Logical Fallacies - Non-Sequitur: "Anything Can be Taken Apart and Criticized"

"Anything can be taken apart and criticized" is a non-sequitur. In the 'world of logical fallacies,' this simply means that 'this does not follow." The person who utters the non-sequitur of "anything can be taken apart and criticized" often uses this as a reason to avoid discussion, hold faith, justify a belief, discredit criticism, etc, but this 'move' is not a legitimate one at all. I often also hear this as 'philosophical sour grapes' when people try to discount philosophy by saying things like "There are just so many ideas out there and it's just a matter of how you look at things. Philosophy gets us nowhere because it just shows us that anyone can argue that everything we think is wrong."

In a recent Facebook discussion, someone posted what is called 'The Argument From Desire' by popular Christian apologist C.S. Lewis. I typically don't respond to others' statuses, but felt the need to do so this time and hoped for some productive discussion. After noting several objections, a person resorted to the defense of "I just have faith and don't debate. Anything can be taken apart and criticized." I've written a 26 page paper for my Philosophy Capstone class addressing faith and reason, so I won't go into much of what I've already written and discussed here, but rather will discuss why "anything can be taken apart and criticized" is fallacious in this post.

"Anything can be taken apart and criticized" is no good reason to hold a belief, defend a belief, or not hold a belief. When we're concerned with holding justified true beliefs, as all of us hopefully are, we should evaluate the evidence and come to reasonable conclusions after examining what people say who hold contrary opinions to own own, examining our own reasons for holding beliefs, and a fair amount of general research.

While statements or beliefs can be take apart and criticized, this does not entail that there is a lack of good reasons to justify beliefs. Many people, known as anti-vaxxers, 'take apart and criticize' the idea that vaccines are safe and a great idea for children, but this does not make their opinions legitimate or force us to be agnostic on the issue of vaccines. There is a tremendous amount of evidence to suggest that vaccines are effective and the case, mostly started by Andrew Wakefield, has been profoundly discredited. The evidence should lead us to a well-justified conclusion; vaccines do not cause autism and are safe. We should be concerned with whether the criticisms are good ones that have merit. Anyone can criticize ideas, but this should not undermine reason.

Interestingly enough, Lewis' argument (and many others with conclusions of "The Christian god exists" or even "a god exists") are giant non-sequiturs or contain non-sequiturs. Popular arguments such as the Kalam Cosmological Argument or the Fine-Tuning Argument have, again and again, been demonstrated as being profoundly fallacious, but even if we were to accept that the premises are true, it does not follow that the Christian god or any god exists. Why should we believe that the Christian god or any god created the universe as opposed to some extraterrestrial intelligence, a time traveler, or something else? Furthermore, 'something created the universe' does not entitle us to posit a god just because it seems to fit into the gap that we don't understand.

"Anything can be taken apart and criticized" is a non-sequitur; nothing follows from this premise...and certainly not "Therefore, I have justification in holding this position and one opinion is not worth any more than any others." Instead of making excuses for the beliefs we hold and trying to evade discussion, we should provide reasons for the beliefs we hold or at the very least understand our own reasons, search for others' opinions, and value justified true beliefs. It's a very good thing that many things can be taken apart and criticized because this means that we have the opportunity to revise our beliefs , think why we hold beliefs, and discuss ideas in open forums like this one.

For more discussion, please visit the following links and other posts in my "Logical Fallacies" series:

Do we have the "Right to our own opinion?" Philosopher Dr. David Kyle Johnson discusses.

My Capstone Philosophy paper, "A Defense of Reason"

Other blog posts of mine dealing with logical fallacies:

"Critical Response to John Haught's Speech at King's College" (Evolution and Faith: What's the Problem?)