Let’s say you want to discredit a viewpoint which you strongly disagree with. Let’s assume you are not interested in the logical form of the arguments or the evidence used by those who hold the view. What can you do? You can always go the intellectual kinder-garden route of mining for fallacies in selected texts. There are thousands of texts in the internet, you can select those suitable for the conclusions you want to draw, tabulate the loosely-interpreted fallacies, and draw the wanted conclusions. You can also accuse those holding the viewpoint of some loosely-defined concept of bad thinking, let’s call it experiential thinking for example.
This is basically what Petteri Nieminen did in his 2015 thesis in theology ”A Unified Theory of Creationism — Argumentation, experiential thinking and emerging doctrine” (University of Eastern Finland). In a way, it is not surprising that the fallacy-accusation tradition of internet sceptics has supporters. Of course, the better way is not to search for potential fallacies, which are often poorly defined and falsely claimed, but to really think about the logical structure of the arguments. What is really surprising though, is that Nieminen’s thesis passed the pre-examination phase at the University of Eastern Finland. (It will be interesting to see whether the thesis is accepted.) My guess is that, whatever your view is on the subject, after reading the following analysis of the thesis, you will be surprised too.
Discussion of evolution
Nieminen devotes two pages (p. 14-16) for a brief discussion of the evidence for evolution. He cites Ratcliff et al. yeast experiments as showing the evolution of multicellularity, when the study really shows well-known grouping of yeast cells, and probably by degradation (http://www.evolutionnews.org/2013/11/a_slow_day_in_t078921.html). The yeast clumps are quite basic and lack cell differentiation programs, whereas plants and animals have body plan programs that enable e.g. the construction and maintenance of numerous different cell types.
Nieminen then cites the massive bacterial experiments by Lenski et al., and the beneficial mutations found in the experiments, with no consideration of the reasons for the increased fitness, which was degradation (http://www.evolutionnews.org/2013/11/richard_lenskis079401.html), which is not really the way one can get new functional biological systems.
Rest of the evidences for evolution are similarities in fossil morphology and genetic similarities, with no discussion of the extent of the similarities, or for how much of the overall similarity data is really described well with the tree-shaped topology, or of the alternative explanation of the similarities by design.
On page 16 of the thesis, Nieminen discusses the potential points of falsification for the theory of evolution (quoting from none other than rationalwiki):
- Mutations would not occur.
- Mutations would not be passed to subsequent generations.
- Mutations would not produce any changes in the phenotype.
- There would not be differences in the reproductive success of individuals of the same species in nature.
Now, the quoted possibilities of falsification pertain to the existence of the mutation – natural selection mechanism, which no-one doubts. The real question is, can the mutation – selection mechanism really produce the complex biosphere we see around us (see e.g. http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/12/is_evolution_tr091731.html).
Ad-hoc philosophical criticism of ID
Nieminen writes on ID (page 23):
“Basically, ID theory claims that there is an intelligent agent that has characteristic behavior, inducing novel characters in life forms. However, this claim requires a more general theory about intelligent agents that have causal powers on biological entities. Whereas ID proponents claim that the existence of such agents has been proven by observation of biochemistry, several authors disagree, because the claim would have to be independently validated. The suggestions of Behe and Dembski to unravel design are thus used to identify intelligent behavior but are not designed to unravel any existence of intelligent agents capable of this. In order to achieve this, ID would have to be able to set up testing to demonstrate the presence of an intelligent agent in natural or experimental conditions. One possible scenario would be to observe special creation in a test site approved by evolutionists and ID proponents.”
While independent validation is a good thing to have for a theory, it is by no means necessary. (One can always dismiss a claim by requiring further independent validation.) Also, testing of design in experimental conditions is another ad-hoc requirement, which would of course be good to have, but not all things in nature subject themselves to such requirements. The study of origins is of course partly historical in nature and it is hard to subject historical events to experimental testing. If the claim of design theorists is the detection of design, the argument should be evaluated as such, not by ad-hoc requirements for something else. Not all science fits one demarcation glove, and Nieminen should know this.
On fine-tuning, Nieminen comments:
“In addition, the philosophical basis of ID (and YEC) based on the design argument rests nowadays heavily on the “fine-tuning argument“—a claim that physical laws of the known universe are fine-tuned to permit organic life as we know it. This has been rejected based on three principles. i) The argument rests on probability. It claims that the present set of natural laws was too improbable to come into existence without a designer. However, David Deming points out that the concept of probability only has any meaning when discussing repeating occurrences and that it is intellectually fallacious to assign probability values to unique events. Multiple universes (ƿ repeating occurrences) can be discussed speculatively but there is as yet no observational evidence for them. In addition, the alleged probabilities have been disputed and there are calculations showing that the origin of life is within the boundaries suggested by the fine-tuning argument theorists. ii) It is also as yet impossible to know whether the universe was designed to contain life, or whether life just evolved in the universe. iii) The anthropic principle states that it is a tautology “that observers will observe cosmos that allows for their existence“. Altogether, the issue of fine-tuning remains controversial and it seems that based on different worldviews and preconceptions, one can accept the fine-tuning argument and its criticism either as being consistent with theism and trinitarianism or with the secular worldview.”
Firstly, the philosophical basis of ID does not in any way rest on the fine-tuning argument. The fine-tuning is a case of design. Second, the fine-tuning argument is under serious discussion and of course has not been rejected; much less rejected based on the three superficial principles Nieminen lists:
Criticism i) rests on the fallacious concept of probability as frequencies of occurrences. In reality, probability describes our state of knowledge, or rather the lack thereof. We assign 1/6 probabilities for a dice throw precisely because we don’t know enough of the dice throw and there is no reason to suppose one side is preferred. If we knew enough of the dice, we could calculate the outcome and would not need to use probabilities. This is the way probability is used in cosmology all the time.
Criticism ii) is unintelligible. Of course it is impossible to know for certain, as is the case almost always in science, but one can assign probabilities and draw the inference. The option “life just evolved in the universe” in not well defined. The fine-tuning arguments usually argue based on the possibility for any kind of life (stable energy sources, stable structures such as planets, the universe not a black hole etc).
Criticism iii) is again unintelligible. The anthropic principle does not state that the fine-tuning argument is a tautology. Nieminen should know that there are many definitions for the anthropic principle. The term is not well defined. If Nieminen takes the statement “that observers will observe cosmos that allows for their existence“ to be the anthropic principle, then the anthropic principle only states the obvious. But from the fact that we can only observe a habitable universe it does not follow that a universe will be habitable. If you survive a 100-shooter firing squad execution, it is not tautological to find explanations for the survival even if you would not be observing if the marksmen had succeeded. In effect, the observer selection effect does not affect the inference in this case. Nieminen is probably ambiguous here because he does not have a clear understanding of the issue.
Sloppy scientific criticism
Nieminen criticizes the “creationist” probability calculations in the usual way, page 29:
“The use of probabilities as proof for the existence of a “designer” has also been heavily criticized. For instance, Behe has claimed that some biochemical novelties require two mutations to occur and he calculated the probability of such an occurrence to be infinitesimally small (Behe 2007, 59). However, there is no evidence that this should be the case. There is no obstacle to believing that the mutations could not occur one after another, especially if the first mutation is neutral (Durrett and Schmidt 2008, 2009). This is also scientifically problematic, as ID proponents basically state that some natural phenomena are not only unexplained at present but that they are totally inexplicable (Crouch et al. 2006). In addition, the ID and YEC calculations on probability appear to assume that only a single genomic constitution is capable of producing the “desired” outcome (See also below Järnefelt 2007 for teleo-intentional thinking.). However, we know that there are thousands or millions of forms of known proteins with subtle differences in their respective DNA sequences, not only between species but also between individuals. For example, there are between seven and eight billion current genomes that can all produce a functional human being and we have no reason to assume that the number of other genomes also capable of producing humans would not be higher. As it is virtually impossible to assess all these different but equally functional forms of DNA and protein—different structures but the same functions—the calculations of probabilities regarding the existence of these molecules become essentially meaningless (Essentially, ID proponents should not simply calculate the probability of a specific DNA sequence (for, e.g., hemoglobin) being formed by chance. They should calculate the probability of “any molecule, protein or other, that can aid an organism to transport oxygen” being formed by chance). The same impossibility of calculating probabilities in any reasonable manner has also been the target of criticism regarding the works of Dembski (Fitelson et al. 1999; Deming 2008).”
There are several problems here. Firstly, Behe has not claimed that the probability for two subsequent mutations is infinitesimally small, rather he argues that the event is already quite rare in the malaria population under question. Behe argues further, that such events would be highly unlikely to occur in most populations of almost any other organism due to the orders of magnitude smaller population sizes and significantly lower benefits provided by natural selection. Contrary to Nieminen, Behe explicitly takes into account the mutations occurring one after another. The Durrett paper cited by Nieminen was discussed further in the same journal, who in the end considers the paper as a confirmation for his view (http://behe.uncommondescent.com/2009/03/waiting-longer-for-two-mutations-part-5/). A technical treatment by D. Axe (http://bio-complexity.org/ojs/index.php/main/article/view/BIO-C.2010.4) shows that the advantage of the neutral mutations had been overestimated in subsequent criticisms of Behe’s work.
Secondly, Behe does not make the claim, as Nieminen suggests, that the phenomenon is “totally inexplicable” but indeed makes the empirical and mathematical claim that the mutation-selection mechanism is exceedingly unlikely to explain the appearance of biological novelty.
Thirdly, most calculations made by ID researchers do not make the assumption that “only a single genomic constitution is capable of producing the “desired” outcome”. (It would be nice to have a reference here supporting the claim.) Indeed, the volume of the space of functional configurations for proteins has been an area of active study by ID researchers (Axe, Gauger, Reeves). In effect, the ID researchers have done research on exactly the area Nieminen faults them for not doing. As an aside, Nieminen’s treatment of functioning human genomes is laughable. Of course there are many functioning human genomes! But does Nieminen not have any grasp on how large the sequence space can be? Compared to the volume of space for all configurations of the human genome, the volume of which grows exponentially with genome size, 1010 is a very very small number. (The amount of possible configurations for the human genome is roughly 43000000000.) Compared to the total volume of the sequence space for e.g. proteins, the volume of functional space can be estimated to be very small, which has been the point of ID researchers, in addition to research on evolvability within the functional space.
Based on the misguided criticism, it seems that Nieminen does not possess even a working knowledge of the ID literature he criticizes.
On page 19, Nieminen criticizes a YEC geneticist J. Sanford on his “genetic entropy” thesis, which basically says that the fitness of humans is decreasing very rapidly due to accumulation of negative mutations, the amount of which is so large that natural selection is unable to weed them out. (The discussion here is quite similar to the blog post https://letterstocreationists.wordpress.com/stan-4/.)
Leaving aside whether Sanford’s argument is correct, the criticism of Nieminen is easily seen to be superficial and spurious.
Nieminen in fact mainly criticizes Sanford’s arguments based on another YEC authors, A. Williams’ calculations, which show that the life-span of the human race after a population bottleneck, with the current large decrease in fitness, would be roughly 2000 years. Nieminen makes much of the fact that this would not fit even the YEC timescale after Noah. However, this is not sufficient to prove Sanford or Williams wrong, because Williams already discusses this in his article:
“The above model assumes that right from the beginning there will be 1.5% loss of fitness each generation. However, the binomial simulations earlier showed that individuals can tolerate somewhere between a few thousand to a few million mutations before the damage critically interferes with their ability to reproduce. This means that synergistic epistasis is a real phenomenon—life is robust in the face of mutational assault. Instead of the immediate loss of 1.5% every generation, the general population would remain apparently healthy for a much longer time before the damage became apparent.”
So, if you are going to criticize a YEC author scientifically, which is often not hard to do, please try to do it carefully and correctly.
The search for fallacies
It can be said that searching for fallacies in a text is a childish form of deconstructing the text. And any text can be deconstructed.
From page 28 on, Nieminen discusses several fallacies and gives examples in the creationist (including ID) literature. He refers in this context to “Argumentation Theory”, which seems to be a fancy term for a collection of points related to argumentation, not a theory in any meaningful sense. Nieminen describes Ad hominem, appeals to authority, appeals consequences, the slippery slope, appeal to ignorance, false dilemma, hasty generalization, and equivocation fallacies.
The general problem of hunting for fallacies in texts and pretending to have found out something significant is firstly that the fallacies are not often well defined and secondly that often the fallacy is only in the eye of the one searching for fallacies.
For example, what is an appeal to authority fallacy? In scientific papers, we cite experts all the time. As we can personally test maybe 0.0001% percent of science, we have to trust other people. Apparently, for Nieminen, when a creationist text cites an authority, the text commits an appeal to authority fallacy. This is not justified. Any minority research program can be loosely accused of “ignoring the base rates” fallacy, because there is much more research coming out from the majority program.
The important issue is the logical structure of the arguments made, not that there are things in a text that can be interpreted as fallacies. Furthermore, concerning fallacies, it is crucial to see if the “fallacy” was made as part of the argument, because then and only then it will be a fallacy.
This is where Nieminen has not done the necessary homework. It is apparently enough for Nieminen that a text discusses e.g. consequences of evolution for the text to commit an appeal to consequence fallacy. This is deeply flawed. (Nieminen would need to show that the appeal to consequence was part of the main argument to establish a real fallacy).
For example, with Nieminen’s method, most scientific articles would contain appeal to consequences fallacies because it is normal to include a motivational text for the research in the introduction. But this is not a fallacy because it is not a part of the logical argument of the paper. It is telling that no scientific articles were included in Nieminen’s analysis.
It is actually normal for a text to contain appeals to authority, discussion of consequences, discussion of resulting events (slippery slope), generalizations, and changes in term definitions (equivocations) without being fallacious. Mere appearance of these elements does not make the argument or the text fallacious. This is especially true if the text being analyzed is a whole book. Nieminen’s method, however, seems to be that a text is considered fallacious based only on the appearance of these elements. He does not do the work of checking whether these elements were part of the argument made by the author. This is fallacious and incredibly sloppy.
Because Nieminen has not shown that the claimed fallacies were made as a part of the argument by the authors of the text Nieminen analyzed, he has not established that they are in fact fallacies.
In Appendix A, two Finnish authors were selected and the fallacies claimed by Nieminen were checked from the original texts. Nieminen claims 12 fallacies for these authors. It was seen that in all cases Nieminen’s claims of fallacies were spurious and not one logical fallacy could be found in the texts of these authors. Let us hazard an inductive argument: Based on the fact that 0/12 claimed fallacies were actually present for these authors, it is probable that less than 10% of the other claimed fallacies will be actually present in the other texts Nieminen has “analyzed”. Some ID researchers have already taken Nieminen to task for attributing spurious fallacies for them, noting that a verbatim quote claimed by Nieminen does not exist in the text, in word or in spirit (http://www.evolutionnews.org/2015/03/while_ranting_a094851.html). Up to date, Nieminen has not given a response on the issue, which, frankly, is not a surprise.
The selection of texts for analysis
An important methodological consideration is: How were the texts selected for analysis?Other than admitting that the selection was not done randomly, Nieminen does not tell how the texts were selected. Here, the problem is that there are thousands of texts on the issue, and by selecting some tens of texts, as Nieminen has done, one is in danger of finding precisely what one wants to find.
So, until Nieminen justifies his selection of texts as somehow statistically representable of the whole, the analysis is highly doubtful.
Claims of experiential thinking
After he feels that the fallacious nature of creationist texts has been established, Nieminen discusses experiential thinking, which is basically a way less rational (stupid?) people argue to conclusions. Needless to say, “experiential thinking” is not well defined and hence can be applied rather loosely. It is hence difficult to say if associating “experiential thinking” to a people holding a certain viewpoint is anything more than academic name-calling.
Fallacious statistical method
Nieminen uses p-values to establish his conclusions. The method of course requires random sampling, which Nieminen has not done, so the discussion of the p-values is worthless.
In the thesis, Nieminen takes ID to be a form of creationism. It is common for Nieminen to claim fallacies in YEC texts and the some sentences later put the blame on all creationist writings, ID included. So, Nieminen’s unfounded conclusions are therefore usually drawn also for ID. This is hasty generalization fallacy in action.
Unsupported theological conclusions
On page 62, on “ID/OEC doctrine”, Nieminen writes:
“In contrast to YEC, many ID/OEC writers refrained from stating clear opinions on aspects of Christian doctrine. Exceptions to this were Johnson and Puolimatka, who explicitly stated their Christian conviction. Other ID/OEC theorists declined to identify the “designer” as a particular deity or as a supernatural entity. Thus, the ID/OEC worldview per se does not necessarily take a stand on the entity responsible for creation or “design” and in the sample material there are ID theorists who could be classified as agnostics. Thus, unlike YEC, ID theory contained aspects that clearly diverged from major Christian doctrine in relation to God and creation.”
This is again very sloppy logic on Nieminen’s part. Firstly, Nieminen of course claims fallacies when an ID author states his or her Christian convictions (personal testimonials). When the author does not discuss theology, the accusation seems to be that the author is “diverging from Christian doctrine”, apparently by the lack of discussion of all the possible doctrines that could be discussed! The correct position of ID has basically always been that the science does not take us so far as to show the identity of the designer, but it does take us to the conclusion that some things in nature are designed. This is a logically consistent and well-founded position. If Nieminen takes the fact that there are agnostics in the ID movement, as grounds for claiming that the theoretical content of ID is divergent from major Christian doctrine, this is a clear logical fallacy.
It should have been clear to Nieminen that ID as a research program does not take a stand on theological issues. Consequently, every time Nieminen assigns theological views to ID based on the expressed theological views of individual ID researchers or advocates, he is falsely generalizing. The whole theological discussion by Nieminen is basically fallacious for this reason.
Nieminen continues his pseudo(theo)logical discussion:
“In addition to the identity of a “creator” or “designer”, ID/OEC also differed from YEC in theodicy. As noted above, the question of theodicy in ID has been criticized by both YEC and evolutionary proponents. Of the sampled ID authors, Behe basically claimed ignorance and asked whether “a hateful, malign being [made] intelligent life in order to torture it?” and answered “Maybe, maybe not”. Theologically, this is not a satisfactory answer. Puolimatka has attempted to assess the issue in more detail. He referred to alleged compensatory benefits of suffering, especially pain. However, this approach of “absorbed evil” compensating for animal suffering has been rebutted in detail, and Puolimatka failed to take into account higher-level suffering (natural disasters, malevolence, etc.) as well as the free-will defense and its potential applications to animal suffering. Thus, basically the ID/OEC theodicy remains superficial and fails to answer the challenge presented by YEC and evolutionary theorists in a comprehensive manner.”
Of course, Behe is not required to provide a “theologically satisfying” answer to a theological question in his writings about biochemistry and design. With Nieminen’s reasoning, you could fault every article in a biochemistry or physics journal as theologically unsatisfying.
Puolimatka does discuss the problem of evil, but contrary to Nieminen’s claim, that discussion has not been “rebutted in detail” by the atheist diatribe “The miracle of theism” by Mackie, which Nieminen cites in this context.
Now, let’s face it. ID is generally quite independent of the problem of evil, as it contributes quite little to the theological discussion. Why? Because philosophers of religion already assume design or creation in particular when they discuss the problem of evil. The practicalities of how the world was created bears little on the larger philosophical discussion on the problem of evil. So, ID cannot (based on the scientific evidence) and need not take a stand on the problem of evil. The same probably goes for OEC and partly even for YEC (where the fall is a concrete entering-point of evil, but of course the larger philosophical issue of why it was allowed to enter at all stays basically the same). The individual ID proponent is free to select the best answers to the problem for his or her worldview form the philosophy of religion literature. And there are several good options there. The whole discussion by Nieminen on the theodicy of ID is imaginary.
An almost funny, were it not so badly founded, speculation by Nieminen is that because creationists cite some evolutionist text quite often, these will form a new canon for creationists. That is, Nieminen really seems to think that creationists will uplift the words of their opponents to the status of divine revelation! Now, really, does Nieminen really think that canonization follows from quoting certain text often? In physics, people like to quote Feynman very often (“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.”, and some other passages from Feynman). In biology, the same passages from Darwin are often quoted. Are we making a canon in these cases? Of course not, the speculation is laughable. They are just good quotes. It is very surprising that such unfounded and clearly wrong speculation passes in a thesis, but such is the power of confirmation bias.
On page 64, Nieminen goes on to discuss creationist doctrine (what is that anyway?):
“Although creationist doctrine (especially YEC) shares many significant aspects with general Christian doctrine, there were also crucial differences when compared to major denominations. These divergences included the requirement of scientific evidence for the accuracy of the Bible, especially OT (IV) that was visible as scientism in YEC texts. In ID, some authors could be better classified as agnostics than Christians regarding creation on the basis of their writings.”
So, the claim is that creationist differ crucially from the major Christian denominations. What is the justification for such a claim? For YEC, the justification is that Nieminen feels that YEC requires scientific confirmation of the bible. Nieminen goes on further to label this as a branch of scientism. While it is true that scientism has several definitions, the common factor for the different forms of scientism is that science is taken to be the most valuable source of knowledge (and this in itself would be rather mild scientism). But usually YEC authors take the bible to be more authoritative than scientific proofs, so it is rather clear that Nieminen is wrong here, the labeling representing more biased thinking and the need to discredit creationist as Christians rather than careful consideration of the definition of scientism.
On top of this, Nieminen has not shown that proponents of YEC require scientific confirmation rather than want scientific arguments for their worldview. There is a huge difference here, as it is normal and good in general to want and search for confirmation for ones views from different source of information.
Nieminen’s claims seem again to represent very negative readings of opponents texts, topped with unfounded speculations and conclusions based on sloppy definitions of terms. The generalization from the negatively-interpreted views of some YEC/OEC/ID authors to the doctrine of YEC/OEC/ID viewpoints would of course represent a clear case of the hasty generalization fallacy.
In reality, most YEC/OEC/ID proponents are happy members of some major Christian denominations, with evidentialist or realist tendencies with regards to philosophy of religion. The major denominations do not distinguish their members based on these categories and the YEC/OEC/ID proponents agree to the creedal statements of the denominations, their YEC/OEC/ID viewpoints being rather independent from the creedal content. Nieminen’s attempt to isolate “creationists” based on theological views, labeled to them by Nieminen himself, seems to be deeply flawed and possibly malicious conduct against a people group.
Nieminen continues his attempts to isolate the “creationists” by discussing the “considerable funding” of creationist organizations, discussing that the product of “creationist organizations” is flawed (which he has shown with his fallacious claims of fallacies). Let’s put this false claim to the rest. These claims of considerable funding are usually coming from the internet sceptics who have not done research or applied for research funding. Let’s take the best funded creationist organization AiG, which according to Nieminen had a total revenue of over 19 million dollars in 2011. This may sound like a large sum, but research-wise, it is not much. In Finland, one researcher-year costs roughly 100 000 €. It is usual for department at a Finnish university to have over 20 M€ income and roughly 200 personnel. And this is in Finland, which is a small country. So, the “considerable funding” of the largest creationist organization in the world is below the funding of e.g. one department of bioscience or department of physics of a medium-size university. To put this in context, the total yearly funding for e.g. the University of Helsinki is roughly 700 M€ (http://www.helsinki.fi/vuosikertomus2013/lukuina.html#target6).
The acceptance of Nieminen’s superficial thesis represents at best an attempt the get easy money for the theological department based on the number PhD theses, and at worst confirmation bias by the community.
Did not anyone check Nieminen’s claims by reading the cited texts? Did not anyone think through his spurious attribution of fallacies? Did not anyone check the science? Did not anyone think over the spurious nature of “experiential thinking” and the ethical implications of groundlessly labeling a viewpoint with “experiential thinking”? Did not anyone think through the laughable attribution of “creationist canon” based on oft-cited quotes? Did not anyone think about the ethics of spuriously reading in differences in doctrine and the attempt to dissociate the people with these viewpoints from their denominations? Apparently not.
Appendix A. A case study of Nieminen’s treatment of two Finnish authors
To check some claims of Nieminen’s thesis, I checked his references to the writings of two Finnish professors, Tapio Puolimatka and Matti Leisola.
Nieminen claims that Leisola has made a false dilemma -fallacy in the following: “There are only two alternatives: either the world receives its order from an outside source or the order is innate without any order given from the outside.” Despite Nieminen’s claims, it is quite hard to see the third alternative here: either information is coming from the outside or it is not. This is very sloppy on Nieminen’s part, reflecting more an attitude against Leisola than careful thinking. There are some additional claims against Leisola, but page numbers are not given.
Leisola is accused of: “poisoning the well was observed when creationists (both YEC and ID/OEC) dismissed the rebuttal of creationist claims by stating that scientists would not consider supernatural explanations in any case.” A whole book is given as a reference to Leisola at this point. I have read the book and do not remember any such fallacy being made. It is indeed true that in the book Leisola discusses the effect of naturalism on science, which is a real concern, but I do not remember this being done in the context of dismissing criticism as Nieminen claims. The claim of a fallacy is unsupported and probably false.
Puolimatka receives considerably more claims for fallacious statements from Nieminen:
Page 44: Nieminen claims that Puolimatka portrays Darwin as unqualified. The actual paragraph makes no such statement. When discussing the thought of prominent darwinists, Puolimatka claims: “Theological assumptions had a significant effect on their scientific inference, as will be shown in more detail in the third chapter. This is understandable, because Charles Darwin himself was a theologian by his actual education (oli varsinaiselta koulutukseltaan teologi), and his original purpose was to live as a rural priest.” Here Puolimatka clearly does not downplay Darwin’s qualifications but instead describes the effect of theology on Darwin’s thinking. Nieminen’s reading of Puolimatka’s text is biased and unfair.
In the same page Nieminen accuses Puolimatka of ad hominem fallacy towards Darwin on the basis that Darwin did not condemn the destruction of primitive races. In the text Puolimatka makes no such fallacy. Firstly, Puolimatka describes Darwin’s thinking and quotes Darwin verbatim. The exposition of Darwin’s view on the subject is not a fallacy because Puolimatka does not draw the conclusion that Darwin’s theory is wrong based on Darwin’s moral views.
In the footnote Nieminen writes: “The accusation [that Darwin did not condemn the destruction of primitive races] is anachronistic, as it places a historical figure in the framework of a modern concept of preserving primitive cultures. In addition, Darwin showed clear sympathy for, e.g. , the demise of Australian aborigines and the New Zealand Maori (Darwin 1838, 322) and condemned the U. S. slavery much more harshly than most of his contemporaries (Darwin 1861). While both the accusations and the defense are obviously irrelevant to the actual scientific evidence for evolution, the habit of choosing only one-sided arguments on Darwin’s character can be quite revealing when considering experiential thinking.”
The problem with Nieminen’s statement here is that he quotes Puolimatka one-sidedly. He fails to quote Puolimatka’s positive comments about Darwin’s character while accusing Puolimatka of one-sidedly making negative statements about Darwin. After quoting a statement by Darwin where Darwin defends sympathy for people of various races and for handicapped people, Puolimatka writes: “These statements show Darwin’s own moral ideal, the development of sympathy and mutual caring. He could argue for this kind of evolutionary process simply on the basis of the fact that he himself was a product of evolution and a very sympathetic and moral human being. – - Darwin himself took a negative attitude towards racial hygienic solutions, but he could not fail to notice that the logic of his own position led in that direction. – - Darwin is not ready to follow the logic of his own position, but in a way inconsistent with his own theory he appeals to the idea that the refusal to show sympathy would be against the most noble part of the human being. – - Darwin’s own ethical sympathy led him to recommend only soft racial hygiene – - Darwin’s disciples, who lacked his advanced sympathy, applied his theory more consistently. – - Darwinism has sometimes been accused of creating a foundation for the extermination of Jews by Nazis – - This kind of view does not do full justice to darwinism. Darwin himself would have opposed this kind of development.“ (Puolimatka, Tiedekeskustelun avoimuuskoe, ss. 465-468) Nieminen cannot claim that he did not notice these comments, because he is referring to these very pages in another context in his dissertation.
Page 45 Nieminen apparently accuses Puolimatka of judging Gould erroneous based on his past writings or actions. In the three pages Nieminen cites from Puolimatka’s work, there are quotes from Gould but no sign of such a fallacy. In the same pages Puolimatka cites a quote by Eldrigde: “we have proffered a collective tacit acceptance of the story of gradual adaptive change; a story that strengthened and became even more entrenched as the synthesis took hold. We paleontologists have said that the history of life supports that interpretation, all the while really knowing that it does not.” Puolimatka does not give an accurate reference for this quote, which is from Eldridge, Niles: Time Frames: The Rethinking of Darwinian Evolution and the Theory of Punctuated Equilibria (Simon & Schuster: New York, 1985, s. 144.) From such neglect, Nieminen apparently draws the conclusion, that the quote is a sign of Puolimatka’ uncritically adhering to “emerging creationist canon”. However, Nieminen does not show that Puolimatka has used the quote out of context. This is a serious case of a non sequitur by Nieminen.
On the same page Nieminen accuses Puolimatka of ad hominem appeal to authority fallacy, based solely on the fact that Puolimatka discusses the effect of Christian faith on two notable physicists (Maxwell and Faraday). This is not a fallacy, just an interesting discussion about the way Christian presuppositions helped in making important physical discoveries. Puolimatka does not draw unsupported conclusions as an appeal to authority fallacy would require.
Next, Nieminen accuses Puolimatka of guilt by association fallacy: “Puolimatka, who argued in favor of associating evolutionary theory with Hitler as follows: “Those who present this type of critique would not certainly want to say that it would not be rational to study the factors that participated in taking Hitler and the national socialist Germany to atrocities”. This is a valid argument when assessing the reasons behind historical events, including genocide. However, if the issue is associated with discussing the validity of evolutionary theory (as interposed in the same book), it becomes a fallacy.” So, in effect, Nieminen is not interested in the actual arguments used by Puolimatka, whether Puolimatka in fact uses the valid point to argue for the indirect connectedness of Darwinism and Nazism as part of an argument to prove the theory of evolution wrong. The mere discussion of the two subjects in the same book is enough for Nieminen to claim a logical fallacy. This is very sloppy.
On page 47, Nieminen accuses Puolimatka of the argument from pity, based on the fact that Puolimatka discusses the mistreatment of scientists holding a minority view. The discussion is proper and does not commit a fallacy because Puolimatka does not draw unwarranted conclusions.
On page 49, Nieminen accuses Puolimatka of the equivocation fallacy (use of ambiguous terms) for referring to the speculative common ancestors of modern apes and humans with the word apes. In the context Puolimatka discusses the question of whether creationism is falsifiable. He refers to the potential falsification of creationism by a notable philosopher of science Larry Laudan as follows “According to Laudan, advocates of creationism already in the traditional form fulfill these criteria. Advocates of creationism can propose, for example, the following. “I will give up my view, if a living example of a species is found, which is the intermediate between humans and apes.” Laudan regards it ashighly unlikely that such an intermediate would be found. But already with this proposition, the advocates of creation would fulfill testability, falsifiability …” So, Puolimatka’s point is the in-principle testability and falsifiability of the theory of creation, and the possible use of ambiguous terms is not even relevant to the argument. And in fact, the possible ambiguity stems from Laudan in any case (or the fact that there is no identically defined Finnish word for ape). Anyway, to accuse Puolimatka of an equivocation fallacy in this case is a very negative reading of the text.
On page 50, Nieminen accuses Puolimatka of the slippery slope fallacy, based on the fact that Puolimatka discusses the potential consequences of evolutionary theory. Again, Puolimatka does not use the discussion in an argument against the theory of evolution, so there is no fallacy here.
On page 55, Nieminen accuses Puolimatka of oversimplifying the issue by claiming that “evolution is the only alternative for an atheist”. Firstly, how is this an oversimplification? What other options does Nieminen propose for an atheist? However, the actual text of Puolimatka is: “Why then do many theoreticians see macroevolution as a sure fact? According to Plantinga, the answer lies in the limitations of the atheistic worldview. On the basis of atheistic premises, there is no way of explaining the appearance and development of life aside of natural processes. So an atheist has no other option than to believe in the theory of macroevolution, even holding it as a certain fact, even if the evidence presented for it is sporadic and subject to interpretation. The worldview decides in this case, how the scientific evidence is to be interpreted.” While this may be a simplification, it seems to be practically true: there seems to be no other options for an atheist. So a mere claim of oversimplification is not enough, Nieminen would need to show in what way this is an oversimplification.
On the same page, Nieminen also accuses Puolimatka of associating moral issues with the morally neutral evolutionary theory. In actual fact, Puolimatka discusses Darwin’s moral views, and the ways Darwin’s moral views were influenced by being set in the context of Darwin’s evolutionary theory. The title of Puolimatka’s chapter is “Reductive naturalism undermines moral values”, for which Puolimatka argues convincingly. There is no a fallacy here.
On page 57, Nieminen connects the claimed fallacies with aspects of “experiential thinking” for both Puolimatka and Leisola. However, none of the claimed fallacies were actually committed when the texts of the authors are interpreted in their context. In addition, the indications of experiential thinking as defined by Nieminen are quite vague: referring to the testimony of scientific authorities (common in all literature, even in scientific volumes), attaching moral labels (the same), and presenting complex issues in a simplified form (common in all popular level books about science). Therefore, since Nieminen’s claims about the fallacies are false and his concept of “experiential thinking” is definitionally vague and its supposed indications are common to all literature, Nieminen’s claim of interconnectedness of fallacies and “experiential thinking” is imaginary at best and malicious at worst.