Fallacy Friday!

Today's Logical Fallacy is...Shifting the Burden of Proof!

(related to “appeal to ignorance”) This fallacy occurs when the burden of proof is placed on the wrong side of an argument. In a logical...

Friday, December 4, 2015

Today's Logical Fallacy is...Personal Incredulity!

(Argument from Incredulity)

This fallacy occurs when someone dismisses something because they personally don’t understand it or can’t imagine how it would work. The basic level of understanding by any one person or even a majority does not dictate what is or is not false. Just because the concepts might be difficult to understand doesn’t make them impossible. Otherwise, most scientific advances that we take for granted today wouldn’t exist. This fallacy is related to the argument from ignorance, the difference being that ignorance comes from a lack of knowledge whereas incredulity comes from a lack of understanding or imagination.

This is a very common tactic for those who dislike change. If you would rather live in the past and avoid change, then you should avoid taking the time to understand new and complex ideas. It’s also found in creationist circles who often claim that because they cannot imagine all the complexity of life evolving through natural processes, the earth must have been created by God through single acts of creation. When creationists attempt to use seemingly-“irreducibly complex systems” as “proof of God,” they are committing this fallacy (and, as it turns out, these systems have continually been explained through science). Interestingly enough, it’s also common among atheists. Many of them claim that they "don't understand how/why God would have" done one thing or another as justification for their unbelief. This is usually in terms of "why God allows evil" if he is an all-loving God. However, their lack of imagination or understanding does not refute the possibility of God.

To avoid this fallacy, when you find yourself having difficulty understanding something, don’t dismiss it until you have gained enough information in order to understand it.


Kirk drew a picture of a fish and a human and with effusive disdain asked Richard if he really thought we were stupid enough to believe that a fish somehow turned into a human through just, like, random things happening over time.

“The odds against a molecule arranging itself perfectly are astronomical! Therefore, it disproves evolution because it had to have been designed!” (This ignores the fact that chemicals don’t arrange randomly; laws govern how atoms interact and form molecules.)

"No one has thought of a way to determine whether there are gods, so there is no way." The implied major premise, "If there were such a way, someone would have thought of it," is disputable.

“The big bang theory makes no sense. How can there not be a time before the big bang? Scientists just made it all up to try and explain away God’s creation.”

“The human mind is so complex, you can’t conclude there is no soul released after death.”

“I don’t understand how life can just move from bacteria to humans all on its own. There had to be an intelligent designer behind it!”

“I cannot envision a life without ultimate meaning or purpose; therefore, I believe in God.”

“I cannot accept a universe without ultimate justice for good and evil; therefore, I believe in God.”

“I can't believe in a God that would not give me the freedom to live my life any way I choose.”

“I can't believe in a God that will only accept one way of belief and condemn all unbelievers to eternal punishment.”

“I can't believe in a God who would condemn someone based on acting in a way consistent with who they are.”

"I simply cannot see how the universe could be expanding"

“I just don’t see how any guy could be attracted to another guy, so I know gays choose their lifestyle.”

“I don’t understand that engineer’s argument about how airplanes can fly. Therefore, I cannot believe that airplanes are able to fly.”

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