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Critical Thinking: Fallacies from Relevance XII

Posted by Hallee on Apr 15, 2010 in Critical Thinking, homeschooling |

CriticalThinking

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 Fallacy of the Argument from (Personal) Incredulity.

Fallacy of the Argument from (Personal) Incredulity
Argument from Incredulity, aka the Argument from Personal Incredulity, is an informal logical fallacy based on a series of non sequitur premises where a participant draws a positive conclusion in the obverse from an inability to imagine, understand, explain, concieve, admit, or believe the converse. The most general structure of this argument runs something like the following:

  1. I can’t imagine how P could possibly be false
  2. Therefore, P is true.

A simple variation on this is

  1. I cannot imagine how P could possibly be true
  2. Therefore, P is false

This fallacy is basically a simple variation of argument from ignorance. This forms a fallacy because someone else with more education, understanding, experience, insight, knowledge, or even just more imagination might find a way to concieve of the converse. Clearly, whether a person, or a group of people, cannot conceive of or understand a concept, this does not disprove the concept itself.

Forms of this fallacy include the Alien Fallacy, the Paranormal Fallacy, and the Darwinist Fallacy. All of these variants depend upon one’s personal beliefs or bias and a set of preconceived notions.

The alien fallacy might be something like: I can’t figure this out, so aliens must have done it. Or, This is amazing; therefore, aliens did it. Or, I can’t think of any other explanation; therefore, aliens did it. Or, this is just too weird; so, aliens are behind it.

In the above examples, one must have a personal belief in aliens and a preconceived notion that aliens have extra-normal power to influence the natural world. Darwinists use this exact fallacy to explain how life began on earth. The authoritatively scientific sounding word they have invented for this fallacious “aliens did it theory” is panspermia.

Another variation of the fallacy goes something like this: I can’t figure this out, so paranormal forces must have done it. Or, This is amazing; therefore, paranormal forces did it. Or, I can’t think of any other explanation; therefore, paranormal forces did it. Or, this is just too weird; so, paranormal forces are behind it.

In the above examples, one must have a personal belief in, well, ghosts and a preconceived notion that they have extra-normal power to influence the natural world. Spiritualists rely upon this kind of fallacious thinking to tell fortunes and so forth. It is simply a form of hucksterism like that practiced by P.T. Barnum in the last century.

Followers of Methodological Naturalism religiously eliminate any possibility other than materialism from their observations and conclusions. This leads to a variant of the Argument from Incredulity known as the Darwinist Fallacy. Examples are: I can’t figure out how a divine Creator might have designed this, therefore it must have occurred naturally. Or, This is amazing; therefore, unknown evolutionary forces did it. Or, I can’t think of any other explanation; therefore, Darwinian evolution must be responsible, somehow. Or, this is just too weird; so, Darwinian evolution is the only remaining explanation.

In the above examples, one must have a personal religious belief in Darwinian evolution and a preconceived notion that Darwinian evolution can have extra-normal power to influence the natural world in spite of the mountains of evidence against it.

I do not want to understand or admit this, therefore it must not be true. True to the form, it is “I don’t believe in P, therefore not-P, and my personal bias must be the case.”

In the debate between the scientifically supported Biblical account of creation versus the dogmatic Darwinistic religious interpretation, the Darwinist side will often reply upon their personal inability to believe in Design or a Designer, or even admit evidence of His creation.  This incredulity is then offered to “prove their point” that only naturalistic or materialistic randomness must be responsible for life as we know it.

Obviously, one’s personal belief or disbelief is not relevant to logical conclusions.

If one has a personal belief that fairies, or ghosts, or aliens, or unknown evolutionary forces make bread dough rise, one can religiously cling to that belief despite any evidence presented that contra-indicates the premise. That personal belief, however, is not relevant to logical thought or conclusions.

brain toolsConclusion:

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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