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The Argument from Incredulity - Avoid it at All Costs When You Debate Evolution

Updated on August 25, 2009

The Argument from Incredulity - Avoid it at All Costs When You Debate Evolution

The Argument from Incredulity represents a dangerous trap into which many online debaters fall. The basic premise for an Argument from Incredulity is this:

"I don't understand how "Y" could have happened, therefore it did not happen."

Simple Examples

The Argument from Incredulity often rears its' ugly head at the end of a series of points, some of which may even be valid. As a summary statement, a debater may assert:

"I don't know why a loving God could allow babies to die in war, therefore there is no God."

The debater makes an admission: he/she doesn't understand how to reconcile innocent deaths with the concept of a loving God. That's neither a valid or invalid statement; it's an expression of a the debater's point of view. It can't be gainsaid. If a person doesn't understand something and admits such, no argument can be made. However, the conclusion that based on this lack of understanding no God can exist is specious.

"I don't understand how my cell phone works, therefore I don't believe in cell phones."

This example is uncommon, but the point is made. As a percentage of the population, very few people can explain the physics of a cell phone. This ignorance isn't enough to prevent millions from using the devices. 

Avoiding the Argument from Incredulity

Avoid the Argument from Incredulity by understanding both sides of an issue.

"I don't understand how "Y" could have happened. Here's why some people think it happened. Here's why I disagree with them.

This approach opens the door for rational discourse rather than emotional reactions. Without question, more work is required to build this argument. It can be scary to dig a little deeper.

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    • nicomp profile imageAUTHOR

      nicomp really 

      7 years ago from Ohio, USA

      @Abraham: You're begging a question, but that's a topic for another article.

    • profile image

      Abraham 

      7 years ago

      I find it interesting (and odd) that the author used the example "I don't know why a loving God could allow babies to die in war, therefore there is no God.", when theist use the argument from incredulity ad nauseam: "I don't know how the universe/life/intelligence/mind/morals/whatever can exist without it being created by a(my) god, therefore (my) god exists."

    • The Old Firm profile image

      The Old Firm 

      8 years ago from Waikato/Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand

      Yeah Right!

    • nicomp profile imageAUTHOR

      nicomp really 

      8 years ago from Ohio, USA

      The Old Firm: As ever, you delve to the heart of the matter. We communicate on different planes, yet you somehow interconnect our diverse insights with insightful interpolations involving intense implications.

    • The Old Firm profile image

      The Old Firm 

      8 years ago from Waikato/Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand

      Whether you exist or not in my reality is immaterial as far as your perceived mortgage goes. As long as your apparent bank thinks that you owe them money your stuck my thoughtful friend.

      Again, you, your bank and your mortgage may be nothing but a concept in the mind of whoever's fantasised Hubpages for my obfuscation.

      That I'm in communication with some-one or something other than myself is obvious (to me)- But what?

      Toby or not Toby, that is the question.

      Cheers,

      That Other Fellow

    • nicomp profile imageAUTHOR

      nicomp really 

      8 years ago from Ohio, USA

      @The Old Firm: If you don't think I exist, then I must not. This will come as quite a shock to the bank that holds my mortgage, but we'll all get through it.

      On the other hand, if you are so impressed by my work that you don't see how I could possibly exist in human form, that's Argument from Incredulity.

      ;)

    • The Old Firm profile image

      The Old Firm 

      8 years ago from Waikato/Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand

      I have never met you nicomp, nor any of the others who's names appear on Hubpages and who maintain that they exist as separate identities. How do I know that any of you are actually real and not the imaginative ramblings of some satanic CIA geek who's hacked my computer?

      In 65 years, if I've actually existed that long and not had my history artificially created when I was and implanted in my mind, I've found no substantial proof that there are more than 37 people in existence in my concept of the "real" world. All the rest are quite possibly cardboard cut-outs, Holograms, mentally generated deceptions or what have you. (assuming that "you" are a reality.)

      Therefore, I can assume no real proof of evolution, or that I personally evolved. Did my mother, who is now dead, ever actually exist? Did my father? (Mind you a lot of people, if they do exist, wonder the same. - or why they more resemble Uncle Ted or the local drug pusher than their mothers husband)

      Just an incredulous thought.

      Cheers,

      Thinking Over Figments

    • nicomp profile imageAUTHOR

      nicomp really 

      8 years ago from Ohio, USA

      Sure would be nice! Thanks.

    • DanDnAZ profile image

      Dan Demland 

      8 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

      I wish more people would think like this BEFORE they open their mouth.

      I would think we would have a lot less unthoughtful and emotional arguments, and the facts could be debated on their own merits.

    • nicomp profile imageAUTHOR

      nicomp really 

      8 years ago from Ohio, USA

      Good points. Thanks for contributing.

    • profile image

      A Texan 

      8 years ago

      I try and never debate what is simply a matter of faith, I believe in God and therefore I have faith. If I am wrong then no harm done, but the bible says that people will attack believers because they are simply believers, and that prophesy has come to pass!

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