The Fallacy of Special Pleading

special-pleadingOn internet forums, the fallacy of special pleading is commonplace. Special pleading is committed when one applies a standard to another when he himself does not have to abide by this standard. The authors of Science, Evolution, and Creationism used special pleading in their argument:

“[In response to ‘no one has ever seen evolution occur’:] Scientific conclusions are not limited to direct observation but often depend on inferences that are made by applying reason to observations. … [On the same page, they wrote to explain why creation is not science:] But science cannot test supernatural possibilities. … Because such appeals to the supernatural are not testable using the rules and processes of scientific inquiry, they cannot be a part of science.”[1]

The authors indicate that on the one hand, microbes-to-man evolution — which is not directly testable or observable — is science because inferences from observations are allowed. But on the other hand, they also claim that creation is not science because supernatural processes are not testable, but is instead based on inference from observations. This is fallacious. If evolution is science and is based on inferences from observations, then how can creation, which is also based on inferences from observations, be ‘not science’?

Special pleading is seen, quite surprisingly, a number of times in internet discussions and debates. But this is bad logic, to say the least.


  1. Committee on Revising Science and Creationism, Science, Evolution, and Creationism(Washington, DC: The National Academic Press, 3rd Edition, 2007), p. 39. Back to text
Similarities and Homology: Not Evidence for Evolution!
Affirming the Antecedent/Consequent
The Fallacy of Reification
The Fallacy of Equivocation
The Fallacy of Bifurcation
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