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I hope this is the most correct stack exchange to ask this question.

What is the name of the logical fallacy that follows: "You don't have an explanation for x but I do, so I'm correct and you are wrong".

Essentially the fallacy is that just because a person has an explanation, regardless of how valid, the proponent automatically assumes himself to be correct because the opponent doesn't have an explanation.

The closest I can find that fits this is argument from silence, and is usually used together with the divine fallacy, but I'm sure there is a more accurate name for it.

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    Names are trivial things. May 14, 2016 at 21:37
  • I think Jacob's comment is a little elliptical, but it's not very important in philosophy to name fallacies (especially informal fallacies) meta.philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/3040/…
    – virmaior
    May 15, 2016 at 6:15
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    Names are not trivial at all, especially when wishing to refer to something in a conversation. This isn't a philosophical question, I just couldn't find a stack exchange better suited for finding the answer. The main reason I'd like to know the name, if one exists, is because it helps to tell people what fallacies they're using so they can then find and understand them.
    – Lee
    May 17, 2016 at 11:05
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    Names are conventional, not trivial. We could do with calling trucks "lorries", but we couldn't do without having a way to refer to trucks. Jul 24, 2016 at 2:10

2 Answers 2

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This could be an instance of ad ignorantiam, the argument from ignorance, which in its turn is a type of false dilemma. The overlooked possibilities are that you both are wrong (or right), or that the evidence is insufficient to settle the matter either way. To paraphrase, the absence of explanation is not the evidence of its impossibility, see related What fallacy dismisses a conclusion because supporters give invalid arguments for it?

However, without context it is hard to tell if the argument is truly fallacious or just informal and pragmatic. Given two competing hypotheses, one of which explains x and the other does not, other things being equal it is reasonable to pick the explanatory one. Indeed, the hypothetico-deductive method of science is based on doing just that. Putnam's "no miracles" argument for scientific realism also has similar structure. If scientific theories did not largely reflect reality, it goes, it would be a miracle that they make predictions as well as they do, realism "is the only philosophy that doesn't make the success of science a miracle". In this form the argument is indeed problematic on ad ignorantiam grounds: we do not know if other reasons might explain empirical success, or if it even needs explaining. But it would be an informal argument against a position which agrees that success of science calls for explanation ("is a miracle"), but is unable to provide one.

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  • Interesting answer, thanks. The context is really nothing to elaborate on. A proponent of creationism gave the argument that because science doesn't have a concrete answer for a particular question that she is more correct simply because she has an answer, albeit a ridiculous one.
    – Lee
    May 17, 2016 at 11:10
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    @Lee If it is an open question like the origin of life, etc., that would be a clear case of ad ignorantiam unless it is accompanied by an argument that science can not give an explanation in principle. And that can be countered by offering a hypothetical scientific explanation. It may also be effective to dispute that the alternative is in fact an explanation, for instance "God did it" is thoroughly unexplanatory of how something happened.
    – Conifold
    May 19, 2016 at 19:36
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This is not a fallacy. You're in fact describing the scientific method.

I can really imagine Darwin saying this: "You don't have an explanation for these different birds, but I do. I call it 'evolution', so I am right, and you (creationists?) are wrong."

To write it down as a syllogism:

  • Premisse 1: "I have an explanation for this falling water, it's large scale condensation and I will call that 'rain'.

  • Premisse 2: "You do not have an explanation for this falling water.

    Conclusion: I am right and you are not ... anything (neutral?)

To be sure, speaker A is of course only right until a better explanation is found, and the one she's speaking to is opinion-less, not wrong as such. Labeling person B as wrong is a misrepresentation. My Darwin example had Person B offering an explanation, therefore Darwin could label her wrong, but if person B doesn't do that, she's neither right nor wrong.

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  • Hm I'm not sure I agree. The premise underlying my question is that just by having an explanation, regardless of its viability, means the proposer is more likely to be correct. Your anology only works, with reference to the scientific method, if the proposition has evidence supporting it. The context for the question was a creationist proposing the "god did it" explanation for life concluding that the proposition is more valid than no countering claim.
    – Lee
    Feb 19, 2017 at 15:34
  • Aha! Context matters. I see what you mean now. Yes, I would agree that creationists having an explanation ("god existed before the Big Bang") and normal people not having one, ("we don't know whàt, if anything, existed before the Big Bang") a does too sound ... quite fallacious. In the case of creationists, however, a lot of better explanations were already available. And, their explanations were sold with the confidence of a used car salesman, but are still easily debunked. Still ....If we try to put ourselves into the shoes of an early caveman, explaining thunder as a giant smith=> Oct 10, 2023 at 0:00
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    wielding a hammer, while flying through the sky...isn't a wholly bad explanation, for that level of collective knowledge and state of technology, it seems a fair explanation. And given that 99,99% of all people have now accepted the actual explanation where thunder is caused by charged clouds and atmospheric conditions .... But okay, if the proposition is spoken with certainty, but without any factual evidence, it's a fallacy. Maybe a form of "Appeal to authority", perhaps? Oct 10, 2023 at 0:07
  • @scottrowe explanation for what? Oct 10, 2023 at 0:08
  • @ScottRowe yeah? you think ..... god ... played a part here? Oct 10, 2023 at 0:55

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