Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Holocaust denial and creationism

Given my long interest (and here) in fighting Holocaust denial, I found this post on the Cynic's Lair blog fascinating. (I've been meaning since I started this blog to do a post on the similarities in techniques of argument used by creationists and Holocaust deniers.) What I find interesting here is the way that creationists apparently intentionally misrepresent this comparison. Contrary to their claims or implications, creationists are not being called Holocaust deniers or neo-Nazis by their critics. It is simply being pointed out that creationists use the same logical, rhetorical, and evidentiary fallacies that Holocaust deniers routinely use as "evidence" that the Holocaust either did not happen or was much smaller in scope than historically accepted. Pseudoscientists and alties use similar fallacies. It is disingenuous to imply that creationists are being likened to Holocaust deniers, but doing so allows them to paint themselves as victims.

However, hypocritically, as the author of the linked post points out, creationists are very quick to compare their critics directly to Nazis (or, in some cases, Soviet Communists).

In any case, a more detailed post on how creationists, alties, and pseudoscientists tend to use the same types of fallacies is definitely in the queue of topics I mean to write on...

5 example(s) of insolence returned:

At 1/10/2005 3:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It is simply being pointed out that creationists use the same logical, rhetorical, and evidentiary fallacies that Holocaust deniers routinely use..."

While this is a very different thing to calling creationists neo-nazis, it is still a rhetorical 'bad move' (being that subset of the bad company fallacy known as the Argumentum ad Nazium). The problem with this is that while there may be (OK, is!) some truth to the claim itself there is no need to employ such lazy comparisons to criticise creationist 'reasoning'. To do so is to reduce the impact of the rational perspective: a true rationalist should conscientiously avoid the stink of the bad move, or risk handing the opposition a stick for the beating (as has clearly been the case here).


At 1/10/2005 3:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, didn't mean to leave the above post anonymous.

Incidentally, this may be of interest:,14058,1386675,00.html


At 1/10/2005 9:46 AM, Blogger Orac said...

The fact that it is not necessary to use such a comparison to refute creationists does not mean that it is a "lazy" comparison to point out that they use the same sorts of logical fallacies as Holocaust deniers (or as alties or pseudoscientists, for that matter). It is simply a means of pointing out common elements in all sorts of pseudoscience and pseudohistory. It is also a means of pointing out how disingenuous creationists are when they claim they are being called neo-Nazis, when in fact all that is being done is to compare the logical fallacies they favor to those of Holocaust deniers.


At 1/11/2005 4:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, but the problem is that the initial comparison was still a guilt by association ploy. The numerous logical errors that creationists use need to be pointed out, and it is, of course, valid so to do; drawing a comparison with holocaust deniers, however, serves no purpose save to imply some level of similarity. Many, many people, of all hues of opinion and on all subjects, employ similar errors (there are only a limited number of logical traps into which a moderately intelligent person may fall, after all).

Comparisons of how varying groups fall for like errors are interesting, if only as cautions to us all to watch for such logical (and evidencial) traps; but such must be made in the awareness that comparisons imply comparability. In this instance, I would strongly suggest that while comparisons between pseudoscientists and those who espouse intelligent design are fairly legitimate (as both purport to operate in the same broad arena) comparisons of either with holocaust deniers are invidious.

This does not imply, of course, that the creationists' claims to have been accused of nazism are not equally invidious - but we should demand higher standards of debate from rationalists. It's oxymoronic to demand rationality of creationists!


At 8/11/2005 4:32 AM, Blogger Derek Bowman said...

I would say that there is significant rationally respectable reasons to make use of the analogy with Holocaust deniers.

It is not rational to simply take an opponent's word for it that this or that element of one's reasoning is a fallacy.

We come to recognize that certain kinds of reasoning are fallacious through examination of very obvious examples where such reasoning fails.

For many people Holocaust denail provides a very obvious example of a number of fallacies. It is thus a rationally acceptable choice for illustrating those fallacies to those who don't yet see them as fallacies in the Creationist/ID arguments.

Whether or not the inflamatory character of the comparison with Holocaust denial clouds the 'probative value' of such an appeal seems to largely be a question of rhetorical effectiveness.


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