Critical Thinking: Fallacies from Relevance V
- By: Hallee
Fallacies from Relevance
A fallacy from relevance occurs when the response to a conclusion or an argument is not relevant to the conclusion or argument. These are fallacies that ignore the point at hand and attempt to derail the argument by bringing irrelevancies into the arena of the debate. In this post, I will discuss the most common type of fallacy from relevance, the Argumentum Ad Ignorantiam which is the faulty appeal to ignorance.
Argumentum Ad Ignorantiam (faulty appeal to ignorance)
The faulty appeal to ignorance has a very specific structure. One argues that since there is no evidence against a claim that claim must therefore be the case. The form also stays consistent in the negative, as in there is no evidence that a claim is not the case, therefore it must be true that the claim is not the case.
An outline of the forms would look like the following:
- There is no evidence against [Premise].
- Therefore, [Premise] is true.
- There is no evidence proving [Premise].
- Therefore, it is not the case that [Premise] is true.
In either case, the entire argument merely points to a necessary condition at best and never shows a sufficient condition to substantiate the truth of the claim. It is often misleading because the initial premise of these arguments (1.) can be used as a valid device to refute other claims. However, to conclude the truth of this claim based on the initial premise without additional evidence is fallacious since there are likely more than only two possible outcomes for the argument. (This leads to another fallacy known as the fallacy of the false dilemma which I will cover later.)
If I were to posit “Watermelons are blue on the inside until you cut them open.” I could create the fallacy of a faulty appeal to ignorance thusly. “You cannot disprove my premise that watermelons are blue on the inside until you cut them open. Therefore, it is true that watermelons are blue on the inside until you cut them open.”
Another similar form would be to “shift the burden of proof.” I would do this by saying something like, “Watermelons are blue on the inside until you cut them open. Prove me wrong.” The implicit challenge is that until you can prove my premise false, we must accept it as true. This is patently fallacious. In this form, it is my responsibility to prove my idiotic premise. No one else must be responsible to disprove it and we must not accept pure stupidity as truth until it can be shown to be stupidity.
During the era of Senator Joseph McCarthy, the distinguished gentleman used the fallacy of the faulty appeal to ignorance quite often during his communist witch hunts. For example, McCarthy announced that he had penetrated President Truman’s “iron curtain of secrecy” and intended to present 81 cases to the US Senate “in which it is clear there is a definite Communist connection [to these persons] in the State Department.” Of Case number 40, Senator McCarthy said, “I do not have much information on this except the general statement of the agency … that there is nothing in the files to disprove his Communist connections.”
This is an excellent example of a faulty appeal to ignorance. In the above real life historical example, it is clear that because there was nothing to disprove, it is also likely there was nothing to prove the point Senator McCarthy was trying to make — that being that the gentleman in question was a communist. The truth is that McCarthy proved nothing in this case.
In modern times, the faulty appeal to ignorance fallacy is most commonly witnessed in the Creation v. Darwinism debate. Darwinists consistently make faulty appeals to ignorance as “proof” of Darwinian evolution. “It cannot be proven that macro-evolution did not take place, therefore it is true that it took place. You cannot prove that the Big Bang did not occur, therefore it must have occurred. There is nothing to disprove Chemical evolution, therefore it must be true.”
In every case, there is also absolutely no evidence to PROVE any of that Darwinian nonsense, and so these are truly excellent examples of faulty appeals to ignorance. In fact, the entire “theory” of Darwinian evolution follows the model of one gigantic faulty appeal to ignorance. The premise is, “You cannot disprove our theory, therefore it is true.”
It is not incumbent upon anyone to disprove Darwinism. The exact opposite is true. The burden of proof is firmly in the court of the Darwinists. It is incumbent upon Darwinists to prove their idiotic theories by means of observation, experimentation, evidence, and fact. It is not incumbent upon anyone else in the universe to disprove it. Unless or until it is proven (as has not taken place in the last 200 years), then it is perfectly logical and completely reasonable to view their ridiculous theories with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Recognizing truth is an essential survival tool for the mind, and ultimately, for the soul. It is vital that believers weigh the so-called “wisdom” of the world on the perfect scale of authoritative scripture. (I Corinthians 1:19-21)
Teaching our children the ability to recognize fallacies of this type, giving them the intellectual skill to deconstruct these types of arguments, will ensure that the arguments they, themselves, will one day make are at least valid and thoughtfully arrived upon. It will also assist them to investigate more deeply into the conclusions espoused by those in the world whose motives might not come from love and might not have been very carefully arrived at or well researched.
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