Redeeming illogic with evidence:

Evidential Fallacy
Definition Example
When a proponent of a concept demonstrated to be logically impossible continues to offer evidence for that concept. I have a golden square triangle instead of a heart beating in my chest, and I have the lab analysis to prove it.
  Notes
If someone claims to have a golden square triangle in their chest, and provides gold flakes or a lab analysis as evidence, you don’t have to test the gold flakes or scrutinize the lab analysis for authenticity before you dismiss the notion that they have a golden square triangle in their chest. If a concept has been demonstrated to be illogical, no amount of evidence will salvage that concept.
To a lesser degree, what we define as physical impossibilities can be dismissed in the same way we can dismiss logical impossibilities. However, we must be careful since what is physical laws have been abstracted from nature by humans, and may not be absolute. However, this caveat does not mean we are wrong to dismiss with a high degree of confidence any concept that science considers a physical impossibility.

Case Study One

Some theists define their god as both loving and yet behaving towards those he presumably loves with actions humans would never call “loving”. We need not scrutinize their holy book or nature for evidence of such an incoherent god. If there is evidence for a creator, that god need not be considered as a candidate for that creator since he has been disqualified by the logical incoherence in his description.


Keep in mind that a fallacious argument does not entail an erroneous position.


3 Responses to Redeeming illogic with evidence:

  1. Sant says:

    I am really not at ease with this as a fallacy. Yes it is heuristically better to dismiss the burden of examination because of an illogical claim, but it is many times the case where something that is thought to be logically impossible is merely impossible to imagine yet.

    Playing the devil’s advocate, I cannot without further context stamp having square triangles and using a golden implement shaped as one as a replacement heart as an impossibility, far-fetched and improbable though it is. A time stamp would probably be enough context however.

    What I mean is that oftentimes a change of perspective will change a logical impossibility to a logical possibility by simply adding another hypothese. It has been logically impossible for two parallel lines to intersect, but we eventually had to add ‘in the same plane’ to keep it relevant. Someone once brought proof that two parallel lines can intersect and it was not a fallacy.

    Bringing additional elements to a lost cause is useless, often counter-productive since it lowers credibility (and make the one making the claim prone to be the target of tactical fallacies down the road); it does not however constitute an error in a logical reasoning. What it does constitute though is a discussion about the foundation of the impossibility.

    Unrelated: I can see where the case study is trying to get at, but it resembles too much a Human Standard Fallacy. You can define a god as loving (according to a god definition) while pointing to his actions as not loving (according to a, let’s call it human, definition). What you cannot do and what is clearly wrong (but another fallacy) is to collapse the concepts.

  2. Hi Sant, It appears you don’t actually think this fallacy is illegitimate, but rather that you think the example does not represent actual a case of illogic.

    This fallacy is committed “when a proponent of a concept that has been demonstrated to be illogical continues to offer evidence for that concept”. I think you agree this is a legitimate fallacy given the definition.

    Let me elaborate. If a magician places first one bird, then another bird into a hat, and 3 emerge, if Adam claims that the notion 1 + 1 ≠ 3 is a human standard fallacy, or that 1 + 1 = 2 may be overturned sometime in the future, and then points to the hundreds of eye-witnesses who saw two birds turn into three to claim that 1 + 1 is indeed 3, then I think we both would agree that Adam has attempted to redeem illogic with evidence.

    So it appears that you agree that the redeeming-illogic-with-evidence fallacy is a legitimate fallacy, but that you disagree only with the example in which an alleged loving god acting unloving is called illogical.

    Imagine the father next door claims to love his children, but if they ever tell a lie, that “loving” father sends them to the basement for the remainder of their lives to be tortured for that lie. Is this illogical? Would not your reaction be to immediately claim that father was himself lying about loving his children? What would justify your claim? What if there was some non-human standard that superseded your own about what love actually is. Perhaps love is manifested more like what humans recognize as hate. Is this possible?

    The human standard fallacy is formulated as follows: When a human law, categorization, definition or judgment is assumed to supersede objective fact.

    Is there another objective fact in this case to vindicate the “loving” father who tortures his children? I think we both agree there is not. We make our judgement based on our human standard of what constitutes love and its manifestations. Invoking the possibility that we may discover in the future something that overturns our notion of love and its authentic manifestations worries neither of us in this case.

    Likewise, invoking some unsubstantiated divine standard of an unsubstantiated god whose demonstration of existence depends on his being logically coherent is circular. Just as the “loving” neighbor who tortures his own children is impossible, so also is a “loving” god torturing those he claims to love, a future revelation of a divine standard of “love” that manifests in a way humans call “hate” notwithstanding.

  3. Sant says:

    Hi Phil,

    I do agree, indeed, that offering evidence for something that is factually nonexistent is a legitimate fallacy. Due to my line of work however, I almost always fall back on the argument of relevance (‘Your argument is irrelevant because I believe that A is false, you believe that A is true and your argument does not allow either of us to progress toward a consensus’). Which may be a fallacy as well of course.

    We can agree that a triangle has three sides, a square has four sides, and any given polygon has one and only one amount of sides. Everywhere these are valid definitions, a ‘square triangle’ has just been demonstrated illogical. Offering proof that you have a square triangle, thus implying that there is such a thing, is a fallacy. The issue is ‘everywhere these are valid definitions’. You can design an object that evolves over time for instance and name it a ‘square triangle’ because it alternates between a triangle and a square (bonus to relevance if you can choose its state and it is useful to your work).

    This is still irrelevant to the definition of the fallacy. As you pointed out, I agree that there is such a fallacy and that the definition given on this page befits that fallacy. My problem is to find a simple universal example (hence my ‘factually nonexistent’). I mean, there are claims that 1+1=3 (sometimes put as 2=1+1+1) and while they actually do not use the usual operators -addition and equality- they are perfectly correct in their context. I guess I could use the concept of ‘conditional love’ to explain why someone can claim to love his children and yet send them to torture -disowning is cruel enough- if they disappoint him/her (and point out that when we make the generalisation about ‘fatherly love’ -or ‘motherly love’- we casually include a fair amount of those in the definition; and that a fair amount of religions and belief systems actually have a ‘conditionally loving god’).

    I guess I am one of those who spend too much time trying to make impossibilities and inconsistencies explode with ‘perfectly logical explanations’.

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