Changing the Subject

Ad Hominem: Against the man; personal attack

Attacking an individual rather than their argument. Person X denounces person Y rather than their argument and thinks this attack makes Y’s argument false. Also called ad hominem abusive because the person is abused, not the argument.

Argument: Atheists don’t believe in God because they are blind to the truths religious people see. They can’t have, and don’t have, any means for establishing a descent set of values because belief in God is necessary to establish true values.

Rebuttal: Atheists don’t believe in a god for whatever personal reason they have chosen, not because they are blind. Perhaps they checked the arguments for theism or were religious prior to becoming an atheist. Tacking ‘belief in god’ to a set of values is just another value, not the sum or ‘quality’ of the set.

Ad Hominem Tu Quoque: You too fallacy

Y says X’s argument is false because X did or said something contradicting arguments they made in the past. A “not practicing what is preached” incident.

Again, each particular claim must be examined independently. Only one of two inconsistent claims can be true or both may be false. Furthermore, regardless of someone’s hypocritical behavior, the truth of their fact claim is independent of their hypocritical actions.

Argument: You say God doesn’t exist, but you can’t prove a negative. Besides the other day you said AB, but yesterday you said BA.

Ad Hominen Circumstantial

Person X’s argument is overlooked in place of their personal circumstances or character. Also, Y states that X’s claim is being made out of the self-interest of X (or their circumstances) so the argument is false. Again, attacking the person (interests and circumstances), not the argument.

You don’t believe in God because you have to have faith before you can understand, and how can you have faith when you come from a broken home and you dropped out of high school. Or something to the effect of: You just believe what you do to spite God for the situation you’re in. Again what are the reasons person X is an atheist? Their circumstances have nothing to do with the validity of atheism.

Argument: You’re an atheist, why should I believe anything you have to say (about anything). Your arguments against God’s existence are wrong because you are using atheistic logic to prove your own beliefs so you don’t see the logic of God’s truth.

Rebuttal: Arguments need to be examined on their own to determine if they are valid or not, regardless of the person’s character.

Appeal to Authority: Argumentum ad Verecundiam

According to Dr.X, a planetary physicist, and Dr.Y, a biochemist, God does exist. Not to mention theologians, people like A, B, and C.

These experts may disagree on why God exists. And are X and Y qualified to be experts on the idea of God if they are not theologians or philosophers? Finally the ‘expert’ theologians and philosophers may, and do, disagree on the specifics of God’s existence or non-existence. Again, an examination of the arguments, not those people surrounding them, needs attention.

Appeal to Anonymous Authority and Rumor

Quite often experts may be addressed, but their names or credentials not cited, so it is hard to say if they are actually an ‘authority.’ This often involves the words “experts say,” or this “Doctor said,” or “an expert in X said.” The same holds true for rumors about an issue and any authorities connected to it (this is a version of the regular ad hominem case redirected at attacking arguments with heresy and ‘experts,’ not support for claims).

Style over Substance

Person X may be right and person Y wrong, but Y is believed because their eloquent, savior faire and debonair presentation of an argument is cited as reason to believe it.

Having seen several debates on creationism, they provide a good example of this subject changing method. Many of the debates are to be centered on only a few topics. The creationists often comes with droves of ‘info’ and ‘facts,’ inundating the audience with them, as if it is doctrine. Many of these creation scientists make a living preaching to the choir and perfecting their speaking craft by making many appearances on this issue throughout the country—they learn to perfect their craft and style. Some evolutionists are not prepared to deal with their tactics. They come to debate four or five issues but are now confronted with an overwhelming amount of topics to which they cannot respond. So, creationists evade the issues at hand, to avoid close examination and focus on those few topics agreed upon, by going off on tangents not connected to the specific topics that were to be discussed—all in a very convincing, stylish, and well-rehearsed sermon.

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