June 10, 2009

Life Guided By Fallacies

Techskeptic has a nice thought on what it is to be a "denialist." It is, in essence, an approach to an unpleasant subject guided by the Nirvana fallacy. He writes of those who would deny global warming, but his thought seems to apply to a periennial exchange with which I am more familiar: evolution.

The fossil record does not, upon examination, produce an exactly-as-expected picture of smooth transitions from one form of an organism to another form; there are gaps and few transitions. Therefore, because the evidence is not precisely as evolution would have predicted, evolution is false. Frequently from there, other logical errors come in to play -- since evolution has been "proven" false, creationism is therefore proven true.

One might be surprised, unpleasantly, to learn how often poor logic like this is used in the law. And in a great many other human endeavors. I'd venture to say that for a lot of people, significant portions of their lives are guided by fallacious thinking.

4 comments:

Left Coast Rebel said...

And that is why our society is in such bad shape......

DaveBuck said...

I'm having trouble as a denialist though. I deny the claims about Obama faking his birth certificate and was actually born in another country. There is 'evidence' to support this claim, but it's not enough to convince me.

The terms evidence and proof perhaps deserve some discussion about what counts as enough evidence and when one can be confident that the claim is likely true.

Extraordinary claims...

Transplanted Lawyer said...

The essence of the denialist attitude (as defined) is that only perfect evidence will ever amount to proof. A reasonable person may reject a proposition for which only minimally-persuasive evidence has offered, particularly when reasonable countervailing evidence exists against which the poor evidence can be balanced.

DaveBuck said...

I don't want to get into a global warming debate. I'm wondering, though, if there is enough countervailing evidence out there that allows a person to reject (or at least be skeptical) of anthropomorphic global warming claims?

I'm saying that I don't think all of the anti-global warming people are denialists and maybe some of the anti-evolution people aren't either. I have to think on that some more though.