Double Standards and Goalpost Moving

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

This is about the run-of-the-mill Darwinistas in the evolution camp. Many are on a continuing mission to explore creation science sites, to seek out new Weblogs and new creation science opponents, to boldly go where they’re really not wanted anyway. Types like this patrol (emphasis on “troll”) the Web to defend “science” — which means equivocating “science” with “evolution”.

I have had experiences (and taken many screenshots) of various remarks that these owlhoots fling at creationists. There is no need for a Christian to be intimidated by an angry atheist or for biblical creationists to be coerced by fundamentalist evolutionists. It is my belief that some people hate me because I will not let them build an argument on fallacies — they cannot reach a rational conclusion based false information or bad reasoning, except by accident. I suspicion that this rage is put on all y'all who stand up to the bullies.

Many Internet evolutionists use logical fallacies and bullying in their efforts to silence biblical creationists. We can counter their trickery by learning how to spot their fallacies, and keeping our own errors to a minimum.
Modified from an original image by Carol Lam (carollam) /
Keep them on topic.
If you watch or hear some of the numerous “debates” on the Web between laypeople, you’ll see that they tend to jump around from topic to topic instead of developing one at a time. A form of this is “elephant hurling”, where someone fires off several assertions and statements, Gatling gun style, when there is no time to answer. (Bill Nye did this in the debate with Ken Ham in segments where Ham did not have time to answer them all.) Another common trick is the “red herring” fallacy, where something is brought up for discussion but is actually irrelevant to the actual topic. Watch out for distractions, old son.

Double Standards (Special Pleading).
An amazing way to dodge a discussion on evolution is for the evolutionist to demand “qualifications” from the creationist. “If you don’t have an advanced science degree, you can’t question evolution.” Then people like this make remarks about various science and theology topics, but usually do not have “qualifications” themselves. (Not only is this a double standard, but also an appeal to authority: just believe what the evolutionist says because you don’t know better.)  I like to take it to extremes to show how silly that “requirement” is. F’rinstance, Don’t discuss the big game unless you’re at least a professional player. Don’t discuss those strange noises you hear when driving unless you’re a qualified auto mechanic. Can’t discuss the acting in that movie unless you’re an award-winning actor. Stop, don’t discuss the guitar player in the band…

A more obvious double standard happened in Facebook comments. I had said that it was absurd to look to Laurence Krauss or Richard Dawkins as authorities when they discuss theological matters; to do so is a fallacious appeal to authority. Someone said that they were qualified because they had studied it. Restrain your equines! Those of us who are creationists but not scientists are not “qualified” to discuss evolution even though we have studied it, but it’s OK for atheists. Makes perfect sense, right? Not hardly!

For that matter, evolutionists were not consistent after the Ham-Nye debate. Nye brought up several scientific “evidences”, but according to this false standard, he was not qualified in most of those areas, so he had no business discussing them. Evolutionists and atheists who make demands for qualifications often show their double standards.

Definitions are vital
People can have different ideas about the meanings of words and their connotations, so they are not really communicating. I use certain specialized words and tend to forget that I’m talking to people who may not savvy the lingo, so sometimes, I have to define the expensive words. One word I need to define at times is “argument”. 

People have the connotation from modern usage of angry people shouting and throwing things at each other. However, I am referring to the real sense of the word, where “argument” means a logical explanation for my position, and hopefully persuading you of the validity of my position. Or at least getting you to see where I’m coming from. An argument is “a connected series of statements to establish a definite proposition”, or somesuch.

 I am a biblical creationist, and some people would have a conniption if I told them that I believe in evolution. “OK, what do you mean by that?” The word “evolution” has several definitions, including the useless “change over time”. Quite often, “evolution” is taken to mean “molecules-to-man”, the General Theory of Evolution. Someone else may believe in variations within limits and call that evolution.

Similarly, in theological discussions, you can have several people agreeing on the phrase, “Jesus is the only way to salvation”, and think that they’re all in agreement. Quite the contrary. Which Jesus do they mean, the one in the Bible (John 14.6, Acts 4.12, John 1.12-13) or someone else’s opinion or tradition on the person of Jesus? For that matter, what is salvation?

One amazing “conversation” I had on Twitter involved someone who insisted that creationist scientists were not “real” scientists. I showed him a list of many who were affiliated with just one of the creation science organizations, and they were indeed qualified scientists. He rejected it. After further prodding, it turned out that he had personally redefined “scientist” as “evolutionary biologist”. Dr. Terry Mortenson received a letter from someone who was upset because he was not the right kind of geologist to discuss a topic, even though Dr. Mortenson is a scientist! Indeed, this was also a form of appeal to authority (see above).

Changing definitions is often a bait-n-switch trick, the fallacy of equivocation (or conflation) and special pleading; it’s okay for me but not for you.

Other Logical Fallacies
I have said many times that if people who attack you were unable to use logical fallacies, they would have very little to say. Many of these tinhorns are very obstreperous and want to scare you with what they consider to be their mighty intellects. Unfortunately for them, they cannot construct a logical argument because they build it on a flawed foundation, and then continue with more faulty material. 

You may want to read my series on informal logical fallacies so you can see through the failings of your attackers. Here are a few of the more common fallacies — you would do well to become familiar with them not only for your own protection, but so you do not commit them yourselves; Christians need to present their claims as accurately as possible:
  •  Ad hominem. Most logical fallacies have Latin names, but those are seldom used. This Latin name is popular. It means “to the man”. Some people think that a personal attack is not an ad hominem if it is not in a debate setting. Not so, because a fallacy is not only bad arguing, but bad reasoning. I reckon that a personal attack or ridicule is an ad hominem because it is used to intimidate the person and also influence others against him, debate setting or not.
  • Poisoning the well. This is a kind of pre-emptive strike. It is not confined to debate settings, and is used to make other people look bad so their arguments are not considered. Ad hominems are frequently used for this purpose. I have stalkers who actively libel me in forums, e-mail, Weblogs and so on; they are not dealing with the topic, but appear to be bolstering their egos by attacking other Christians. Fortunately, people often see these for what they are and disregard them since they have no substance. Some people will resort to attacking typographical and spelling errors, stammering, misspeaking and other picayune errors as if those negated the valid points of an argument.
  • Straw man. An inaccurate or even a caricature of an opponent’s position is presented and then torn down. A short form of the fallacy is to put words in someone’s mouth. We are not required to defend positions we do not hold or things we did not say. I have had people attack my position and my character with complete falsehoods and misrepresentations, and then claim that they have proven their case. A straw man can also be an excellent red herring (distraction from the topic), so it is best to dispense with it as quickly as possible and get back on topic.
  • Genetic fallacy. One rescuing device to avoid dealing with evidence that is presented is to simply dismiss it because of the source. (There are times where such a dismissal is valid when the source cited has been demonstrated to be inaccurate or disingenuous.) Many times, I have seen and experienced the rejection of evidence refuting evolution and supporting creation because it is from creationists. (Some even refuse to look because “creationists are all professional liars”, a fallacy so absurd it insults the intelligence.)

    An additional objection is that the creationists are biased, as if evolutionists are unbiased (another double standard)! Well, when asking for information from a creationist, it does not make sense to reject the information because it is from creationists, does it? If someone is asking if antibiotic resistance is due to a change in information, I can furnish a link to an article by Dr. Jonathan Sarfati. If it is rejected because he is a creationist, that is not legitimate, because Dr. Sarfati has a Ph.D. in chemistry and has done significant research and writing in chemistry, biology, physics and other sciences. Some people have said, “I won’t read that creationist stuff, I know what they’re going to say!” Oh, please. The genetic fallacy is a very blatant attempt to not only move the goalposts, but to avoid examining evidence in the first place.
  • Appeal to emotion. People will attempt to manipulate the emotions of the person with whom they are debating or having a discussion as well as others who are listening to or reading the discussion. Other logical fallacies (often combined) such as the ad hominem are frequently employed, as well as loaded terminology, manipulative questions (“Are you afraid to answer my question because people will see that you’re a liar for Jesus?”) and so on. This, too, moves the goalposts in an attempt to not only intimidate, but to put someone on the defensive.
  • Assertions. Too often, people will make statements and expect people to believe them. “Evolution is a fact, and creationists are anti-science liars!” (Not only is that an example of assertion, but loaded terminology intended to appeal to emotions. I told you these fallacies get combined!) Some people even believe that contradictions and assertions are facts, but they are unsupported by evidence and reasoning. (News flash, Ferdinand: contradictions and assertions are not refutations.) Another related fallacy is repeated assertion. You can say something over and over. Some people will believe it because of such repetition, but it does not actually establish a fact or some kind of truth.
This is a brief view of a few of the more common logical fallacies that atheists and evolutionists use. Some are not done deliberately, but quite often, they are disingenuous and manipulative. Being forewarned by having a knowledge of common logical fallacies is very helpful in discussions. I must repeat, this is also helpful for someone to present their own case in the best possible manner. No, you do not need to be able to identify every fallacy (especially since they can be combined). But you can spot when something is not right, you’re being distracted from the topic at hand.
Author's note: The above article briefly appeared as a guest post in April, 2014, and the Ken Ham-Bill Nye debate was fresh in many people's minds. The article was posted for only a few days because I decided to discontinue my association with the site owner and had him delete it. I found my copy of it the other day and made some adjustments.