Argument Evaluation

Argument Evaluation - Evaluating Arguments James W. Lamb...

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Evaluating Arguments James W. Lamb Suppose you’re brought up believing in creationism, the belief that God created human beings and other species. You go off to college and take a course in Biology. But the instructor, seemingly intelligent and knowledgeable, subscribes to a view that directly contradicts yours: the theory of evolution. Contradicts means that one of you is wrong. Your initial reaction is: “Oh, Biology instructor, poor misguided fool.” To reassure yourself, though, you decide to investigate the matter for yourself. So you do a lot of reading trying to find out what the evidence is: the evidence for and against evolution and the evidence for and against creationism. Making notes along the way, you wind up with an outline that (greatly simplified) looks like this: Evolution Evidence For Fossil record Similarity and differences among species Vestigial structures Evidence Against Missing links in the fossil record Incompatibility with the Second Law of Thermodynamics Inability to account for structures (like wings) that are functional only when fully developed Creationism Evidence For Account of creation in Genesis Complexity and design in nature Evidence Against Design flaws in nature Fossil record Occam’s Razor You’ve thus done the research, gathering and summarizing the evidence. Now comes the hard part: assessing the strength of each piece of evidence. Just how strong, for example, is the Missing Links Argument, the argument that no transitional fossils exist between species? Does it refute evolution once and for all? Does it make evolution highly unlikely, without conclusively refuting it? Does it merely provide cause for doubt? Or does it provide no reason at all for thinking evolution false? Argument evaluation is the process of assessing an argument’s strength. It is the subject of this chapter and the focus of this book. First, a point about terminology: evidence supports hypotheses; reasons support courses of action. Thus, the cosmic microwave background radiation discovered in 1965 by Penzias and Wilson is evidence supporting the Big Bang theory. But the possibility of executing an innocent person is a reason for abolishing capital punishment. Logicians use the term argument broadly to refer to both evidence and reasons. So the presence of the CMB radiation is an argument for the Big Bang Theory and the possibility of executing an innocent person is an argument against capital punishment. The formal definition is: An argument is a group of statements one of which, the conclusion , is allegedly supported by the others, the premises .
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Two examples from earlier chapters: a. Consciousness requires a functioning brain. b. A person’s brain ceases to function when she dies. c.
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This note was uploaded on 04/16/2008 for the course PHIL 1300 taught by Professor Lamb during the Spring '08 term at SMU.

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Argument Evaluation - Evaluating Arguments James W. Lamb...

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