Friday, 31 August 2007

Are you ignorant?

My local fundamentalist creationist has posted another attempt at a logical sounding argument.

This time he has gone for the "half a truth" tactic. That's the one when you tell your readers half a true story in the hope that it is more likely to sound true. In other words he is deliberately keeping his readers in ignorance of the subject matter. Of course, this is the only way he can make his case sound logical.

The downside for me is that this argument of his is extremely simple and quick to counter. I will simply tell you the rest of his half finished tale and invite you to make your own mind up.

His posting is about the logical fallacy called the argument from personal incredulity or the appeal to incredulity.

This is the definition that he gives;
"An appeal to ignorance is an argument that absence of proof is evidence of absence."
That is fine as far as it goes.

If you look at his post that is as far as he wants anyone to go. This of course leaves plenty of room for him to believe anything he likes because;
"Things that we can't explain do exist. An explanation may be forthcoming in future; or maybe already exists now but you just don't know it."
Lets have a look at wikipedia's definition and fill in the second half of this tale. The bit that he has neglected to tell us about;
An argument from personal incredulity is the same as an argument from ignorance only if the person making the argument has solely their particular personal belief in the impossibility of the one scenario as "evidence" that the alternative scenario is true (i.e., the person lacks relevant evidence specifically for the alternative scenario).

The argument from personal incredulity, also known as argument from personal belief or argument from personal conviction, refers to an assertion that because one personally finds a premise unlikely or unbelievable, the premise can be assumed not to be true, or alternately that another preferred but unproven premise is true instead.
Now think about that in the context that Anderson's beliefs conflict with the real world in two pretty important ways.

First of all his beliefs have no evidence to support them.

Secondly his beliefs are contradicted by lots of evidence that we do have.

Evidence really is the key here. Just like in life. Do you think your wife loves you? Yes? Why? The evidence. Why do you fasten your seat belt? Perhaps its the evidence for how safe it makes you or perhaps it the evidence regarding getting caught and fined if you don't. Either way its the evidence.

Lets look at Anderson's beliefs in relation to the evidence.

Take the age of the earth for example. He thinks it is only 6,000 years old. He bases this on the ages of people in the bible. Physics, Astronomy, Geology and Cosmology disagree with him.

What about his belief in the story of the Ark? Again he cites the bible and I point to geological evidence and a few simple logistical issues like huge piles of dino-crap and penguins and kangaroos and the like.

He does ask a couple of interesting questions at the end of his post;
What is the relationship between skepticism and the scientific method? When is incredulity good?
To get you started along these lines then why not check out my page on how to evaluate evidence. I have a feeing that this might just come in handy when we see his next post.

Already looking forward to it.

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