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Logical fallacy (EvoWiki)

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Response Article

This article (Logical fallacy (EvoWiki)) is a response to an evolutionary or anticreation assertion that was published on the EvoWiki website.

EvoWiki has compiled a long list of logical fallacies . Some of their listed fallacies are indeed logical fallacies (like Ad hominem). Others are not (like "inconsistency," which is not a logical fallacy because it is not a flaw in a deductive argument, but rather a person making two arguments in different circumstances that contradict each other).

Aside from demonstrating a lack of understanding about what logical fallacies are, the page argues (without proof) that every single creationist argument ever made by every creationist has been a logical fallacy (Overgeneralization).

Beyond such amusing overgeneralizations and proofs by assertion, the page does prove a useful tool in two respects. It provides a list of fallacies, and even unwittingly illustrates them, as in the following quote from the page:

"The next question is: Why do they do it? Why does a creationist pick a quote from a book and tries (sic) to make it seem to say the opposite of what it was intended to say? Are they dishonest, do they try to con the public? Or are they so ignorant that they don't understand what the quote meant in the first place, and so desperate that they have to use everything they find?
One can't know. But - dishonest or ignorant, it doesn't matter. In both cases you can't trust what they say. The creation-evolution debate is not a debate between scientists; it is a debate between scientists and charlatans. This is not empty rhetoric. Look at a few creationist arguments and try to find only one that is valid as an argument against evolution. You won't succeed."

Fallacies in this passage:

  • Ad hominem: All creationists are "Charlatans," and "you can't trust what they say."
  • Appeal to pride: Evolutionists are "scientists" and are thus the "smarter ones."
  • Hasty generalization: Not only some creationists are charlatans, but all creationists are charlatans
  • Loaded question: "Are they dishonest ...? Or are they so ignorant ...?"
  • False dichotomy: "Dishonest or ignorant, it doesn't matter." Ignoring another possibility: that creationists are correct.
  • Appeal to hatred: Surely those "charlatan creationists" must be wrong.
  • Inconsistency: All of the above, while listed as fallacies on the Evowiki page, are applied against creationists on the self-same page.

Response to EvoWiki discussion on the topic

In response to the above critique of his comments, the article of the comments responded:

  • "Ad hominem: "All creationists are "Charlatans," and "you can't trust what they say."" Well, you really should not trust them because past experience says most of what they say is wrong. Especially if they quote scientists you should in any case look up what the scientist really said. Trusting scientists to quote correctly may be risky because mistakes happen, but trusting creationists to quote correctly is just foolish. This has nothing to do with as hominem, it's a necessary precaution."
The author has not stated why he thinks the comment "Creationists are charlatans" is not ad hominem. That's only natural, since personal attacks against one's opponents in order to discredit them are by definition ad hominem. He then argued that it is "foolish" to trust creationists because "past experience says most of what they say is wrong." Whose past experience? His and his alone. This appears to be something of an appeal to authority: apparently his experience is so unassailable that one ought to accept it without questioning it. He also creates a false dichotomy, differentiating between "Creationists" and "scientists," since there are indeed creationists who are scientists. He rounds things out with a cute, "Trusting creationists to quote correctly is just foolish." Again, this is mere ad hominem. Whether creationists can be trusted or not is irrelevant, except insofar as it serves to attack his opponents -- a rational argument would not appeal at all to whether or not creationists can be "trusted," and instead stick to the issues.
It is not just an ad hominem argument, but an abusive ad hominem argument, according to EvoWiki's own definition of that fallacy: "You commit this fallacy if you insult your opponent.". Regardless of the truth or otherwise of the claim, it is an insult. EvoWiki also advises how to counter an abusive ad hominem attack: "Point out that the fallacy user probably has no real arguments if he has to use such low tactics." Well said, EvoWiki!
  • Appeal to Pride: "Evolutionists are "scientists" and are thus the "smarter ones."" That one is an invention - knowledgeable does not equal smart.
The author ignores the logical fallacy, choosing instead to argue semantics. Fine. "Evolutionists are 'scientists' and are thus the 'more knowledgable ones.'" It is still a logical fallacy, for two reasons: first, there are scientists that are creationists, and second, because whether one sides with "scientists" or "non-scientists" is a mere distractor from the merits of the issue itself, and thus a mere appeal to pride.
  • Hasty Generalization: "Not only some creationists are charlatans, but all creationists are charlatans" Even if this page would claim that - well, after decades of asking for one single working creationist argument and getting nothing but easily-refuted nonsense, this can hardly called hasty. All you have to do is name one creationist who does not use unsound arguments (while using sound ones) and that claim will have to go.
Again, the author makes an "Argument from authority" from his "decades of experience." He also begs the question as to whether his determination of the validity of an argument is dispositive. The possibility that someone might disagree with his evaluation is ignored.
  • Loaded Question: "Are they dishonest ...? Or are they so ignorant ...?" This is not a loaded question. It starts not with an unspoken assumption but with an explicit conclusion from looking at all those faulty claims.
The unspoken assumption is that creationists are either dishonest or ignorant ... because they cannot possibly be correct.
  • False Dichotomy: ""Dishonest or ignorant, it doesn't matter." Ignoring another possibility: that creationists are correct." This possibility is all but ruled out by all the false claims they make. Again, one workable creationist argument would be enough.
This is the "Fallacy fallacy." Just because creationists make false claims does not mean the central claims of creationism are incorrect.
  • Appeal to Hatred: "Surely those "charlatan creationists" must be wrong." If the CreatioWiki[sic] author really read this page, this claim is a lie. The paragraph "Fallacy Fallacy" warns about exactly the reasoning the author claims to find here.
Yes, it is inconsistent to decry the "fallacy fallacy" and then commit it on the same page.
  • Inconsistency: "All of the above, while listed as fallacies on the Evowiki page, are applied against creationists on the self-same page." No, they are not.
Yet another proof by authority.