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Logical Fallacies (That I’ve Invented)

July 21, 2010

These fallacies are ones I have personally made up. They address some of the assumptions I’ve heard after dialoging with countless atheists and “naturalists”.

1. The promissory note fallacy:

Thank Richard Dawkins for this stupid one. Usually when he’s presented with evidence that goes against “naturalism” he’ll reply in his British accent by saying “we’re still working on it”. So how does “naturalism” account for free-will, the origin of life, and DNA coding? “We’re still working on it”. In other words, what he’s really saying is “naturalists” are working on being able to explain these thing with “natural” explanations.

Just because you say “naturalists” are working on providing “naturalistic” explanations for something, doesn’t do anything but assume “naturalism”. I could give my promissory note that “naturalism” wont ever account for these things and that we’ll find more evidence that only God can account for them. Congratulations. I’ve heard many atheists say this now, and they probably got it from Dawkins. *sigh* Bless their hearts.

2. The Nietzsche-an fallacy:

This fallacy is very similar to the promissory note fallacy. Perhaps you’re familiar with Nietzsche’s famous quote, “God is dead”. Why did Nietzsche say that “God is dead”? He said this because he believed we have now entered into an age whereby we have intellectually satisfying reasons to deny God’s existence. Why did he believe we have arrived at this point? Probably because after the Enlightenment, The Age of Reason, the Scientific Revolution, and the Age of Empiricism (coming out of the Dark Ages all the way up to the present), we have discovered many things and have had many scientific breakthroughs.

Among them were: a round earth, helio-centrism, a universe of multiple galaxies, no longer any conceivable center of the universe, mathematical laws which easily describe the uniformity of nature, the theory of Evolution, supposed philosophical explanations for things like morality, etc.

All this is what Nietzsche would have had before him up until the late 1900’s when he died. All these things which we once attributed to God could now be explained by scientific discovery and reasoning.

So what is the fallacy? It’s simple. Just because we know more about “how” the world works, doesn’t preclude a “Who” behind it all. And just because there is a “Who” behind it all, doesn’t preclude us from knowing more about “how” the world works! The thinking is “people once believed in God and science got squelched, therefore, only naturalism advances science and thus, naturalism is true.” But Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton were all Deists (a form of theism), and it didn’t stop them. Even Einstein believed in Spinoza’s god (or something similar). The point is, either theism or naturalism can squelch science. It depends if one’s false interpretations (of Scripture or evidence) and traditions (unfounded/unchallenged assumptions) get in the way.

Nevertheless, the illogical, un-warranted leap in thinking is that just because we now understand more of “how” the universe works that somehow this necessarily precludes a “Who” behind it all. Imagine this scenario, God is holding your very being together while you find out more about his universe. The sun is really the center of our solar system, therefore God doesn’t exist? No. God could still be holding your being together while you discover that the sun is really the center of our solar system. It’s so simple.

3. The science = “naturalism” fallacy:

This one is simple. It’s the fallacy that there can only be “naturalistic” explanations for things. But since no one knows what ultimate reality is even comprised of, “nature” = “?”. “Naturalists” don’t know what “nature” is but they do conclude that it can’t be upheld by an eternal God. Therefore, to the “naturalist”, “naturalism” = “a reality with no God”. That’s what they really mean.

4. The “what happens” = “what should happen” fallacy:

A lot of times I’ll ask naturalistic atheists how they account for why only sentient human beings have a pre-commitment to rationality, as opposed to non-rationality. In other words, why we always, 100% of the time, expect ourselves and others to make sense, rather then talk gibberish or be irrational. They’ll say “because it’s conducive to our survival”.

Arguing that it’s conducive to our human survival is assuming that we “should” or “ought” to survive, as opposed to not survive. They see organisms and species surviving, thus they assume we “ought” to survive. But just because “nature” has something happen, doesn’t mean that equals “what SHOULD happen”, or “what OUGHT to happen”! “What is” doesn’t = “what should be”! “What is” only tell us “what is”, period. What “should” be is a meta-physical claim. Oops!

NOW PLEASE TELL ME YOUR THOUGHTS!!!

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13 comments

  1. 1. I couldn’t find any explanations for the origin of life or DNA coding in the Bible. However, I did find some neat theistic explanations for why there are multiple languages and why snakes don’t have legs.

    2. Occam’s Razor. If one can explain that a given phenomenon can be explained in purely natural terms(with evidence, to boot), then God is simply an unnecessary hypothesis. With any reasons to think God exists, we are justified in lacking belief.

    3. Ignorance = supernaturalism? I don’t rule out the action of leprechauns in sustaining fusion reactions, but I really don’t have any reason to expect they would.

    4. Oops! Darn, I just realized that speaking and thinking in a non-rational way is going to get me killed and removed from the gene pool! If we don’t learn how to communicate we’ll never take down the woolly mammoth…

    Apologetics strategy: make up some scenario and declare atheism can’t account for it. For example- naturalism can’t possibly explain in evolutionary terms why snakes are limbless…supernaturalism wins!

    Seriously man. It’s that bad.


    • *With no reasons to think God exists, we are justified in lacking belief. In fact, it’s probable we would not be justified in having it.


  2. Anonymous, who are you? What’s your real name?

    1. I can’t find any laws of logic in matter. Yet Scripture accounts for this. So what. The Bible doesn’t have exhaustive explanations for everything, but does reveal the precondition for everything, namely, Yahweh.

    2. Occam’s Razor is faulty because 1. it comes down to one’s opinion of what is the easier explanation, and 2. even if we knew with 100% certainty what the better explanation was, that doesn’t necessarily imply it’s true.

    Also, even if we used Occam’s Razor, star dust isn’t the easier explanation in accounting for the human pre-commitment to rationality because we have no evidence of a pre-commitment to rationality deriving from a non-precommitment to rationality. We have 6 billion people as evidence on planet Earth today that a pre-commitment to rationality only comes from a pre-commitment to rationality.

    3. It depends on what you mean by “leprechauns”. 1. You used leprechauns in the plural which would imply polytheism which can’t be the case, and I’ll explain why if you really want me to. 2. If by “leprechaun” you mean “eternal, personal, prime cause” then this would also be the same criterion for what I call “God”.

    4. Our need to survive can’t be an argument for our pre-commitment to rationality. We’d have to ask which came first, our ability to survive or our pre-commitment? Either answer refutes the assumption.

    The problem with “naturalism” is that it assumes God can’t exist and that everything can, will, or must be explained in non-God cause and effect ways. But without being created in God’s image, the only alternative for having a pre-commitment to rationality is finite, mindless, star dust. Take your pick and I’ll take mine.


  3. Hello, Cameron. Hope all is well. I go by the internet moniker, “Adamoriens.” Instead of responding to every point in your reply, I’ll direct you to my comment on “Surface Level Bible Contradictions,” since I make germane responses there.

    One thing, though: are you familiar with the differences between methodological and metaphysical naturalism?


  4. Yes I am familiar with the two. The former limits causes to only the observable, which isn’t how much of science even works. Many theories are based on speculation, not concrete observation. The latter assumes there’s no God or gods. The idea of gods is faulty because they exist in time. The idea of an eternal God is rational because it accounts for rationality.


  5. Methodological naturalism holds that natural causes are the only ones worth positing or pursuing. Not all natural causes are observable, so your objection is moot. Certainly we could account for a given phenomenon by appealing to some supernatural explanation, but some unique (and I believe currently unresolved) problems arise. How do ascertain that an eternal God exists? How do we ascertain what His or Her intentions are? How do we test His or Her involvement, if any?


  6. 1. One cannot say “natural” causes are the only one’s worth pursuing because no one knows what “nature” ultimately is, where it starts, where it stops, what it can’t do, what it can only do, etc.

    2. This bias puts a limitation on possible causes (considering we could fully distinguish the “natural” from the “supernatural”).

    3. “Not all natural causes are observable”. That’s right. Just like the big bang. But things we now consider to be “supernatural”, we may someday consider to be “natural”, and vice versa. That’s why I always say “the supernatural is more natural then the natural.” It’s all “natural”. Sounds like I’m making an organic food commercial.

    And I would clarify, not all secondary causes are observable. I would say God is the prime cause to everything, and neither is He always observable.

    I believe an eternal God exists Scripture says so, and I can believe any effect cannot have an infinite amount of causes. Even “naturalists” must posit a prime cause, or an infinite amount of them.

    His intentions? The only way is if He revealed them to us. Test His involvement? He would have to reveal this to us as well in order to be specific, but we can infer His intention via the fine tuning of the universe. We also have better reason to trust induction if a personal God who created the universe for a purpose is upholding it rather than “?” ultimately upholding it.


  7. I would not relinquish methodological naturalism, for purely pragmatic reasons (some of which you acknowledge in fallacy 2). I would argue that the reason science has been so successful is because we have eliminated supernatural causes (earthquakes and epidemics are caused by God’s wrath etc.) from consideration and focused on:

    1. Positing and examining possible natural causes.
    2. Ignoring claims that there are supernatural causes.

    Science would never have left the ground if we had been content with positing supernatural causes. Do you dispute this?

    This is exactly why I hesitate to posit Yahweh as the mechanism of this or that yet-unexplained phenomenon: methodological naturalism works. Do I think that scientists will discover how consciousness arose? I hope so. Perhaps they will not. I haven’t ruled out substance dualism yet, but I think that given the evidence we have it is increasingly unlikely.

    “We can infer his intention from the fine-tuning of the universe.”

    Actually, we cannot. We actually require knowledge of his intentions to establish that he fine-tuned it.


  8. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that methodological naturalism isn’t pragmatic. God wants us to search out secondary causes. Like I said in my 4th logical fallacy, knowing “how” doesn’t preclude a “Who”, and a “Who” doesn’t preclude knowing “how”. Even as a Christian who studies the Bible in depth, I would argue there is no bases to know what is a result of God’s wrath and what is not. I do conclude that God is sovereign, however, and has a purpose behind everything.

    Even if you don’t posit Yahweh as the primary cause behind everything, you must posit something! Maybe call it the “string” or “?”. Even Galileo, Copernicus, and Newton were deists, and Newton said he believes God upholds gravity. Maybe we’ll find something else that upholds gravity. Fine. But no one gets mad if the “naturalist” says, “the string did it”. The Catholic Church ruined science and Scripture alike. But even saying “the string did it” ruins scientific endeavor as well! I don’t think we should be naive of how the world works. But that’s still not an excuse to not believe God is the prime cause and ultimate reality. Something has to be!

    methodological naturalism works. Do I think that scientists will discover how consciousness arose? I hope so. Perhaps they will not. I haven’t ruled out substance dualism yet, but I think that given the evidence we have it is increasingly unlikely.

    It only works if “?” that is holding the universe together continues to do so the way it has in the past. You’re committing my science = “naturalism” fallacy. We may be able to discover that consciousness arose from God. That’s what I hope for. I think dualism can never be refuted due to our pre-commitment to rationality. Otherwise we have to go from “nature” which only gives us “what is”, to “what ought to be”.

    Actually, we cannot. We actually require knowledge of his intentions to establish that he fine-tuned it.

    I’m saying the universe is fine tuned and this infers intention. We don’t know the intentions of the dudes who made Stone Hendge, but we can say it was brought about by intention.


  9. No, I am not compelled at present to posit anything at all. Without sufficient evidence to provide me with any sort of reliable conclusion, I am justified in pleading ignorance. Yahweh did it? It really is no different to posit some other deity or deities.

    Dualism is in dire straits, my friend. All of the arguments for it are sufficient only to show that it is possible. Other considerations point to it being improbable.

    Does biological life have any intrinsic value? If not, then the fine-tuning argument fails.


  10. Many scientists today are compelled to posit the “string”, even though there’s no sufficient observable and testable evidence yet, they still infer it as a possible explanation.

    I can do the same with God. Also, the notion that we can/should only know something by observation, is itself not observable.

    Lol, I’ve already gone over why polytheism doesn’t work. You’ll have to give an argument, not just an assertion. And Yahweh is the only God said to be eternal.

    Other considerations point to it being improbable.

    You coming from mindless, finite, star dust and having a pre-commitment to be rational is improbable. You already know that abstractions exist in a “natural” world, since “infinity” and “future” are concepts which don’t derive from anything observable. You yourself evidence dualism is probable, along with every sentient human being. And consciousness is one of the most debated and confusing areas of study. There’s no single “expert” in the field. Many of the “experts” have such varying opinions.

    Life created in God’s image has extrinsic value. We even evidence this in that we know we shouldn’t murder each other, but it’s OK for all other animals. Your assumption is also that something that is fine tuned has to have intrinsic value. From the Biblical perspective, only humans are created in God’s image, nothing else, thus why we have dignity and nothing else does. The stones in Stone Hendge don’t have intrinsic value, but we infer intention behind it. How much more God if he fine tunes the universe?


  11. ” Lol, I’ve already gone over why polytheism doesn’t work. You’ll have to give an argument, not just an assertion.”

    “The idea of gods is faulty because they exist in time.”

    Plurality is equal to temporality? Is this your argument?

    “And Yahweh is the only God said to be eternal.”

    Patently false. From now on I will be positing Brahman, not Yahweh, as the cause of existence.

    Why don’t you state your version of the fine-tuning argument?


  12. Thanks for making me aware of Brahman. Do you know that out of all the atheists I’ve ever asked, you’re the only person who’s ever brought to my attention another god said to be eternal?! I’m going to study Hinduism more now.

    There’s a couple of things though. If you believe in Brahman, then fine. At least you’re more consistent, and congratulations on becoming a theist.

    Brahman is only the by-product of philosophically conceiving a necessary precondition to everything. As Christians we believe God has revealed himself to us in Scripture, not merely conceived to be a precondition to reality, while we do believe he is. I think they were on the right track. Now us theists can debate which revelation of God and what attributes of God are true and most consistent. Yahweh is also said to be triune, or 3 in 1. Apart from God being triune, there would be no real morality and no laws of logic, I believe. Also Hinduism is in a sense monotheistic with Brahman, but also polytheistic from all other gods Brahman creates.

    Polytheism alone doesn’t work because the gods are sometimes impersonal (such as in some Greek understanding of the gods), in time (as in both Greek and Roman gods), and there can’t be two completely separate eternal Gods, because then they’d overlap somehow, unless it was clarified to be in the trinitarian sense (which is still a paradox, but still concludes monotheism).

    Fine tuning: think of all the things that are very specific for life and the universe to exist. The position of things, the size of things, the forces that exist, etc. I believe this is an inference of intention.



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