The Complex Question

Similar to the question-begging epithet is the fallacy called complex question. This is the interrogative form of begging the question—when the arguer attempts to persuade by asking a loaded question. A classic example is this: “Have you stopped beating your wife?” Either a yes or no answer would seem to imply that the person did in the past beat his wife, which may not be the case. The question is “complex” because it should be divided into two questions:

  1. Did you ever beat your wife?
  2. If so, have you now stopped doing this?

Here are some common evolutionary examples of the fallacy of complex question:

“Why are creationists against science?”

This loaded question presumes that creationists are against science, which is not the case. It should have been divided:

  1. Are creationists against science?
  2. If so, why?

Since the answer to the first is no, the second question is not necessary.

“Why is evolution so critical to our understanding of biology?” is fallacious because we should first ask, “Is evolution critical to our understanding of biology?”

Watch for leading questions in evolutionary literature such as, “How were dinosaurs able to survive for millions of years?” This is the fallacy of the complex question because it should be divided:

  1. Did dinosaurs indeed survive for millions of years?
  2. If so, how?
  • “What is the mechanism by which reptiles evolved into birds?”
  • “If the earth truly is 6000 years old as you creationists say, then why do we find rocks that are over 4 billion years old?”
  • “If creation is true, then why does all the scientific evidence point to evolution?”

These all are fallacious questions which used biased language to persuade rather than logic.

One time, after I gave a presentation on creation, an atheist came up to me and asked, “Are you aware of the fact that . . . ?” Before he could complete the sentence, I strongly suspected that it was going to be the fallacy of the complex question. Sure enough, what he was rhetorically asserting to be a fact was not true at all. He had misunderstood some of the things I had presented and had committed some errors in reasoning as well. People sometimes use the formula “Are you aware of the fact that X?” to persuade others of X, when in fact X is logically unproved.

What people judge to be a fallacy often depends on their worldview. Consider this question:

“Have you repented of your sins?”

A non-Christian may consider this to be a complex question and would want it divided:

  1. Have you ever sinned?
  2. If so, have you repented?

From a Christian worldview, however, the question is not complex because we know that all have sinned (Romans 3:23).

Along with the question-begging epithet, the complex question uses biased language in place of logical argumentation. When the evolutionists commit either of these fallacies, we must gently point out that they have not actually made a logical argument. They have rhetorically assumed what they are trying to prove and have, thus, begged the very question at issue.


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