Logical Fallacy Series -- Part 22: Argument From Ignorance
Welcome to part 22 of this series on logical fallacies. By this point, I've decided to not write on every logical fallacy that there is and instead only write about the ones most relevant to Christian Apologetics (i.e fallacies committed by skeptics when you debate them, fallacies made by Christians during in-house debates, etc.). There are so many fallacies out there that this multi-part blog post series would end up being extremely long, and I'd like to write about other things at some point. Therefore, I'm only mentioning the fallacies that are more common to the Christian Apologist's debate arena and just ignore the ones that rarely if ever come up. However, there are philosophy websites out there (and Wikipedia) that you can go to if you want to learn about the ones I haven't mentioned.
I'm now going to address....
Argument From Ignorance
This fallacy is committed when someone argues that something is true because it has not yet been proven false. This is logically fallacious because something may be false even if we don't yet have any way to falsify it.
Examples Of Argunents From Ignorance
Sadly, this fallacy is far too common among Christians. Christians who aren't aren't well read in Christian Apologetics will sometimes, in their discussions with unbelievers, say things like "Science hasn't proven abiogenesis is true, so abiogenesis must be false and creationism is true." While that's not a direct quotation, that is the essence of many creationists arguments against abiogenesis. Abiogenesis is not necessarily false simply because it hasn't yet been proven. We can only conclude that it's false if we have some positive evidence against abiogenesis occurring and evidence for design within the cell.
I do think there is good evidence that the cell was intelligently designed by a Creator, but this isn't on account that atheist scientists have yet to prove that it could come together all by itself. There is not only an extremely long line of failed naturalistic explanations for the emergence of the first single celled organism, but there are also positive signs of design inside the cell. For example, there are several different kinds of irreducibly complex machines that work inside the cell, and amino acids of the just right shape are able to fold up into proteins in the just right sequence because of an enzyme of 4 chemical characters called DNA. Both of these point in the direction of an intelligent designer not simply because we lack a natural explanation for how they arose, but because of the principle of uniformitarianism. We know that whenever we see non-biological machines that are irreducibly complex (e.g car engines, the space shuttle, mouse traps) that an intelligent agent fashioned them rather than chance and necessity. Likewise, DNA is genetic information. It is a code! And we know that whenever we find information, be it in a book, a computer code, or a newspaper, or blogs, or what have you, that an intelligent agent produced it. We've never seen nature or chance give rise to information. Information, whatever form it takes and wherever source it comes from, is traced back to an intelligent mind. So by the principle of uniformity, we conclude that the cell is intelligently designed. And not only does uniformity play a role in the design inference, but the specified complexity of the cell also plays a large role. Hopefully you can see that these reasons for inferring design are not based on what we don't know, but rather on what we do know.
There are fallacious ways to argue for something is true and I'll talk about this when I get to "The Fallacy Fallacy". Christians who aren't well trained in apologetics or logic may argue in a fallacious way for a true conclusion. I believe intelligent design is true, even though some ways of going about arguing for it commit the argument from ignorance fallacy. To read about non-fallacious arguments for creation and design, visit "Arguments For God's Existence" section on this blog.
Another Example: "There's no evidence that God exists. Therefore, God does not exist."
Again, not a direct quotation, but this is the implicit reasoning in many arguments I've heard from atheists. They appear to think that just because there's no evidence that God exists, that atheism is true. First of all, that's not true; there's very good evidence that God exists --The Kalam Cosmological Argument, The Fine Tuning Argument, The Local Fine Tuning Argument, The Moral Argument, The Ontological Argument, and The Minimal Facts Case For Jesus' Resurrection all give us very good reasons to think that God exists, and as I point out in my book Inference To The One True God, which will be released some time this year, these arguments not only give us good reasons to believe that a God exists, but specifically they give us good reasons to believe the God of The Bible exists. So not only is it false that there's no evidence that God exists, but even if that were true, it wouldn't follow that atheism is true. Secondly, there are Christian philosophers such as William Lane Craig and Alvin Plantinga who argue that belief in God is a properly basic belief.
In order for atheism to be justified, one needs to actually have good reasons to affirm it, not just a lack of reasons for theism. Some atheists try to provide affirmative reasons from arguments like the problem of evil and the hiddeness of God, but I'm not persuaded by these arguments (and you can click here and here to find out why), and moreover, I think the positive reasons I hyperlinked to above are enough to outweigh any reasons evil and suffering, and divine hiddeness might give us to think that God does not exist.
Another Example: "Since you've failed to provide any good reasons why God would allow X, God must not have any good reasons to allow X. And if God doesn't have any good reason to allow X, than God is either not powerful, not loving, or does not exist."
The atheist in this scenario is arguing with a Christian on the topic of the problem of evil and suffering. He brought up an example of suffering and asked the Christian why God would allow that. The Christian responded that he didn't know, but he's confident must have had some good reason, some morally sufficient reason to allow it. Since the Christian didn't give a reason for why God allowed the suffering, the atheist concluded that there must not have been a good reason, and that therefore God either wasn't powerful, loving, or does not exist.
The problem with his conclusion is that Christian may have been right. God may have had some morally sufficient reason for permitting X that neither of them knew about! We do know that God can bring good out of bad situations. We have many biblical examples of this, and even without the biblical examples, we have good illustrations to demonstrate how a single apparently insignificant event radically alter the world (e.g The Soldier, Chaos Theory, and Sliding Doors illustrations I made in "The Problem Of Evil and Suffering (Revisited)"), illustrations which show us that any event that occurs sends a ripple effect through history, and that God's reasons for permitting something to occur may not even emerge until centuries later and perhaps even in another country! We would need to be omniscient to know whether any instance of suffering is truly either gratuitous or justified. We're in no position to make the judgment that "God has no good reason for permitting this instance of suffering to occur."
That does it for today's post. Come back to Cerebral Faith tomorrow to read about another logical fallacy.