The Alleged Fallacies of Evolutionary Theory

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Philosophy Now
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The Alleged Fallacies of Evolutionary Theory

Post by Philosophy Now »

In Issue 44, Peter Williams claimed to have found numerous logical fallacies in the writings of Richard Dawkins. His article has provoked this blow-by-blow response from Massimo Pigliucci, Joshua Banta, Christen Bossu, Paula Crouse, Troy Dexter, Kerry Hansknecht and Norris Muth. ... ary_Theory
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Resha Caner
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Re: The Alleged Fallacies of Evolutionary Theory

Post by Resha Caner »

The purpose stated by this article was, "not meant as a defense of Dawkins (who can surely take care of himself), but rather as a stimulating exercise tackling the logical framework of modern evolutionary theory and its real or perceived philosophical implications."

I'll state up front that I don't like the polemic approach of Dawkins, so it was nice to see the authors say, on several occassions, that "We chastise Dawkins for his language." Further, I will agree with some of their challenges to the original article by Williams. For example, his non sequitur argument was pretty weak and a bit hard to follow. And, I knew when the name of Dembski came up that there would be a charge against Williams for a fallacious appeal to authority.

From there I'll mention that a few of the stabs against Williams were humorous. For example, the reply to his wishful thinking argument came across as, "OK, you got us, but we really don't want to admit it so we'll throw this out there." Another was the section purporting that Dawkins' logic is sound given that he proceeds from the assumption that "God is a fairy tale."

But several replies missed the mark. First, I don't know if it was intentional, but the reply to the self-contradiction argument only addressed one of the two issues. What was not addressed was the, "Don't follow those people blindly. Follow me blindly." aspect of Dawkin's writing. This is not a particular fallacy of Dawkins alone. Many fall into this trap. The smart debater realizes two things. First, in the end, all debate is about persuasion, so to attack the idea that your opponent is trying to be persuasive is a stupid idea. Second, no one is completely objective. So, again, to mention that your opponent is not completely objective is also a stupid idea. In the end, both of these accusations will only hang the one who makes them. Dawkins does make these mistakes - plain and simple.

Finally, though, the authors fall prey to two of the very same charges leveled against Dawkins.

First, they equivocate on the term "evolution" as if it will avoid some of the most common objections. The fact is that the term "evolution" was not as carefully defined in past scientific literature as it is now. I kick myself that I lost track of my examples of this, and task myself with recreating that list. I hope for now people will trust me that in past scientific literature the use of the word evolution was often conflated with issues of both origins and species descent. That the term has since been clarified does not erase the colloquial legacy. When common people speak of evolution, they still mean a combination of both origins and descent. The first attempts to separate the two were also confusing, as they were called "chemical evolution" and "species evolution." So, suppose we concede the current definition of evolution to mean descent of species, and that the proper term for theories about a mechanistic origin of life is "abiogenesis." Fine. Now that we're all clear on terms, the debate still remains. The arguments against abiogenesis still apply. The arguments against evolution also still apply. Now that we're all satisfied with how the terms are used, let's drop the equivocation and move on to address the actual argument - the point being that to opponents of abiogenesis, many of the answers given still sound like, "It's turtles all the way down."

Second, with respect to the role of evidence in Christianity, the authors try to deflect this with the odd claim that Dawkins had no intent to insult any specific person but only religion in general ... as if that makes it all OK. In so doing, they completely overlook the part of the McGrath quote that Christianity, "does not hold that faith involves ... the absence of evidence." This is evident from that fact that they claim, "one cannot provide any evidence to back up such constructs" (i.e. that God exists), when the actual debate is over the meaning of evidence itself.

And that is my main objection to this article. It purports to look under the covers at the philosophies that underlie the arguments of both sides, but I see very little of that. So, what philosophies do underlie evolution/abiogenesis? creationism? I think they are largely opposites. Evolutionists tend to subscribe to physicalism, while creationists tend to follow dualism. Evolutionists are prone to scientism, creationists to mysticism. But not all. Some try to find a middle ground between those philosophies.

The interesting questions then, are what prompted opposing sides to adopt those philosophies, and what are the implications of adhering to them?
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Re: The Alleged Fallacies of Evolutionary Theory

Post by Wootah »

Oh I do like you.
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