Critical Thinking: Fallacies from Relevance XV


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 Bifurcation, also called the Fallacy of the False Dichotomy, the Fallacy of the False Dilemma, or the Either-Or Fallacy.


In reasoned argumentation, one can take two exclusively contradictory conditions and demonstrate an actual dichotomy, or dilemma, in order to make a point. For instance, one can say, “It is the case that something,” contrasted with “It is not the case that something.” In the event that there are only two exclusively contradictory conditions, this is valid, cogent and sound.

For example, “It is the case that Aristotle is mortal. It is not the case that Aristotle is immortal.” In this case, Aristotle can either be mortal or immortal. There is no other possibility.

The fallacy of bifurcation occurs when a claim is made that there are only two mutually exclusive possibilities when, in fact, there are additional possibilities. An example of this might be:

“America! Love it or leave it!”

Clearly, there are additional possibilities. One might not love America, yet choose not to leave. One might love America, yet choose to live elsewhere.

The fallacy of bifurcation is commonly offered by Darwinists in the ongoing debate between believers in the Biblical account of creation and those who subscribe to Darwinism. While the fallacy takes many forms in that debate, a common examples is something like:

“If you don’t believe we evolved from apes, then you’re just stupid!”

Obviously, there are more than just these two possibilities. One can be really intelligent and simultaneously doubt Darwinist claims. Many scientists and people who hold advanced degrees have serious doubts, after all, and can hardly be called stupid. Likewise, people can swallow Darwinism entirely and simultaneously seriously lack intelligence.

“Either you have faith or you are rational. I could never live by faith, because I am a rational person.”

Again, there are more than just these two possibilities. In fact, faith is essential to understand the of laws of logic and therefore even possess rationality. All reasoning presupposes some type of faith. Faith is belief in that which has not been observed by the senses (Hebrews 11:1). So, in order to reason logically, rationally, a person must believe in laws of logic. Laws of logic are immaterial and cannot be observed by the senses. Therefore, belief in laws of logic is demonstrating faith. Furthermore, laws of logic only have rational justification in the Christian faith system.

Darwinists often attempt to frame the origins debate as “faith vs. reason,” or “science against religion,” or the “Bible vs. science.” Obviously, these are all fallacious false dilemmas. As has already been demonstrated, faith and reason are not exclusively contradictory. Nor are Science and Christianity mutually exclusive.

…the debate should never be framed as “the Bible vs. science,” since the procedures of science are fully compatible with the Bible. In fact, science is based on the biblical worldview; science requires predictability in nature, which is only made possible by the fact that God upholds the universe in a consistent way that is congenial to human understanding. Such predictability just wouldn’t make sense in a “chance” universe.
Dr. Jason Lisle, AiG–U.S. September 7, 2009

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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