Critical Thinking: Fallacies from Relevance XVII

Posted by Gregg on Jul 24, 2011 in apologetics, Christian Faith, Critical Thinking, homeschooling |


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 Complex Question. The Fallacy of the Complex Question uses biased language in place of reasoned, rational, logical argumentation.  By refusing to address individual points, any conclusions reached as a result of following this fallacy are automatically unreliable.

Fallacy of the Complex Question

A complex question fallacy is essentially an illegitimate use of the “and” operator whether stated or implicit. This fallacy occurs when two otherwise unrelated points are conjoined and treated as a single proposition. The opponent is expected to accept or reject both unrelated points together, when in reality each should be addressed individually.

A complex question fallacy can be revealed by identifying the two propositions that are illegitimately conjoined and showing that validity of one does not mean an interdependent validity of the other.  A classic example is:

“Have you stopped beating your kids?”

Either a yes or a no answer would seem to imply that the person did in the past beat his children, which may not be the case. The question is “complex” because it should be divided into two questions independent questions:

  1. Did you ever beat your children?
  2. If so, have you now stopped?

The fallacy of the complex question is ridiculously common in Darwinist literature and as asked by Darwinists in the Darwin v Creation debate. Examples:

“Do you think that human beings are still evolving today?”

This end of chapter question from a 6th grade biology textbook commits the fallacy of the complex question in that it should be phrased into two questions.

  1. Did you think human beings evolved from lower forms of life?
  2. If so, do you think such evolution is still occurring today?

“How did dinosaurs survive for millions of years?”

This commits the fallacy of the complex question because it should be divided:

  1. Did dinosaurs actually survive for millions of years?
  2. If so, how?

“What is the mechanism by which reptiles evolved into birds?”

  1. Did reptiles evolve into birds?
  2. If so, what is the mechanism by which this took place?

Another form of the complex question fallacy is when an arguer asserts some form of, “Are you aware the fact that [some unproven truth claim]?” For example:

“Are you aware of the fact that the earth is billions of years old?”

This is the fallacy of the complex question because it should be divided:

  1. Is the earth billions of years old?
  2. If so, were you aware of that fact?

When the truth claim is proven and provable, this is not a fallacy. However, by asserting an unproven or unprovable truth claim as it it were fact in the form of an interrogative, the arguer is actually committing the fallacy of the complex question by begging the question. This is also a very popular means by which Darwinists attempt to advance Darwinian evolution using fallacious questions and biased language to persuade rather than logic, evidence, or actual facts.

“Are you aware of the fact that…
…all scientific evidence points to evolution?”
…we find rocks that are over 4 billion years old?”
…all scientists believe Darwin was right?”

Does all scientific evidence really point to Darwin? No. Is it therefore a fact?  No.  Can it be proven that rocks are over 4 billion years old? No. Do all scientists believe Darwin was right. Obviously not. Are these actually facts?  No.  Clearly, dividing these questions into their component propositions results in entirely independent answers.

The Fallacy of the Complex Question uses biased language in place of reasoned, rational, logical argumentation and should be avoided in any debate.

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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