Evolution and Logical Fallacies
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©1999|
|This article looks at 12 logical fallacies to show how they are “applicable to how evolutionists deal with the date or how they respond to creationism.”|
(Excerpted from Darwin’s Leap of Faith, Harvest House, 1998)
When one reads evolutionary literature, one discovers evolutionary faith is replete with an acceptance of logical fallacies. The examples below are illustrative.
The logical fallacy known as “invincible ignorance” happens when a person adopts a particular viewpoint, rigidly maintaining it despite all evidence to the contrary. Regardless of mounting, even definitive, evidence, the person’s faith in his particular point of view remains.
The fallacy of provincialism is when one sees things solely from the perspective of one’s own particular group (in this case the evolutionary establishment). Other viewpoints, especially those with religious implications, are simply not accepted or tolerated. Thus, dogmatism is a strong component of modern evolutionary belief. Proponents also engage in special pleading—they selectively accept data supporting their position while rejecting data that does not support it. In fact, they support their position with a confidence entirely out of proportion to the evidence.
In his book on logical fallacies, Don’t You Believe It, A. J. Hoover summarizes 30 common logical fallacies. Significantly, almost all of them are applicable to how evolutionists deal with the data or how they respond to creationism. Consider a few illustrations.
Hasty Generalization—basing a general statement on too small a sample; building general rules from accidental or exceptional situations. (Microevolution is evidence of macroevolution; origin of life experiments in the laboratory can be extrapolated to the actual evolution of life in the primitive oceans, alleged transitionary forms [Archaeopteryx, Semouria, etc.] prove evolution.)
Begging the Question (petitio principii)—reasoning in a circle, using your conclusion as a premise, assuming the very thing to be proved as proof of itself. (Natural selection; paleoanthropology; geologic record.)
Misuse of Authority—attempting to prove a conclusion by appealing to a real or alleged authority in such a way that the conclusion does not necessarily follow. (All competent scientists declare evolution is a fact!)
Misuse of Analogy—trying to prove something by improper use of a parallel case. (Hominid fossils prove evolution.)
Chronological Snobbery (argumentum ad futuris)—attempting to refute an idea merely by dating it, usually dating it very old. (Creationism was refuted long ago.)
Argument to Future—trying to prove something by appealing to evidence that might be turned up in the (unknown) future. (As science progresses, proof of evolution will eventually be forthcoming.)
Poisoning the Wells—attempting to refute an argument by discrediting in advance the source of the evidence for the argument. (Creationists are “know-nothings” opposed to modern science; they get their arguments mostly from the book of Genesis.)
Appeal to Force (argumentum ad baculum)—substituting force or the threat of force for reason and evidence. (Evolutionists’ intimidation of creationist students and professors.)
Appeal to the People (argumentum ad populum)—trying to establish a position by appealing to popular sentiments instead of relevant evidence. (Everybody believes in evolution, therefore it must be true.)
The Fallacy of Extension—attacking an exaggerated or caricatured version of your opponent’s position, i.e., to attack a “straw man.” (Creationism is only the religious doctrine of a small but vocal minority.)
Hypothesis Contrary to Fact—arguing from “what might have been,” from a past hypothetical condition. (The fossil record.)
The Ultimate Fallacy: Pigheadedness—refusing to accept a proposition even when it has been established by adequate evidence. (That evolution is false is established by the law of biogenesis, probability considerations, thermodynamics, etc.)
Thus, Professor Marvin Lubenow is quite correct when he writes, “As one studies evolutionist literature, one cannot help but notice in its practitioners both a lack of logic and an inability to weigh evidence properly. Legal experts have also noted this.” Indeed, when considering the alleged evidences for evolution, weighing the conclusions of legal experts—those trained to weigh evidence—is highly relevant.
Evolution and the Law
We earlier quoted Errol White as stating that he had often thought about how little he would like to have to attempt to prove organic evolution in a court of law. It’s no wonder.
No evolutionary scientist anywhere could prove evolution in a legal forum, given competent cross-examination. It is significant that in recent years a number of well argued texts have been written by expert lawyers critiquing evolution based on the application of the laws of evidence. One is by Harvard trained Norman MacBeth. In Darwin Retried, he argued that not only was the evidence for evolution of insufficient quality to stand up in a modern court of law but that evolution itself had become a religious faith.
Noted University of California law professor Phillip E. Johnson wrote Darwin on Trial, which is one of many significant critiques of evolution in recent years. He argues forcefully what is evident to everyone who has studied this issue objectively: 1) that evolution is ultimately a religious faith; 2) that if evolution were a true scientific hypothesis, an objective rigorous examination of the evidence would have caused it to be discarded a long time ago; 3) that it is not grounded on scientific facts but on the philosophy of naturalism; and 4) that it is an illusion that a great body of empirical evidence can be marshaled in support of the truth of evolution.
A final example is by W. R. Bird, a Yale Law School graduate who argued the major case on the issue before the U.S. Supreme Court. W. R. Bird is a member of the most prestigious legal organization, The American Law Institute, and is listed in the most selective directory, Who’s Who in the World. His definitive critique of evolution, The Origin of Species Revisited, is a masterful analysis of evidential reasoning showing that evolution is without significant evidence and that the theory of abrupt appearance (roughly parallel to creationism) is a better scientific theory.
One wonders, if evolution is a fact of science, how do legal experts trained in evaluating evidence declare it is without evidence? Or, how do scientists like Dave Nutting deliver lectures at national conferences with titles like “Fifty scientific reasons why evolution is wrong”?
Evolution and the Classroom
This kind of critical information almost never gets into the classroom, where it is most needed, and, in fact should be expected. This explains why, according to Klein, a Regent Emerita of the New York State Board of Regents, “the theory of evolution continues to be presented in textbooks, encyclopedias, and research papers as if it were a proven and verifiable scientific fact.”
And, according to one court opinion, “Presently, the concepts of evolutionary theory… permeate the public school textbooks,” at least in biology and for some texts in other fields. “Evolution receives an average of 14,055 words in each of eight major biology textbooks published between 1980 and 1982, and seven devote at least 11,000 words to evolution. By contrast, neither the theory of abrupt appearance nor the theory of creation receives more than a paragraph in any but one of the roughly 30 textbooks for public school biology, neither is mentioned in most, and neither is mentioned in the rest except in criticism.”
Unfortunately, educators generally have no idea that they are legally permitted to criticize evolution—regardless of what course they teach. Sooner or later, evolution turns up in most courses anyway. Innovative teachers who wish to educate students through the Socratic method, for example, would discover that a few auxiliary lectures on “weighing the evidence for evolution” will become a fascinating exercise in which to help students think independently and critically.
In fact, legal experts such as W. R. Bird in Vol. 2 of The Origin of Species Revisited have shown that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment does not prevent teachers from offering scientific alternatives to evolution and that creation itself can be a legitimate scientific alternative. Teachers who would like to offer an alternative, especially as pedagogical method, and yet do not, have only been intimidated. They are fully within their rights to do so.
If Darwinism is false and evolution is dead, then Bird’s concluding paragraph in Vol. 2 must be true:
- Perhaps modern science classrooms are only Plato’s cave in The Republic, and their certain truths are only deceptive images on the wall. Perhaps modern scientists are only Aristophanes’ scientists contemplating gnats’ anuses in The Clouds, or Swift’s scientists soberly focusing microscopes on breasts and modifying objects to fit distorted mathematical laws in Gulliver’s Travels. The dominant science mixes the hemlock to kill its rivals oftentimes; it disestablishes the priests only to don their mantels, as Rousseau warned.
- A. J. Hoover, Don’t You Believe It (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1982).
- Lubenow, Bones, p. 25.
- Norman MacBeth, Darwin Retried (Boston: Gambit, 1971).
- Summarized by Lubenow; Bones.
- …[The Origin of Species Revisited] was prepared utilizing the research amassed for the 1981 Supreme Court case over the issue of origins (Aguillard, et. al., v. Edwards, et. al., civil action No. 81-4787, Section H, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Brief of the State in Opposition to ACLU Motion for Summary Judgment, c., 1984, W. R. Bird.) Attorneys for the defendant gathered thousands of pages of information from hundreds of evolutionary scientists who, collectively, had expressed reservations from most scientific fields, in most areas of evolutionary thinking.
- Klein, Preface to L. Sunderland, Darwin’s Enigma (1985), p. 5 in Bird, Origin…Revisited, Vol. 2, p. 399.
- McLean Vs. Arkansas, Bd. Of Educ. 529 F. Supp. 1255, 1272 (E.D. Ark. 1982): G. Skoog, “Coverage of Evolution in Secondary School Biology Textbooks: 1900-1982,” at 12 (unpublished ms. October 16, 1982) from Bird, Origin…Revisited, Vol. 2, pp. 294-95.
- Bird, Origin…Revisited, Vol. 2, p. 517.