Think logically and rationally, don’t embrace a fallacy

Avoid ‘the argument from ignorance’ and look at evidence

Debating has always been an interest of mine; probably because I’m opinionated, to put it mildly.

Watching Youtube videos of Christopher Hitchens or Sam Harris schooling some moron are entertaining, but understanding debate, including critical thinking, to me is even more important. It’s very common in the world of debate for a few who think themselves wise to actually have an argument that’s full of mistakes, fallacies and bias. There are quite a few fallacies I enjoy watching, such as the Texas sharpshooter fallacy or the strawman fallacy, but my favourite fallacy is what’s referred to as “the argument from ignorance.”

The appeal to ignorance is, essentially, claiming “No one knows the answer, so fairies must have done it.” Fairies, of course, can be replaced by just about anything from Santa Claus to Hercules. From what I’ve seen and heard, plenty of people who make the appeal to ignorance don’t try very hard to find a logical, rational explanation for things like UFO sightings or Bigfoot.

The origin of the Egyptian pyramids, to me, is one of the most fertile grounds for the argument from ignorance. Some claim that, because we don’t know how ancient Egyptians could have built the pyramids, then space aliens must have done it.

Anyone who claims this obviously hasn’t done much reading because there’s substantial, very persuasive evidence to prove who built the pyramids: ancient Egyptians.

For example, examination of the pyramids themselves reveals red chalk marks where engineers and workers lined up stones during construction. Would space aliens need to use chalk to keep things straight? Not likely, considering saucer people are said to have technology like telekinesis, teleportation and anti-gravity. It would seem rather strange that an alien race would need to travel millions of light years to make red chalk marks on stones.

Then in the 1990s, vast cemeteries were found immediately adjacent the pyramids at Giza. Excavation revealed the graveyards were full of remains of Egyptians suffering extreme injuries consistent with back-breaking physical labour…for example, placing huge stone blocks to build a pyramid. A logical, rational person couldn’t be blamed for thinking these were the remains of the Egyptians who built the pyramid, laid to rest in the shadow of the Pharaoh’s tomb that they gave their lives to build.

Let’s travel north to Scotland to a body of water named Loch Ness. Since the early 20th Century, certain people have produced questionable, sometimes fraudulent, evidence to suggest a massive creature, thought to be extinct about 65 million years ago, actually inhabits the lake. Some claim nobody knows exactly what’s in the lake, so it must be a dinosaur.

Consider this: on the shores of Loch Ness is a manor called Urquhart Castle. The present site dates to the 1200s CE. Curiously, of all the time that castle has been there, there was no mention of any strange, gargantuan creature in the lake. Yes, I know, that’s very odd.

For 700 years, no log, diary or family history ever written by anyone who lived at Urquhart Castle ever mentioned a monster in the lake, not so much as a single reference. Yet, over the span of just a couple decades in the 20th Century, all sorts of stories, with no physical evidence, suddenly surfaced.

A logical, rational person would assume if a creature that inhabited the lake for 65 million years actually existed, it would have been spotted by castle dwellers who spent seven centuries staring at the loch.

Stu Salkeld is editor of The Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the paper.

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