Those who seek to deceive in argumentation often equivocate on the meaning of words. So, to avoid the fallacy of equivocation, we wish to be clear about terminology.

Some of the entries have expanded from simple dictionary definitions into mini-essays.

Anyone who has spent 10 minutes on the Internet will have realized that creationists live in a parallel, nonsensical universe. For this reason, creationist word meanings are diametrically opposed to legitimate vernacular and technical meanings.

abductive reasoning : argument : belief : biological evolution : cogent argument : consciousness : creationism : deductive reasoning : existence : explanation : fact : falsifiable hypothesis : idea : inductive reasoning : inference : intelligence : IQ : mutation : natural selection : opinion : predicate : premise : premise in argument : problem of induction : proposition : proof : reality : science : theory : thought : truth :

Argument vs Explanation

An argument (not to be confused with the vernacular term for an acrimonious quarrel or dispute) is an assertion offered as evidence that some conclusion is true. In a cogent argument (many are not cogent), a set of premises (fact-based propositions or statements) are linked according to rules of logic in order to support a conclusion.

Arguments fail for one or more of a variety of reasons:
a) unacceptable, inaccurate, or irrelevant premises
b) faulty linkages (fallacies of logic) between premises and the conclusion(s), which fail by virtue of deviation from rules of logic
c) unsupported or irrelevant conclusions, or correct conclusions that are not logically supported by the argument presented (ignoratio elenchi)

An explanation is any statement that renders something comprehensible by describing the relevant structure, or operation, or circumstances. This post, for example, is an explanation and not an argument. Explanations could include an explication of the operation of the internal combustion engine, or the homicidal activities of Cho Seung-hui. An explanation is different from an argument in structure, components, and intention. Whereas an argument can commit the fallacy of circularity, an explanation cannot.

Explanations point to links between general laws and observed effects. Ideally, explanations confer an understanding of causes, contexts, and consequences of processes, phenomena, states of affairs, objects, terminology, etc. Explanations have been variously subdivided into Deductive-Nomological, Inductive-Statistical, Functional, Historical, Psychological, Reductive, Teleological, and Methodological.

Explanation is one of the three aims of scientific research (the others being exploration and description). Although scientific theories must logically connect empirical observation to explanation and prediction, scientific hypotheses, theories, and laws are not arguments per se. Arguments concerning values and ex-scientific metaphysics fall within the realm of philosophy.

The early philosophers concerned themselves with metaphysics. However, after scientific method was applied to examination of the physical (natural) world, scientific explanations rendered much of metaphysical speculation irrelevant and superfluous. So, philosophers ceased to speculate about metaphysical questions for which science had provided a highly acceptable explanation and the scope of metaphysics (ontology) shrank.

external links : explanation within glossary : ignoratio elenchi : search 'lander' :

Ignorance vs Knowledge

Ignorance versus Knowledge.Ignorance can be defined as the state of lack of knowledge, or as the willful refusal to increase one's knowledge.

It is, of course, impossible to know all that could be known of the store of human knowledge, so the term 'ignorance' is often applied to willful ignorance.

Knowledge can be defined as means comprehension of truth, that is, a cognitive awareness and understanding of facts, truths or information. Where beliefs are logically justified by facts, those beliefs are elevated to knowlede from the level of mere opinion.

Rationality and knowledge are linked in so far as cognitive awareness cannot exist without the capacity for rational thought. However, the mere ability to generate ideas does not necessarily lead to rational concepts since ideas can have a particularly silly content.

Knowledge can be acquired through experience, through semantic learning (a posteriori knowledge), or through introspection (a priori knowledge). Most useful knowledge falls into the a posteriori category, while very little outside self-knowledge can be regarded as useful a priori knowledge.

With regard to religion, the term 'knowledge' can apply only to awareness of the content of religious belief systems because there is no logically necessary connection between the facts of reality and the various claims made within religious systems. That is, even beyond the mutually exclusive and internal contradictions of the various religious belief systems, no system provides the best available explanation for natural phenomena. So, religious claims of providing the 'Truth' fail to provide any incontrovertible truth.

For this reason, religious systems resort to claiming to provide knowledge of the supernatural, of phenomena that do not exist in nature or are not subject to explanation according to natural laws. This retreat into magic-thinking is a retreat from direct disproof as well as from validation. The fact that a belief cannot be disproven is not good grounds for any claim for veracity for that claim, particularly where religious beliefs claim to intersect with the material world ("God works in mysterious ways" when referring to Earthly manifestations, claims for miracles). Equally, claims for such supposed, wishful thinking, or fear-imbued supernatural phenomena as an afterlife are ludicrously out of line with anything within the natural world. These natural facts include the connection between the brain and consciousness, and the phenomenon of death despite the persistence of the physical body.

The fact also remains that there are motive-based explanations for the claims of various belief-in-afterlife systems – they provide either positive emotions by reducing the fear of death, or they provide positive controls on behaviour by threatening eternal damnation for those who disobey authority. Such emotions are useful to both the believer and to leaders who wish to send their subjects into battle, have their subjects perform politically directed self-destruction, or merely to decrease undesirable behaviours. These emotional primary and secondary gains alone would render claims for a supernatural afterlife highly suspect.



● having the capacity for thought and reason especially to a high degree
● possessing sound knowledge
● exercising or showing good judgment
● endowed with the capacity to reason

The term 'intelligence' refers to the mental capability that includes the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend ideas and language, and to learn. It has been confirmed that an individual's potential intelligence is much more strongly related to his or her genetic endowment than to environmental factors. That is, when environmental factors are removed, intelligence most closely relates to genetic inheritance. Environment, specifically educational experience, however, does play a role in whether or not an individual realizes his or her intellectual potential. Thus, scores on IQ testing are higher in nations with higher levels of education.

To attribute biological complexity or natural physical phenomena to operation of a supernatural 'intelligence' is fallacious equivocation because such usage is outside the acceptable definition of intelligence.

IQ testing is intended to provide a standardized measure of an individual's capacity for analysis and comprehension in comparison to calibrated population-norms. IQ tests are designed as predictors of academic and vocational performance, and they have proven to correlate with scholastic and career success. Tests are designed in such a way that most subjects will score close to the average in a normal (Gaussian) distribution on most scales – an IQ of 100.

While most IQ tests are designed to test capacity for analysis and comprehension, a high score does not guarantee that the individual will function at a commensurate level and practice critical thinking, nor that he or she will achieve logical thinking in all aspects of daily life. Conversely, an average score does not indicate that the individual will not exercise good judgment. Accordingly, some psychologists prefer to consider the individual's level of emotional intelligence or to classify capacity for intelligence into different sub-areas (multiple intelligences).

It has been my personal observation that those with a combination of high IQ and high educational level tend not to hold dogmatic religious beliefs. In my personal experience, those whom I know to hold dogmatic religious beliefs invariably have a very low level of science education, usually a low level of education, and generally display average intelligence. However, I have also met atheists and agnostics with average intelligence and low levels of education.

Obviously, personal experience is always somewhat biased simply because one usually chooses to mix with people both with similar opinions and with similar educational status. I am also thrown into contact with people with whom I might not otherwise mix, allowing a sampling of more diverse opinions and attitudes. However, regardless of the breadth of our contacts, we must be cautious in extrapolating from personal experience. Far better to base any assumptions about possible connections between religiosity and intelligence upon impersonal measures:

"According to a study by Paul Bell, published in the Mensa Magazine in 2002, there is an inverse correlation* between religiosity and intelligence. Analyzing 43 studies carried out since 1927, Bell found that all but four reported such a connection, and he concluded that "the higher one's intelligence or education level, the less one is likely to be religious or hold 'beliefs' of any kind."[1] A survey published in Nature in 1998 confirms that belief in a personal God or afterlife is at an all time low among the members of the National Academy of Science, only 7.0% of which believed in a personal God as compared to more than 85% of the US general population.[2]"[w]

Presumably the spectrum of intelligence within the US is much the same as that in England, northern Europe, or the Antipodes, so intelligence alone cannot account for religiosity versus secular beliefs. The US's peculiar immigration history, generally poor educational levels, and peculiar religious history of evangelicism and indoctrination set against a background of anti-intellectualism probably combine to explain the high levels of religious dogmatism in the US.

Similarly, the range of intellectual capacities in other nations afflicted with religious fundamentalism is probably similar to that of the secular Western nations – there is, however, a marked difference in educational levels.

1. Bell, Paul. "Would you believe it?" Mensa Magazine, Feb. 2002, pp. 12–13
2. Larson, Edward J.; Larry Witham (1998). "Leading scientists still reject God". Nature 394 (6691): 313. Available at, Stephen Jay Gould archive. Retrieved on 2006-12-17
3. IQ - Genetics or Environment
4. Explaining the Relation Between Birth Order and Intelligence (NYT subscription required)

* correlation does not necessarily indicate causation.

Predicate Premise Propositions

In logic, as in grammar, a subject is that about which we make an assertion, and a predicate is that which we assert about the subject.

In grammar, the predicate of a sentence makes the assertion about the subject, and comprises a finite verb (required), with or without other related words. Thus, the predicate comprises any part of the sentence that is not a part of the subject, but that provides information about the subject.

First order logic applies when the subject of the sentence is an individual object, such as Socrates in "Socrates is mortal". Second order logic applies when the subject is another predicate, for example "being mortal" in "Being mortal is tragic".

Prior to development of predicate logic* in the late 19th c., the logical tradition that originated with Aristotle used traditional logic ("term logic"):
The term is a part of speech representing something, but which is not true or false in its own right, for example "man" or "mortal".
The proposition is capable of truth or falsity, and comprises two terms, in which the predicate is affirmed or denied of the subject.
The syllogism is a logical argument in which one proposition (the conclusion) is inferred from two others (the premises).

The modality of a statement or proposition P is the manner in which P's truth holds.

Propositions may be universal or particular, and affirmative or negative. Thus there are just four kinds of propositions:
A-type: Universal and affirmative or ("All men are mortal")
I-type: Particular and affirmative ("Some men are scientists")
E-type: Universal and negative ("No philosophers are rich")
O-type: Particular and negative ("Some men are not philosophers").

*In informal usage, the term "predicate logic" typically refers to first-order logic. In mathematical logic, predicate logic is the generic term for symbolic formal systems involving formulae with quantifiable variables: examples are first-order logic; second-order logic; many-sorted logic; and infinitary logic. Common quantifiers include existential and universal quantifiers.

In logic, a premise is a statement or assertion that forms the basis for a rationale, approach, or position. Thus, a premise is a proposition that is offered in support of the truth of the conclusion (another proposition) in an argument. A premise of an argument is assumed to be true, though it may in practice be false in arguments that lack validity. The argument proceeds from the premise or premises to the conclusion, and a cogent argument proceeds logically from premise/s to conclusion. Critical thinking aims to discern the cogency and validity of arguments by assessing the acceptability of premises, the logic by which the arguments moves from premise/s to conclusion, and the validity of the conclusion.

In logic, a proposition is a statement, couched as a declarative sentence, that affirms or denies the predicate, and that is either true or false. An analytic proposition can variously be described as a proposition whose predicate concept is contained within its subject concept, a proposition that is true by definition, whose truth depends solely on the meaning of its terms, or a proposition that is made true solely by the conventions of language. Analytic propositions, because truth is built in by virtue of terminology, are all a priori in that they do not require experience. Conversely, a synthetic proposition is a proposition whose predicate concept is not contained in its subject concept. Thus, synthetic propositions are not true simply in virtue of their meaning, so their truth must be assessed on the basis of experience.

Kant, in Critique of Pure Reason, discussed the possible combinations of analytic vs synthetic with a priori vs a posteriori propositions, which yield four possible types of propositions:
1. analytic a priori – according to Kant, all analytic propositions are a priori.
2. synthetic a priori – Kant maintains that all important metaphysical knowledge is of synthetic a priori propositions
3. analytic a posteriori – Kant argues that there are none, because analytic indicates a priori.
4. synthetic a posteriori – knowledge of the truth value of such propositions depends on experience.

Contingent propositions describe conditions that could have been otherwise, and so can be rationally denied without resulting in any self-contradiction. A proposition that describes a necessary truth could not have been otherwise, and so cannot be denied without generating a contradiction.

In logical positivism, propositions are often related to closed sentences, distinguishing them from the content of an open sentence (predicate). Propositions comprise the content of assertions, and are sometimes expressed as non-linguistic abstractions derived from the linguistic sentence that constitutes an assertion. Because propositions can have different functions (names, predicates and logical constants), the nature of propositions is a subject of debate amongst philosophers. Many logicians prefer to use sentences and to avoid use of the term proposition.

"We say that a sentence is factually significant to any given person, if and only if, he knows how to verify the proposition which it purports to express-that is, if he knows what observations would lead him, under certain conditions, to accept the proposition as being true, or reject is as being false." ~ A. J. Ayer


Proof can refer to the factual evidence that helps to establish the truth of something, the act of validation or testing for truth, or to a formal series of statements showing that if one thing is true something else necessarily follows from it. We toss the word 'proof' around in vernacular usage, yet rigorous usage of the term 'proof', outside alcoholic spirits, applies only to mathematics and to philosophical syllogisms.

Whereas disproof is an achievable certainty, "proof" is technically much less easily attained. A person who was demonstrably in Hong Kong at the time of a shooting in New York city could not have committed the crime, whereas we can be much less certain of the innocence of those capable of wielding a gun among the seven million or so people who were in New York city at the time.

Scientific method involves a closing in on the best possible explanation for observed phenomena, which is ideally achieved by discarding experimentally disproven falsifiable hypotheses. The lack of absolute certainty inherent in "best possible" does not sit well with those with a rigid need for a psychological sense of certainty, yet highest probability is the best that we can reasonably demand of most of our important questions.

By comparison, all religions are invented religions (despite claims of received dogma) and demand belief without any incontrovertible evidence to support religious claims. Religious dogmatists, particularly creationists, attempt unsuccessfully to suborn facts to fit their religious dogma. Whereas science moves from fact to explanation, religion moves from dogma to distortion. Because religions are only very loosely based on observable reality, attempts to twist empirical realities to fit religious dogma are necessarily fraught with illogic and falsehoods.

Received notions of deities do not provide the best explanations for observed facts, so scientific knowledge unintentionally runs counter to, or disproves, religious claims. Claims that "God performed a miracle" do not provide any explanation at all for empirical data.

As a result of this lack of foundation in reality, there are many invented religions, yet almost universal agreement about internally logical, replicated, scientific knowledge. New information might necessitate a slight modification of scientific hypotheses to better fit the data, but scientific theories carry a high degree of likelihood, and scientific laws signify near certainty.

Fallacious argument from ignorance are much loved by creationists and advocates of intelligent [sick] design theory. In these fallacies, the arguer erroneously claims either that lack of proof must render a claim false, or that lack of disproof must render a claim true. Referring back to the shooter analogy – disproof may render false any claim that a person who was actually in Hong Kong could have shot someone in New York city, but it does not prove that a particular individual in New York was necessarily the shooter. Conversely, not knowing who shot the victim in New York does not mean that the victim of the shooting could not have been shot.

When proponents of intelligent [sick] design theory demand an explanation for evolution of a complex, functioning system they are committing the fallacy of argument from ignorance (in addition to the fallacy of shifting the burden of proof).

Reality & Truth

A broad definition of reality includes all of our experiences, which determine how things appear to us.

However, our experiences can never encompass all that exists, all that is actual or real whether or not it is observable, accessible, or understandable to us. In this broadest sense, our methods of analysis cannot reveal all of reality to us.

Does matter comprise, at the quantum level, vibrating strings of energy? On the basis of mathematical formulations, theoretical physicists postulate that it does. Yet we cannot know as a certainty that this conceptualization is accurate unless and until experimental verification is devised. However, there is much more basis for belief that reality includes vibrating quantum strings than that the God of the Bible or any deity is a reality outside the idea of such. That is, ideas exist, but it does not necessarily follow that the thing proposed has any real existence beyond the concept. God or deities rank as highly improbable as explanations for the universe, for life on planet earth, or for events in our physical world.

"A fact or factual entity is a phenomenon that is perceived as an elemental principle."[w] Thus, a fact is not subject to personal interpretation, rather it an observed phenomenon in the natural world. On the other hand, definitions of 'truth' vary. For the purposes of this site, truth will be regarded as corresponding to fact and reality.



Thought or thinking is a brain-dependent, mental process that allows the thinker to generate a model of the external environment. Thought allows the thinker to sort, arrange, classify, identify, and differentiate ideas concerning the external world so as to deal effectively in accord with goals, plans, ends and desires. Concepts akin to thought are sentience, consciousness, idea, and imagination.

Consciousness is a quality of the mind that is generally regarded as comprising qualities such as subjectivity, self-awareness, sentience, sapience, and the ability to perceive the relationship between self (sensation) and the external environment. Philosophers divide consciousness into phenomenal consciousness (experience itself ) and access consciousness (processing the content of experience).

Any person capable of reading these words knows what it is to experience consciousness. However, consciousness is constructed by the brain and is experienced solely as the construct and not as the mechanism. Similarly, any person reading these words is experiencing visual perception without perceiving the neurophysiological processes that construct visual perception. The reader might be so educated as to understand the mechanisms without ever perceiving the mechanisms per se.

Thus, we cannot be simultaneously perceive the construction (consciousness) and perceive the mechanism by which we assemble the construction. Neuroscientists have deciphered most of the mechanisms, from photon to visual cortex, by which we construct visual perception of the external world. Precise neuroscientific explananations of the specific construction of consciousness are not yet formulated. This lack of a precise model does not provide a logical foundation for biased claims that thought and consciousness are not based in brain-centered neurophysiological processes. This particular piece of illogic would be equivalent to claiming that a person stabbed repeatedly in the back could not be a murder victim simply because the murderer has not yet been identified.

consciousness: an alert cognitive state in which you are aware of yourself and your situation

belief: any cognitive content held as true (not necessarily true, merely held as true)

idea: the content of cognition; the main thing you are thinking about.

thinking: the process of using your mind to consider something carefully.

opinion: a personal belief or judgment that is not founded on proof or certainty.


We the Contributors, in order to avoid repeating ourselves, have created a section devoted to explicating the Fallacies of Logic into which all arguers fall from time to time.

The Declaration against Ignorance

When in the Course of human thought it becomes necessary for one group to deny any facts which could connect them to truth and to assume among the fantasies of religiosity, the separate and lesser cognition to which Religious Dogma and Claims of a God drive them, disrespect for the knowledge attained by mankind requires that they should deny the evidence which impels them to prevaricate.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all humans make errors, that they are endowed by indoctrination with certain unenviable propensities, that among these are Lies, Taking Liberties with Facts, and the creation of Mythologies.

...... with apologies to the Founding Fathers and to that sensible Englishman whose political philosophy they appropriated.

A Fallacy of Logic, or "FOL-ly", is, very generally, an error in reasoning. There are several very good websites that deal with fallacies.

The following fallacies, amongst many others, are commonly encountered in intelligent [sick] design theory, creationist nonsense, Christian apologetics, and other peeve-topics on this website:

å Ad Hoc Pseudoexplanations
å affirmation of the consequent
å Argumentum ad antiquitatem
å Argumentum ad nauseam
å Argumentum ad numerum
å Argumentum ad hominem
å Argumentum ad novitatem
å Appeals to Emotion
å Appeal to False Authority
å Argument from Ignorance
å Bare Assertion Fallacy
å Circular Argument
å cum hoc ergo propter hoc
å Denial
å denial of the consequent
å Doublespeak
å Fallacies of Association
å false cause fallacy
å False Dichotomy
å Fallacy Fallacy
å Genetic fallacy
å God of the Gaps
å Guilt by Association Fallacy
å Irrelevance
å Misleading Quotes
å non causa pro causa
å post hoc ergo propter hoc
å Red Herring
å Shifting the Burden of Proof
å Shifting Etymons
å Slippery Slope
å Straw Man Fallacy
å Sweeping Generalization
å Trickery
å Tu Quoque Fallacy

Argumentum ad antiquitatem

(modified) section from The Rising of the Sun by Francois Boucher.Argument to tradition, argument from antiquity

Fallacious arguments to tradition assert that a belief is correct solely because the belief is ancient or is supported by tradition. This fallacy is the reverse of an equally fallacious argumentum ad novitatem (argument for novelty).

It is certainly true that some reasonable beliefs have persisted through time, yet old beliefs must be assessed on their merits, and not on their longevity alone. There may be extenuating circumstances that explain the persistence of an unfounded ancient belief. Such a belief may persist because it has emotional appeal or because it is a key element in a system of belief that has both emotional appeal and organizational support.

The Greeks believed that the sun was pulled across the sky by a horse-drawn chariot, yet a person insisting upon such an idea today would be widely regarded as certifiable. The old Greek idea was abandoned long ago partly because scientific awareness intervened, but also because other religious belief systems supplanted Greek mythology.

Because Christian belief has persisted to this day for historical reasons, Christians fail to see that they commit this fallacy whenever they argue that long-standing belief that Christ was the Son of God ensures that Christ was indeed the Son of God. In fact, some would also erroneously argue that the fact that the Son of God story has persisted, while the Sun Chariot myth disappeared, indicates that Christ was indeed the Son of God. Such an argument is a false dichotomy because it ignores more likely explanations for the persistence of the Son of God myth. (The false dichotomy, in the mind of many Christians runs, "either you acknowledge that Jesus was the son of God or you are incorrect.")

The Greek myth held that the sun was the god Helius (later Apollo) who was a son of the Titans Hyperion and Theia. Helius was the brother of the goddesses Selene (the moon) and Eos (the dawn). In early versions, bulls drew Helius' chariot, whereas the horses Pyrois, Aeos, Aethon, and Phlegon drew the chariot in later mythology. (Perhaps the bulls quit!).

(The image is a modified section of this painting.)

Argumentum ad nauseam

Argumentum ad nauseam arguments bore and/or induce nausea.Arguing to the point of nausea, argument by repetition

This fallacious argument is founded in the same principle as commercial advertising – the hope that people will be convinced by an argument if they hear it over, and over, and over . . . and over again until they are truly sick of it.

Fallacious argumentum ad nauseam puts people to sleep because such arguments boringly lack substance. Those who repeat well-founded cogent arguments are not committing this fallacy, whereas those who repeat weak, illogical, innacurate opinions can only hope to persuade through boring repetition.

Websites promoting special prejudices are presumbably founded for this reason – not to mention collecting donations from the credulous, the already-emotionally-convinced, or Aginners. Usenet groups abound with individuals who, whether purely for troll purposes or out of genuine dedication to nonsense, stubbornly bang on and on about ill-conceived opinions.

Giorgio Dubaya Borgia and his administration used ad nauseam emotional appeals (fear of WMDs and terrorism, Saddam Hussein has murdered Iraqi civilians) to attempt to justify an invasion of extremely dubious merit. Facts ultimatlely dispel fallacious ad nauseam claims because most people are not so foolish as to remain conned forever, and Borgia's approval ratings have plummeted.

We all make mistakes–or maybe it's just me–but only some of us are big enough to admit to our errors and to modify our belief system to better represent reality. Those who commit the ad nauseam fallacy seem to be unable to step back from their beliefs, to reassess their convictions, to learn, or to grow. The "Decider' has repeatedly demonstrated that he is too stupid to learn from his many mistakes.

“All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes.” ~ Winston Churchill

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” ~ Albert Einstein.

“A man's errors are his portals of discovery.” ~ James Joyce

“Experience is the name every one gives to their mistakes.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Argumentum ad numerum

Appealing to the Gallery, Appealing to Numbers

Argumentum ad numeram and argumentum ad populam are closely related fallacies of logic. Fallacious ad numeram arguments take the position that the veracity of an argument can be determined by the number of people who support or believe the proposition. Fallacious ad populam arguments attempt to win acceptance of an argument by making an emotional appeal to as large an audience as possible.

Giorgio Dubaya Borgia and his administration used ad nauseam emotional appeals (fear of terrorism, Saddam Hussein has murdered Iraqi civilians) to attempt to justify an invasion of extremely dubious merit. Most people are not so foolish as to remain conned forever, and Borgia's approval ratings have plummeted.

However, politicians succeed because large numbers of people are conned by propagandistic appeals to emotion, realizing their errors only too late. (This is the chief problem with democracies – the populace is far too easily duped into voting for candidates who later prove, as did Bush, to have absolutely no merit.) As a result of the gullibility of USians who voted for Bush, al Queda is now operating in Iraq when it did not operate under Hussein. Thousands of soldiers and civilians have been needlessly killed or maimed, and Iraq faces years of civil war before yet another strong man dictator takes over. The only upside of all this stupidity is that the share value of Haliburton has probably increased, and that is not an upside except to greedy Americans.

Religious dogmatists argue that because most people in the US believe that God was their personal creator, then God must exist and must be their creator. This, of course, demonstrates only that most people have been told, from an early age, that there is a God who is their creator and they have believed the tale in the absence of any confirmatory evidence. Unlike the case for Bush's lamentable record, only death could confirm or deny the existence of this purported creator, and the dead cannot inform the still-living that they were duped. If the dead could speak, then I am quite confident that God's approval rating would plummet almost to zero.

Fallacious argumentam ad numeram or argumentam ad populam is particularly damaging in the hands of dishonest politicians, but it is also a general problem amongst those who refuse to believe in the valid, empirical-based knowledge of credible authorities.

Because it is easy and cheap to form and hold an opinion, no matter how ill-informed or illogical that opinion, people with virtually no knowledge of a field will dogmatically insist upon ridiculous notions that run counter to received wisdom from those who are authorities in their fact-based field.

Thus, people who know nothing of meteorology or atmospherics will decide incorrectly that global warming is a myth simply because they do not wish to believe that they must alter their behaviour. People who know nothing of medicine, biomedical sciences, or epidemiology will erroneously decide, for example, that smoking is not harmful, or that vaccination causes autism.
Such errors would merely result in the holding of unfounded opinions by peope not sufficiently informed to host any opinion, but because politicians pander to public opinion, public ignorance becomes translated into harmful political action or inaction.

Argumentum ad hominem

"Against" the man, To the man, Argumentum ad hominem
This is probably the commonest fallacious argument of all in debates about emotion-laden issues – attacking the messenger.

Addressing the qualities or qualifications of "the man" might not be fallacious if "the man" clearly displays prejudices in his/her opinion. Pointing out the clear biases of a hate propagandist such as Dr. Paul Cameron (of FRI) is legimate when, for example, he distorts statistics in an attempt to disguise a hate message as being a fact-supported argument.

In the face of dubious statistics, suspicious "facts", or claims that an unlikely position is supported by empirical research, it is worth looking into the qualifications and possible biases of the individual making the claim.

The possibility always remains that the conclusion drawn by a highly biased debater may be the correct conclusion. However, arguments that display prejudices are automatically suspect.

Equally, the conclusions of an arguer who is not an expert in the area under discussion may be correct, but such an arguer would need to make the premises and logic of his/her argument quite clear in order to compensate for the possibility that his/her argument is not authoritative. Nevertheless, to question the messenger's expertise is not necessarily an ad hominem fallacy, though it is an ad hominem - a legitimate ad hominem.

On the other hand, to call the opposing debater 'an ignorant idiot' might feel justified in view of one's frustration with his or her obdurate denial of one's own version of reality, or more likely of expert knowledge. However, it is not a good argument against his or her premises, argument, or conclusion. He or she might be correct, or you might both be mistaken. However, such an assessment ought to be based on the merits of his or her, or your argument.

Fallacious ad hominems employ a variety of attacks: directly abusive, circumstantial, and accusations of "poisoning the well".

Ad Hoc Pseudoexplanations

Belief in fairies requires wishful thinking combined with illogic.Questionable cause, questionable explanation, special pleading, ad hoc explanations, ad hoc rationalizations.

Ad hoc fallacies are explanations dressed up in lieu of argument or of valid explanation. The term is derived from the the Latin for "special purpose".

Both explanations and arguments serve important purposes, so it is vital to recognize fallacies of logic, misinformation and ad hoc rationalizations when determining the validity of an argument or explanation. Ad hoc pseudoexplanations may resemble valid explanations, but they lack the coherent logical or empirical support that validates legitimate explanations.

The difficulty with ad hoc pseudoexplanations arises in their misapplication for the sole purpose of supporting a favored hypothesis, particularly a hypotheses that lacks logical or empirical support. In this sense, ad hoc rationalizations are acts of desperation. These pseudoexplanations are essentially rabbits pulled from hats when confronted with inconvenient facts that threaten to refute one’s favoured belief or theory.

Ad hoc rationalizations employ arbitrary introduction of new, special-purpose elements into an argument in order to make the argument appear valid. These are probably elements that have convinced the arguer, who likely is emotionally committed to the conclusion to be drawn; sometimes for emotional reasons that are not immediately evident from the line of argument.

Ad hoc rationalizations, as distinct from legitimate explanations, are identifiable by several features: lack coherence, misapplied to single instances, run counter to accepted knowledge, explain nothing, and lack testable consequences.

Christian apologetics, indeed all religious apologetics, faced with utter lack of evidence or with counterevidence necessarily relies upon fallacies of logic and ad hoc pseudoexplanations. Some ad hoc apologist pseudoexplanations are very sophisticated indeed, reflecting the historic waste of great minds.

Probably the most familiar ad hoc rationalization is, "God works in mysterious ways."

Common ad hoc constructions take the forms:

● “Of course you do not see that I am right! As it says in [quote inserted], our [authority*] warns us that [preventer^] ensures that the wicked will refuse to see the Truth!”

● "Of course the [whoevers^^] did not see the [whatever**], [whatevers**] will not manifest to those who do not believe."

● "Of course the [whoevers^^] did not find evidence to support my viewpoint, they were biased by their [prejudice***]."

● "Of course the [whoevers^^] did not [action¨] the [whomever`], they were biased by their [prejudice***]."

^ insert 'Satan' (an all time favourite in such fallacious retorts), 'atheist', 'militant atheist' ("Quick get the gun, I see a Christian!"), 'liberal', 'Dawkins / Dennett / Harris /Hitchens', or, most ridiculous of all, 'science'.

^^ insert 'researcher', 'investigator', 'scientist', 'evolutionist', 'doctor', 'epidemiologist', 'expert', 'psychologist', etc.

* insert 'Bible', 'Scriptures', 'Jesus', 'church', 'priest', 'pastor', etc.

** insert 'ghost', 'fairy', 'ESP', 'God', etc.

*** insert 'a priori assumption' (a misuse of 'a priori', incidentally), 'self-interest', 'self-protection', "brotherhood", 'prejudice', 'atheism', 'secularism', 'liberalism', 'environmentalism', 'socialism', 'cultism', 'Dawkinism,' 'Darwinism', 'greed' (always a big favorite with the conceptually challenged), etc.

¨ insert identities ("implied") 'creationist', "IDiot" ('intelligent design' creationist'), 'theist', 'apologist', 'religionist', 'fundamentalist', 'televangelist', 'bigot', 'racist', 'sexist', 'homophobe', etc.

` insert 'believe', 'agree with', 'hire', 'support'

We have all seen and heard variants of these fallacious pseudoarguments ad nauseam!

Argumentum ad novitatem

Argument for novelty

Argumentum ad novitatem is the fallacy of asserting that something is better simply because it is newer than something else. This fallacy is the reverse of the argumentum ad antiquitatem fallacy.

This fallacy is typically applied to new technologies, where new innovations might indeed be an improvement on the old. The folding bike in the foreground, for example, would be an improvement on the classical frame if the only consideration were transportability in a car's trunk. If the aim were merely to move somewhat faster than walking pace, then roller blades would fit more easily into a car's trunk. (Besides, roller blades are cheaper than the $500 price tag for the bike.) However, if you wanted to cycle more quickly along a road, then the classic configuration would clearly prove a better choice.

While it is easy to visualize the relative merit of bicycle technologies, other claims are not so easily assessed. The novelty fallacy can provide appeal for rehashed ideas that have been formulated as though they are new 'revelations' – intelligent [sick] design theory is merely eighteeth-century theologian Paley's old blind watchmaker argument, which itself is a rehash of an ancient argument. Paley's argument for design by a creator has been gussied up to appeal to those of strong religious convictions and inadequate understanding of science.

Appeals to Emotion

Emotional appeal, subtype of red herring argument

Unless an argument is solely about motivation or emotionality, an emotional appeal is never a legitimate strategy in an argument. Such arguments are fallacious because they focus on emotion rather than providing verifiable or evaluative support.

An appeal to false authority is a subtype of emotional appeal, as is the more obviously fallacious appeal to celebrity. The Bible is fallaciously cited, in the argumentum ad biblium fallacy, as an authority in many an emotional argument emanating from a religious dogmatist.

Irrelevant negative emotions evoked within arguments can include:
Envy (fallacious appeal to envy, argumentum ad invidiam)
Fear (fallacious appeal to fear, scare tactics, appeal to force, argumentum ad metum)
Force (argumentum ad baculum)
Hatred, Spite, Prejudice (fallacious appeal to hatred, stereotypes, against scapegoats, argumentum ad odium)
Pity, Altruism (fallacious appeal to pity, sob story, argumentum ad misericordiam)
Pride or Vanity (fallacious appeal to pride, apple polishing, argumentum ad superbiam)

Irrelevant positive emotions evoked:
Loyalty (fallacious appeal to loyalty, to conformity, bandwagon, peer pressure, argumentum ad populum)

Traditionally, many religious arguments have appealed to fear (eternal damnation) or to positive emotions (love of the Father, salvation, eternal life, heaven, forgiveness). To argue that an army should be mobilized because enemy forces are massed at the border is a much more valid argument than any religious argument founded in supernatural positives or negatives.

“A vast sector of modern advertising... does not appeal to reason but to emotion; like any other kind of hypnoid suggestion, it tries to impress its objects emotionally and then make them submit intellectually.” ~ Eric Fromm

“No form of art goes beyond ordinary consciousness as film does, straight to our emotions, deep into the twilight of the soul.” ~ Ingrid Bergman

"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons." ~ Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970)

"Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it." ~ George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950)

"Patriotism is often an arbitrary veneration of real estate above principles." ~ George Jean Nathan (1882 - 1958)

"Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." ~ Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784), quoted in Boswell's Life of Johnson

Patriotism seems a sadly appropriate footnote in a post about fallacious emotional appeals–those who have died or been maimed in the Iraqi war were told that they were helping "the war against terror". However, it is much, much, much more likely that America's invasion of Iraq has merely heightened world-wide anti-American sentiment and certainly that it has given Al Queda a foothold in Iraq, neither of which are anti-terror victories. Tragically, those young men and women did not die or suffer to benefit America, rather they were sacrificed to Giorgio Dubaya Borgia's political ambitions and the economic interests of big American corporations.

Appeal to False Authority

Fallacious Appeal to Authority, Misuse of Authority, Irrelevant Authority, Questionable Authority, Inappropriate Authority, Ad Verecundiam

Credible experts possess the following attributes:
1. sufficient expertise in the subject matter in question.
2. claims made are within area(s) of expertise
3. adequate degree of agreement among the other experts in the subject in question
4. not significantly biased by subjective motivations or prejudices
5. expertise within a legitimate area or discipline (related to the subject matter)
6. the authority must be identified

Proponents of intelligent [sick] design theory and other creationists employ fallacious appeals to authority:

1. Individual scientists, most of who are not credible experts in molecular genetics, have signed a document declaring that they do not believe that misrepresented Darwinian explanations explain biological evolution. Even those signatories who are qualified in molecular genetics render their own opinions suspect according to point 4 of the qualifications of acceptable authority below.

2. Well-known scientists who are convenient to creationist deceits in other ways. These include:
a) [alleged] atheists who have made statements amenable to creationist arguments (e.g. Fred Hoyle)
b) atheists duped, by virtue of their failing mental faculties, into agreeing to statements that serve creationist purposes (e.g. Anthony Flew).

(Similarly, religionists fallaciously appeal to the fact that some scientists are religious believers. I think that we should dub this fallacy 'Fallacious Appeal to Conversion'. The implication employed: this scientist looked at the scientific evidence and became a believer, so God must exist. Religious apolologists often cite Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project, who became a believer after witnessing human suffering, and not through his study of biology. Interestingly, they typically avoid mention of biologist Kenneth Miller.)

The theories of peer-reviewed scientists are dismissed, amongst other criticisms, as being biased in favor of an atheistic position, or as ambitious self-promotion, or as propaganda, or as being suspect because examples of scientific fraud have been uncovered in the past. Obviously, such irrelevent attacks on the credibility of accredited experts are fallacious ad hominem attacks.

Possession of higher academic qualifications alone does not qualify engineers or geologists, for example, to claim authority concerning biological evolution, which is outside their area of expertise (1, 2, 5).

This is not to say that those with qualifications in engineering or geology could not have attained considerable knowledge concerning biology, molecular genetics, or biological evolution. However, it is reasonable to expect that such knowledge expressed by engineers or geologists would reflect agreement with, rather than run completely counter to, the opinions of experts in these areas (3).

When the opinion of supposed authorities – particularly those whose academic qualifications lie outside the area under discussion(here, biology) – run directly counter to those of experts in the field, then the supposed authority is rightly suspected of prejudice (4) or ignorance of the particular area (1).

By the argument above, it matters not whether 100, or over 500 doctoral scientists, or any number of persons with a Ph.D. have signed a document expressing doubts concerning evolution. The signed statement reads: "We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged."

This statement misrepresents modern understanding of the mechanisms of biological evolution in that modern geneticists and evolutionary biologists do not claim that random mutation and natural selection alone account for the complexity of life. Darwin lived, wrote, and died before the discoveries of genetics, so Darwinian theory has already been examined by scientists and passed over in favour of the modern synthesis of evolutionary theory. However, Darwin's mechanism of natural selection is one of the recognized mechanisms affecting the frequency of alternative genes (alleles). The doctoral signatories have misrepresented the current understanding of the mechanisms of evolution.

It might be reasonable to say that a full exposition of molecular genetics and population are genetics are beyond the high school science curriculum, but it is not reasonable to conclude that students not yet capable of comprehending these 'complex' concepts should be further confused by teaching intelligent [sick] design theory (religion) alongside their simplified introduction to the fact of biological evolution. Religious teachings are readily available at the Church of each student's choice, and many websites are devoted to '‘intelligent [sick] design theory’', to creationism (c), and to debate of creationism vs evolution (Y).

The "Discovery Institute" and the "Center for Science & Culture" first published its Scientific Dissent From Darwinism list in 2001, purportedly "to challenge "false statements" about Darwinian evolution made in promoting PBS's "Evolution" series."

"Darwinist efforts to use the courts, the media and academic tenure committees to suppress dissent and stifle discussion are in fact fueling even more dissent and inspiring more scientists to ask to be added to the list."[s]

Considering the promises made in The Wedge Document, this statement is glaring example of a tu quoque fallacy – a "you too!" fallacy.

The fact remains that as an argument for insertion of intelligent [sick] design theory alongside evolution in science classrooms, the Scientific Dissent From Darwinism list remains an example of fallacious appeal to authority.

The image could be dubbed a fallacious appeal to Hitler, I suppose. However, the point that I wished to make by using a readily identifiable icon for evil is that people are duped by authority figures who, at first, appear to be promoting a message that might benefit the audience.

John G. West, associate director of Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture.

Argument from Ignorance

Argument from Ignorance, or argumentum ad ignorantiam:

Fallacious arguments from ignorance erroneously claim either that lack of proof must render a claim false, or that lack of disproof must render a claim true.

Despite its name this fallacy does not refer to being ignorant of the facts per se, rather it refers to an ignorance of alternatives and of what constitutes proof. This fallacy muddles the true-false dichotomy with the question of proof or disproof, and as such is a form of false dilemma where only two options are presented when several options exist. The ignored possibilities include false claim-not disproven, and true claim-not proven, while the implied dichotomy confines options to false claim-disproven or true claim-proven. If only the world of thought were truly so simple.

An example of this fallacious argument within intelligent [sick] design theory is embodied in the “irreducible complexity” claim that if evolutionary biologists cannot provide the demanded explanation for “specified complexity”, then evolutionary theory fails, further fallaciously implying or stating that biological evolution is not a fact, and still further fallaciously implying or stating that God (aka the ‘intelligent designer’) must be responsible for whatever biological mechanism is under debate. Such a concatenation of fallacies could fool only those who insist upon belief in a creator.

The more careful claim of a ‘intelligent [sick] design’ debater is that ‘intelligent [sick] design theory’ ought to be taught alongside science in the classroom. This is not a substantiable claim because nothing about ‘intelligent [sick] design theory’ qualifies it to be regarded as science. Merely disputing the content of science does not qualify as being science. While many ‘intelligent [sick] design’ proponents appear not to understand the true nature of science, pretentiously-named Fellows of the so-called Discovery Institute are mostly well enough educated that they ought to understand the advantages and limitations of scientific investigation.

Many creationists and ‘intelligent [sick] design theory’ debaters who display the argumentam ad ignorantiam logical fallacy do not make their reasoning explicit, such that the conclusion of truth or falsehood is merely implied, or the actual argument is buried in the wordiness typical of ‘intelligent [sick] design’ authors. Because ‘intelligent [sick] design theory’ authors write for a readership that is typically not well versed in science, writings on ‘intelligent [sick] design theory’ necessarily contain very lengthy explanations. However, wordiness can also be a technique of verbal obfuscation wherein an argument – and its inherent deficiencies of logic – are obscured by rhetoric.

When the reader is not well versed with the topic under discussion, he or she will have more difficulty in determining whether or not the writer has provided an accurate, authoritative, and complete account of the topic. When the conclusions drawn by the writer fit with the reader's preconceived notions or feelings about the topic, then the reader is at risk of being misled. Knowledge of the fallacies of logic can provide a short-cut to determining the difficulties with an argument. A single fallacy of logic does not necessarily render the conclusions suspect. However, a plethora of fallacies do indicate that the argument, and hence the conclusions drawn, are fatally flawed.

A B True False

A number of arguments take the form "A implies B, B is true (false), therefore A is true (false)."

The premises are either:
a) logically related to the conclusion
b) irrelevant to the conclusion

When the premises are unrelated to the conclusion, the argument is not valid. This form of fallacy is termed non causa pro causa, or false cause fallacy, the error comprises claiming that something is the cause of an event, despite its not actually having been demonstrated to be the cause. Non causa pro causa takes the forms cum hoc ergo propter hoc or post hoc ergo propter hoc.

In cum hoc ergo propter hoc, the fallacy comprises the assertion that two events that occur together must be causally related (ignoring other possible causal factor/s).

The fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc is similar, except that an event is assumed to be the cause of another event merely because it preceded that event (again ignoring other possible causal factor/s).

For the case where premises are logically related to the conclusion, a truth table shows the possible relationships of A (true/false) and B (true/false). Two fallacious variants occur:
Affirmation of the consequent "A implies B, B is true, therefore A is true."
Denial of the Antecedent "A implies B, A is false, therefore B is false."

Many fallacious theistic arguments for the "existence" or "interference" of God rely on these fallacies.

Test yourself:

"Stalin's regime committed atrocities after state atheism was instituted. Therefore atheism is bad because it causes evil acts too." [type]

"If I saw a fish turning into a man that would certainly prove that evolution was true. But I have never seen a fish turn into a man, so evolution is not true and we must have arisen through God's creation."[type]

"Society became more sexually promiscous before 2001. Therefore the 9/11 attacks on the twin towers were God's retribution for secularism."[type]

"If an intelligent supernatural being created the universe, then we would see order and organization everywhere. And we do see order, not randomness – so it's clear that the universe must have had a designer." [type]

"I studied hard and prayed to God, and I passed my exam. So God helped me to pass my exam." [type]

Here's an example that combines fallacies:
"If scientists could prove that macroevolution can happen by chance, then that would certainly prove that evolution is true. But I do not believe that scientists can prove this, so evolution is a fiction and God must have created us."

Cos X says so

Many arguments fail in the very first premises. They fail because they start out with an essential assumption that is not supported either by empirical evidence, human experience, or logic.

One of the earliest examples of such a bare assertion fallacy is found in Plato's First Cause.

Such fallacious arguments often rely upon the fact that by the time that many readers or listeners reach the conclusion, they have forgotten that the first premises were unreasonable. Creationists and religionists often rely upon waffle to disguise their fallacies of logic.

The bare assertion fallacy could be called the "cos-X-says-so fallacy".
Premise 1: X claims statement A.
Premise 2: X claims that X is not lying.
Conclusion: Therefore, A is true.

The commonest examples of this fallacy refer all assertions back, you guessed it, to scriptural dogma.

Premise 1: The Bible says A
Premise 2 (explicit or implicit): The Bible is the Word of God, and God would not lie, or God knows everything (common bare assertions)
Conclusion: Therefore, A is true

When religionists wish to reject the literal word of the Bible
Premise 1: The Bible does say B
Premise 2: But, you simply do not know how to interpret the Bible correctly
Conclusion: The Bible is the literal Word of God and you must accept that A is true

Premise 1 would be acceptable If X has indeed made statement A, but
X has backed up the claim with empirical evidence or with a valid argument,
X has made an acceptable claim with which all reasonable people can agree (the sun rises in the east)

A common variant is the I-say-so fallacy.

I claim that D, or if anti-C then D
. . .
. . .
Therefore, anti-D is true

Here’s an example:

Veritas48's / Alvin Plantinga's argument, linked from here:

1. If naturalism and evolution are true then the probability of our cognitive abilities to
be reliable is low.
2. If the probability of our cognitive abilities to be reliable is low then the probability
of any belief we arrived at using our cognitive abilities is low.
3. People who believe that N&E are true have arrived at this belief using their cognitive
4. Therefore given N&E the probability of the belief in N&E being true is low.
5. Therefore the idea that N&E are both true can be rejected.

The problems:
With the argument: If our cognitive abilies are indeed low and unreliable, then so must the cognitive abilities of the arguer be low and unreliable. Thus, the argument should be rejected on the grounds of unreliability. (This appears to be the case, but not for the stated reasons).

With Premise 1, in particular: Our cognitive abilities are the cognitive abilities that we actually possess, regardless of the mechanism by which we aquired these abiliities. This means that those who accept naturalism and evolution as explanations should be, on average, equally cognitively capable as those who reject naturalism and evolution. (In fact, abundant evidence indicates an inverse correlation between intelligence and rejection of naturalism and evolution. However, that is not the point here.)

Circular Argument

Circulus in demonstrando, circular argument, begging the question

Circularity involves an argument chasing its own tail. In circular arguments, the arguer assumes as a premise the conclusion that the arguer intends to draw.: claim that A → B, B, so A.

Trimming the fat off many Christian arguments for God's existence:
The Bible is the Word of God (because the Bible says so)
Therefore, the Bible proves that God exists.

The Bible is the Word of God
The Bible tells us that God created man in His own image,
Man exists,
Therefore, God must have created man.
Therefore, God must exist.

(Descartes' ontological argument is frillier, but equally circular.)

A typical circular YEC argument might run:
Scriptures tell us that God created the world in six days and also state (by Bishop Usher's calculation) that the Earth is a maximum of six thousand years old
(We deny scientific dates and claim that) the Earth is very young
Therefore, God created the world

(Even if the Earth really were very young (it isn't) it would not necessarily follow that God created the Earth because some other cause might have operated. In addition to being circular, the argument above also creates a false dichotomy.)

Of course, debaters embed their faulty reasoning within layers of padding, so it may be difficult to discern the conclusion that is passing itself off as a premise. Be wary, and look more carefully at an argument whenever you suspect that the argument has not adequately explained how its conclusion could be justified by the facts provided.

Because their arguments are very weak, and because their claims are not supported by empirical evidence, creationists resort to desperate measures when engaging in debate. A common creationist ploy is to accuse an opponent of circularity when he or she has provided a scientific explanation. An explanation cannot commit the fallacy of circularity because an explanation is not an argument. In fact, explanations ought to be internally consistent and none of the components of an explanation is a premise or a conclusion.