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.