- Affirming the Consequent is a logical fallacy that takes a known true statement [if P then Q] and invalidly concludes its converse [if Q then P]:
- If Bill Gates owns Fort Knox, then Bill Gates is rich. Bill Gates is rich. Therefore, Bill Gates owns Fort Knox. False!
- If an animal is a dog, then it has four legs. My cat has four legs. Therefore, my cat is a dog. False!
- If it’s raining, then the streets are wet. The streets are wet. Therefore it’s raining. False! It could be raining or it could be something else. The “therefore” claim is false.
- How does ‘Affirming the consequent’ apply to evolution? We have not observed “evolution”. No one has, and no one will, despite the effort (see LTEE). What was observed is Resemblance, the Birth Mechanism, Variability and Adaptability. Neither of these (even combined) can logically be extrapolated to “evolution”, namely the hypothesized transmutation of one type of organism into another. Proofs of “evolution” always take the form: If “evolution” is true, then XYZ is true. XYZ is true. Therefore “evolution” is true. This is a classical Affirming the Consequent logical fallacy.
- Let’s see some concrete examples of “proof of evolution” fallacies:
- If “evolution” is true, some fossils are ancestors of and therefore resemble existing organisms. Fossils resemble one another and existing organisms. Therefore “evolution” is true. This argument fails because there will always be some resemblance between two or more entities (even chairs and cats have four legs in general). Also, a fossil can always be from an unrelated branch of the “tree of life” which circularly presupposes “evolution” anyway.
- If “evolution” is true, organisms are genetically similar. Organisms are genetically similar. Therefore “evolution” is true. This argument is false because other hypotheses such as common design account for genetic similarities just as well.
- If “evolution” is true, one might expect common embryology. Similar organisms have similar embryology. Therefore “evolution” is true. This fails because embryology is expected to match genetics and morphology, hence the previous counterargument applies.
- If “evolution” is true, one might expect vestigial organs. What looks like vestigial organs can be observed. Therefore “evolution” is true. This fails because what if those organs are useful rather that “vestigial”? And why would “evolution” not do away with “vestigial” organs as soon as they become useless? In sum, why can’t these organs have another reason or origin than “evolution”?
- If “evolution” is true, one expects adaptability such as antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance is observed. Therefore “evolution” is true. This fails because adaptabilities such as antibiotic resistance are compatible with other hypotheses, not just “evolution”. In addition, antibiotic resistance is ubiquitous, limited, reversible, and never observed to result in organism transmutation aka “evolution”.
- How can “proofs of evolution” avoid the ‘Affirming the Consequent’ logical fallacy? Direct confirmation of “evolution” is unlikely as shown by the LTEE study. Alternatively, an observation that is true for “evolution” and only for “evolution” might also work. In other words, what’s missing from all the examples above is a true statement of the kind: “only if evolution is true, then XYZ”. Of course, excluding all alternatives to “evolution” is an impossible task therefore, given that Intelligent Design is the main rival, proponents of “evolution” need only add a true statement of the kind: “if Intelligent Design is true, then XYZ is not true” to turn their invalid arguments into valid ones. But even this lower bar cannot be met by “evolution” proponents, thus making all “proofs of evolution” invalid.
- Isn’t then all science ‘Affirming the Consequent’? For example, “if Newtonian physics is true, a ball thrown at angle Theta and speed V will land D meters away. The experiment is carried out, and we find that the ball landed distance D away. Therefor physics is true.” No! This is not a fallacy because it meets the “if and only if” requirement and is limited to “everything else equal” cases. Rockets do not disprove this claim because everything else is not equal between them and thrown inactive projectiles. In addition, no one claims a single experiment confirms all Newtonian Mechanics the way “proofs of evolution” are presented. In this case, multiple combinations of Angles and Speed result in the same Distance without violating Newtonian Mechanics because this experiment proves only portions of the theory.