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Does the following logical fallacy (or bad argument) have a name:

goblins, hobbits, and truly everlasting gobstoppers. There is nothing special about God in this sense. God is just one of the things that atheists don't believe in, it just happens to be the thing that, for historical reasons, gave them their name. —Julian Baggini (Atheism: A Very Short Introduction, p. 17)

Similarly;

When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours. —Stephen Roberts

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  • A fuller quote would help : 'So the evidence for atheism is to be found in the fact that there is a plethora of evidence for the truth of naturalism and an absence of evidence for anything else. 'Anything else' of course includes God, but it also includes goblins, hobbits, and truly everlasting gobstoppers. There is nothing special about God in this sense. God is just one of the things that atheists don't believe in, it just happens ito be the thing that, for historical reasons, gave them their name.' J. Baggini, 'Atheism', Oxford, 2003, 17.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Mar 13, 2018 at 19:27
  • I don't see any argument in the first quote. Consequently, I don't see any fallacy in it. Jul 17, 2021 at 15:32

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These would be examples of “informal fallacy”. The conclusions are not adequately supported to constitute a logical argument. These are not "formal fallacies" because one needs more logical structure to have a flaw in it.

They are also examples of “inductive fallacy” or “faulty generalizations”. This fallacy makes a list of things the listener accepts or rejects and then concludes something else is also in that list. For example, consider the set of two premises which are true: “5 is a prime.” “7 is a prime.” Now consider the following false conclusion. “Therefore all odd numbers are prime.” This is also called an “association fallacy”. Basically one needs more evidence to accept the conclusion.

The links provide other names for similar types of rhetoric.

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One might call the position set out in the quote 'insinuation by absurd association'. No one in their right mind believes in goblins, hobbits or truly everlasting gobstoppers. By putting 'God' in the same list the seed is sown that belief in God is just as absurd as belief in these other things. Whether the grounds for belief in the existence of God are reasonable - rationally justified - or not, they are epistemologically significant, worthy or serious argument - which the fact that Baggini has devoted a book to the topic confirms. This is not the case with the other items on Baggini's rhetorically contrived and bias-inducing list.

Baggini has done a lot of good work in making philosophy accessible but this passage is a dip in his achievement.

'Naturalism' in the quote refers to the 'belief that there is only the natural world and not any supernatural one' (Baggini, 4). This is Baggini's own view :

We are now in a position to look at what the evidence for naturalism, and hence for atheism, is. The claim I would make is that all the strong evidence points to the truth of atheism and only weak evidence counts against it. This may seem like a strong claim but I really do think it is justified (Baggini, 17).

The existence of God is to my mind a discussable matter. If Baggini had simply been outlining an atheist position in the goblin passage, without any commitment to it, the list would have been fine. But when, as the passage just quoted shows, it is his own position, he should not rhetorically have undermined the theistic position in advance by associating God with plainly, unarguably non-existent things.

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