Have you ever heard someone say something like this, “Evolution must be true because Dr. Smith, my biology professor, teaches it as a fact” ? It’s obvious that “Dr. Smith” is an expert on biology and many people might wonder why we would dare question what an expert or authority says. But if we just accept whatever “Dr. Smith” says, we may end up using bad reasoning by accepting the “faulty appeal to authority” logical fallacy (more about logical fallacies here). This fallacious reasoning is used when someone accepts an argument just because of a person who endorses it. One very clear and common example of this is when people buy products merely because their favorite celebrity was shown in an advertisement for the product.
When you hear a questionable claim from an “expert” ask yourself these three questions so that you don’t fall into this reasoning trap. First, ask yourself what is this person really an expert on – in what areas does he or she have special knowledge or experience? “Dr. Smith” in our analogy has done many observations and experiments on living things today, so he is probably a reliable expert on how creatures live and function today. However, evolution is more of a question of history rather than observational biology in the present. Second, ask yourself if the expert’s worldview is going to give them a faulty bias. Finally, ask yourself if the expert is fallible and might have made a mistake. Since all people are fallible and have a limited scope of expertise, God is the only completely reliable authority.
A similar common fallacy you might hear a lot of in creation vs. evolution debate is the crowd appeal fallacy. I encountered this fallacy in a comment I received online once: “most scientists date dinosaurs to millions of years ago. And from what little I know of the evidence, I would tend to agree with them”. It’s important to remember that truth is not determined by vote! You might also hear the reverse of this fallacy, the snob appeal, when a person says that one position is better because few people take it. As creationists, it’s important to not use this fallacy by saying things like “because creationists are rare, we are cutting-edge scientists” as an argument to support our position on creation.
“Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace . . . “ ~ Hebrews 13:9 [KJV]
Discerning Truth, by Dr. Jason Lisle
The Fallacy Detective, by Hans and Nathanial Bluedorn
Copyright Sara J. Bruegel, 2014. Used with permission