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The Fallacious Appeal To Personal Prejudice

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  • Todd S. Greene
    The Fallacious Appeal To Personal Prejudice by Todd S. Greene (April 14, 1999) The most important rational consideration of all is a healthy skepticism toward
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 2, 2007
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      The Fallacious Appeal To Personal Prejudice
      by Todd S. Greene (April 14, 1999)

      The most important rational consideration of all is a healthy
      skepticism toward your own personal beliefs. When attempting to
      verify or falsify a proposition, it is completely irrelevant to
      attack an implication of the proposition based on psychological
      apprehension.

      As an example of this within the scope of the standard mystical
      criticisms of naturalism or evolution, we tend to find that the real
      (psychological) argument mystics have against evolution is simply
      that they do not like what they perceive to be the implication of
      evolution that the Christian God (or some other mystical being) is
      only imaginary and thus Christian morality (or some other mystically-
      based morality) loses its supposed solid foundation.

      Here's another way that this particular attack against evolution
      might be worded: We should reject evolution because we cannot reject
      our belief in our God because this in turn would destroy the basis
      that we have for our morality.

      This is, I believe, the primary motivation behind fundamentalists'
      denunciation of evolution in particular, and mystics' objection to
      naturalism in general. Their belief that morality possesses a
      fundamentally mystical basis implies to them that naturalism, by
      destroying mysticism, destroys the basis for morality.

      However, even if it this mystical claim was correct, how would this
      present a rational argument against evolution, or against the
      naturalist perspective in general? "I know this idea must be wrong,
      because I don't like it's social consequences." This is an argument
      based on personal prejudices, not on empirical observation or
      rational analysis.

      Saying "I don't like what I think evolution implies" is simply not a
      legitimate argument against evolution. In terms of reason and truth-
      seeking, this kind of criticism is totally irrelevant.

      I have always found it intriguing that so few fundamentalists or
      mystics demonstrate even the slightest awareness of the entirely
      subjective nature of this argument. They use the vocabulary of reason
      as a disguise for essentially emotional considerations.

      Moreover, in raising their psychological attachment to their beliefs
      above truth-seeking, they have abandoned their espoused veneration of
      their adherence to the truth. They seem to have no awareness of the
      fact that their claim of highly valuing "truth" obligates them to
      evaluate evolution separate and apart from how uncomfortable it might
      make them feel because of its implications with regard to their
      personal beliefs. In their rush to defend their supposed "objective"
      morality, they destroy their pursuit of genuinely objective truth.

      In an attempt to try to keep evolution, and science in general,
      neutral with respect to religion, some have espoused the attitude
      that "a science like evolution is only about matters of empirical
      fact and hence can have nothing to say about God and morality." This
      claim is certainly debatable, but the focus of this particular essay
      is this: Even if evolution really did have implications with regard
      to our ideas about God and morality, since evolution is about matters
      of empirical fact we cannot base any part of our evaluations of
      evolution on our personal feelings about those implications. Genuine
      truth-seeking demands that you ignore your personal prejudices.

      This inherent contradiction in the fundamentalist Christian attack
      against science and evolution is the most critical fallacy of the
      creationist perspective.

      Ethics and morality are not entirely subjective, because our personal
      behavior has real world consequences, but ethics and morality do have
      substantial subjective aspects to them. But to claim that morality
      must be based on religion (mystical considerations) rather than
      naturalism does not at all provide ethics and morality with a
      rationally firmer foundation. Religion does not make morality
      more "objective."

      Which religion? Buddhism? Which variety? Hinduism? Which tradition?
      Christianity? Which of the thousands of flavors? Catholic? Baptist?
      Disciples of Christ? Fundamentalist Pentacostalism? Talk about
      subjective morality! As an entirely practical matter, Christianity
      has simply not provided any kind of bulwark against "subjective
      morality."

      So this mystical argument against evolution, based as it is on how
      aspects of naturalism affect the mystical basis for morality, is
      simply not relevant in the realm of reason. If you reject
      consideration of evolution because it makes you feel uncomfortable
      about losing what you consider to be your basis for whatever moral
      code you happen to follow, then you are placing your personal
      feelings above reason.

      Doing this doesn't make you wrong and a bad person. However, it does
      mean that you can't legitimately claim to be a truth-seeker, and you
      can't claim to be criticizing evolution on the basis of reality and
      reason when you are ultimately making your judgments based on
      emotional considerations.

      Truth-seeking demands a reasoned consideration of ideas, not an
      emotional one.

      ================================================================

      Addendum

      Someone who read this essay took exception to my major premise,
      claiming that it was a "straw man." He claimed that creationists do
      not argue against evolution based on personal prejudices. So I have
      added the following references as just a few examples that verify
      what I had thought was an obvious point. This kind of emotional
      attack against evolution is pervasive in the fundamentalist attitude.

      ----------------------------------------------------------------

      Question: "But isn't this so-called scientific creationism simply a
      back-door method of getting Biblical creationism introduced [in
      public education]?"

      Answer: We could just as easily ask whether teaching evolution is a
      back-door method of teaching atheism.

      [What Is Creation Science, by Henry M. Morris and Gary E. Parker
      (1982, p. 264)]

      ----------------------------------------------------------------

      The Biblical teachings of man's responsibility to his Creator, the
      fact of sin and the fall of man, and the necessity of redemption and
      regeneration, have all been set aside in favor of the concepts of
      evolutionary progress, of universal struggle and natural selection of
      man's genetic kinship with the animals, of a "this-life-only"
      approach to social problems, and of humanistic [note that this is a
      keyword meaning "atheistic" in creationist terminology - TSG], rather
      than theistic, criteria for decision-making in every area of life.

      [Evolution and The Modern Christian, by Henry M. Morris (1967, p. 13)]

      ----------------------------------------------------------------

      If morality just merely evolved, then what right does the
      evolutionist have to upbraid me for not accepting his theory? Why
      does he say, "You should accept evolution because it's the truth"? If
      morality has evolved, then the value judgment he's just expressed (we
      should accept the truth) also "just evolved" in human experience. If
      that's true, why should we get so worked up about it? How can the
      evolutionist justify using the word "should"? According to him, all
      morality, all shoulds and oughts, will probably turn out to be a
      vestigial organ like the appendix. This is close to what Hitler
      thought.

      [...]

      The fact is, Darwinian evolution tends to belittle both reason and
      morality by merging both back into their - alleged - animal origins
      and obscuring their uniqueness.

      [Fallacies Of Evolution, by Arlie J. Hoover (1977, p. 76, 77)]

      ----------------------------------------------------------------

      The Bible clearly teaches that there are some things that are not to
      be compromised! Yet many in the church today are screaming and
      yelling "Compromise, compromise!" If their words do not say it, their
      actions do. The ranks of the church are being breached because
      brethren shout, "Compromise!" Liberalism and modernism are steadily
      driving wedges into the ranks of the army of God. False teachers have
      not only "crept in unaware" (Jude 4), "bringing in their damnable
      heresies" (2 Peter 2:1), but in too many instances these same false
      teachers are being openly invited to come in and bring their false
      teachings with them - and brethren welcome them with open arms!

      The false teacher and his heresies are welcomed because others
      possess the spirit of compromise. He could bring them in among
      faithful brethren in no other way!! Perhaps this spirit of compromise
      is a symptom of a much larger disease. The unfaithful, the
      adulterers, the disorderly, and others of almost any sin mentionable
      have been fellowshipped in the church in many places (though not all)
      for a long time. An increasingly large number of churches, it seems,
      do not know (or at least do not follow) the New Testament teaching
      concerning discipline. Others seemingly care little what the New
      Testament teaches in this regard. And on the skirts of this laxity,
      the false teacher has made his appearance among us! [pp. 9-10]

      It is the firm belief of this writer that the most serious compromise
      of our day and time is in the area of creation. there is the offer to
      compromise at every point where God has spoken. Men have compromised
      Genesis 1 into an allegorical, poetical myth - something written by a
      senile old Hebrew storyteller who could do no better.... Men have
      compromised Genesis 1:1 and Exodus 20:11 until there is nothing left
      to compromise!!

      The result of all this compromise is theistic evolution!

      There is no compromise any more despicable than theistic evolution!

      Theistic evolution is the old "compromise game" at its best
      (worst?!). "Christians" who have so little faith in what God has
      said, and so much faith in what man has speculated, have capitulated
      and have accepted theistic evolution in its totality. These are
      people who have "the best of God and the best of science" (or so they
      think). Let it matter not, we are told, that theistic evolution is in
      direct contradiction to direct Bible teaching. [pp. 11-12]

      Theistic evolution is possibly the greatest (and most dangerous)
      compromise which a Christian could ever make. To compromise on the
      matter of origins is certain to lead, at some point in the future, to
      another compromise, and another, and then another. The end result who
      can know? It is not at all impossible that the Christian would be led
      into atheism!! In the words of Dr. R. L. Wysong:

      | Many hold to evolution while at the same time espousing
      | belief in a creator. The result is a sort of hybrid, a
      | baptized evolution called theistic evolution.... The
      | creator is used here as a vindicator of evolutionary
      | difficulties. With time, as evolutionists explained more
      | and more by naturalism, the creator was crowded further
      | and further back in time and given less and less
      | responsibility. For many, theistic evolution is only
      | believed transitorily. The position is only a filler, an
      | easily passed bridge from theism to atheism. (The
      | Creation-Evolution Controversy, 1976, p. 63)

      [Theistic Evolution, by Bert Thompson (1977, pp. 9-10, 11-12, 64)]
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