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Suppose I have millions of events that I’ve come across in my life. One of those events seem unique in the sense that no other event seems similar to it. Every other event seems to have events similar to it.

Because it is the only event, something about that seems unlikely to have come about by chance or naturalism. This makes me uncomfortable. Something about the fact that there are millions of events and yet this is the only one that feels different seems almost impossible. Are there any fallacies in this argument?

Interestingly, I found another post on here talking about how the uniqueness of human species is an odd coincidence. The subject matter is completely different but notice how he finds it to be weird that humans are the only species that are a certain way out of literally millions of species, therefore it seems not natural. What is this pattern of thinking called? See here: Is the uniqueness of the human species evidence against evolution?

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  • i am not sure it's a fallacy unless you say that makes it impossible rather than less likely to have happened. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_incredulity is a fallacy, but that doesn't mean that degrees of belief are not subjective
    – user65174
    Mar 18, 2023 at 6:33
  • So it does make it less likely to have happened by naturalism?
    – user62907
    Mar 18, 2023 at 6:38
  • oh right. i am averse to appeal to supernaturalism, so do not. ymmv, and i don't know how to help you with appeal to miracles, except suggesting you start with Hume
    – user65174
    Mar 18, 2023 at 6:43
  • Temporal infinity, relevant/not? Mar 18, 2023 at 7:20
  • I've responded, but the TLDR for others is en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_pleading . To claim a unique coincidence justifies a conclusion without exploring exactly if and how it is actually unique coincidence (or merely appears to be) is a common error in thinking.
    – J D
    Mar 18, 2023 at 15:21

1 Answer 1

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A fallacy is a bad argument. In order to determine a type of fallacy, one has to present an argument. I'm not entirely clear what argument you are making. It helps if you state it as a one or more premises followed by a conclusion. It seems like what you have in mind generally is:

P1 In a collection of species, some species are more similar than others.
P2 If a species is radically different than the rest, then it is somehow unique.
C Therefore, a unique species is misclassified and its similarities are coincidental.

In the case of your post, it seems to me the argument made is:

P1 All evolutionary species are distinct, but related.
P2 Human beings are radically different in terms of evolutionary criteria because of things like language use.
C Therefore, being unique in the use of language, human beings are not a product of evolution but only appear subject to evolutionary forces by coincidence.

I'm not sure there is a fallacy here. Remember, people misclassify things regularly. If human beings do not have sufficient similarity to the rest of the categories of evolution, then it's reasonable to conclude they are not a product of evolution. The form of the argument is not the problem. The problem is with the second premise which suffers from a certain bias, some combination of egocentric bias and specieism: humans are NOT fundamentally more unique in terms of evolution, even if language has made us the dominant biological organism on the planet. The end result is either an unsound argument formally or an uncogent argument informally.

So, you can have a flawed structure of argument or you can have a flawed premise, both of which lead to a flawed conclusion. In this case, the second premise is fatally flawed. How?

First, start with the fact that humans, bonobos, and chimps share almost 100% of their DNA (98.8% according to this article (amnh.org)). If you understand what genes are, to claim that we are relatively unique is a strange claim. In fact, one famous primatologist, Frans de Waal has written a fantastic string of books showing not only are our genes almost identical, but a lot of human behavior is relatively similar to chimp behavior. Proto-language, proto-morality, and politics are all present in chimps and bonobos. The big difference between us and them seems to be that we are capable of grammars, and they are not. Michael Tomasello (GB) has a series of books that makes an overwhelming philosophical case of the similiarities from the perspective of communication, cognition, and collective intentionality (SEP).

Why is that so tough to see for some people? Education systems in religious countries sometimes forbid or undermine the knowledge, as here in the US or attempt to conflate it with creationism. Quite frankly, it requires a certain sophistication to understand linguistics, evolution, and philosophy necessary to comprehend the argument. Grammar, the genome, and metaphysics aren't topics that most people ever develop much of an understanding of. Also, there are psychological and sociological incentives such as egoism and in-group-out-group incentives to deny even other human beings full in-group status. People routinely commit murder and genocide to get what they want. Peter Singer routinely makes arguments that human beings should honor their altruistic heritage and use degree of consciousness as a criterion for treating other animals better (such as stop killing them with hydraulic presses and eating them), and there's a lot of resistance to that thinking. As they say, it's hard for someone to accept a truth when their paycheck (or meal) depends on thinking otherwise.

As for what fallacy is possibly applicable in this argument, off the top of my head, I'd consider special pleading:

Special pleading is an informal fallacy wherein one cites something as an exception to a general or universal principle, without justifying the special exception... It is the application of a double standard.

Human beings are cited as an exception to the principle of evolution which isn't an attack on evolution, but merely an attack on our conclusion thus opening the door to questions about alternative origins of the human species. This sort of argument feels like one made of a Christian natural theologian who wants to preserve both evolutionary theory and man's special place in the Divine Chain of Being.

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  • An excellent answer, in my opinion. I would only want to add that extremely unlikely events occur all the time; they are not unusual. For a given lottery ticket to win is extremely unlikely, and yet lottery tickets win lotteries all the time. In this case, each species is unlike any other and special in its own way. It is not remarkable that homo sapiens is unique most others in many respects; it wouldn't be a species if it wasn't.
    – Ludwig V
    Mar 18, 2023 at 18:48
  • Thanks for your answer but my question was moreso related to characterizing events a certain way in your mind. The human species thing was just an example
    – user62907
    Mar 18, 2023 at 21:02
  • @thinkingman But it exactly illustrates the point made. Characterizing and categorizing are susceptible to bias, error, and fallacy. "One of those events seem unique in the sense that no other event seems similar to it." Uniqueness and similarity are only categories of the mind. If you appeal to uniqueness even on probabilistic claims, and their is inadequate grounding to claim it is actually unique, as opposed to apparently unique, then you are committing the fallacy of special pleading. I think there's a strong argument to make that no matter how "unique" you think an event is, it's not.
    – J D
    Mar 18, 2023 at 22:29
  • You're said quite clearly "feels different". Intuition is necessary, but is often wrong.
    – J D
    Mar 18, 2023 at 22:30
  • How do I know if an event is actually different vs feels different?
    – user62907
    Mar 19, 2023 at 9:34

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