Buyer Beware! Don't Swallow Evolutionist Sophistry
by James J. S. Johnson, J.D., Th.D. *
Evolutionary propaganda is more than just science fiction—it is hyped and sold with slick sophistry. Its proponents routinely offer what appears to be a straightforward choice: To explain origins, you must choose science or religion, evolution or the Bible.
This challenge, however, is actually an argumentative mix of logical fallacies. Although many more fallacies are used by those who “sell” evolution, this article will examine just three: false dichotomies, begging the question, and bait and switch.
A false dichotomy involves the implication that a choice must be “either” this “or” that. Evolutionists have a bad habit of bluffing with bogus either-or dilemmas (also called false dilemmas, or bifurcation fallacies). An evolutionist may hoodwink someone into thinking that only two choices exist, then denigrate one of those choices and—voila!—it appears that the argument supporting evolution is proven “true.”
The logical fallacy is the necessary implication that a third alternative cannot exist. Admittedly, some choices in life really are dilemmas—a choice of exactly two options. Believe God or don’t believe God.1 Side with Christ or fail to side with Christ.2
But in most real-world situations, the available options exceed two. Consider the following supposedly either-or choice once posed to the Lord Jesus Christ:
And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? (John 9:2)
Notice how the Lord Jesus refused to be limited to the disciples’ dilemma when He replied:
Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. (John 9:3)
Of course, Christ knew that He was going to heal the blind man. The real purpose of his blindness was that one day the miraculous healing by Christ would manifest “the works of God” in the blind man’s life (which it did).
Christ was not implying that the man had never sinned. Rather, He denied that the man’s sins, or those of his parents, were the cause of the blindness.
Either-or fallacies are often used to oppose biblical creation concepts. For example, the so-called “starlight problem” (also called the “light-travel-time” problem) is asserted to contradict the Bible’s teaching of a young creation, based on the assumption that starlight must have always traveled at the “constant” speed at which it now travels—even during the creation week. In that case, if creation only took six days, how could light from stars billions of light years away be visible to mankind almost immediately?
Yet plants sprouted and matured at supernatural speeds during the creation week, so why couldn’t God accelerate starlight travel (or use some other method) so that it could achieve its created purpose for serving mankind?3 To claim that visible starlight must negate a young creation presupposes that the speed of light was constant during the creation week.
Begging the Question
The second false argument employed by evolutionists is “begging the question,” which uses a conclusion as a premise for proving that conclusion. If the evolutionist’s challenge presented in the opening paragraph were analyzed as a syllogism, it would be rephrased as:
Premise 1: To explain origins, you must make a choice: science or religion.
Premise 2: Explaining origins by evolution demonstrates “science,” whereas explaining origins by biblical information and insights demonstrates “religion” (which cannot be considered scientific).
Conclusion: Therefore, if you want a scientific explanation of origins, you must trust the evolutionists’ explanation; you cannot trust the Bible.
Yet notice the following hidden assumptions that are built into the necessarily implied (or inferred) rationale of this hypothetical either-or choice.
Hidden Assumption 1: “Science” and “religion” explain origins in mutually exclusive ways, which itself requires that all religious explanations of origins clash with all scientific explanations.
But Hidden Assumption 1 is false. Biblical information and scientific teaching often concur, proving that a biblical explanation and a “scientific” explanation need not be mutually exclusive.4
Hidden Assumption 2: For an explanation of origins to be based on real science, it must be based on evolution, whereas an explanation of origins based on the Bible must clash with science. This further involves three sub-assumptions when it comes to explaining origins:
a. “Science” equals evolution.
b. “Religion” equals the Bible.
c. Science/evolution clashes with religion/the Bible.
Hidden Assumption 2 is false because real-world science was founded by Bible-believing scientists.5 Its three sub-assumptions are equally false.6, 7, 8
Therefore, the underlying argument of this either-or choice involves the logical fallacy of begging the question, because its underlying syllogism argument actually means:
Clarified Premise 1: The only scientifically acceptable explanation of origins is evolution (which is not religious), whereas any explanation of origins that is deemed religious (such as the Bible’s explanation) cannot be scientifically acceptable.
Clarified Premise 2: The Bible’s explanation of origins is deemed religious because some people believe it religiously, so it cannot be scientifically acceptable as an explanation of origins.
Clarified Conclusion: The only scientifically acceptable explanation of origins is evolution (which is not religious), whereas any explanation of origins that is deemed religious (such as the Bible’s explanation) cannot be scientifically acceptable.
Notice that the clarified conclusion is, in effect, only a restatement of what was already assumed in the first premise. That is “begging the question”—assuming the very point of an argument’s conclusion.
Bait and Switch
The third false argument is “bait and switch,” in which ambiguity (or some type of word play) is employed to alter the original meaning of a phrase or word such as “science” (which can have more than one definition).
If the word “science” is used to mean empirical science (i.e., the study of what is observable in the present), all origins science explanations—both creationist and evolutionary approaches to explaining the past—are excluded.
The ploy usually used is the idea that if a scientist teaches something, what is taught is “science.” Evolution is deemed to be science because many scientists teach it, yet what about when a creationist scientist teaches something? Inconsistently, the creationist teaching is mislabeled as “not science,” because a switched definition of science is used, one that allows only evolutionary teachings.
When a slick salesman (or a smug scientist on TV) offers you a bill of goods, beware! An either-or fallacy may be facing you; it might beg its own question; or it might be a bait-and-switch. If you swallow the evolutionists’ sophistry, you will be buying into science fiction!
- John 3:16-21.
- Luke 11:23.
- See Faulkner, D. 2004. Universe by Design: An Explanation of Cosmology and Creation. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 98-104. (There is no “slam-dunk” simplicity to this topic, so certainly there is no justification for decreeing an either-or solution.)
- For example, the Laws of Thermodynamics accord with Genesis 1-3 and Romans 8; the hydrologic cycle accords with Isaiah 55:10; the variety of stars accords with 1 Corinthians 15:41; the biological importance of blood accords with Leviticus 17:11; the roundness of the earth accords with Isaiah 40:22; biological principles of biogenesis and biodiversity within genetic boundaries accord with Genesis 1 and 9.
- For example, Johann Kepler, Conrad Gessner, John Ray, Sir Isaac Newton, Lord Kelvin, Robert Boyle, Matthew Maury, Michael Faraday, Jedidiah Morse, George Washington Carver, among others, and has been extended by Bible-believing scientists such as Drs. Henry Morris, Duane Gish, A. E. Wilder-Smith, Raymond Damadian, Steven Austin, and many more.
- Hidden assumption 2a is false because evolutionary theory, being a non-empirical theory, is inherently “religious” in substance. Empirical science must be based on observations in the present. Guesses about the past (even educated guesses) are not empirical science, although they might be forensic science.
- Hidden assumption 2b is false because there are dozens of religions that disagree with the Bible, so it is obvious that “religion” does not equal “Bible” (and vice versa).
- Hidden assumption 2c is wrong because both 2a and 2b are wrong. Also, in some aspects 2c is wrong because sound empirical science concurs with the information provided in the Bible regarding origins. For example, observations of the eruption of Mount St. Helens corroborate catastrophist geology principles that fit the description of the Genesis Flood, so it is false to claim that all modern empirical science clashes with what the Bible teaches about the earth’s catastrophic past.
Photo credit: Steve Webel, used by permission
* Dr. Johnson is Associate Professor of Apologetics at the Institute for Creation Research.
Cite this article: Johnson, J. J. S. 2011. Buyer Beware! Don’t Swallow Evolutionist Sophistry. Acts & Facts. 40 (1): 8-9.