Does the Fact That the Majority of Scientists Believe in Evolution Prove That Evolution is Viable?

March 3, 2018

 

Hello Ben Fischer, 

 

I'm a naturalist. You give some facts in a few of your articles on your website that seem to show that Darwin’s theory of evolution is an outmoded scientific belief. You also suggest that current science supersedes Darwin’s views. While it is true that there certainly is a lot of information that Darwin didn't have access to in his day, your point about the antiquity of the theory actually seems to be one of the most impressive proofs for it's reliability. For example, according to one source (wikipedia), evolution has now been corroborated by 99.85% of modern biologists. The statement that I'm pulling from shows that one estimate, taken in 1987, found that only 700 scientists out of a total of 480,000 in America gave credence to Christian “creation-science.” So doesn’t that figure offer a powerful argument (a fortiori) that the theory of evolution is likely an accurate view? Please respond…

 

-Peter 

 

Hey Peter! 

 

Thanks for writing! I appreciate your willingness to offer your challenge. As I see it, there are two major weaknesses which appear in your question right away. They are the following: 

 

1. First, as a ministry which seeks to be scholastically sound, I don't normally base an argument I make on a claim I find in wikipedia. The reason I avoid such a practice as a matter of convention is that it's not exactly a trusty scholarly resource. Therefore, quoting Wikipedia can wind up making BFM look silly to atheists and skeptics in the long run. So that is the first problem I see with your challenge. 

 

2. Secondly, however, even if the figure you offer from wikipedia is accurate, there's still one major problem. Basing an "a fortiori argument" (i.e. literally, argument "by force") in support of evolution merely upon the consensus of modern scientists is potentially, logically fallacious. Particularly, the fallacy I am referring to is sometimes called the "argument from prestige" or "argument ad verecundiam." [1] Professor of Philosophy at North Carolina State University, Dr. Jean Goodwin, has actually written a scholarly article on this problem entitled: "Forms of Authority and the Real Ad Verecundiam." [2] Her focus in the paper is on John Locke who initially coined the term in the late 17th century. He used the phrase to describe one of several kinds of commonly used “assent producing devices." Here is the exact quote: 

 

“Whoever backs his tenets with such authorities [‘men, whose parts, learning, eminency, power or some other cause has gained a name’], thinks he ought thereby to carry the cause, and is ready to style it impudence in any one who shall stand out against them. This I think, may be called argumentum ad verecundiam.” [3] 

 

Unfortunately, modern philosophical encyclopedias tend to define the ad verecundiam fallacy a bit differently. Today's experts see it as the citing of an authority who is commenting outside of their area of expertise. Examples such as Richard Dawkins' citation of G.A. Wells (a German linguistics Professor at London University) for his work in the historical Jesus fit this description quite nicely. [4] In any case, I think we can both agree that a mere hand waving at scholarly consensus is no guarantee that that consensus is correct. Scientific revolutions have occurred numerous times in history. Hence, we normally tend to observe greater caution before labeling such an argument "forceful" (a fortiori).  Perhaps you would feel inclined to agree?

 

Hence, before I close the loop, let me clearly point out that it is important to note that I am not suggesting a person would be “stupid” for appealing to majority opinion in a given field. In fact, I do the same thing when I argue that the majority of NT scholars today (including atheists and agnostics) confirm the same four basic facts of the resurrection of Jesus. My point, however, is that you seem to make the mistake of resting the entire argument on this point alone. That is what seems to me to make the position a weak one. Hence, in my article, I develop my argument against evolution quite a bit beyond a mere appeal to consensus authority (as you can see).

 

So in closing, to quote Dr. Goodwin once again: “It is not my purpose here to resolve the tension between authority’s suspiciousness and it’s inevitability.” [5] Rather, it is to say that we should punctuate a position, not merely by appealing to authority, but by reason itself.

 

So, I hope that helps! Please offer comments again! I'd love to hear what you think about the specific reasons I cite in my work which cause me to entertain doubts about the theory of evolution! Godspeed! 

 

Warmly, 

Ben Fischer <><

 

[1]. http://philosophy.lander.edu/logic/authority.html

[2]. Jean Goodwin, “Forms of Authority and the Real Ad Verecundiam, ” Argumentation Vol. 12 (1998), 267-280.

[3]. John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Knowledge, (London: Printed for G. and J. Offor et al., 1819), 253. 

[4]. Richard Dawkins; The God Delusion (2006 Bantam Press; Printed in the USA), pg. 97. 

[5]. Jean Goodwin, “Forms of Authority and the Real Ad Verecundiam, ” Argumentation Vol. 12 (1998), 267-280.

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