The Genetic Fallacy is a logical fallacy where the wrong origins of an idea are criticized as a way to dismiss the idea. This fallacy is often found in discussions about biology, politics and religion. In this post we will look through the genetic fallacy examples.

Genetic Fallacy Examples

What is a genetic fallacy? (definition)

A genetic fallacy is a fallacy of relevance, which often occurs when one argues that because a certain idea has some negative consequences in the present it must be wrong. In logic this is known as post hoc ergo propter hoc (literally: after this, therefore, because of this).

It generally assumes that an idea must be false because people once believed it to be true. This fallacy is always either an ad hominem argument or a tu quoque argument.

Genetic Fallacy Examples

Here are three examples of genetic fallacies.

1) Genetic Fallacy Example #1: Creationism is based upon a genetic fallacy.

Most creationists argue that because the earth is only 6,000 years old, scientists have been wrong for this long, so they must have made some huge mistake in figuring it out.

This argument is ad hominem and seems to assume that if the scientists are wrong then it must be because of some error or incompetence on their part. In reality this is not true, otherwise all science would be wrong as well. The argument ignores the great majority of scientists who accept that the earth is billions of years old.

2) Genetic Fallacy Example #2: Evolution is based upon a genetic fallacy.

Many people argue against evolution because, they say, it cannot possibly be true because some extremists in the past (such as Catholics in the past, or some extreme Christians today), have taught young children that evolution is wrong.

This argument is a tu quoque and seems to assume that because the origin of humanity is (or was?) so complex, scientists cannot possibly have figured it out. This also ignores the great majority of scientists who accept evolution and believe that we are all born from a common ancestor.

3) Genetic Fallacy Example #3: Science is based upon a genetic fallacy.

Some religious people argue that because scientists once believed that the earth was flat, or because they believed in spontaneous generation, then science is wrong.

This is a tu quoque and seems to assume that if the origin of humanity is (or was?) so complex, scientists cannot possibly have figured it out. This also ignores the great majority of scientists who accept evolution and believe that we are all born from a common ancestor.

The best way to avoid the genetic fallacy

To avoid a Genetic Fallacy one should be sure that the origin of the idea is not at issue. Arguments about origins may be fine in science and history, but they are usually irrelevant to the truth of an idea.

The only time an idea’s origins are important is when they either cast doubt on the credibility of present day advocates or give some reason to suppose that present advocates might not want to discuss certain issues which would shed doubt on their position.

How to respond to someone using the genetic fallacy

The best response to someone who uses a Genetic Fallacy is to point out that the origin of the idea is not important.

For example:

When someone says:

“Evolution cannot be true because (insert reason).”

A good response might be:

“That may be true, but it has nothing to do with the truth of evolution.”

When someone says: “Evolution is not true because I read (insert book).” A good response might be: “I’m sure that you are right, but what does that show about whether or not evolution is correct?” When someone says “You’re wrong because your ancestors believed in God.

A good response might be: “Then you must be wrong because your ancestors believed in a flat earth.” When someone says: “Evolution is false because (insert book refers to a discussion of spontaneous generation).” A good response might be: “I’m sure that you are right, but why does that matter?”

Genetic fallacy types

The genetic fallacy can be classified as either an ad hominem or a tu quoque. These terms are Latin for ‘to the person’ and ‘to the thing’ respectively.

The ad hominem fallacy occurs when someone states an argument against an idea because of something that someone in that group has done (or said in the past). This is a personal attack or insult. It is always fallacious and is very different from an argument about the origin of the idea.

The tu quoque fallacy occurs when someone accuses you of believing in something wrong about a topic because of something that you have done in the past.

The Genetic Fallacy is a very common fallacy. People often argue against an idea because of where it comes from or because of what someone else has said about it. This may be because they assume the idea is wrong, or because they assume it has no credibility at all. Arguments like these are fallacious and often wholly irrelevant to the truth of an idea.

Conclusion

The Genetic Fallacy is a fallacy of relevance. This fallacy occurs when one argues that because a certain idea has some negative consequences in the present it must be wrong. In logic this is known as post hoc ergo propter hoc (literally: after this, therefore, because of this). It generally assumes that an idea must be false because people once believed it to be true. This is sometimes known as the fallacy of origin.

This fallacy is often used by religious people who argue against science or evolution. This is because there is a long history of religious people believing that we are all descended from Adam and Eve. This argument can also be used by atheists who argue that because scientists once believed in spontaneous generation (or the earth was flat), they must have made some mistake.

This fallacy is a very common one and it has been used against just about every idea that has ever been proposed in history. It is important to remember that an idea’s origin, or the fact that people once believed it to be true, has nothing to do with whether or not the idea is correct.

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