Argumentum ad ignorantiam

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The argumentum ad ignorantiam (also known as the argument from ignorance) is a logical fallacy wherein the speaker claims that a proposition is true because it has not been shown to be false, or vice versa. The argument is a form of non sequitur and a false dichotomy.

Contents

Fallacy

Someone using the argument from ignorance will generally claim that either:

  1. They don't know how an argument could be false, therefore it must be true.
  2. They don't know how an argument could be true, therefore it must be false.

They are arguing for a particular default position that they prefer. If there is scientific evidence against their default position, it will frequently be dismissed or ignored.

Examples

  • Since scientists cannot prove that global warming will occur, it probably won't. [1]

"There will never be an Isaac Newton for a blade of grass."

Immanuel Kant
"This a homage is rendered to the sacred seal [of obscurity], which the Almighty has set upon each of his works. [2]"

Use in apologetics

The argumentum ad ignorantiam is commonly used as a proof of the existence of God. It is the fallacy that is perhaps the most common in religious apologetics.

God of the gaps

Main Article: God of the gaps

The most common form in apologetics is the "God of the gaps" argument which argues that since some phenomenon is unexplained, it must be due to God. It is also a form of non sequitur, since the hand of God is posited without proof and often with complete disregard to other possible explanations.

Argument from personal incredulity

Argument from personal incredulity is a statement like "I can't see how that is possible, therefore it is impossible". It is a form of argument from ignorance.

It contains an unstated premise: "if something cannot be understood to be possible, it is impossible". This overlooks the possibility that the speaker lacks knowledge or has a failure of imagination.

Occurrence

Apologetic arguments that commit this fallacy include:

External links

References

  1. [1]
  2. George Redford, Holy Scripture Verified 1837
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