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Say, I'm arguing with a believer about Noahs flood. According to their scripture and other sources it is described as global. But there is no evidence for a global flood, hence why the believer says it was local, because else it would mean their scripture is wrong.

They start with the assumption that their scripture can't be wrong and interpret it in line with evidence. What is the word for something like that?

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    I can offer two words, but they are Latin and not English: petitio principii is the fallacy of assuming the very point that you are arguing for. Unfortunately, the English version of this phrase, begging the question, has come to be used more often than not to mean suggesting or raising a question that the user then specifies. (Not long ago I was amused when an NPR game-show host jocosely introduced a panelist as having shot a man in Reno for misusing the expression begging the question.)
    – Brian Donovan
    Sep 26, 2021 at 14:17
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    The example, as stated, is rather unclear. In particular, it is unclear how saying that the flood was local helps your interlocutor in defending the scripture: if the scripture says that it was global, then saying that it was local implies that the scripture is wrong.
    – jsw29
    Sep 26, 2021 at 15:57
  • You find the same sort of development in science: start with a hypothesis that turns out to be wrong when tested, then adjust it according to testing data. It is called hypothetico-deductive method. That the source of the original hypothesis here is the Bible and the arguer is a believer are side issues (aside from being dogmatic about it). Historians approach the Bible the same way when they try to sort out what is myth and what is historical fact, e.g. start with parting of the Red sea and come up with a plausible event that could be embellished into that.
    – Conifold
    Sep 28, 2021 at 2:03

3 Answers 3

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The term is presupposition.

presupposition noun 1 A thing tacitly assumed beforehand at the beginning of a line of argument or course of action. ‘both men shared certain ethical presuppositions about the universe’ -Lexico

In any discussion, each party will come with their own presuppositions.

In a case where an evolutionist has a discussion with a creationist, the creationist comes with the presupposition that scripture is true and sacrosanct while the evolutionist comes with the presupposition that evolution is true and sacrosanct.

The parties might have examined their own presuppositions deeply, or they might simply take them on faith. The creationist might have looked into global features such as rapid water-based erosion that have left 'tide marks' such as those in the Grand Canyon, while the evolutionist might have looked into historical eyewitness accounts of canyon formation.

However, at some point, presuppositions will be left unexamined. The creationist might not be able to read the original languages, so needs to form views based on the translations of those who claim they can. The evolutionist might not have personally observed sexual reproduction where the child is of a different species to that of both parents, so needs to form views based on the records of those who claim they have.

Even this question and answer presupposes that you and I hold enough of the English language in common that what we understand of each other's posts bears some resemblance to the communicative intent of the respective poster.

In a sense, both parties begin with their conclusions. They may change their presuppositions if they find a sufficiently persuasive argument, but no logical conversation can even begin if both parties don't start with some presupposition. The term presupposition also tends to be applied to more deeply-held notions (such as exclusive materialism or divine involvement), which is why it can feel as if each party begins with their conclusions.

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  • Nicely done, and I think your presupposition is a kind of hypothesis.
    – Lucian Sava
    Sep 26, 2021 at 17:49
  • @LucianSava Thank you. A presupposition is somewhat stronger than a hypothesis. It's more like an assumption or worldview.
    – Lawrence
    Sep 26, 2021 at 23:22
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It is an a priori argument:

(also, Rationalization; Dogmatism, Proof Texting.): A corrupt argument from logos, starting with a given, pre-set belief, dogma, doctrine, scripture verse, "fact" or conclusion and then searching for any reasonable or reasonable-sounding argument to rationalize, defend or justify it. Certain ideologues and religious fundamentalists are proud to use this fallacy as their primary method of "reasoning" and some are even honest enough to say so. E.g., since we know there is no such thing as "evolution," a prime duty of believers is to look for ways to explain away growing evidence, such as is found in DNA, that might suggest otherwise. See also the Argument from Ignorance. The opposite of this fallacy is the Taboo. — Master List of Logical Fallacies

Also called a fallacy:

The a priori - fallacy occurs when someone decides ahead of time what the conclusion to an argument is, then only considers evidence that supports that conclusion, or twists what evidence there is to support the predetermined conclusion. — Argumentation and Critical Thinking

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    While there may be writers who use the phrase a priori argument for a kind of a fallacy, following their example may be unwise, as that phrase is, in philosophical literature, more usually used for a perfectly respectable form of reasoning. Mathematics, for example, consists entirely of a priori arguments.
    – jsw29
    Sep 26, 2021 at 21:08
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teleology (n.), teleological arguments

1a: The study of evidences of design in nature
b: A doctrine (as in vitalism) that ends are immanent in nature
c: A doctrine explaining phenomena by final causes

2: The fact or character attributed to nature or natural processes of being directed toward an end or shaped by a purpose

3: The use of design or purpose as an explanation of natural phenomena m-w


The Judeo-Christian tradition also teaches that humans have dominion over nature, but it goes further, promoting a teleological view. Teleology is the doctrine that the Earth was created especially for human beings, who are separate from and superior to the natural world... This view is implicit in God's message to Noah after the Flood, promising that *every moving thing that lives shall be food for you, and as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything"... Humans are not part of nature but separate, forming one member of a God-nature-human trinity. T. G. Jordan-Bychkov; The Human Mosaic p.89

Deductive teleological arguments are inferences from the existence of certain observable entities, which random processes could not conceivably produce, to the existence of a transcendent, intelligent designer. This argument is immune from the objection we have just noted, which severely reduces the credibility of teleological arguments of an analogical character. One cannot reasonably dismiss every teleological argument, therefore, as a simpleminded application of ill-conceived analogies. Deductive teleological arguments frequently generate difficulties of their own, however. Specifically some deductive teleological arguments purport to prove not only (a) that certain nature entities are probably intelligently designed or (b) that one cannot reasonably suppose that certain natural entities are not intelligently designed, but also (c) that it is strictly inconceivable that certain entities are not intelligently designed. H. Wayne House and D. W. Jowers; Reasons for Our Hope p.266

In this chapter I construct a composite teleological argument that combines features of several distinct arguments. I conclude that teleological arguments establish a strong case both that the universe has some purpose and that this purpose is connected to cosmic values; but that they do not support a human-centered purpose. Tim Mulgan; Purpose in the Universe p.99

Basically, if I take a conclusion or argument as necessarily true or fact, and you present evidence that challenges this, I would "logically" believe that (a) your evidence must be wrong or (b) you must be interpreting it incorrectly. My belief/conviction wouldn't be shaken even if I can't demonstrate prove (a) or (b) to you satisfaction. If, for example, my young-earth world view makes it probably that cavemen rode dinosaurs, good luck convincing me otherwise. You want to argue in one direction, and I in the reverse direction.

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