hearkens back to Paley's Watchmaker analogy (the "irreducibly complex systems" of Behe is the modern incarnation of this). Assumes that if two things have at least one thing in common, they have all things in common (designed objects are complex. Life is complex. Therefore, life is designed), and others of this ilk.

17 Argument from Insult (direct and implied)/Armchair Psychology. Assumes that you can make someone accept your claims by calling them names (direct), or questioning their mental faculties, eg “you can't possibly believe that fish can turn into men !!” - implying you are stupid. You would have to be, to fall for that old strawman argument.

Armchair psychology is when they diagnose a mental condition for you -such as "You are OBVIOUSLY afraid of God, and want science to save you!", or "The ONLY reason you believe in evolution is you fear being held accountable for your actions !", or even "You have OBVIOUSLY closed your heart/mind off to THE TRUTH !!"

18 Argument from Misplaced Authority. When you hear someone quoting an astrophysicist who states that 'evolution is too improbable', for instance (like the old "Tornado through a junkyard, building a 747 !" argument). Expertise in ONE field does NOT grant expertise in ALL fields.

19 Argument from Improbability/'Evolution is ALL chance !!'. Usually seen in abiogenesis arguments, this makes the assumption that a modern protein had to be made in just one attempt. But, since natural selection selects more successful variants, it can make improbable combinations occur by working sequentially (several small improvements).

20 Martyr Syndrome, Histrionics, and Emotional Appeals. Creationist will claim they are being discriminated against, or called names ONLY because they are creationist/have faith (actually, they are being called names because they are using lame arguments, and excessive use of Zepellin Ego). Shopenhauer's Maxim fits in here as well (the 'All great truths pass through three stages - they are ridiculed, then they are violently opposed, then they are accepted as obvious')

Also includes such rancid fare as "Hitler/Stallin/Mao and other nasty people 'believed in'/used evolution; therefore, evolution is evil !!", and "Racists use the theory of evolution to justify their actions; therefore, evolution is evil !!" where the main attempt is to discredit the Theory of evolution with polemics, politics and emotions without having to demonstrate that it is wrong.

21 Mobile Goalposts/Backpedaling. Occurs when the creationist asks for something, you give it to him, and then he claims that's NOT what he REALLY wanted, or that it REALLY doesn't qualify as evidence for your position (without clearly explaining why).

22 "No Eyewitnesses !!" - type argument. Claims that since no one was there to physically observe the event, we can't REALLY be sure it happened. Or, like using spectroscopy to determine what elements are in an interstellar gas cloud is invalid because no one has gone out there to physically retrieve a sample of the interstellar gas.

23 Misuse and Misunderstandings (or guilt by association). eg the Theory of evolution/'Evolution is RACISM/ATHEISM/RELIGION !!" Oddly assumes that since evolution is based on assumptions, and religion is based on assumptions, that evolution is therefore a religion (ie, accepted as true WITHOUT evidence). Also assumes that one must give up God to accept the validity of evolution (false).

Since the Theory of evolution is purely a biological theory that explains how life changes over time, it has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to say about morals, ethics, theology, philosophy, or cultural development, which is why claims like "the end product of the PHILOSOPHY of evolutionISM is the erosion of morality !!" belong in this category.

24 Ignorance of Science and its Methods. When someone demands that science PROVE something, or that 'evolution is NOT scientific'. Science deals with EVIDENCE, not PROOF. Evolution is scientific because it does make testable and falsifiable predictions (like, 'what would we EXPECT to find in the fossil record if descent with modification was true ?')

Also claims that fly in the face of known physics, chemistry, geology, etc go in here as well.

25 Fallacy of the General Rule. 'If sedimentation can occur quickly under these conditions, it therefore can occur quickly in ALL conditions !!" is the prime example. This fallacy occurs when a rule is applied too broadly (The Mount St Helen's example of a young earth and polystrate fossil formation are other standard creationist fares).

26 Radiometric and Dating Whines. Common enough to warrant separation from 'Ignorance of Science and Its Methods'. Just baseless complaints/questions about the validity of known and verified dating methods.

27 Muddled logic and other fallacies. The 'miscellaneous' category. Things like Special Pleading ('all things require a cause – EXCEPT GOD'), Circular Arguments (the statement you are trying to prove is one of the assumptions - 'God created things. Things exist. Therefore, God exists !), and Non Sequitor statements (have no relevance to the topic at hand - like bible verses discussing morality when the topic was natural selection).

28 Mind Games and Rhetorical Tricks. Includes Projection (you keep changing all of his definitions of words BACK to what they really are, and he accuses you of redefining words to suit your argument), White Knight (rushing to the aid of a fellow creationist just because he/she is a creationist), going on incoherent rants, and 'just plain NUTS!!'.

Use of the 'Gish Gallop' (and its electronic forum equivalent of flooding the message board so the latest "irrefutable demolition of evilution" post that got shredded and burned to ash drops off the bottom) is an example of a rhetorical trick - others fairly easy to recognise.
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Old 14th October 2004, 07:27 PM   #3
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Very nice, SkepticJ. Quite a resource for those of us who don't have the philosophical background to adequately wage an argument on these boards. It's a crazy world in these forums.
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Old 15th October 2004, 02:14 PM   #4
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We need to send this to 1inChrist!
You have to live it to believe it!

If English was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for you!
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Old 16th October 2004, 08:19 PM   #5
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Originally posted by cbish
We need to send this to 1inChrist!
Golly gee willickers!!! Wouldn't that be fun, Beave?!!!
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Old 16th October 2004, 11:18 PM   #6
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Oh my lack of God, look who's back. Just in case 1inC didn't do enough damage to Jesus's teachings already...
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Old 17th October 2004, 12:15 PM   #7
Johnny Pneumatic
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Originally posted by c4ts
Oh my lack of God, look who's back. Just in case 1inC didn't do enough damage to Jesus's teachings already...
Anybody want to venture a guess that Riddick, Radrook and 1inChrist are all the same person?
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Old 19th October 2004, 04:19 PM   #8
Johnny Pneumatic
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Bumping the thread because 1inChrist needs to read the list because every single one of his threads is founded on one of these.
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