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Appeal to Ignorance

Appeal to Ignorance:

Also called

  • Argument from Ignorance
  • Argument from Lack of Imagination
  • Argument from Personal Incredulity

The claim that a statement is true because it has not been proven false, or that a statement is false because it has not been proven to be true. Famously refuted by Carl Sagan with the statement, "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." Based on shifting the burden of proof onto whichever side of the argument you want to lose. If something can not be proven either way, just act like the opinion opposite of yours is inherently sillier, and you can assert that your position must be assumed correct until someone from the other side can prove you wrong. Usually involves an appeal to one's own authority and/or Burden of Proof Fallacy, and is essentially a claim of personal omniscience; if the arguer cannot imagine a way for something to have happened, it is clearly impossible.


  • The popular argument "you cannot prove X does not exist, so it does" (or vice-versa) is the typical case. X can be God, aliens, a huge government conspiracy, unicorns, whatever. It's more common with arguments that are harder to prove, one way or the other.

     Comic Books 
  • In the Chick Tract Big Daddy, the protagonist invokes the God Of Gaps (see Bill O'Reilly below for details) claiming that since we don't know what holds protons and neutrons together, it must be Jesus note 

    Live Action Television 
  • Bill O'Reilly's infamous tide argument, which basically boils down to "I don't understand how tides work, therefore they are completely inexplicable and God exists."
    • It was lated explained to him that we DO know what causes the tides (the moon's gravity) making O'Reilly retract the tide statement... only to apply the same argument to the moon. Just for the record, we also have a pretty good idea why the moon is up there too.
  • O'Reilly's lunar argument above is simply a variation of another version of this trope: the God of the Gaps argument. It basically boils down to: "We don't know how 'Thing X' got here or how it works, therefore God, Q. E. D." For instance, if one asks "how does the sun orbit the earth", and the atheist does not know...on and on and on. Of course, one day there will likely be no more gaps for God to populate, and the argument is logically untenable even if there were. This argument was first identified and comprehensively disproved by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Christian theologian later executed by the Nazis, who pointed out that even if there is a gap in mankind's knowledge, the theist who says that "oh, so it must have been God" has no logical or factual basis for that decision.

    Visual Novel 
  • The 'Devil's Proof' was a favorite of Battler's early in Umineko: When They Cry. Until Knox's 8th was declared, Beatrice had to knock these down individually, though she once used Hempel's Raven to turn the burden of proof back to Battler eighteen-fold.

    Real Life 
  • The Bielefeld Conspiracy is a satirical example. Asking a random person "Do you know anybody from Bielefeld? Have you ever been to Bielefeld? Do you know anybody who has ever been to Bielefeld?" is highly likely to garner three "no"snote , so it is "concluded" that the city does not exist.

Appeal to ForceLogic TropesAppeal To Inherent Nature
Appeal To FlatteryLogical FallaciesAppeal to Inherent Nature

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