googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: Loving God with our Minds: A Series in Logic. Part 7

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Loving God with our Minds: A Series in Logic. Part 7


Sometimes a critic will simply state his opinion is a fact without offering any argument to support it. In my series addressing the “10 Questions Every Christian Must Answer,” I encountered several examples of bald assertions (along with numerous other logical fallacies). Here's one example:

Jonah did not live inside a fish's stomach for three days like the Bible says.”

That's it. That was the entire statement. There was no reason given why the critic believed such a thing didn't happen. He cited no evidence to support his conclusion. Here merely said it didn't happen.

Since bald assertions have no supporting arguments, they are they can be rebutted with an opposing assertion: Jonah didn't live for three days inside a fish? Yes he did! You can see how easy that is.

Bald assertions are a type of red herring. They add nothing to a discussion.

ARGUMENT FROM SILENCE (argumentum ex silentio)

When a person cites the lack of evidence for something as evidence against that thing, he is using an argument from silence. Here's an example so that you can see how this is a fallacy:

The Bible does not say that Jesus ever had a cold. Therefore, Jesus never had a cold.

John attests there were a great many things that Jesus said and did that aren't written down (John 21:25). So it would be wrong to conclude that Jesus didn't have a cold on the flimsy grounds that it's not mentioned in the Bible.

In the creation v. evolution debate, one common example of the argument from silence is this: Human fossils have not be found with dinosaur fossils. Therefore, humans did not live with dinosaurs.

My critics rail when I point it out but this is absolutely an argument from silence.

ARGUMENT FROM IGNORANCE (argumentum ad ignorantiam)

This is similar to the argument from silence but varies in a significant way. It argues that a position is true because merely because it has not been proven false. For example, in 1895, Lord Kelvin, the President of the Royal Society of England, confidently announced, “Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” Lord Kelvin spoke out of ignorance. No one had ever flown before and so he believed flight was impossible. Of course, a few short years later, two brothers who owned a bicycle shop in Ohio flew the first airplane at Kitty Hawk, NC.

In my dealings with opponents of the Bible, one argument from ignorance I've heard deals with the Ark and the Flood. An evolutionist poster went into great detail describing large wooden ships of recent history. In the last couple of centuries, wooden ships have been built that measure 300-400’ – sometimes longer. It’s been our experience, however, that wooden ships this large leak terribly and require constant pumping to stay afloat. His point was this: if modern ship builders are not able to build large, water-tight wooden ships, then how could Noah have built the Ark? He was saying, in a sense, “We can’t build a water-tight, wooden ship of this size so therefore the Ark is impossible.”

The flaw is this argument is that it isn’t evidence that the Ark truly couldn’t be built – it’s only evidence that the poster didn’t know how such a boat could be built. It’s evidence of our lack of imagination or understanding. It’s simply an argument of our ignorance.


In Latin, non sequitur means, “it doesn't follow.” This is where a person's conclusion is not supported by his premise. There are several forms of non sequitur but they all fall under the umbrella of the conclusion not following the premise. An extreme example of this would be: “Men wear pants. Therefore Sally does not wear pants.”

Real examples are seldom as extreme as that but you'd be surprised how blatant Bible critics can be. Here is a real world example I've come across that is about as ridiculous as my example above:

You know how science works. You happily use the products of science every day: Your car. Your cell phone. Your microwave oven. Your TV. Your computer. These are all products of the scientific process. You know that science is incredibly important to our economy and to our lives... [conclusion] God did not make the world in 6 days.”

Do you see what I mean? The premise about how important science is, in spite of being true, does not support the conclusion that God did not create the world.

Further Reading

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 8

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