Exhaustion Fallacy

In the last year I’ve run into a new type of logical fallacy. It was hard to recognize, but I hope to explain it well enough here to help you recognize it.

What happened?

Byron Fallaciously ExhaustedWhile discussing the age of the earth with one of my friends I encountered a new source of frustration. The discussion went something like this:

Me: The Earth is obviously older than 6,000 years.
He: I have seen nothing to prove it is older than 6,000 years.
Me: Radiometric dating shows it to be 4.54 billion years old.
He: Radiometric dating is wildly inaccurate.
Me: They established it with things that we know the age of. Like polar ice.
He: Polar ice could have been laid down during the flood.
Me: No, they have annual layers that have been counted.
He: Then how did these planes in Greenland get placed 250 layers down? <link>
Me: I don’t know about your example, but trees also can be used to measure time.
He: None have lived longer than 6,000 years.
Me: But they can match up rings of dead trees with those of living trees to give a continuous history longer than 6,000 years.
He: Which means there are no trees that are older than 6,000 years.

…it goes on like this.

Wow, I mean, wow.

It was frustrating. We went through one proof after another. He refused to accept each proof for one reason or another. He was probably pulling from some Young Earth website or book. Since I am not an expert in any of these fields I am unable to properly establish any of these extremely viable proofs. I point out how I could see one of these being wrong, but all of them seems unlikely. He points out they all come from the “Scientific Community” and therefore are all able to be wrong as part of a systematic failure of this “Community.”

Sounds like a conspiracy.

It sounds that way. The purpose of his effort is to drive me to throw up my hands in frustration and say “fine, believe what you want.” At which point he feels he has won, and therein lies the fallacy. It is similar to the fallacy fallacy. Since it attacks some piece of the proof as to render the whole ineffective. Though it is different from the Burden of Proof fallacy where the burden is passed to disprove. Science is making the assertions and of course they have proof. And thus we have the:

Exhaustion Fallacy

Presuming an argument is correct if the  opposing side stops arguing.

Truth is not dependent upon the tenacity of the people arguing about it. If someone refuses to agree that 2+2=4 and is willing to argue the point till their opponent walks away, it does not mean that 2+2≠4.

Well, at least it’s over.

Not really. I thought it was limited to my single discussion, but this seems to be a popular tactic with people who support the Young Earth assumption. It was used by Ken Ham against the ill-prepared Bill Nye. I saw it used recently against one of my friends on facebook. Even my own brother used it against me.

How fallacious.

Before you get caught up in an argument like this, look for the warning signs:

  1. You are the one with the burden of proof. Even if it’s well established science, as soon as you decide to champion it, you have the burden of proof.
  2. They are taking an extreme position against easily explainable science.
  3. They continually take advantage of your non-expertise in the subject by continually poking holes in the proofs you use. Proofs that are widely accepted by experts in their respective fields.

It’s a logical fallacy then.

The really sticky part of this fallacy is that they are invoking the expectation of proof which they have a right to expect. Being obtuse and trying to exhaust the claimant does not make them right, nor does it render your argument false. It just allows the intelligently-defiant, ignorant to feel justified in remaining so.

Be logical.

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