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9 Examples of an Argument From Ignorance

 , updated on June 20, 2019
An argument from ignorance is the argument that something must be true because it hasn't been proved false and vice versa. This is a fallacy and is always an invalid argument. The following are illustrative examples.

Lack of Contrary Evidence

Claiming that a lack of evidence equals proof. For example, "there is no evidence that green aliens aren't controlling the entertainment industry, therefore they must be."

Burden of Proof

An argument from ignorance often tries to shift the burden of proof from where it logically belongs. For example, if you accuse a person of a wrongdoing, it is up to you to prove it. It is an argument from ignorance to suggest someone is guilty because they can't prove their innocence. For example, "Andrew can't prove he didn't eat the last jellybean, therefore he ate it."

Russell's Teapot

Russel's teapot is a thought experiment designed by philosopher Bertrand Russell. It is an argument that there is a small teapot that can't be seen by telescopes that is orbiting the Sun. This is used to show that the burden of proof lies with those who make untestable claims.

Lack of Knowledge

Claiming that you lack knowledge in an area and implying that his lowers your burden of proof to a personal opinion, experience or observation. For example, "I'm no doctor but blueberry jam has always cured every sickness I ever had."

False Dichotomy

A false dichotomy is the argument that there are only two options when in fact there are many. For example, "he doesn't agree with me so he must be evil."

Silence Before The Storm

Silence before the storm is an argument that something is about to happen because nothing has happened. For example, "there hasn't been an earthquake for a while so a big one must be imminent."

False Balance

Comparing high quality evidence to low quality evidence as if they were in balance. For example, "some experts say the Earth is a oblate spheroid while others say it is flat."

Uncertainty Equals Untrue

The argument that uncertainty indicates that something is completely true or false. For example, a study that finds there is a high probability but no certainty that a chemical can cause a disease. A politician uses this to claim "they tried to prove it was harmful and they couldn't do it because it's safe."

Precautionary Principle

The precautionary principle is a rule that may be included in laws and regulations that puts the burden of proof on the side of safety as opposed to harm. This is to counter the argument from ignorance that we should not work to solve problems until we are 100% certain the problem exists. The precautionary principle calls for erring on the side of caution. For example, an aircraft that is grounded when there is a 30% chance a design flaw will cause a crash as opposed to waiting for crashes that can be proven to be a direct result of the flaw before taking action.
Overview: Argument From Ignorance
Type
Definition (1)
The argument that something must be true because it hasn't been proved false and vice versa.
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