Elven Rain Switch

I like how some bad argument forms are given names, like the Courtier’s Reply or the Brine Shrimp Gambit.  It makes it easy for me to spot these fallacies and easy to point it out to others by just stating the name.

I’d like to put a name to one because I don’t think it has a name of it’s own.  It’s more of a method really that I often employ, but certainly didn’t come up with.

It goes like this.  Someone makes a statement, and if you can substitute the subject of that statement with something absurd or with something you just invented in your head right then and there and this new ludicrous statement is just as valid at the original, then you know it’s not a good argument.

I don’t think I’m wording this right, so here’s the example that I think best illustrates this.  There’s a saying, “If you believe elves make it rain, you’ll see proof of elves every time it rains.”  I don’t know who first said it so I’m not certain what it was meant to show.  But I imagine it was to counter an argument like, “God made the world and proof of that is that the world exists.”  So I call this the Elven Rain Switch.

So let’s try the Elven Rain Switch on something.  How about the ontological argument!  That goes we define god as having the property of being a perfect being, and we define something as perfect as it exists, among other things about perfection, since if something didn’t exist it wouldn’t be as perfect.  We’re allowed to make definitions, right?  So by definition, god exists!  This is one form of the ontological argument, but same idea as the others for the most part.

Simply defining something as existing shouldn’t seem right.  Doing an Elven Rain Switch, let’s say the being is a 50 foot tall purple rabbit and we define it as having the property of floopityboop, something I just made up in my head.  I define a part of the floopityboop property as whatever has that property must exist.  So there you go, worship the big purple bunny now since it exists.

Other problems with the ontological argument that I can see are you’re making the statements god exists and god is perfect as equivalent, god exists if and only if it’s perfect, so a claim of one of those needs as much proof as does the other claim.  So it must be shown that a god does indeed have that property of perfection, and being perfect doesn’t matter if god doesn’t exist.


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