Friday, February 19, 2016

Today's Logical Fallacy is... Begging the Question!

(Circular Reasoning, Big Lie Technique, Staying on Message, petition principia – “assuming the initial point”)

A type of circular reasoning, this fallacy occurs when the conclusion you are trying to prove is part of your premise. The initial premise is assumed to be correct without any evidence supporting it and often occurs when assumptions are so ingrained that the one making the claim isn’t even aware that it might not even be true. This term is often misused to mean “raises the question.”

A simple example concerns language used when describing individuals skeptical of alternative medicine: they are often called “holdouts.” This term suggests that most people have already accepted the validity of alternative medicine and that those who are skeptical are rare and refusing to see what is apparently obvious to everyone else. When a proponent asks, “What are these holdouts afraid of?” they are committing this fallacy twice: once by using the term “holdouts” and twice by implying that skeptics are “afraid” of something as opposed to being rationally insistent upon evidence.

This fallacy arose in the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate. Much of Ham’s arguments that the earth was 6,000 years old came from the Bible, and the assumed premise is that the Bible should be taken literally.


“Prove the Bible? It says so right here in the Bible.”

“Have you stopped beating your wife yet?”

Bill: "God must exist."
Jill: "How do you know."
Bill: "Because the Bible says so."
Jill: "Why should I believe the Bible?"
Bill: "Because the Bible was written by God."

"If such actions were not illegal, then they would not be prohibited by the law."

"The belief in God is universal. After all, everyone believes in God."

Interviewer: "Your resume looks impressive but I need another reference."
Bill: "Jill can give me a good reference."
Interviewer: "Good. But how do I know that Jill is trustworthy?"
Bill: "Certainly. I can vouch for her."

“To cast abortion as a solely private moral question,…is to lose touch with common sense: How human beings treat one another is practically the definition of a public moral matter. Of course, there are many private aspects of human relations, but the question whether one human being should be allowed fatally to harm another is not one of them. Abortion is an inescapably public matter.” Helen M. Alvaré, The Abortion Controversy, Greenhaven, 1995, p. 23. (The begging the question part being that public morals is defined by how humans treat each other.)

“The witchcraft problem is the most urgent challenge in the world today. Why? Because witches threaten our very souls.”

“Circular reasoning is bad mostly because it's not very good.”

“The order and magnificence of the world is evidence of God's Creation. Therefore, we know that God exists.”

“Abortion is unjust murder. Murder is illegal. Therefore abortion should be made illegal, since it is murder.” (In this case, the conclusion – that abortion should be illegal because it is murder – is assumed to be true in order to compare it to murder in the first point. Essentially, the initial premise comparing abortion to murder remains unproved without any additional evidence.)

“The Bible tells us that it is the word of God. The word of God is infallible. Therefore the Bible is infallible. And as such, the Bible must be the word of God. The word of God is infallible. Therefore the Bible is infallible. And...”

“We know that the Bible is true because there was a miracle witnessed by 500 people. We know that there was a miracle witnessed by 500 people because the Bible says so.” (This argument has actually been made by several different people, one of them being Dinesh D'Souza. They tend to try to bolster these types of arguments by saying things like "How could the Gospel writers have gotten away with claiming this if it didn't happen? Wouldn't someone have called them on it?")

“If the Bible were not true, logic would not be meaningful. Logic is meaningful. Therefore, the Bible is true.” (Admittedly, more advanced theologians - well, anyone smart enough to use the word "theologian"[4] - aren't this stupid and some creationists and literalists do try to prove the Bible though other means. However, this usually tends towards hilarity rather than good scholarship. In a variant used by Jason Lisle - out of all creationists, a man who certainly should know better - states the same thing as this.)

“The earth is 6,000 years old because the Bible says it is, and the speed of light cannot possibly be right because it would mean that the earth is older than 6,000 years old.”

“The word of Zorbo the Great is flawless and perfect. We know this because it says so in The Great and Infallible Book of Zorbo's Best and Most Truest Things that are Definitely True and Should Not Ever Be Questioned.”

“Gay marriage is just plain wrong.”

“Drugs are just plain bad.”

“I can’t believe people eat dog. That’s just plain gross. Why? Because it’s a dog, of course. How could someone eat a dog?”

“Obviously logging causes severe environmental damage. You don’t have to be a scientist to see that; just go out and look at a clear cut and there it is: no trees.”

"What about the Jewish Question?" Note that when this particular phony debate was going on there was no "Jewish Question," only a "Nazi Question," but hardly anybody in power recognized or wanted to talk about that.

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