A Conversation for Logical Fallacies in Everyday Use

Case Study: Darwin vs. Intelligent Design

Post 1

Steve K.

Here is an article on the subject debate currently underway in Kansas:


I noted in particular this paragraph:

"These people are going to obfuscate about these definitions," complained Jack Krebs, vice president of the pro-evolution Kansas Citizens for Science, whose members filled many of the 180 auditorium seats not taken by journalists, who came from as far away as France. "They have created a straw man. They are trying to make science stand for atheism, so they can fight atheism."

I personally agree with the scientists' decision to boycott the "debate", which is in fact political theater supporting the religious concept of creationism, under the guise of "intelligent design". IMHO.

But regardless of one's opinion, I think the techniques are worth reviewing for logical fallacies. smiley - scientist

Case Study: Darwin vs. Intelligent Design

Post 2


The key fallacy at work here is an argument from ignorance. "We don't know how it happened, so it must be God's work".

Here is another link from the BBC, as the NYT article requires a sign-up. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4521157.stm

If it wasn't so scary it would be hilarious.

Case Study: Darwin vs. Intelligent Design

Post 3

Steve K.

Yes, exactly. Of course, pointing out that logical fallacy will have zilch effect on the believers. Their offer of a "scientific debate" was disingenuous at best, with anticipated retorts like, "Are you questioning the BIBLE!?". I am reminded of Wittgenstein's idea that what you can't know, you can't talk about.

The BBC article had this quote: "Part of our overall goal is to remove the bias against religion that is currently in schools." - William Harris, Intelligent Design Network. I'm not sure if this fits into any of the logical fallacy categories, but it does remind me of the NY Times "Public Editor's" study of the Times reporting of the Mideast situation. (The Public Editor is an "outsider" hired to observe and comment on the Times' policies.) While both Palestinian and Israeli officials have praised the reporting overall, any individual article on the situation gets hammered by one side or the other for being "biased". This means it was not biased TOWARD my side, therefore it is biased against my side.

As the scientists have pointed out, there has never been any policy disallowing arguments against Darwin, but that apparently does not remove the "bias against religion". smiley - erm

Case Study: Darwin vs. Intelligent Design

Post 4


"Bias against religion": which raises the question of *what* religion in particular they are talking about. To pardon the pun, religion is a broad church: many of them accept evolution, some of them only accept the biblical creation myth, then there is Buddism, Islam, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Animism and Celtic Earth-Mother groupings to mention a few. Even within Christianity they find it difficult to agree with each other. All of them, practically by definition, disagree fundamentally on key teachings.

Case Study: Darwin vs. Intelligent Design

Post 5

Otus Nycteus


First of all: Interesting entry and discussion.

Secondly: The same debate (evolution vs creationism) was also raging in the 1980s, and before that in the 1920s, with the so-called Scopes trial. Someone who has extensively written about the subject is the late Stephen Jay Gould. A lot of these essays have been published in his books. Several can also be found on this site:


The site map is the quickest way to find them.

Yes, I know, it's not exactly on topic; I just thought it might be of interest to you. smiley - smiley

Case Study: Darwin vs. Intelligent Design

Post 6


I had the pleasure of having a high school biology teacher who was a creationist. Odd, huh? He also enjoyed a good debate. This was fortunate, because I went toe to toe with him on the issue every day for the entire term.

I also grappled with another creationist a year later in a public forum.

This was many years ago, but i remember a few interesting shortcomings on both sides.

Many creationists assume that evolution cannot be a tool of God. Especially the type that think it all happened in six non-metaphorical days.

Many evolutionists believe too srongly in Darwin's explanations, almost religeously.

I have yet to hear of a provable example of speciation. That is to say that whatever shape a finch's beak may be, due to natural selection and available niches blah blah blah... it can still breed with the other finches. And thats just speciation, the lowest rung on the ladder. If a theory should be based on observation, then this is one very weak theory. Fortunately my opponents weren't keen enough to pick up on this one.

As was pointed out, many creationists are very weak on biology. My guess is they ignore certain things in order to avoid weakening their own belief. "What are the odds that front and rear fins of this creature could have identical bone structures? There must be a designer. God must have done it." Actually, it's a fairly simple mutation that has been observed in fruitflys. They can have antennae growing where their eyes should be with a simple gene-swap.

Final (personal) observation: If you can't see the magic in the spark of life, the hand of God in the glorious cycle of nature, then you have your own set of blinkers on.

Summary: Darwinian Evolution Vs. Hard Core Creationism is a false dilemma. Both arguements have holes you could swim a blue whale through.

Case Study: Darwin vs. Intelligent Design

Post 7



"Final (personal) observation: If you can't see the magic in the spark of life, the hand of God in the glorious cycle of nature, then you have your own set of blinkers on."

This assumes the existence of a God, which is the ultimate logical fallacy, and the basis behind the whole evolutionism/ creationism debate. I think it's perfectly reasonable to appreciate the natural world without needing a God to tell you how. Deciding either way whether there is or is not a God of some sort introduces its own new set of blinkers.

But that's not what I was going to say...

What I was going to say is this:

A couple of years ago I became aware, by accident, that a woman had been regularly calling by our house and trying to 'recruit' my 15 year old brother into the ideas of creationism. She called round one day when I was at home and he was out, and left a book supposedly listing the virtues of creationism. I had a read through it, and quickly became fascinated with the fact that it barely mentioned creationism at all- the whole book was preoccupied with picking at evolutionary theory. The statistics used (constantly) in the book were (to a maths undergrad, and probably anyone who has got so far as a GCSE in the subject) laughable and based entirely on a misunderstanding of statistics and probability, which didn't contribute to any thoughts of taking the book seriously. But this is off topic. What is on topic was that every paragraph of the book was devoted to 'disproving' (I supply the word in inverted commas to indicate that it is very, incredibly loosley defined) evolutionary theory.

The point here is that this book attempted to 'prove' creationism by 'disproving' evolution. This assumes that the two sets of theories together define the entire scale of possibility surrounding the subject of the origin of life. This is the only way in which disproving one would automatically prove the other.
The angle which this book, and, I am sad to note, every other creationist I have come into contact with, uses arguments which are plainly fallacious- disproving evolutionary theory would merely disprove evolutionary theory. This would mean /something/ else is correct. This would not prove or disprove creationism.

TK[1]smiley - pirate

Case Study: Darwin vs. Intelligent Design

Post 8



But wouldn't you agree with me and Pink, that if God is DJ, then love is a dancefloor.

Case Study: Darwin vs. Intelligent Design

Post 9


Re speciation: just because we haven't observed speciation occuring in an experimental context doesn't mean there is no evidence of it. Species are defined by an inability to breed and produce fertile offspring. There are animals which can interbreed and produce infertile offspring - a horse and a donkey mate to produce a mule (correct me if I'm wrong).

Re the wonder of science and the need for a guiding hand in evolution, you might be interested in Richard Dawkins books''The Blind Watchmaker' and 'Unweaving the Rainbow'. Haven't read the former but I absolutely loved the latter - laughed out loud and learned heaps at the same time.

Case Study: Darwin vs. Intelligent Design

Post 10



But what if god was one of us, just a stranger on a bus?

Case Study: Darwin vs. Intelligent Design

Post 11

Jerms - a Brief flicker and then gone again.

Just for the sake of accuracy, there was a news report a few months ago about a mule and a... I think it was a donkey, producing an offsping. It was the first ever case of a fertile mule, I believe. Sorry I don't know anything more about it.

On a similar topic, though, a week or two back a zebra and a shetland pony produced an offspring too. smiley - weird

Case Study: Darwin vs. Intelligent Design

Post 12


I dunno, a zebra and a shetland pony. They'll be selling them in supermarkets next. And they won't have to stick on a bar code.

O.K. It's a stupid joke, but you try being this bored!

Do you know God, are you related to him? Well leave the poor man alone and stop bothering him. He's got better stuff to do. Like choosing a German pope. And other important stuff. Shhh!

Case Study: Darwin vs. Intelligent Design

Post 13

Jerms - a Brief flicker and then gone again.

smiley - laugh Barcode: nice! smiley - ok

Yes I am related to god, actually. But I make it a point not to bother anyone too much.
smiley - peacedove

Case Study: Darwin vs. Intelligent Design

Post 14


In respect to speciation, I don't disagree that it does occur. My question is the method. Without an observed example, we must resort to speculation.

Simple natural selection does not give an adequate explanation. Contained within a creatures genome are the ranges for certain traits; the extremes for big vs small, green vs yellow, round vs wrinkly. Natural selection theorizes about how a population can change its nature within these limits. This hypothesis is logical, and more importantly, observable. But, natural selection does not change these limits or add new traits.

For this we turn to mutation of the genome for an explanation. In theory, if you throw enough mutations at a species, one of them will turn out to be a benefit and also be a transferable trait to a viable offspring. In observation, this is pretty weak. The best example I've heard of in mammals is the possibility that sickle cell anemia might be an overall benefit in a malaria infested environment. Not really a great example.

This still does not explain speciation, as the "mutants" are either non-viable or the offspring can still interbreed with the "non-mutants". Ok, so we pretend that they get ostracized (sp?), move over the mountains for a few millenia which stops interbreeding, mutate again a sufficient number of times that the genetic structure can no longer reconcile itself with that of the original species Supposedly this requires a repeat of the segregation process several times. This whole process seems highly unlikely and time consuming to me. But then again, the time periods involved are hard to cope with mentally, and you know what they say about a million monkeys....

And then we have to exponentially repeat the process to the point where we get from prokaryotic bacteria to chimp. The basic construction of the DNA is different, we have substantial chromosomal differences and outrageous phenotypical differences. I don't think natural selection theory can be stretched that far. It has trouble even coming up with a single example of one viable, beneficial mutation... at least in a "higher order" creature. I always felt a better observed example could be found in bacteria/viruses.

Just the same, I don't feel that natural selection or mutation begin to give a sufficient explanation for speciation, which is only the first rung of many on the evolutionary ladder. They just change traits within a species.

And no, i'm not saying God snapped his fingers either.

Case Study: Darwin vs. Intelligent Design

Post 15

Jerms - a Brief flicker and then gone again.

A minor fact you might find interesting: All DNA on this planet only differs by 1% at most, when compared with any other strand of DNA of any living thing.

Not sure how that affects your premises there, but I thought it would be worth pointing out.

smiley - cheers

Case Study: Darwin vs. Intelligent Design

Post 16


To be honest, I have problems with the big TOE (theory of evolution) myself. But it differs significantly from intelligent design in that it can be continually tested, and if found to be wrong, can be adjusted or dropped entirely in favour of a better theory. Intelligent design can't be tested, it can't be disproved but it can't be proved either. It is a completely worthless argument (I could come up with a million arguments that couldn't be proved or disproved, but they'd be meaningless rubbish. Though probably more interesting than intelligent design).

Lets think about this for a minute. The Universe is conplex, ergo it needs a complex creator (God). But hang on. God is complex, ergo god needs a complex creator (earlier god). But hang on. Earlier God is complex, ergo Earlier God needs a complex creator (earlier earlier god). But hang on..................

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