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Logical Fallacy of Presentism


Logical Fallacy of Presentism

The logical fallacy of presentism 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.

The logical fallacy of presentism occurs when it is assumed that elements of the present-day worldview were the same in the past.

Examples of the Logical Fallacy of Presentism

Bill Nye arguing against Creation science: "Inherent in this worldview is that, somehow, (pause for drama) Noah and his family (pause for drama) were able to build a wooden ship that would house 14,000 individual [animals] . . . and these people were unskilled. As far an anybody knows they had never built a wooden ship before. Furthermore, they had to get all these animals on there, and they had to feed them, and I understand that Ken Ham has some explanations for that which I frankly find extraordinary, but, this is the premise of the 'bit,' and we can then run a test, a scientific test. People in the 1800s built an extraordinary large wooden ship, the Wyoming. It was a six-masted scooner, the largest one ever built. It had a motor on it for winching cables and stuff. But this boat had a great difficulty. It was not as big as the Titanic, but it was a very long ship. It would twist in the sea. It would twist this way, this way and this way. (moving his hands to illustrate exaggerated twisting in four directions while making extreme facial expressions). And in all that twisting, it leaked. It leaked like crazy. The crew could not keep the ship dry. And indeed it eventually foundered and sank--loss of all 14 hands. So there were 14 crewmen aboard a ship that was built by very, very skilled shipwrights in New England. These guys were the best in the world at wooden ship building (pause) and they couldn't build a boat as big as the Ark is claimed to have been. Is that reasonable? Is that possible that the best shipbuilders in the world couldn't do what eight unskilled people, men and their wives, were able to do?"

Bill Nye is using a twist on the logical fallacy of presentism, assuming that the skills of people who are living now can be projected into the past, in this case, assuming less and less skill going back in time.

Bill Nye arguing against Creation science: "If you visit the national zoo in Washington D.C.--it's a hundred and sixty-three acres--and they have 400 species--by the way, this picture that you're seeing was taken by spacecraft in space orbiting the Earth. If you told my grandfather, let alone my father, that we had that capability they would have been amazed. That capability comes from our fundamental understanding of gravity, of material science, of physics, and life-science where you go looking. This place, as any zoo, is often criticized for how it treats its animals. They have 400 species on 163 acres, 66 hectares. Is it reasonable that Noah and his colleagues, his family, were able to maintain 14,000 animals and themselves and feed them aboard a ship that was bigger than anyone's ever been able to build?"

Bill Nye is using the fallacy of presentism, projecting the knowledge and worldviews of the present into the past. We know almost nothing about the pre-flood culture and technology. However, there are many things that people did thousands of years ago that we aren't able to do today. The pyramids come to mind. And, there were ship-building techniques in the past, we have archeological evidence of this, that made stronger ships than the best wooden ships of the last two centuries. Ken Ham, of course, mentioned this. Through Scripture, God speaks to us of the design of the ark only at a high level. We don't have the details of the plan. There are design-features that could have been built in, some of which have been discussed in various articles that deal with the ark. And Bill Nye ought to keep in mind that the almighty, all-knowing, all-wise God knows more than present-day humans do, and may have incorporated design features that have been lost to human knowledge over the last 4,000 years. This is also the fallacy of circular reasoning. Bill Nye is assuming that on one, not even Noah, has ever built a ship this large. Then, Bill uses his assumption to prove what he is assuming, that Noah didn't build the ark. That is circular reasoning.

Last updated: Sep, 2014
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