In growing tired of creationist and ID proponent accusations or simply Christian accusations in general, I decided to do some research and what I have found puts a grin on my face. We all know what genetic and ad hominem fallacies sound like. We’ve either been accused of them or attacked with them. However, I have found that both are appropriate in specific cases. Let’s talk hypothetically.
Say I agreed to debate with the boy who cried wolf—a boy who demonstrates the qualities of a pathological liar. Before the day he gets mauled by a wolf, he and I debate the probability of a wolf attacking him. I present the population statistics and use them to come up with different probabilities: the probability of a wolf coming into the village; the probability of a wolf attacking one person and ultimately, the very low probability of a wolf attacking him specifically. As if that isn’t enough to convince the audience, I add that he is a liar and he cannot be trusted. The boy who cried wolf accuses me of ad hominem, but is my argument fallacious? Absolutely not. My argument is a non-fallacious ad hominem—an argument supported by Doug Neil Walton. The boy who cried wolf didn’t lie once; he lied repeatedly and thus, I have every right to call that into question and use it against him.
As you might have already imagined, this non-fallacious form of ad hominem applies to creationists, ID proponents and some Christians. These people have lied repeatedly and they do so because they’re motivated by an agenda. Creationists and ID proponents aren’t motivated by science; they’re motivated by their predilections. Take John D. Morris for example; this man has repeatedly lied about the accuracy of dating methods. If he were correct, he would have won the Noble Peace Prize. Science isn’t religion; they wouldn’t cast him out as some heretic! If his claims were true, there are a number of fields that would be affected (i.e. geology, paleontology, biology, archaeology). However, his claims aren’t true and that has been demonstrated on numerous occasions. The same can be said of flood geology and every other refuted-too-many-times-to-count creationist claim.
When considering all of that, we have every right to write them off using non-fallacious ad hominem and genetic arguments. If a creationist makes a claim, ask this individual where he got it from; in all likelihood, he got it from another creationist. Proceed to show this individual the dishonesty of these non-academicians and then make your argument: so and so is a creationist and thus, I dismiss his/her claims. Alternatively, you can say: so and so isn’t x or y type of scientist and thus, I dismiss his/her claims (Retired UC Berkeley law professor Philip E. Johnson comes to mind). The creationist may attempt to accuse you of a fallacy, but then kindly explain: there are non-fallacious forms of such argumentation.
Although in introductory logic texts, such ‘fallacies of relevance’ as the ad Hominem are usually presented as universally invalid, there has been increasing awareness that such forms of reasoning can at times have rhetorical, and sometimes even logical, relevance (see, e.g., Minot, 1981; Hinman, 1982; Brinton, 1985).
Klement, Kevin. When is Genetic Reasoning Not Fallacious?. Diss. University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts: Kluwer Acadmic Publisher, Web. <http://people.umass.edu/klement/GeneticReasoningNotFallacious.pdf>.
Therefore, I would tell creationists, ID proponents and some Christians what I would tell the boy who cried wolf: prove to me that you can be intellectually honest; then we’ll have a discussion.