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I found the following statement on this Creationist site.

If a fair maiden kisses a frog which instantly changes into a handsome prince we would call it a fairy tale. But if the frog takes 40 million years to turn into a prince we call it evolution.

Time is the evolutionist's magic wand. Fairy tales come in many forms!

What is the logical fallacy here? Is this a Strawman? Can anyone explain this clearly? Thanks.

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    A kiss from a fair maiden is a teleogical act, evolution is not. – Mozibur Ullah Jun 13 '12 at 8:20
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You give two things to consider: (1) is the argument on the Creation site (hereafter "C") a strawman and (2) what is the fallacy of C's argument?

Let's consider the fallacy first and then see why it is a Strawman. Taking C's argument at face value, C's argument is a false analogy.[1]

Consider first, the general structure of C's argument:

  1. Fairy tales don't occur in the real-world.
  2. Evolution is a fairy tale cloaked in science-talk.
  3. Thus, evolution is not a real-world process.

That is, fairy tales are easy to attack/reject as occurring in the real world. So, if evolution is sufficiently like fairy tales, then we can similarly attack/reject evolution.

The next question is then: what does C take to be the crux of the analogy between evolution and fairy tales, and is this analogy cogent? The crux of C's analogy likens the princess kissing the frog with time for evolution in the following way:[2]

  1. In fairy tales, kissing a frog is sufficient (in a causal sense) for the frog becoming a prince.
  2. In evolution, time is sufficient (in a causal sense) for speciation (in their example, humans evolving from frogs).

(1) is typically true and (2) is always false: other things are required for speciation such as mutations of genes, selective pressures in an environment, etc. That is, the "magic" of fairy tales is limited to, in the princess example, turning a frog human via a kiss from a princess, whereas the "magic" of speciation is not limited to time. Thus, C's argument is a false analogy.

Now, is it a Strawman? According to your link, a Strawman is when

You misrepresented someone's argument to make it easier to attack.

As we saw, C grossly misrepresented what is required for speciation (which is what I assume they mean by "evolution" as their example talks about humans evolving from frogs). Thus, C's argument is a Strawman.


[1] I thought I should include the "Taking C's argument..." qualification given Benjamin's comments below.
[2] MoziburUllah noted another disanalogy below, namely that kissing is a teleological act and evolution isn't. The princess intended for the frog to turn into a prince, evolution did not intend to "produce" humans. But, this is not the disanalogy C's argument is based on.

  • Comparing time to the kiss is probably not intended to be so literal as to exclude the causal links in macro-evolution of which that time a quality. In other words the whole macro-evolution package is probably implied in saying "time" is the magic wand. Like when people say "only time will tell". People don't typically respond, "No actually there are many other factors." – Benjamin Jun 13 '12 at 0:40
  • @Benjamin: Maybe, but that doesn't seem to be what is going on in the presented argument. We're supposed to think (1) the princess kissed the frog POOF the frog is a prince and (2) there is a frog and some time passes and POOF we have man. If what was mean by "time" was "time plus the cumulative accrual of mutations that happen to be advantageous for reproduction in a particular environment," then I guess the argument is some kind of appeal to ignorance: I don't know how that could work, so it doesn't work that way. – pichael Jun 13 '12 at 1:05
  • It is not really clear why they would say millions of years is like the magic ingredient for the macro-evolution recipe. If they are arguing from biology then that is not something I could expound on besides finding it absurd, but if they were arguing from the experience of self-determination and moral agency, then yeah, things bound by causality (like frogs) are not going to POOF into a self-determining moral agent. – Benjamin Jun 13 '12 at 2:11
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    @GreenNoob: They are not the same thing. A false analogy is when you wrongly say two things are sufficiently similar for you to be able to reject them on the same grounds. A false cause is simply when you wrongly take A to cause B -- B could cause A, A and B could be unrelated, A and B could be coincidentally correlated, or A and B could be correlated because of a common underlying cause C. Example: "Eating chocolate gives me bad skin!" No: eating chocolate and bad skin are correlated where the common underlying cause is stress. – pichael Jun 13 '12 at 18:48
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    @GreenNoob: Both a false cause and a false analogy seem relevant here then: C's is generally arguing that evolution and the fairly tale both use magic to cause things to happen. Because of this, they are sufficiently similar to reject on the grounds that magic doesn't occur in the real world. But, of course, time is not magical in evolution -- that is, time is not the only causal agent in speciation. – pichael Jun 13 '12 at 18:59
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The point being made is that saying "evolution takes millions and millions of years, therefore we can't directly observe it and therefore we can't show you any direct evidence" is a cop out. If one can't show any strong experimental evidence, than the theory is not much better than a fairy tale.

This is not unreasonable. Evolutionists would point to a few examples of what they claim are observed evolution, but they are not clear cut examples and could just as easily be explained in other ways. It would therefore not be unreasonable for skeptics to dismiss them as insufficient, nor unreasonable for evolutionists to see them as evidence.

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If it is interpreted as deductive logic, I suppose it is flawed logic.

I interpret it as discussion of various theories, looking to see what about them makes them more plausible, what makes them less. As such this discussion opens useful questions, what about the passage of a lot of time takes turning a frog in to a prince from the unbelievable to the mundane? As some of the comments point out, there are many things that can happen in that time to help the change along, that is part of the answer.

When I first read this quote, I thought it was saying, essentially, God kissed the frog 40 million years ago, and the passage of 40 million years helped us forget the necessity of God's kiss to the process. I would sort of agree with that with some major exceptions taken, though. Was the God that kissed the frog a big white haired omniscient omnipotent conscious person who still cares whether humans worship him or not? Or was the "god" that kissed the frog a universe which supported such complex processes as to create many elements and molecules that seem to have information processing capabilities, and a universe which supports consciousness and all its features that we know and love? Or was the "god" that kissed the frog an unconscious collection of possibly deterministic, possibly probabilistic laws not noticeably different from the laws needed to produce a billiard game?

To me the biggest logical flaw is the statement that I assume comes next. Something like "Since evolution is just a fairy tale, we conclude that a conscious person with omniscience, omnipotence, and omnigoodness, whos existence would be even harder to explain than the prince's if we even thought to try, did it."

In science (which this is more than it is philosophy), you tend to figure the final answer is going to be more like the simpler current guesses than like the more complicated current guesses. And "explaining" how you get a human prince by citing a truly magical being just kicks the can down the road to a very difficult place.

But there is nothing particularly false or illogical about pointing out that evolution has a hard row to hoe if it is to be accepted as an explanation for the presence of humans.

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Great comments already. i just want to add a thing.. A very common mistake when talking about evolution is saying such things that "man descends from monkeys (frogs, cockroaches, whatever)". That is wrong. Man and monkey had a common ancestor. Saying it in a simple way: Man is not the grandson of a monkey. Monkey and man have a grandparent in common.

This mistake is used many times to ridicularize evolution and to piss people off by saying that Darwin called you the son of an ape.

This is my contribution. Hope it helps. I'm not very knowledgeble of logic.

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