Logical Fallacies- Real World Examples

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  1. "In public discussions of evolution and creationism, we are sometimes told by creationists and opponents of religion alike that we must choose between belief in creation and acceptance of the theory of evolution, between religion and science."
    Question-begging Epithet: "evolution vs. creationism": The "-ism" implies that creation is simply a belief whereas evolution is not, without making an argument for this. "... between religion and science": The author uses biased language to equate creation with religion and evolution with science, but no argument is made for this.
  2. "Science has boosted living standards, has enabled humans to travel into earth's orbit and to the moon, and has given us new ways of thinking about ourselves and the universe. Evolutionary biology has been and continues to be a cornerstone of modern science."
    Fallacy of False Analogy and Equivocation: Here the author equates science (testable and repeatable operational science in the present) with evolution (the non-testable, non-repeatable belief in molecules-to-man evolution). The analogy is fallacious. Evolution is not the same kind of "science" as putting men on the moon, so an equivocation is used here as well.
  3. "The rapid advances now being made in the life sciences and in medicine rest on principles derived from an understanding of evolution."
    Fallacy of False Cause: The advances in life sciences are due to scientists studying the continued predictable behavior of the universe, and have not been caused by a belief in evolution in the molecules-to-man sense.
  4. "And it explains why nonscientific alternatives to evolution such as creationism (including intelligent design creationism) should not be part of the science curriculum in the nation's public schools."
    Question-begging Epithet: The author uses biased language rather than logic to persuade the reader that creation is "nonscientific" and simply a belie£ Note the "-ism" attached to "creation" but not "evolution."
  5. "But there is no controversy in the scientific community about whether evolution has occurred."
    Faulty Appeal to Authority and Majority: The implication is that evolution must (or is likely to) be true since most scientists believe it. Even if everyone within the scientific community believed in evolution (which they don't) it wouldn't make it true.
  6. "On the contrary, the evidence supporting descent with modification,as Charles Darwin termed it, is both overwhelming and compelling."
    Equivocation and Question-begging Epithet: Creationists do believe in "descent with modification"; that is, organisms do exhibit variation from one generation to the next. But this doesn't prove that all life is descended from one common ancestor, which is the issue in question. So the author has implicitly equivocated on "evolution." The statement that evidence for evolution is "both overwhelming and compelling" is not backed up by anything. It is simply biased language -the question begging epithet.
  7. "Biological evolution refers to changes in the traits of organisms over multiple generations."
    Equivocation: The type of "evolution (any changes in traits) defined here is not the type of evolution for which the critic is arguing (common descent).
  8. ''An understanding of evolution was essential in the identification of the SARS virus. The genetic material in the virus was similar to that of other viruses because it had evolved from the same ancestor virus."
    Equivocation and Appeal to Fear: The type of "evolution" referenced here (variation within a kind: virus to virus) is not the type of "evolution" in question (fish to people). The reference to the SARS virus may also be a subtle appeal to fear, implying that not believing in evolution could pose a health risk.
  9. "Many scientific theories are so well established that no newevidence is likely to alter them substantially. For example, no new evidence will demonstrate that the earth does not orbit around the sun (heliocentric theory) .... Like these other foundational scientific theories, the theory of evolution is supported by so many observations and confirming experiments ...."
    False Analogy: The theory that the earth orbits the sun is testable and repeatable in the present, unlike the belief in particles-to-people evolution.
  10. "The evolutionary biologists who discovered Tiktaalik [see page 2] predicted that they would find fossils intermediate between fish and limbed terrestrial animals in sediments that were about 375 million years old. Their discovery confirmed the prediction made on the basis of evolutionary theory."
    Begging the Question: The author simply states that Tiktaalik is an intermediate form between fish and terrestrial animals. But this is an evolutionary assumption -it begs the question.
  11. "Because the evidence supporting it is so strong, scientists no longer question whether biological evolution has occurred and is continuing to occur."
    Begging the Question and Question-begging Epithet: The author here simply assumes that there is abundant evidence for evolution; but this is the very question at issue. He's assuming what he's supposed to be proving. By using biased language to persuade the reader rather than logic (Le., all the evidence points to evolution, so it would be silly to question it, and the scientists don't), he is committing the question-begging epithet.
  12. "The atomic structure of matter, the genetic basis of heredity, the circulation of blood, gravitation and planetary motion, and the process of biological evolution by natural selection are just a few examples of a very large number of scientific explanations that have been overwhelmingly substantiated."
    False Analogy: By lumping evolution in with legitimate, well established sciences, the author hopes the reader will accept evolution by association. However, all the examples provided are operational science, which is testable and repeatable in the present and has supporting evidence. Evolution lacks these things.So the analogy fails.
  13. "Scientists and theologians have written eloquently about their awe and wonder at the history of the universe and of life on this planet, explaining that they see no conflict between their faith in God and the evidence for evolution." [In a section explaining why evolution can be compatible with religious faith.]
    Faulty Appeal to Authority and Appeal to Emotion: The fact that scientists and theologians believe that evolution can be compatible with faith doesn't necessarily make it so. The "awe and wonder at the history of the universe and life on this planet" are meant to stir an emotional affection for evolution, rather than making a case for it -the appeal to emotion. In fact, evolution is a rather bloody and gruesome mechanism for the explanation of life.
  14. [In support of the big bang]:"Later observations with satellites showed that the background radiation in the universe has exactly the properties that would be predicted from the Big Bang."
    Affirming the Consequent: Presumably we are meant to draw the conclusion that the big bang must be (or is likely to be) true. But this is invalid. In deductive logic, the syllogism would be stated this way: (1) If the big bang is true, we should expect to detect a cosmic microwave background. (2) We do detect a cosmic microwave background. (3) Therefore, the big bang is true. This affirms the consequent since there could be many other explanations for the cosmic microwave background.
  15. "According to modern cosmology, the particles that constitute ordinary matter (protons, neutrons, and electrons) formed when the universe cooled after the Big Bang."
    The Fallacy of Remcation: ''According to modern cosmology ..." implies that "cosmology" can have an opinion on something. It cannot, since it is a concept. It is cosmologists (i.e., people) who have the opinions. But of course, people's opinions are not always right, are always biased (for the better or the worse), and can be diverse. The author may have committed this fallacy to make the argument seem more objective than it really is.
  16. "Evidence from the most ancient fossils reveals that life has existed on earth for most of our planet's history"
    Begging the Question: That the fossils are tremendously ancient is part of the very claim at issue in the debate. Certainly a biblical creationist would not accept that. The author is subtly assuming part of what he is supposed to be proving.
  17. "Nevertheless, all organisms share some common traits because they all share common ancestors at some point in the past."
    Begging the Question, Fallacy of False Cause, and Affirming the Consequent: Whether the organisms share common traits because they have a common ancestor or a common Creator is the very question at issue. The author simply assumes his position in arguing for it. Depending on how we fill in this enthymeme, the argument could also be classified as the fallacy of false cause (since creation can also account for similarity) or affirming the consequent: (1) If organisms are descended from a common ancestor, then they would share some traits. (2) They do share some traits. (3) Therefore, they are descended from a common ancestor.
  18. "The bones in the forelimbs of terrestrial and some aquatic vertebrates are remarkably similar because they have all evolved from the forelimbs of a common ancestor."
    Begging the Question, Fallacy of False Cause, and Affirming the Consequent: This argument is of the same form as the previous one.
  19. "Another compelling feature of the fossil record is its consistency. Nowhere on earth are fossils from dinosaurs, which went extinct 65 million years ago, found together with fossils from humans, who evolved in just the last few million years."
    Denying the Antecedent: Putting the en thymeme as a standard mixed hypothetical syllogism, we can see the fallacy: 1. If dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time, then we would find fossils of them in the same layers. 2. We do not find fossils of them in the same layers. 3. Therefore, they did not live at the same time. But of course, there could be a number of reasons why dinosaur and human fossils (which are somewhat rare, incidentally) are not typically found together.
  20. "Nowhere are the fossils of mammals found in sediments that are more than about 220 million years 0ld."
    Begging the Question: If a mammal fossil were found in sediment that had been estimated to be more than 220 million years old, the estimated age would certainly be changed.
  21. "We are about to enter a century in which the United States will be even more dependent on science and technology than it has been in the past .... Yet the teaching of science in the nation's public schools often is marred by a serious omission. Many students receive little or no exposure to the most important concept in modern biology, a concept essential to understanding key aspects of living things -biological evolution."
    Appeal to Pity: "Think ofthe children!" seems to be the message of this argument. That is, if children are not taught evolution, then they are missing essential concepts in science and will be unprepared for the future. This isn't true, of course. But even if it were, it is utterly irrelevant to the topic at issue: whether or not evolution is true.
  22. "More than one-half of Americans say that they would like to have creationism taught in public school classrooms -even though the Supreme Court has ruled that 'creation science' is a religious idea and that its teaching cannot be mandated in the public schools."
    Irrelevant Thesis and Faulty Appeal to Authority: Whether or not the Supreme Court allows creation to be mandated in schools is utterly irrelevant to whether or not it is true. Just because the justices believe something doesn't make it so (faulty appeal to authority).
  23. "All living things use the same biochemical system to pass genetic information from one generation to another. From a scientific standpoint, there is one compelling answer to questions about life's commonalities. Different kinds of organisms share so many characteristics of structure and function because they are related to one another."
    Affirming the Consequent and Fallacy of False Cause: Restating this argument as a deductive syllogism, the fallacy becomes clear: (1) If evolution were true, we'd expect to find similar biochemistry in all life. (2) We do find similar biochemistry in all life. (3) Therefore, evolution is true. But, of course, creationists would also expect to find similar biochemistry in all life, since they share a common Creator, and are designed to live in the same world.
  24. "Though humans, fish, and bacteria would seem to be so different as to defy comparison, they all share some of the characteristics of their common ancestors."
    Begging the Question and False Cause: Whether the similarity is due to common ancestry or common design is the very question at issue. The author has simply assumed what he is trying to prove.
  25. "In short, biological evolution accounts for three of the most fundamental features of the world around us: the similarities among living things, the diversity of life, and many features of the physical world we inhabit."
    Affirming the Consequent: Presumably we are supposed to draw the conclusion that evolution is true since it can account for these things. But biblical creation can account for these things, too.
  26. "To teach biology without explaining evolution deprives students of a powerful concept that brings great order and coherence to our understanding of life."
    Appeal to Pity: The phrase "deprives students" is another indication that we are dealing with an emotional approach to persuasion, rather than a logical one.
  27. "Evolution explains why many human pathogens have been developing resistance to formerly effective drugs and suggests ways of confronting this increasingly serious problem"
    Equivocation: Here the author conflates the variation-within-a kind type of change (which is well-established, testable, and repeatable in the present), with particles-to-people evolution (which has not been observed). By establishing the former, he hopes to persuade people of the latter -a typical "bait and switch."
  28. "However, there is no debate within the scientific community over whether evolution occurred, and there is no evidence that evolution has not occurred."
    Faulty Appeal to Authority, Majority, Appeal to Ignorance, and Begging the Question: The majority of people within the scientific community may indeed embrace evolution, but that does not make it so -a faulty appeal to authority/majority. Even if it were the case that there is no evidence against evolution, that would not mean that evolution is true -an appeal to ignorance. Also, the notion that there is no evidence against evolution is very much the issue at hand. The author has begged the question.
  29. "The central feature of this revolution has been the abandonment of one notion about stability after another: ... that the world's living things are unchangeable, that the continents of the earth are held rigidly in place, and so on.... To accept the probability of change -and to see change as an agent of opportunity rather than as a threat -is a silent message and challenge in the lesson of evolution."
    Equivocation: This fallacy centers on the word "evolution." The author uses the "evolution" of the earth (in the sense of"change" in the generic sense) as evidence of "evolution" in the particles-to-people sense.
  30. "Teaching biology without evolution would be like teaching civics and never mentioning the United States Constitution."
    False Analogy: Whereas the constitution is highly relevant to civics, the concept of evolution (in the common descent sense) is not at all necessary to understand the science of biology.
  31. "The debate in science is over some of the details of how evolution occurred, not whether evolution happened or not."
    Question-begging Epithet: No logical argument is made. The author simply uses biased language to persuade, e.g., "There really is no debate. Nothing to see here. Move along."
  32. ''A lot of science and science education organizations have made statements about why it is important to teach evolution."
    Faulty Appeal to Authority: The fact that certain organizations have issued public statements about evolution does not make it true.
  33. "We accept evolution as the best scientific explanation for a lot of observations -about fossils and biochemistry and evolutionary changes we can actually see, like how bacteria become resistant to certain medicines."
    Equivocation: The author conflates "evolution" (in the sense of variation within a kind -bacteria becoming resistant) with evolution (in the sense of common descent).
  34. "Scientists have looked at the arguments [for creation] and have found they are not supported by verifiable data."
    Question-begging Epithet and Faulty Appeal to Authority: This is simply a dismissal of arguments for creation, rather than a logical refutation of them. Since there are many scientists who do embrace good arguments for creation, the author's claim that scientists reject such arguments is a faulty appeal to authority.
  35. "Fossils of primitive microorganisms show that life had emerged on earth by about 3.8 billion years ago."
    Begging the Question: The author is assuming the validity of the evolutionary worldview when he assigns dates to the fossils; he then uses this as the proof of the evolutionary worldview. This begs the question. Also, the notion that the fossil microorganisms are "primitive" is begging the question.
  36. "Similarly, the fossil record reveals profound changes in the kinds of living things that have inhabited our planet over its long history."
    Begging the Question: The claim that organisms found lower in the rock strata gradually evolved into organisms found higher in rock strata is the very claim at issue. The author simply assumes an evolutionary relationship between these fossil organisms, and uses this as his argument for an evolutionary relationship between the fossil organisms.
  37. [In dealing with the fact that scientists have discovered that mutations can cause variations in expressed traits]: "They showed that all variations, both slight and dramatic, arose through changes, or mutations, in genes."
    Hasty Generalization: The fact that mutations are known to cause certain trait variations does not mean that they have caused all trait variations.
  38. ''Almost immediately, it became clear that certain proteins that serve the same function in different species have very similar amino acid sequences. The protein evidence was completely consistent with the idea of a common evolutionary history for the planet's living things."
    Affirming the Consequent: Presumably, this enthymeme is designed to persuade us that evolution must be true. Since the amino acid sequence determines the functionality ofthe protein, it stands to reason that proteins with nearly identical functions should have very similar amino acid sequences -regardless of their origin. This fact is consistent with either creation or evolution, and so the author has affirmed the consequent.
  39. "This uniformity in the genetic code is powerful evidence for the interrelatedness of living things, suggesting that all organisms presently alive share a common ancestor that can be traced back to the origins of life on earth."
    Affirming the Consequent: The argument has this basic form:(1) If evolution were true, there would be similarity in the genetic code of all life. (2) There is similarity in the genetic code of all life. (3) Therefore, evolution is true. The fallacy is obvious when we consider that creationists would also expect to find similarity in the genetic code of all life, since all life has the same Creator.
  40. "Natural selection tests the combinations of genes represented in the members of a species and allows to proliferate those that confer the greatest ability to survive and reproduce."
    Fallacy of Reification: Natural selection is a concept. Even though it is a true concept, it cannot literally "test" anything. By reifying natural selection, the author gives it an intellectual ability that it does not truly have, thus sidestepping the issue of why organisms appear to be designed by intelligence.
  41. [In response to "no one has ever seen evolution occur"]: "Scientific conclusions are not limited to direct observation but often depend on inferences that are made by applying reason to observations." [On the same page, in explaining why creation is not science]: "But science cannot test supernatural possibilities .... Because such appeals to the supernatural are not testable using the rules and processes of scientific inquiry, they cannot be a part of science."
    Special Pleading and Irrelevant Thesis: On the one hand, the author indicates that it is okay to believe in evolution even though it is not directly observable/testable, since inferences from observations are allowed in science. On the other hand, the author indicates that creation is not science since it is not directly observableltestable, but is based on inference from observations. The author has exempted his position from his own standard special pleading. Also, notice that whether or not creation can be classified as "science" is totally irrelevant to the truth of the position. The author has committed the fallacy of irrelevant thesis.
  42. "The annual changes in influenza viruses and the emergence of bacteria resistant to antibiotics are both products of evolutionary forces."
    Equivocation: The annual changes in influenza viruses never result in anything but influenza viruses. The author conflates this change (within a kind) with evolution in the particles-to-people sense.
  43. "Another example of ongoing evolution is the appearance of mosquitoes resistant to various insecticides, which has contributed to a resurgence of malaria in Africa and elsewhere."
    Equivocation: Once again, we see equivocation on the word "evolution." Change within a kind is used as alleged support for changes between kinds.
  44. "Creationists reject such scientific facts in part because they do not accept evidence drawn from natural processes that they consider to be at odds with the Bible."
    Strawman Fallacy: This misrepresents the creationist position. Creationists do not reject any facts (things that are observable! knowable in the present). Rather, biblical creationists interpret facts in light of biblical history.
  45. "To young-earth creationists, no amount of empirical evidence that the earth is billions of years old is likely to refute their claim that the world is actually young but that God simply made it appear to be 0ld."
    Strawman Fallacy: Biblical creationists do not claim that God made the earth "appear"  old.  "Appearance of age" is an oxymoron since age cannot be seen. Instead, we would contend that God made the earth fully functioning from the beginning. The evidence today is consistent with an age of thousands of years.
Card Set:
Logical Fallacies- Real World Examples
2013-05-10 15:05:39
Logical Fallacies

The examples used previously are hypothetical, though they are based on actual fallacies that I have encountered in evolutionary literature and conversations with evolutionists. Sometimes in real-world conversations, the fallacy is not quite so obvious.
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