Are Arguments from Incredulity Valid?


I don’t want this to turn into an argument about arguments from incredulity, but I don’t see what’s wrong with such arguments. Humans make them all the time and “evolutionists” are no exception.

For example, how is it that the claim that an eye cannot appear fully formed not just an argument from incredulity?

Granville Sewell: Why Evolution and Reproduction Are Unnatural
(Neil Rickert) #2

I’m not even understanding what that is asking.


Once again, the ID argument boils down to an argument from incredulity.

Granville Sewell: Why Evolution and Reproduction Are Unnatural
(S. Joshua Swamidass) #4

(sorry for screwing up the order of the posts in the split)


What’s wrong is that arguments from incredulity are based on human intuition which is often wrong. The entire point of the scientific method is to base conclusions on empirical evidence instead of intuition. As it turns out, the universe doesn’t have to conform itself to what humans can believe or can not believe. Instead, we have to adjust our conclusions to how the universe actually works.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #6

Putting in a new thread makes it okay. I’ve noticed @mung that you are a bit of a “lateral thinker.” That is a good thing. When inspiration takes in you on a left turn from the main topic, just put it in a new thread, or quote it in an old thread of the same topic. That is always welcome. Distracting from the main point of another thread, however, can be frustrating.

Have you figured out yet how to start new threads?

(Dan Eastwood) #7

I can’t believe that people actually fall for arguments from incredulity! Oh … wait … :thinking:

(The Honest Skeptic) #8

This is a good point… But if human intuition is correct in an individual case, does that mean that the argument from incredulity was valid? Or does it still mean that it is invalid? Serious question.


How do we determine if our intuition is correct? We usually form a hypothesis and test it against empirical evidence. Intuition can be helpful in forming hypotheses, but intuition should never be considered evidence for an argument.


What does ‘valid’ mean. Notice that Mung’s post started with “what’s wrong” with but then just appealed to people making arguments.

If ‘valid’ is often used in context of logical deductions, where Mr Google says:

But that does not seem to apply here since there is no deductive argument stated.

Maybe ‘valid’ is meant to refer to a scientific argument? Science is about Inference to the Best Explanation and in the case of the eye evolution is a much, much, much better argument than instantaneous appearance. And in general, justification/best explanation by intuition is not science (although informed intuition is part of scientific process – Feynman is said to have claimed he started by guessing new equations).

Or perhaps you meant, would the person with good intuition have known the fact that made the argument correct. If knowledge is justified true belief, then Mr Gettier would say no, lucky guesses are not knowledge (justification is lacking).

(The Honest Skeptic) #11

Are you employing the famous “Answering a Question with a Question” fallacy?? Or trying to get me to think on my own? :slight_smile:

I agree with you completely… the hypothesis cannot be vindicated until the research is complete and conclusions drawn. I guess, what I may really be asking then is this: Can’t we speak “hypothetically” and have a valid discussion take place? It seems as though the empirical data responds to both the fallacious argument and the issue addressed in the argument, so I’m wondering if pointing out the fallacy in this case is worth the squeeze…

(The Honest Skeptic) #12

Sorry, yes, I meant that the objection (based upon a statement of incredulity) ended up to be founded (based upon the analysis of the data)…

At the end of the day, I guess it is really a way of keeping order in the conversion, like Robert’s Rules of Order for a meeting. I’m only asking because I’m the kind of person who will be inclined to say, “Hmmmm… that doesn’t pass the smell test to me…” But, a valid response to that would be that my statement is an argument from incredulity, right? So, it’s just not very satisfying to a conversation to only be able to dissent by presenting the appropriate evidence. :frowning:


Can’t I use the Socratic method? :wink:

If by valid you mean logical and reasoned, then you can’t use an argument based on incredulity and have a valid position. My comment that started this thread was referring to an article written by an ID supporter who was trying to make a scientific argument against evolution. In this case, it is completely appropriate to apply the rules of logic and reason to determine if the construction of an argument is valid within those rules. If the very foundation of the argument is invalid, then everything that flows from it is also invalid.

(The Honest Skeptic) #14

Thanks for your time @T_aquaticus and @BruceS… I do appreciate your opinions and explanations!


I don’t even believe there is such a thing as an argument from incredulity. :wink:


By the way. I did not start this thread and the thread title is not something I selected.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #17

Arguments from incredulity end up being displays of ignorance. Make them if you like, but then don’t complain about being called ignorant in response. The argument invites that rebuttal.

(Neil Rickert) #18

I think I am going to call that an example of an argument from incredulity :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


In line with the theme of most of the latest posts, I take that as a meta-strawman argument.

(ie, “My argument is not that argument, which is itself a strawman argument”).

(John Dalton) #20

I think that’s different. If you don’t believe some position being advanced because you don’t believe the evidence provided, it’s not an “argument from incredulity”. That term comes into play when you yourself are advancing a certain position based on the “evidence” that other explanations seem improbable, without providing other evidence for it.