Friday Fallacy: February 7, 2014
Posted on: February 7, 2014
It’s Friday, and that means it’s time for your Friday Fallacy!
We’ll name the fallacy at the end to give you a chance to guess it.
Thinking about debating a creationist?
Ask your opponent first, “What would change your mind?” If the answer is “nothing,” it’s a waste of time and you only give credibility to their mythology by agreeing to a debate. There are some creationists who claim they believe because of a different interpretation of evidence—Ken Ham, for example—by he does not base his belief in creationism on the evidence in itself, and this is something he readily admits. He admits that he starts from a place of believing the Bible, although he makes a superficial show of talking about evidence.
In that case, your debate becomes a Bible debate, not a scientific one. You need different tools for that kind of debate: knowledge of the history of religion, knowledge of ancient Middle Eastern syncretism, knowledge of translation problems, and knowledge of the contents of the Bible itself, among other things.
It’s important to nail down the exact question you want to debate before you start, so that you can point it out if your opponent goes off-topic. That, too, is a fallacy, but not the one we’re covering in this week’s Friday Fallacy.
If you ask someone to spell out her argument, and she says, “The Bible says…” then that is all you need to know to identify this fallacy. Creationists want to use the Bible as evidence, when in fact the Bible is the claim they are defending, not the evidence for that claim.
It is perfectly fine if you or your debate opponent wants to use a book (any book) as evidence for a claim, but introducing a book as evidence requires that the debater introducing it provide evidence that the book contains factual information. An appeal to authority is not always fallacious if the authority is a legitimate expert in the topic at hand. For example, if you want to cite “The Grand Design” by Stephen Hawking as support for a claim about the Big Bang, it is your responsibility to provide context for this by pointing out that Hawking is a world-renowned, legitimate expert in the fields of theoretical physics, cosmology, and cosmogony. Citing an irrelevant book, or a book by someone who is not an expert, or someone who is an expert but in an irrelevant field, are all examples of fallacious appeals to authority.
Introducing the Bible into a creation debate actually makes the creationist’s job *harder,* not easier. By introducing the Bible, they not only have to defend their claim that the Earth was created in 6 days only 6,000 years ago, but if their evidence for this is that the Bible says so, they now must also provide evidence that the authors of the Bible were experts in the origins of the both the universe and life on our planet. If they try to make the claim that the authors were ancient Middle Eastern nomads with no expert knowledge of these topics, but their writings can be trusted as accurate because God inspired the writers of the Bible, that means they must demonstrate that God exists and now that God did in fact inspire the writers as they claim, too. They are basically fighting three battles at once by bringing up the Bible, as opposed to sticking with “scientific” evidences like alleged inconsistencies in radiometric dating etc. Remember, every time they add on an additional claim, that is one more thing they have to defend, and don’t be afraid to call them out on it.
So, to get to the fallacy itself: Using the Bible to prove itself is an example of what fallacy?
Scroll down to the bottom of the link section for the answer
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Answer to Friday Fallacy: The fallacy is circular reasoning, or circulus in probando (circle in proving) in Latin.
Coming soon: Another of our monthly workshop series on formal debates! If you’re interested in informal debating (aka discussing religion), here is a previous workshop on that topic:
Have a great Friday!
– Dave Muscato, Public Relations Director