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Argument from incredulity (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (Argument from incredulity (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.


Claim CA100:

It is inconceivable that (fill in the blank) could have originated naturally. Therefore, it must have been created.
This argument, also known as the argument from ignorance or "god of the gaps," is implicit in a very many different creationist arguments. In particular, it is behind all arguments against abiogenesis and any and all claims of intelligent design.


CreationWiki response:

No sources are given for this creationist claim as cited by the evolutionist website, Talk Origins. This in itself should raise alarms, since the best way to make sure that that the evolutionist portrays a creationist view accurately is to have a creationist source to refer to. When we actually look at creationist claims, we can see that this protrayal of the creationist viewpoint is a vast oversimplication of reality.

There may be times when creationists say that something is unbelievable or inconceivable, but normally, at least on their websites, they give good reasons. If the whole creationist argument were simply an unsupported statement of unbelief, Talk Origins would have a good point; to say something is unbelievable without giving a reason is not good argument. But the problem is that Talk Origins oversimplifies; it does not address the reasons for incredulity.

Incredulity is an argument of scepticism about a certain point of view, and the evolutionist and atheist are not innocent of using such an argument. Incredulity, doubt and scepticism about God and special creation, are implicit in every naturalistic explanation they try to concoct about abiogenesis and many other facets of their "theory".

Over-used arguments that can be heard from evolutionists/atheists are:

  • how can a perfect deity create such a messed up world? (translation: it is inconceivable that a perfect deity could create such a messed up world, therefore, since evolution is a theory of messed-up, random natural forces and actions, it must be true)
  • how can (a certain part of a living organism, e.g., the human eye) be designed when it has this mistake or that problem? (translation: it is inconceivable that an intelligent divine designer could create that supposedly malfunctioning part of the living organism; therefore it must have been formed through random, unintelligent, natural forces, i.e. evolution)

All of these arguments could be accurately classed as arguments of incredulity. If no reason is given, any argument from incredulity is weak.

Incredulity is based on human experience and on what we actually know. For example, the belief in abiogenesis can be strongly doubted, one can be sceptical of it, because it has never been observed. What has been observed is biogenesis, life coming from life. What we know is that the complexity in the natural world of living organisms is similar to, in fact much greater than, the complexity of intelligently created devices, such as the clock or the computer. Talk Origins implies that incredulity is an unreasonable position, but it is in fact a foundation for all critical thought. Sensible people do not believe things without evidence. Consider the opposite, credulity; there is no context in which that is not a pejorative word! Considering what they are willing to believe, evolutionists, and Talk Origins in particular, can indeed be classed as credulous.

It is also quite proper for a person of one religion or philosophy to be sceptical of the beliefs of another one. The religion of naturalism, which is the basis of evolution, can properly be rejected by a biblical theist. The evolutionist system may be dominant in the world, but that says nothing about whether it is true. Many have looked at it and found it inadequate; they have found good reasons to be sceptical of it, especially since the account in Genesis better explains very many features of the natural world.


(Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

Really, the claim is "I can't conceive that (fill in the blank)." Others might be able to find a natural explanation; in many cases, they already have. Nobody knows everything, so it is unreasonable to conclude that something is impossible just because you do not know it. Even a noted antievolutionist acknowledges this point: "The peril of negative arguments is that they may rest on our lack of knowledge, rather than on positive results" (Behe 2003).

We are talking about evolution, a theory that tries to tell us what happened in an unseen, unobservable, unrepeatable past. The fact that someone invents a natural "explanation" for something that is unseen, unobserved — and hence unscientific — does not mean that that explanation has any basis in reality. Without supporting evidence, it is a mere suggestion, a speculation. The fact that someone can devise a natural explanation in the context of this "theory", which makes unscientific claims about a hidden past, says nothing about the truth, since, as the Talk Origins author said: "Nobody knows everything". There can easily be a better, supernatural explanation, even if the evolutionist cannot think of it at present. Remember the evolutionist motto: "We may not have a naturalistic explanation now, but in time we'll have one!". Just substitute the word "supernatural" for "naturalistic".

Remember the story of the emperor who had no clothes on. 1 Conmen had fooled him into thinking that he had bought a beautiful gown, which only the wise could see or feel. He believed that others could see it, though he himself could not. So he went out naked, deluded into thinking he had beautiful clothes on. Because everyone had swallowed the tale, they did not wish to appear foolish so they pretended they too could see his "wonderful clothes". One young boy did not worry about appearing foolish and said, "The emperor has no clothes on!" That boy did not have to resort to clever arguments to convince people; as soon as he said it, everyone acknowledged the truth and realised that they had been conned.

Similarly with evolution, all we need to say is that it is just a religious philosophical framework unsupported by evidence. We do not have to devise another naturalistic theory to replace it! And we can say that some proposed natural explanation is garbage without having to give an alternative one. We argue from what we know, that clothes are visible, that probability is a valid discipline, to determine that naturalistic theories are contrary to all our experience and are therefore indeed incredible — the emperor has no clothes!

The argument from incredulity creates a god of the gaps. Gods were responsible for lightning until we determined natural causes for lightning, for infectious diseases until we found bacteria and viruses, for mental illness until we found biochemical causes for them. God is confined only to those parts of the universe we do not know about, and that keeps shrinking.

The Talk Origins author completely misunderstands the concepts of the creation model and of science itself. Firstly, he is talking about normal science, the science that deals with the present, with the observable, with what already exists. Evolution is not this kind of science, since it deals with a hidden past, outside human experience, that science cannot investigate. Real science can help us understand how the natural world operates now. Evolution has no useful insights to offer, rather the contrary 2.

Secondly, the author misunderstands God's role in the universe. The regularity of the universe, that enables science to operate, is the result of God's faithfulness and consistency. We are intended to investigate and try to understand his ways. When we discover the natural mechanisms that cause lightning, God does not stop using them. When we discover the causes of diseases and their cures, God does not change his ways. There are no gaps, except in our understanding of God's world and of all that he has done.


References

  1. The Emperor Has No Clothes On
  2. Back problems: how Darwinism misled researchers


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