Begging the Question
This page is part of the EvoWiki encyclopedia of fallacies.
- Question Begging
- Circular Argument
- Petitio Principii
- Circular Reasoning
- Vicious Circle
- Circulus in demonstrando
- Circulus in probando
Begging the Question is an argument where the conclusion is assumed in the premise.
- Something can't come from nothing.
- Thus, the big bang can't have happened.
The premise 'something can't come from nothing' assumes the big bang, being a something that came from nothing, never happened. Therefore, the conclusion is assumed in the premise.
- God exists because the Bible says so.
- The Bible is true because it is the inspired word of God.
The premise in point 2 already assumes that God exists to inspire the Bible, which is exactly what's being concluded: that God exists.
Example in intelligent design
- Joe finds a computer and sees that the computer is irreducibly complex.
- Joe claims that because the computer contains irreducible complexity, it can be inferred that it was designed by intelligent vampires.
- Dan retorts "but wait. How do you know that intelligent vampires will create designs that are irreducibly complex?"
Because observing intelligent vampires making designs is impossible, Joe can only assume what characteristics a vampire design is supposed to have. Thus, it would be begging the question for Joe to find an object bearing those designs and conclude that intelligent vampires made it.
The backbone of the intelligent design arguments claim that designs have certain "characteristics" (eg. complex specified information, irreducible complexity, purposeful parts, functional integration, etc.) that indicate that an intelligent designer made it. At best, this is a half truth. At best, only intelligent life forms (humans, monkeys, dolphins, etc.) can be observed to make designs containing these "characteristics." Thus, at best, when one finds an object with these "characteristics", it's only logical to conclude that an intelligent life form designed it. Intelligent design, however, isn't concluding an intelligent life form. Doing so would disprove that any god creating life/universe, and also result in an infinite regression.
Intelligent design, thus, must be concluding some "non-life intelligent being." Be it gods, fairies, or vampires, it doesn't matter. One cannot observe these "non-life intelligent beings" make designs. Thus, the "characteristics" of a "non-life intelligent being's" design can only be assumed to contain complex specified information, irreducible complexity, purposeful parts, functional integration, etc. Thus, it is begging the question to find these characteristics in the cosmos or life forms, and conclude that a "non-life intelligent being" designed it. Likewise, in the above example, it was illogical for Joe to find these "characteristics" in a computer and claim that vampires designed it.
Exposing the assumption hidden in the premise of the argument.
Examples in creationist arguments
- The Anthropic Principle: Earth is perfectly in the habitable zone, proving design
- The universe can't come from nothing
- DNA needs proteins to form; Proteins need DNA
- Design requires a designer
- Genesis 1 got the order of events right
- Mutations are accidents; things don't get built by accident
- Similarities in DNA and anatomy are due to common design
- Evidence for design disproves evolutionary mechanisms