The Induction Fallacy

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The Induction Fallacy

Postby GTnicholas » Thu Mar 14, 2013 1:45 am

*Have not seen this on the wiki, if one finds it I would appreciate it being pointed out*
Okay so I have a Jahovah's witnesses creationist friend who was trying to convince me evolution -like all science- is fraudulent because it relies on the induction fallacy. For those of you who don't know, the induction fallacy states that just because there is a pattern for something, it does not mean that the pattern will necessarily continue. In other words, if I give you 6 billion green apples in a row, there is still nothing stoping me from giving you a red one next. So he was essentially saying "because scientists expect phenomena to be repeatable, they are commiting the induction fallacy and so we cannot trust science, scipture however is the holy word of god and so is infalliable!"(paraphrased)

Apart from the obvious counter to the bit about the bible, the problem of induction has been an issue since Rene Descartes.
Here are some objections to it from philosiphers and me:
1. The problem of induction is a law of logic, and not a law of the universe, it is therefore possible that phenomena must be repeatable in the universe (in short there are no mericles)
2. It works!, It has worked so far and, as long as it continues to work science will do just fine.

I recognize this is only going to be used by people who dig pretty deep into creationism apologetics, but I figure it is worth throwing up on the wiki if it doesn't exist already.

Please provide feedback and rebutals. Also, any reputable quotes on the issue would be great.
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Re: The Induction Fallacy

Postby dobbie » Thu Mar 14, 2013 3:46 am

For those of you who don't know, the induction fallacy states that just because there is a pattern for something, it does not mean that the pattern will necessarily continue. In other words, if I give you 6 billion green apples in a row, there is still nothing stoping me from giving you a red one next.

So he was essentially saying "because scientists expect phenomena to be repeatable, they are commiting the induction fallacy and so we cannot trust science, scipture however is the holy word of god and so is infalliable!" (paraphrased)


Hm, seems to me it can work both ways. Hypothetically speaking, if authors of the New Testament were to be interviewed and they said the New Testament is the word of God, but then if one author of it speaks out later, and says, "No, it isn't. We made it all up -- we only wish it were the word of God" -- Christians would suffer from the induction fallacy! In other words, we can "if" anything! So we can "if" that the above disclaimer could happen or would happen sooner or later -- we can "if" about anything!

So, in general, what that Christian says is too close to the "anything goes mode" -- and it doesn't get anybody much of anywhere! And worse, it's non-empiricle. It's pure imagination!

Since he's convinced that the scriptures are the infallible word of God, he suffers from the induction fallacy on that score, too! Which is to say, a rabbi or a Christian clergyman could come along later and state, "No, my friends, scripture isn't the infallible word of God." After all, scripture is supposed to be infallible -- simply because people say it is. What's more, this kind of disclaimer about the scriptures really happens -- we hear this sort of doubt now and again, from some rabbi or Christian leader who has a big doubt about the reliability scripture -- so this particular induction fallacy really has a basis in empirical evidence!

Finally, the observable "pattern" of evolution hasn't ever failed the way the Christian suggests -- or predicts. Thus his argument against science -- and for scripture -- hasn't any basis in the real world!
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Re: The Induction Fallacy

Postby sepia » Fri Mar 15, 2013 11:26 am

I have 2 answers:

1) Misrepresentation of science: Science, including evolutionaory biology, works with induction and deduction. This is still not perfect but today the best we have. We don't just say "oh, there is a pattern, therefor there is a mechanism". We try to understand the mechanism and make predictions. This is what Popper called Fallibilism, based on falsification.

2) Double Standard: Religions use science too, at least to claim that their holy books are authentic.

GTnicholas wrote:Apart from the obvious counter to the bit about the bible, the problem of induction has been an issue since Rene Descartes.
Here are some objections to it from philosiphers and me:
1. The problem of induction is a law of logic, and not a law of the universe, it is therefore possible that phenomena must be repeatable in the universe (in short there are no mericles)
2. It works!, It has worked so far and, as long as it continues to work science will do just fine.

The problem of induction is an epistemic problem and comes from David Hume.
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Re: The Induction Fallacy

Postby tlhedglin » Mon Apr 08, 2013 7:41 am

It would seem your friend got his definition of science off of a box of Cracker Jack. While science does rely in some part on pattern and repeatability(prediction), it is mainly a means of utilizing and testing ideas. If you jump a million times and come back down every time, you cannot be absolutely certain the next time you jump you will land. That is why science is not about 100% certainty, it really does not deal in absolutes like math or logic do. It is about probability and utilization, not simply the pursuit of knowledge, but the pursuit of knowledge with purpose!

I do not have to know absolutely everything about gravity to measure or utilize it, nor do I have to have an omnipotent understanding of electricity to build a circuit. Science gives approximate answers, not a single theory is assumed perfect, only accurate. While getting the green apple a billion, trillion, times is not enough reason to be absolutely certain you will get a green apple, it is a damn good reason to BELIEVE you will get a green apple. After getting a green apple that many times it would be ludicrous, even asinine, to believe any other way.

That is the difference, science can build explanations we can use in the real world to do stuff, religion builds expectations that cannot be used to any effect in this world whatsoever. It, quite literally, is a poison of the mind. Asking us to believe in things for no good reason, expect things for no good reason, and never doubt it at all. It is an ancient pyramid scheme gone completely out of control! Any conceivable pattern the bible ever had is long broken, and there will never be any reason to believe it can or would continue.
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Re: The Induction Fallacy

Postby dobbie » Mon Apr 08, 2013 6:42 pm

GT wrote: For those of you who don't know, the induction fallacy states that just because there is a pattern for something, it does not mean that the pattern will necessarily continue. In other words, if I give you 6 billion green apples in a row, there is still nothing stoping me from giving you a red one next.
Yes, but -- to your Jehovah Witness friend -- who says otherwise?

So he was essentially saying "because scientists expect phenomena to be repeatable, they are commiting the induction fallacy and so we cannot trust science ...
Well, I say if anything is repeatable it can be trusted until it's no longer repeatable -- fallacy or not. So the question is when was such-and-such in science no longer repeatable -- if your Jehovah Witness friend can't name anything in science, he's out of luck.

scipture however is the holy word of god and so is infalliable!"(paraphrased)
Okay, so which part of scripture is the infallible holy word of God -- does your Jehovah Witness friend ever name anything in scripture?

2. It works!, It has worked so far and, as long as it continues to work science will do just fine.
Yes; it's all that really matters. It's called getting down and dirty to what works.
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