While writing a critical thinking exam in university, I remember running into a question (or three) which asked me to identify fallacies—faulty forms of logic—in the arguments of fictitious creationists. Some of my textbooks also contained sections teaching students to refute certain arguments creationists supposedly endorse. I witnessed firsthand how mainstream education systems are trying to outfit an army of evolutionary apologists trained to attack creationists. How should we respond, as Christians, when we hear arguments for the Bible being attacked as fallacious?
Responding to Accusations
We might feel unsettled when we hear an intelligent-sounding skeptic accuse creationists of using fallacies, as though that individual has all the logic on their side. But as many other articles explain, a plethora of logically sound arguments affirms the Bible’s truth—and a biblical worldview supplies a foundation for logical reasoning in the first place. So, we have zero grounds to panic when someone claims a creationist is using a fallacy. Instead, we can investigate the claim by asking three questions:
Question #1: Is the creationist argument being accurately represented? Note: if someone misrepresents an argument to make it seem weaker than it really is, then that person is committing a straw man fallacy.
Question #2: If the answer to Question #1 is yes, does the creationist argument really contain a fallacy? (See this logical fallacy series or watch CT (Critical Thinking) Scan for more on how to recognize specific fallacies.)
Question #3: If the answer to Question #2 is yes, does that mean the Bible isn’t true? (Hint: the answer is no.)
Ad Logicam Fallacies
Question #3 applies the critical thinking hack of asking, “Is this message true or false because . . . ?” In this case, we’re asking, “Is the Bible false because someone uses a fallacy to argue for it?” Worded this way, the answer is clearly no. It’s quite possible (albeit, unhelpful) to use flawed logic when trying to defend a true conclusion. Saying that a message is false because someone is defending it with a fallacy is itself a fallacy, called argument from fallacy, or ad logicam.1
Even though trying to defend Scripture with fallacious arguments can’t make the Bible less true, it can make people who defend the Bible sound less credible. So, as Christians, we must be vigilant to exercise sound logic, avoiding fallacious or dubious claims. (See: Arguments creationists should avoid.)
An Example of a Common “Creationist Fallacy”
To practice responding to claims asserting that creationists exercise flawed logic—and to learn how to avoid using flawed logic ourselves—let’s examine a real-life “creationist fallacy.”
In a paper entitled “Argumentation and fallacies in creationist writings against evolutionary theory,” researchers looked for fallacies in texts promoting biblical creation, old earth creation, or intelligent design.2 To their credit, the authors also commented on fallacies in some evolutionist responses to these arguments.
Of 14 fallacies the paper considered, any guesses which error the authors decided was the most common in the texts they examined? (Answer: the appeal to authority fallacy.)
Appeals to authority argue that a message is true or false only because a relevant expert said so, without providing additional supporting premises. The authors pointed out that creationists frequently quote evolutionists’ remarks about some of the serious problems with evolutionary hypotheses. Essentially, the authors claimed that creationists argue, “Evolution is false because evolutionary experts say so.”
If that’s really where creationists left their arguments, then this would be an appeal to authority fallacy. But from what I’ve seen, evolutionist quotes aren’t normally meant to stand alone in solid creationist writings. Rather, they supplement a larger discussion of how observational science supports a biblical interpretation rather than an evolutionary one—and how even some evolutionary experts recognize the problems with the evolutionary interpretation. That’s quite different from saying “evolution is false because an expert said so,” and therefore is not a fallacy.
In the end, we have no reason to second-guess our biblical beliefs when confronted with “creationist fallacy” claims. Instead, we can investigate each claim, consider whether the creationist argument is being accurately represented, and check if it really involves a fallacy. If it does, we can seize the learning opportunity to better defend our hope in Christ (1 Peter 3:15) by avoiding that fallacy in the future. And we can remember that no fallacious argument can subtract from the “many infallible proofs”3 which affirm the word of our Creator, whose character and orderly universe enable us to reason logically in the first place—even during critical thinking exams.