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Logical Fallacy of Equivocation / Bait and Switch / Amphiboly / Semantic Ambiguity / Type-Token Ambiguity / Vagueness


Logical Fallacy of Equivocation / Bait and Switch / Lexical Ambiguity

Lexical ambiguity is one of the many smokescreens that are used to cover the fact that the reasoning is based on one of the three fallacies of Agrippa's trilemma. Whenever a logical fallacy is committed, the fallacy has its roots in Agrippa's trilemma. All human thought (without Divine revelation) is based on one of three unhappy possibilities. These three possibilities are infinite regress, circular reasoning, or axiomatic thinking. This problem is known as Agrippa's trilemma. Some have claimed that only logic and math can be known without Divine revelation; however, that is not true. There is no reason to trust either logic or math without Divine revelation. Science is also limited to the pragmatic because of the weakness on human reasoning, which is known as Agrippa's trilemma. This is a fallacy that superimposes another level of fallacy on top or one or more of the three fallacies of Agrippa's trilemma.

The logical fallacy of equivocation occurs when confusion results from ambiguous meanings of words or phrases. Equivocation has to do with the use of words, but amphiboly has to do with the use of grammar. Two or more definitions exist for the same word, but the definition is adjusted to cover both meanings at once. In this way, an argument can be made in which one part of the argument uses one of the meanings and the other part of the argument uses the other meaning. An example would be the word, evolution. One meaning is an easily observed phenomenon that one generation is not the exact duplicate of the previous generation. The second meaning is the supposed gradual process that has never been observed whereby it is claimed that a very simple first life form morphed from generation to generation until there was a generation that was called human. These two meanings are combined into one word. Then, the argument goes, “We can observe evolution (first meaning); therefore, evolution (second meaning) is a scientific fact.”

Examples of the Logical Fallacy of Equivocation / Bait and Switch / Lexical Ambiguity

Quote from the Berkeley website: "Much as we might like to avoid it, all scientific tests involve making assumptions — many of them justified. For example, imagine a very simple test of the hypothesis that substance A stops bacterial growth. Some Petri dishes are spread with a mixture of substance A and bacterial growth medium, and others are spread with a mixture of inert substance B and bacterial growth medium. Bacteria are spread on all the Petri dishes, and one day later, the plates are examined to see which fostered the growth of bacterial colonies and which did not. This test is straightforward, but still relies on many assumptions: we assume that the bacteria can grow on the growth medium, we assume that substance B does not affect bacterial growth, we assume that one day is long enough for colonies to grow, and we assume that the color pen we use to mark the outside of the dishes is not influencing bacterial growth."

Let's examine these so-called assumptions.

"we assume that the bacteria can grow on the growth medium" Would they not have tested this to make sure it was true so they would not have to assume it? Of course, this is the case.

"we assume that substance B does not affect bacterial growth" So, do they just grab some random substance B, not knowing what it is so that they have to assume? Of course not. They use a substance that has been tested repeatedly using scientific method so that they can be sure that it doesn't affect bacterial growth.

"we assume that one day is long enough for colonies to grow" They actually might have to make an assumption like this if this is the first pass at this experiment and they know nothing about the bacteria. More likely, they set the time to a period that they know is long enough because they have already shown this to be long enough before they start adding other variables. To introduce too many unknowns at once is sloppy science.

"we assume that the color pen we use to mark the outside of the dishes is not influencing bacterial growth" This would not be an assumption. What kind of lab would through an untested pen into the mix so they wouldn't know if the experiment is bringing meaningful results or not?

Note that every one of these so-called assumptions is testable. None of these things requires assumption.

So, this definition of assumption is confusing. What is even more confusing is calling these testable facts "assumptions" while calling untestable, often impossible, proclamations to also be "assumptions." This is the logical fallacy of equivocation.

Here are some real arbitrary assumptions: "Natural processes are sufficient for understanding the natural world." "Nature operates uniformly throughout the universe in space and time." "It’s impossible to know if we have considered all possible alternative explanations." "Scientific knowledge is the most reliable knowledge we can have about the natural world and how it works." "There was no Genesis Flood." "There is no God. God cannot be known. God cannot reveal anything." "Science is the only way to know anything." "There is no spiritual realm." "God cannot have any effect on any scientific inquiry." "We can make valid assumptions without any proof or any way to test those assumptions." "All processes continue at the same rate from the beginning unless this assumption causes problems for the big-bang-billions-of-years-molecules-to-man story, in which case, other assumptions must be made to make the observation fall in line with the story."

Here are some revelations that conflict with some of those assumptions: "God is the cause of all of what we call natural processes, and He is faithful but unrestricted." "In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth--in six days, He created them." "The world as we know it will be destroyed and replaced with a new Heaven and New Earth." "God judges sin because He is just." "There is a spiritual realm." "It is possible to know God." "Everyone who keeps seeking to know Christ in sincerity, humility, submission, and respect will find Christ." "Everyone who follows Christ is led by Christ." "God works with us in unfolding revelation from glory to greater glory." "God has an order for everything that He has created; when we violate that order, we work against the purposes of God." "The big-bang-billions-of-years-molecules-to-man story is a lie."

“We see evolution happening all the time. It is a fact!!!”

This is an example of the fallacy of Equivocation/Bait and Switch/Amphiboly. The so-called “evolution” that we see are losses of information or rearrangement of existing information. We never see the addition of new, innovative, universal information to living things by natural processes—which would be absolutely necessary for even the smallest step in so-called molecules-to-man evolution. The logical fallacy of equivocation seems to be something the Berkeley is using as a method for teaching evolution: see this analysis of Berkeley's Evolution 101

“I pray the prayer of faith for my children. And I have faith in my children that they will do what is right.”

There is an obvious mixing of two types of faith here, the faith that is a free gift from God, the faith of God, as opposed to human faith based on some observation and a lot of reasoning and wishful thinking. The faith of God is absolute, if it is faith. It comes when God speaks to us and leads us. This is the faith that gives us access to His grace so that He can do His Works through us—His works, such as praying the prayer of faith.

“The Bible tells us to rejoice in hope. We ought to hope for every day. We ought to hope for a successful day tomorrow. We ought to hope for our children.”

This is equivocation on the word, hope. The hope that the Bible speaks of is a vision of reality given from God. It’s not the hope-so, human hope that is mentioned in the next three sentences. When God speaks to us and leads us, He speaks a vision of His hope, the reality of how things really are. We see who we were created to be in Him and we see the church as it was created to be. We don’t obviously see it all, but just a little glimpse, as much light as we can stand.

“The fact that flu viruses change from year to year, necessitating the development of new vaccines every year is proof that molecules-to-man evolution took place.”

This argument equivocates the changes within a kind of living things with the stories about one kind--like the amoeba kind or the cat kind that includes kitties, lions, and tigers, or the dog kind that includes wolves, coyotes, and spaniels--to another kind, which is often called macro evolution. Adaptation can be observed. Living things changing from one kind is neither observed in living things nor in the fossil record.

Fallacy Abuse

Roxanne: "All living beings come from other living beings.  Therefore, the first forms of life must have come from a living being.  That living being is God."

Sandy: "Ha! Ha! Your argument is guilty of two cases of ambiguity.  First, the first use of the phrase, “come from”, refers to reproduction, but  the second use refers to origin.  The fact that we know quite a bit about reproduction is irrelevant when considering origin.  Second, the first use of, “living being”, refers to an empirically verifiable, biological, living organism.  The second use of, “living being”, refers to a belief of an immaterial god.  As you can see, when a term such as, “living being”, describes a do-do bird as well as the all-powerful Master of the Universe, it has very little meaning and certainly is not specific enough to draw logical or reasonable conclusions."

Roxanne: "Where did you get the straw man argument about reproduction. I didn't mention reproduction. God is responsible for every life that exists. Each person has life as long as God allows. All life comes from God, whether the first living beings in the past or those in the present. When you say that "living being" is different when referring to the life that God created or the life that God is, what makes you think that is true? This is just a bald assertion on your part, or can you describe the steps of your scientific experiment by which you determine the nature or the life of God? Beyond that, your reference to a do-do bird is clearly a fallacy of an appeal to emotion. So in your false accusation, you have committed three fallacies."

Sandy doesn't really understand God, since he is one who refuses to acknowledge Him. So, it's not surprising that Sandy would say something so irrational.

It may be a moot point whether or not the life that is passed from generation to generation is actually the same as the life that was passed from God to Adam, but it is likely that it is the same in that Adam is called the son of God. Whether life was passed in the same way to every animal in the same way is unknown, but it certainly is nitpicking fallacy abuse to target this point, especially when Sandy's point rests on a straw man argument, a misquote. Sandy further introduces emotional language, playing to the crowd. What makes matters worse is that this example was taken from an Atheist website that is supposedly teaching logic but it full of these kinds of errors in logic.

On the other hand, the scientific Law of Biogenesis could be much more clearly stated, for instance:

“The scientific Law of Biogenesis states that life never comes from non-life and only comes from other life. There are no exceptions, though considerable money and effort has been spent in an effort to find an exception. On the other hand, those who follow Christ have revelation that shows us that God is the originator of life, the He created life just a few thousand years ago. Therefore, God is the originator of life.”

Last updated: Oct, 2014

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Toons & Vids



Logical Fallacy of Ambiguity

Logical Fallacy of the Barnum Effect / P. T. Barnum Effect / The Fallacy of Personal Validation / The Forer Effect

Logical Fallacy of Ambiguous Assertion

Logical Fallacy of Innuendo

Sly Suggestion Fallacy

Syntactic Ambiguity Fallacy / Structural Ambiguity / Grammatical Ambiguity / Amphiboly / Semantic Ambiguity / Semantical Ambiguity Fallacy

The Logical Fallacy Lexical Ambiguity


Shingle Speech

Use-Mention Error / UME

Double Entendre

Logical Fallacy of Misuse of Etymology

Logical Fallacy of Garden Path Ambiguity

Squinting Modifier Fallacy

Quantifier Fallacy / Quantifier Shift Fallacy

Illicit Observation Fallacy

Metaphorical Ambiguity Fallacy


Logical Fallacy of Equivocation / Bait and Switch / Amphiboly / Semantic Ambiguity / Type-Token Ambiguity / Vagueness

Redefinition Fallacy

Middle Puzzle Part Fallacy

Idiosyncratic Language Fallacy

Type-Token Ambiguity Fallacy

Fallacy of Modal Logic / Modal Scope Fallacy / Misconditionalization

Modal Fallacy / Modal Scope Fallacy

Scope Fallacy

Ambiguous Middle / Ambiguous Middle Term

Logical Fallacy of Hypnotic Bait and Switch

Definist Fallacy

Logical Fallacy of Defining a Word in Terms of Itself

Socratic Fallacy

Logical Fallacy of Defining Terms Too Broadly

Logical Fallacy of Defining Terms Too Narrowly

Logical Fallacy of Failure to Elucidate

Logical Fallacy of Persuasive Definition / Appeal to Definition / Appeal to the Dictionary / Definist Fallacy (type of) / Rhetorical Definition

Logical Fallacy of Composition / Exception Fallacy

Logical Fallacy of Division / False Division / Ecological Fallacy / Ecological Inference Fallacy

Etymological Fallacy

Logical Fallacy of Nominalization, Misnomer, Labeling

Logical Fallacy of Inference from a Label

Pigeonholing Fallacy / Ahistoric Fallacy

Category Mistake / Category Error

Logical Fallacy of the Conjunction Effect / Conjunction Fallacy

Disjunction Fallacy

Logical Fallacy of Argument by Fast Talking / Information Overload / Bang-Bang-Bang

Logical Fallacy of Proof by Verbosity / Argumentum Verbosium

Logical Fallacy of Argument by Gibberish / Bafflement / Prestigious Jargon

Logical Fallacy of Confusing Contradiction with Contrariety

Logical Fallacy of Ambiguous Collective / Type-Token Ambiguity

Conceptual Fallacy

Anti-Concreteness Mentality Fallacy / Attributing Abstractness to the Concrete / Mistaking an Entity for a Theory / Mistaking Reality for an Assumptions

Butterfly Logic

The Logical Fallacy of Process-Product Ambiguity / Act-Object Ambiguity



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Stories Versus Revelation

Understanding Logic

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God's Word

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Fossil Record Says: "Creation"

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