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Conflation

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Conflation is the logical fallacy of treating two distinct concepts as if they were one.

For example, the word "bat" has at least two meanings: a flying animal, and a piece of sporting equipment [as baseball bat, or cricket bat]. If these two meanings are not distinguished, the result may be the following categorical syllogism:

  1. All bats are animals.
  2. Some wooden objects are bats.
  3. Therefore, some wooden objects are animals.

Other examples:

  1. Much of the Creation vs. evolution debate stumbles over the conflation of biological evolution and the general theory of evolution. Biological evolution is merely change in populations of organisms over time, while the general theory of evolution makes claims to abiogenesis, common descent, and the absence of any act of divine creation in history.
  2. Much of the abortion debate can be traced to a conflation of the word "person." Pro-choice activists generally think of a person as an independent, communicative, productive member of society, while pro-life activists think of a person as an organism with a distinct, human genetic code and a God-given soul.

The key to resolving a conflation is to identify and correct the ambiguous use of language. The first step is to take a step back from the debate and define its terms. What do we mean by "Person?" What do we mean by "evolution?" Once the ambiguity has been addressed and the varying definitions have been identified, then the parties to the debate must use precise and mutually-agreed-upon language to avoid the problems of conflation. Creationists must continually remind their opponents, "I do not dispute the observable facts of biological evolution; I dispute the claims of the general theory of evolution." Similarly, pro-lifers must continually remind their opponents, "I do not dispute that babies are not yet independent, productive, communicative members of society. I use a scientific definition of what is human and what is not, and I know for a fact that a fetus is a living organism with human genetic material distinct from its mother's. I also happen to believe that a genetically distinct and human organism is worth protecting."


See Also

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Warning:
This argument represents a
Conflation.
Use the {{fallacy|Conflation}} template to insert the above warning on a page containing Conflation. The template links the warning label to this page.