The Fallacious Appeal To Personal Prejudice
- 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
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
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
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
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
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
Truth-seeking demands a reasoned consideration of ideas, not an
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
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
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
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)]