One of the debate groups I belong to is being bombarded by a barrage of attacks from a veritable army of straw men, most of whom deny evolution. Hence I must write this so that I can link to it or copy and paste my counterargument in future.
I’m not a scientist, although I find science interesting. I reject the belief in all gods by logic alone, so it gets frustrating real soon when I enter into debates with science deniers who assume that if one denies science, god is the only alternative. Science and religion are two different things, and my rejection of your religions has nothing to do with science.
Image used without permission to improve browser preview. (Sorry!)
I don’t know how accurate the above depiction of human evolution is. It doesn’t matter, as all I wanted was an image that doesn’t give the incorrect impression that we evolved from apes – one that includes a common ancestor. So the above is obviously oversimplified but suits my purpose of demonstrating that evolution, as presented by theists in debates, is often a straw man argument.
Onto the argument…
Disproving evolution would not prove the existence of God
First off, atheism is not evolution, and there are plenty of religious people who believe in evolution. But to be honest, I don’t care if you accept evolution or not. The argument is fallacious on several levels.
In a nutshell, the argument is that evolution is not true, and therefore your god exists. And you argue this without knowing what evolution actually is, so you most likely deny some sort of straw man (a caricature) of evolution. But I don’t care. It doesn’t matter if evolution is true or not.
- Evolution is not true.
- Therefore a creator exists.
- Conclusion: This is proof of my god (whichever one it may be).
Let’s pretend that you have the first point. Let’s ignore all the evidence for evolution and pretend that it isn’t true. (Evolution is a scientific theory, and I don’t need science to refute theism. Logic is enough.)
How do you get to point two?
A lack of one explanation does not mean that you can concoct another, and have everybody accept yours. If you knew that evolution wasn’t true, the origin of humans and every other animal would become unknown. There is no logical connection between unknown and god. Just because something is not known doesn’t mean that an explanation can’t be found. It means that an explanation hasn’t been found yet. It doesn’t automatically make whatever you fabricate as an explanation true, or mean that whatever you speculate should be accepted at face value. Your claim that a god exists is not exempt from criticism just because you assume it to be true. Such a claim requires evidence to be accepted. God is simply a ready-made explanation. In this argument, god is indistinguishable from magic.
“I don’t know, therefore god.” is not an explanation. It is simply a magical made up answer. And how do you, with this generic argument, then get to your particular god? How do you get to point three?
The answer is simple… The entire argument avoids the issue that is actually the focus of debate. The claimant claims that a god exists, and instead of presenting evidence of the claim, denies something else, in this case evolution. Additionally, anyone who makes use of this argument starts with the assumption that god exists (so they use circular reasoning as well), but not just any god, the god that they already believe in. They deny evolution because they see it as the most popular explanation that contradicts belief in their god, then assume that if evolution isn’t true, their god must exist. That’s a false dilemma because evolution not being true does not mean your god exists, it just means that we don’t know our origin. You seek to disprove what contradicts your religion only to confirm what you already believe, despite there being no relation between the two explanations and those explanations being neither polar opposites nor mutually exclusive to one another.
Besides all the fallacies already mentioned, if you genuinely believe that evolution and religion are arguments of equal merit, even though evolution is a scientific theory and god is just a made up magical explanation for the unknown – a hypothesis made by ancient man and passed down, then you’re also committing a false equivalence fallacy. The scientific theory has evidence, whether you dispute it or not. The god hypothesis has dogma and no evidence whatsoever, but instead relies on indoctrination, the process of instilling belief in children before they are old enough to think critically, producing adults who are unaware that they are brainwashed and cannot evaluate their own beliefs critically.
Conclusion: The argument is an argument from incredulity, which is a type of argument from ignorance. It assumes a binary choice between evolution and belief in god, thus it includes an implicit false dilemma. It can be phrased to equate dogma, which has zero evidence, with a scientific theory that does have evidence, and thus treating them as arguments of equal merit is a false equivalence. Instead of providing evidence of the claim that a god exists, it avoids the issue by arguing against a scientific theory which is unrelated to the debate, often employing a straw man of evolution or abiogenesis to do so. Furthermore, the conclusion, that god exists, is assumed by the premises of the argument, so this is also an example of circular reasoning.
Did you count the fallacies? There are seven above, although to be fair the argument from incredulity and argument from ignorance are one and the same, so that leaves six. Six fallacies in one silly argument I’ve seen several times recently presented by several different people, and that’s why I needed to write this once rather than reply to every one of them. (Of course it’s unlikely that any of them will read this, or even understand it if they do.)
What gets to me is that the atheist debaters often get roped in to arguing about evolution in threads where this argument is made. In such cases, I commend the theists, who have successfully avoided the issue and suckered the atheists into arguing about something else, and by doing so, encouraging those theists to continue their absurd arguments that skirt the issue of the claim they make that their god exists.