Question

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Meagan

Spot the Fallacy: Loch Ness Expert

Identify the fallacy. IF appropriate, give both type or sub-type. But do NOT include the general category, such as "fallacy of relevance" in your answer.

1.     I believe in the Loch Ness monster because my buddy Edgar says it exists, and Edgar is something of an expert. No, he doesn't have a degree or research experience on the subject. No, he's never been to Loch Ness and has no evidence beyond what he has read. But Edgar claims he's an expert. So I believe in the Loch Ness monster, too. 

asked on Tuesday, Mar 30, 2021 07:12:35 PM by Meagan

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Answers

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Rationalissimo
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 I believe in the Loch Ness monster because my buddy Edgar says it exists, and Edgar is something of an expert. 

This is an appeal to false authority. As we shall see, Edgar isn't really an 'expert', and in any case, we don't know what their 'expertise' is in...so we cannot even trust what is being written here. Also, believing in something because an expert does, even if they're a relevant expert, is still a fallacy - the trust should be based on the expert's word and arguments (informed by their expertise), not the expert themselves.

No, he doesn't have a degree or research experience on the subject. No, he's never been to Loch Ness and has no evidence beyond what he has read. But Edgar claims he's an expert.

Claims of expertise need to be tangible, otherwise the person is simply lying.

So I believe in the Loch Ness monster, too. 

"So I'm not very good at critical thinking either." Ha.

answered on Tuesday, Mar 30, 2021 09:42:54 PM by Rationalissimo

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Shawn writes:

Please keep in mind, however, that the Loch Ness monster still may very well exist and there has been nothing to demonstrate its non-existence. This is important to keep in mind because one could conclude that because Edgar is not an "expert"  or possess any other credentials, therefore what he claims to be true is in fact false due to his lack of credentials. This implies that if Edgar had the requisite expertise or credentials that his claims would be more believable. This in itself is an appeal to authority or an appeal to false expertise. 

posted on Wednesday, Mar 31, 2021 07:50:35 AM
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Bo Bennett, PhD writes:
[To Shawn]

I read nothing indicating even suggesting that the Loch Ness can't possibly exist. The arguments were more about the reason for accepting the claim.

the Loch Ness monster still may very well exist and there has been nothing to demonstrate its non-existence.

If by this, you mean that it has not been demonstrated to be impossible that it exists therefore it would be unreasonable to suggest it is impossible to exist, then this makes sense (but again, the member did not suggest this). However, if by this you are even suggesting (without saying) that this adds to the probability that the Loch Ness monster does exist, then this is unreasonable . The inability to demonstrate non-existence of a being because of the impossibility to do so (i.e., it is impossible to be in every part of Loch Ness at every point in time to warrant impossibility) does not add to the probability that the being does exist.

[ login to reply ] posted on Wednesday, Mar 31, 2021 10:37:57 AM
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Jordan Pine writes:

Housekeeping: How about “Spot the Fallacy: Loch Ness Expert” for this one?

posted on Wednesday, Mar 31, 2021 11:01:10 AM
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Jordan Pine
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The obvious answer is the appeal to false authority, a subset of the argumentum ad verecundiam. However, we have to be careful we don’t fall into a fallacy ourselves in calling this out.

As Wikipedia puts it in the entry for the appeal: “It is also a fallacious ad hominem argument to argue that a person presenting statements lacks authority and thus their arguments do not need to be considered.”

Nessie, here I come!

answered on Wednesday, Mar 31, 2021 10:59:49 AM by Jordan Pine

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Arlo
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The discussion in the original posting seems to lead more strongly to a conclusion about whether Meagan has reason to  believe in Nessie than it does to whether Nessie exists.

As I see the argument, we have:

Edgar reads -- a premise we can probably accept as true

Edgar reads enough to have a solid base of knowledge -- another premise we can probably accept as true

Edgar reads about Nessie -- another premise we can probably accept as true

Edgar claims to be an expert -- another premise we can probably accept as true -- an unsupported implication that others (beyond Meagan) would agree with the claim

Meagan believes Edgar -- a statement that we can accept since Meagan is making the statement and we have no reason to suspect she's being anything but truthful, about her belief or the reason for it.

So, as I see it, we have 4 premises (that, for the purposes of this exercise, we can probably accept as true), 1 implication (that beyond claiming to be an expert, Edgar actually is), and 1 statement of fact about someone's belief.

[ Of course, we also have the implied congruence between "Nessie existing" (Edgar) and "believ(ing) in Nessie" (Meagan).  Perhaps those two situations are the same; however, perhaps there's a distinction between believing in something and thinking that the something exists. ]

For me the words boil down to "I know this person who claims to be an expert because of his reading who says that Nessie exists, therefore I believe in Nessie."  Meagan seems willing to accept that she has sufficient evidence for her belief.  That amount of evidence may or may not be a sufficient threshold for anyone else to believe in Nessie.

At best, the argument is weak ("Someone else said it so I accept it.") with many unsupported claims.  Beyond that, there's the ambiguity of what it takes to be an expert, whether expert opinion is sufficient evidence, and what "believing in" means in this context.

We have to accept the conclusion that Meagan believes in Nessie, since she is the one making the claim and we need to accept her honesty.  We can also accept that Edgar claims Nessie exists. As others have said, none of the above gets us any closer to whether Nessie actually does exist.

answered on Wednesday, Mar 31, 2021 12:48:18 PM by Arlo

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Prof M
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Is there a fallacy that could be called "Appeal to an Unfalsifiable Claim?" I ask this  fully aware of Dr. Bo's stating that the proof of the claim is not the issue. Nonetheless, I ask out of curiosity.

EDIT:" Ha! I just found the answer to my query. There IS such a fallacy called, interestingly enough, "falsifiability!" (Arguably would be better named "UN=falsifiablity.")

 

answered on Wednesday, Mar 31, 2021 05:36:27 PM by Prof M

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Jordan Pine writes:

I think at that point we would just say the claim was “unscientific” since a hallmark of the philosophy of science is making claims that are falsifiable (per Karl Popper). However, making unfalsifiable claims is not a logical fallacy.

To see why, consider the following syllogism:

1. Everything that had a beginning had a cause. 
2. The universe had a beginning. 
3. Therefore the universe had a cause.

This is called the “cosmological argument” for the existence of God. Its first two premises are based on science, and the conclusion based on those premises is logically valid, so it is a powerful argument that is difficult to refute.

That said, its conclusion is also unfalsifiable/unscientific since no one can prove it false (with, say, observation of the beginning of the universe). Alternate theories have, of course, been proposed, but they are also unfalsifiable. See the difference?

As for the Loch Ness Monster, the claim of its existence is technically falsifiable. That is, I suppose it is possible to prove it false by, say, launching multiple expeditions to use sonar to scan the entire loch, or draining the entire loch and looking for Nessie’s flopping body. However, this gets into the area of tinfoil hats rather quickly, stretching the tolerances of our faith in falsifiability.

Person A: No one has ever provided credible evidence for the existence of the Loch Ness Monster.

Person B: Yet .

posted on Thursday, Apr 01, 2021 11:13:04 AM
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Prof M writes:
[To Jordan Pine]

If it isn't a fallacy you should alert Dr. Bo to remove it from his glossary.

[ login to reply ] posted on Saturday, Apr 03, 2021 06:06:50 PM
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Bo Bennett, PhD writes:

so it is a powerful argument for the existence of God that is difficult to refute.

Oh, man. :) This is an argument that the universe had a cause (possibly a cosmic fart, not necessarily a god). There. Refuted. But seriously, there are countless refutations to the cosmological argument. See

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P28hy8JRYUk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yeGCIxyAKuU

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/cosmological-argument/

https://courses.lumenlearning.com/sanjacinto-philosophy/chapter/cosmological-argument-objections-and-counterarguments/

Difficult to refute? Not at all for someone familiar with arguments for God. You do find the refutations convincing? Probably not, but that doesn't mean it is difficult to refute.

BTW, not interested in debating this argument, just pointing out that, at least within the atheist community, this argument is seen as easily refuted.

posted on Thursday, Apr 01, 2021 11:35:11 AM
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GoblinCookie writes:
[To Bo Bennett, PhD]

There is more too it than that.  The universe needs a suitable cause for the kind of universe that it is. 

Just about any cause won't do, it has to be the right kind of cause for what we see.

[ login to reply ] posted on Friday, Apr 02, 2021 09:42:21 AM
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Bo Bennett, PhD writes:
[To GoblinCookie]

Yes, there is a lot more to it. Again, this is not the forum to provide refutations to religious arguments. I do suggest you read https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/cosmological-argument/ if you find this argument convincing for the gods.

[ login to reply ] posted on Friday, Apr 02, 2021 09:53:43 AM
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GoblinCookie writes:
[To Bo Bennett, PhD]

Yes, the idea does not work if the universe is eternal with no actual cause.  So in effect the claim is actually falsifiable, you merely have to prove the universe doesn't have a beginning and you have disproven the first cause argument. 

Problem for Atheists is that everything we presently know from Science points towards a finite universe at least in one direction (it has a beginning).  Particular theistic religious claim (the finity of the universe) seems to be borne out by the actual evidence.  Theism would be in trouble in my opinion if it was found that the universe was not created but always 'just existed', since Theism still needs a god that always 'just existed'.

Point is it seems that the fundamental religious claim of god's existence is actually falsifiable.  

[ login to reply ] posted on Friday, Apr 02, 2021 11:20:10 AM
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Bo Bennett, PhD writes:
[To GoblinCookie]

There is so much here that I an struggling not to dispute, because this isn't the form for relgious arguments. Just PLEASE read the Standford article and you will how everything you said here has been addressed and not at all a "problem for atheists."

Point is it seems that the fundamental religious claim of god's existence is actually falsifiable. 

This I do want to address because it does have to do with logic and reasoning. If we discovered that there actually were countless universes (that exist in the cosmos) and they have been existing for eternity, the faithful could simply push God back again and say "well who created the COSMOS?" At best, the claims of God's characteristics and acts change. The faithful could also resort to God creating the universe as "metaphor," as more educated theists do with the Adam and Eve creation story. The supernatural cannot not be falsified. The existence of a supernatural God cannot be falsified.

[ login to reply ] posted on Friday, Apr 02, 2021 11:31:40 AM
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GoblinCookie writes:
[To Bo Bennett, PhD]

 This I do want to address because it does have to do with logic and reasoning. If we discovered that there actually were countless universes (that exist in the cosmos) and they have been existing for eternity, the faithful could simply push God back again and say "well who created the COSMOS?" At best, the claims of God's characteristics and acts change. The faithful could also resort to God creating the universe as "metaphor," as more educated theists do with the Adam and Eve creation story. The supernatural cannot not be falsified. The existence of a supernatural God cannot be falsified.

A logical argument for the existence of god does not have to do with logic and does not constitute a problem for Atheists?  What?!  The Atheists have to take down the logic of such a proof or else they are done. 

Having to consider the Adam and Eve creation story 'a metaphor' is not a happy state for the Christian religion to be in.  It has been hobbling about ever since, as it's whole traditional theodicy depends upon a fallen creation and death-as-a-punishment for sin.  Yes it survived, barely but it survived by falling back upon bare-bones Theism and reduced much of it's traditional doctrine to chaff in the process; this is why Christianity is metaphorically hobbling along, not 'holding the line' in any effective sense against general unbelief. 

A metaphor must still refer to something concrete.  Adam+Eve (Genesis 2) can metaphorically be used to refer to any kind of 'fall of creation' but no such fall of creation happened either at all in any form.   The physical creation did not fall from any better state and the fact of human death is definitely not a punishment for any man's sin, again not in any sense at all.  The situation is far simpler, they either all but entirely ignore the story and gut their own doctrine (the majority view) or they refuse to accept all the scientific evidence (the minority Creationist view). 

As things stand, Genesis 1 stands a lot better.  It actually works as a metaphor for what is known of the actual situation, because in an extremely vague way it resembles it.  What has happened is that the Christian religions (other than the Creationist ones) have been able to survive by converting themselves into barebones theism.  We could not however the fall of Genesis 1 but we could not survive the discovery of an eternal, uncreated universe. 

You are not wrong in that said discovery would not immediately cause the demise of the Christian religion, but what would happen is that it would perpetually dispute all the evidence for the eternal, uncreated universe, in a similar fashion that Creationists currently do with evolution.  Fortunately for us, all scientific evidence points in the opposite direction, towards a finite universe which is exactly what we need. 

[ login to reply ] posted on Friday, Apr 02, 2021 12:07:05 PM
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Kaiden writes:
[To Bo Bennett, PhD]

A crucial caveat to the first link you posted is that Alex published a video three years later in which he reflects back on the video that you linked. I admire Alex's intellectual growth regarding his understanding of the Kalam argument, which to no surprise followed upon his interview with William Lane Craig. Alex’s 2020 debunking of his 2017 video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGJq5C9wuzk

[ login to reply ] posted on Wednesday, Apr 07, 2021 07:06:30 PM