Monday, March 8, 2010

It is obvious that ....

I have been reading quite a few (too many?) articles, blogs, and online debates about atheism, evolution, young earth creationism, and biblical interpretation. I would like to suggest a moratorium on phrases such as the following:

"it is obvious that...."
"the Bible clearly says..."
"you are being irrational...."
"any rational person can see that...."
"there are a lot of very intelligent people who believe X [or not X]"
"science has clearly proven...."
"it is ridiculous to believe Y...."

If I am debating another person who sees things differently than me than I am not sure I can justify claiming my point of view is "obvious".


  1. Here is my two cents. All those comments above is a subtle but very clear argument to authority, which is a well known fallacy. Consensus is important in so far as the evidence supports the assertion, but very often the actual evidence is never mentioned. So Ross, how do you feel being a revered scientist in the eyes of the scientism crowd :)?

  2. I agree that some of these statements are appeals to authority, but I think that most are cloaked as appeals to a non-existent authority, i.e, "I think X is true. You think X is false. But I am rational. You are not."

    I agree that there is no real discussion of the actual evidence in many of these discussions.

  3. As an editor of scientific texts, I always remove words such as "obviously" and to a lesser extent "clearly", mainly because the thing that the authors refer to as obvious is often not at all obvious to someone from a related discipline, let alone a general reader (or editor), but also because of the implication that someone who doesn't see the thing as obvious or disagrees with the interpretation is somehow inferior.