Everyone’s favorite science denying soccer mom, Ftk, is showing off superior critical thinking skills again. In a discussion–as such things exist at her blog–about evolution and common descent, she cites first class whack job DaveScot as an authority in proper argumentation technique.
She makes the following bold assertion without any evidence or knowledge to back up such claim:
It does not follow that the mechanisms of evolution are powerful enough to account for the overwhelming complexity we find in nature.
This is a very authoritarian claim, couched in language of truth and surety. However, when she is called on it (in the next comment), she responds with the following:
“That sure sounds purely like an argument from incredulity.”
Perhaps, but I don’t find anything particulary wrong with that.
DaveScot’s advice to those wanting to uses an argument from incredulity is to Go ahead! Sempre Fi!:
arguments from incredulity aren’t necessarily wrong but in fact are rather reliable and employed constantly and consistently by everyone every day.
Really? Let’s analyze his argument:
1. Arguments from Incredulity (AoI from here) are not necessarily wrong. This is fine so far.
However, they are also not necessarily right, and therein lies the rub. AoI are not logical fallacies because they are wrong, but rather because they are not proper arguments at all. They employ no observations and no data, therefor they are argumentatively empty.
2. AoI are, in fact, very reliable sources of real knowledge. This is demonstrably false. It is common sense that the Earth is the center of the universe and that 2 stars speeding away from each other, each with a velocity of .9c, are moving away from each other at a velocity of 1.8c.
In fact, if I said that both of these things were wrong (and they are), people could argue that it was me who was wrong and employ AoI to do so.
History is full of people arguing from incredulity who were spot on wrong. To say that it is a reliable test of anything is irresponsible in the highest degree. AoI is the lazy, incurious man’s argument. It is a way to insert one’s self into a discussion without having done any thinking about it at all.
3. What consistency could there possibly be from one AoI to another? Each person is incredulous to varying degrees and for varying reasons. Since there is no evidence or observation to anchor an AoI, there cannot necessarily be any consistency from one argument to the other. This fits in nicely with the big tent strategies of the Discovery Institute and other Intelligent Design proponents, however; it is their stock in trade. Who cares if it’s right as long as we’re in it together!
I often wonder if people like Ftk would find it exciting to learn something new. You might not even have to think about it to come up with an answer. 🙂