Uses of logical arguments in debate


(Ann Gauger) #1

Appropriate use of logical fallacies in argumentation should be be discussed. All too often a stereotypes fallacy is waved to shut down debate. The difficulty often arises when standards are unequally applied.
I point everyone here Rumraket: Response to Dr. Tour on Abiogenesis

So briefly
ID scientist:
Can’t get a first cell
Ev Biol Argument from ignorance Give us time and we will!

Ev biol: Where’s the ID mechanism? Ha! You can’t show us one because there isn’t one
ID scientist: argument from ignorance How do you know that?

Got to go. I’m sure you can come up with others.

(George) #2


Could you quote or link where you think an accusation of fallacy was incorrect?

Otherwise it is hard to agree that an injustice has been done. Thanks!

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #3

Yes please. I agree.

(Timothy Horton) #4

Here’s one we see all the time

IDer: “Science can’t explain all the details therefore this biological feature was DESIGNED!”

Scientist: “That’s a false dichotomy and is not how science works. You need to supply your own positive evidence for ID.”


Scientist: “(rolls eyes) whatever.”

(Mikkel R.) #5

I’d like to point out that nobody has actually expressed arguments of this type. Allow me to modify your perceived exchange:

ID scientist: I can’t get a first cell, so we know it isn’t possible.
Ev Biol: Non-sequitur - it doesn’t follow.

Ev biol: Where’s the ID mechanism?
ID scientist: …

There, now it’s accurate.

(T J Runyon) #6

Strawman. I’ve nrver heard that argument from evolutionary biologists. Only that ID hasn’t described or even tried to describe a mechanism yet

(Ann Gauger) #7


That’s not how you argued in your thread… but I am going to be gone for the bext two days pretty much

(Ann Gauger) #8

From your thead on Tour

You clip out a segment where he is listing the steps involved in synthesis. Then you interrupt him to assert your fallacy. Actually, none of chemical synthesis is easy. He has given a truncated list of steps. If you were a synthetic chemist you would know what he leaves out. And your statement that his conclusion doesn’t follow simply verifies his statement that few researchers from other disciplines understand how molecules are synthesized.

The compound must be designed, the stereochemistry controlled. Yield optimization, purification, and characterization are needed. An elaborate supply is required to control synthesis from start to finish.

Another straight up question beggin fallacy. This conclusion follows from nothing Tour goes on to say.

None of this is easy. Few researchers from other disciplines understand how molecules are synthesized.

I get it that you disagree with what he has to say. But I get the feeling that you are not really even trying to understand what he is saying.

Maybe if you had read his earlier piece in the same journal, called “Animadversions of a Synthetic Chemist” where he does go into detail about what is involved, you would understand.

(Timothy Horton) #9

We do understand Tour is using the same tired old fallacious ID argument: "Life is complex. Really complex. Really really COMPLEX! Therefore it must have been designed!"

An argument from ignorance dressed up with lots of technical terms is still an argument from ignorance.

(Ann Gauger) #10

@Timothy_Horton Dear Timothy, Dear, dear Tim, I knew I could count on you to come up with the next fallacious fallacy. "Life is complex, Really complex. Really really COMPLEX! Therefore it must have been designed!" Do you have a name for this one? Oh I see it. An argument from ignorance is it, Timothy?. But Tour isn’t arguing from what he doesn’t know. He is arguing from what he knows, and knows better than just about anyone else in the world. The man works magic with atoms. Yet he knows that no one can, no one can produce pure D-ribose of the right 3-D stereochemistry, using the means available to natural processes only

(Timothy Horton) #11

We could call it the Dr. Gauger fallacy since you seem to be its champion. :slightly_smiling_face:

Yes Dr., it is. Unless you can explain how Tour came to have perfect knowledge of every bit of information in the universe which would be required to make his “it’s impossible” assessment. Is that your position?

Amazing Tour has managed to disprove abiogenesis with just what he “knows” yet has managed to convince practically no one in the scientific community with his reasoning. Just true believers who already decided beforehand their Deity did it despite the lack of evidence. You’d think such an amazing feat would guarantee him a Nobel Prize as well as making him one of the most famous scientists of all time. Must be that darn worldwide scientific conspiracy against ID at work again. :wink:

(Timothy Horton) #12

Let’s not forget Tour himself admitted he isn’t qualified to judge the merits of evolution vs. creation

Tour: “Assuming that I have something significant to contribute to the evolution vs. creation debate, many ask me to speak and write concerning my thoughts on the topic. However, I do not have anything substantive to say about it. I am a layman on the subject. Although I have read about a half dozen books on the debate, maybe a dozen, and though I can speak authoritatively on complex chemical synthesis, I am not qualified to enter the public discussion on evolution vs. creation. So please don’t ask me to be the speaker or debater at your event, and think carefully about asking me for an interview because I will probably not give you the profound quotations that you seek. You are of course free to quote me from what is written here, but do me the kindness of placing my statements in a fair context”


Now suddenly he’s changed his mind and KNOWS (as Dr. Gauger assures us) life must have been Created by some supernatural Being. I wonder from where did he get his new knowledge?

(Blogging Graduate Student) #13

Do you think Tour would agree with this characterisation? Somehow I think he would phrase it more like “I don’t know of any way to produce pure D-ribose of the right 3-D stereochemistry by natural means, and I know of a lot of obstacles to this process”. I don’t think Tour would go so far as to say “I know it is absolutely impossible for natural processes to produce pure D-ribose of the right 3-D stereochemistry”.

Would a “pure” solution of D-ribose even be required? Surely a sufficiently skewed mix of D- and R-ribose would be sufficient?

(Mikkel R.) #14

Tour’s point is entirely understood, which is why the fallacy is so obvious. Tour gives a long list of steps that chemists use to synthesize some compound. The implication he seeks to make is obvious. It is basically that if there were no synthetic chemist around to force these steps to happen, then the compound should simply not come to exist. There are several things wrong with this kind of reasoning. First of all, the whole thing assumes the particular compound of interest was necessary at the origin of life. But since Tour doesn’t know what the earliest stages of life were like, the relevancy of the compound is completely unknown. That means when Tour argues against life’s chemical origins by appealing to how difficult this compound is so synthesize, he’s ASSUMING it’s necessity. That is a textbook example of the question-begging fallacy.

Another issue with this problem is the insinuation that the steps synthetic organic chemists would make could not happen in some other way. Tour again simply assumes this. Some step requires purification, otherwise products of a side-reaction from a previous step would interfere, and you’d get no or very low yields. The implication here being that this means we now know that there’s no other way that buffering against this disturbing side reaction can take place but if a synthetic chemist deliberately intervenes. Has Tour tested all possible physical environments to rule out that there is no other way to buffer against this side-reaction? No, he has not. There could, in principle, be some sort of mineral or clay, or other compound that buffers against side reaction. I don’t have to know, the fact that this is even conceivable means Tour can’t reach his conclusion that life should not exist, because chemistry. Has Tour predicted from first principles that no such mechanism can even exist? No, he has not. So again Tour’s difficulty, while real to chemists, is assumed to be a universal condition no possible physical circumstance could alleviate. But he has done no work to show this. That means, again, the argument begs the question.

This is the one overarching problem with almost everything in Tour’s essay. It assumes we know what first life was like, what the simplest possible forms of life were like, and therefore what compounds were required for first life’s synthesis. And it assumes that we know all there is to know about how such reaction steps can or need to be performed.

(Mikkel R.) #15

Technically the way that is worded it’s a non-sequitur. The conclusion doesn’t follow from the stated premise.

It could be that there’s an unstated premise hiding away there (as there typically is in such arguments), which says something like “and I can’t figure out how something as complex as this could originate” - therefore it must have been designed. That is your quintessential IDcreationist argument from ignorance. They typically just avoid stating the fact of their ignorance, leaving the argument a non-sequitur instead.

(Mikkel R.) #16

Do you know for a fact that ribose had to be present at the origin of life? How do you know that? Do you know that only a pure, or near-pure D-isomer mix could participate in the originating process? How do you know that? Also, how do you really know that there is no possible physical circumstance, no mineral or other organic compound that could bias the synthesis of ribose strongly towards the D-isomer? How did you rule this out? A strong chemical prediction like this must have been published somewhere?

Notice how many unstated assumptions fed into your argument here. Unstated assumptions you simply don’t know the truth of.

(Ann Gauger) #17

[quote=“Timothy_Horton, post:4, topic:4256”]
Object to the dramatic presentation if you will but do not tell me these stories are untrue. People have claimed based on a hostile atheist website that these reports are false.
And denied the testimony of people who were there, and other reliable witnesses

Those who deny or even cheer on reports of injustice anywhere because they think the targets “deserved it” are walking examples of what not to be.

This bias, this blindness, this tendency to de ID people as non-people is dangerous. Dehumanizing any group is always wrong. Not just a fallacy. An injustice.

(Neil Rickert) #18

Oh, he clearly is (arguing from what he doesn’t know).

(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #19

@Agauger Are you sure it was a hostile atheist website? Could it be a hostile science website?
Science and atheism are not the same thing.

(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #20

Atheists love ID people. We just hate the sins that ID people commit.