Point refuted a thousand times
|Cogito ergo sum|
Logic and rhetoric
“”Is the government covering up alien visitation? Are vaccines harmful? Was the moon landing a hoax? These are questions that have been done to death, and there is nothing new you're likely to learn by questioning them further. Unless your motivation is emotional or ideological, it's time to recognize there's nothing to be gained from continuing to go over our most-trodden ground.
|—Brian Dunning, Skeptoid|
A point refuted a thousand times, commonly abbreviated as PRATT, and called a canard outside of this website, refers to a point or argument that has literally been refuted so many times that it is not worth bothering with.
It is a common phrase on Internet forums — as debates have a tendency to go in circles. Once people have refuted a point the first thousand times, it's hard for them to muster the motivation to do it again. It's a very common accusation levied at creationists, who are notoriously unimaginative in what they say.[note 1] Coincidentally, PRATTs can usually be found coming from prats (British English for "idiots").
Examples of PRATTs
These assertions are mostly very easy to refute, but remain persistent arguments due to ignorance.
Christians and Muslims belonging to fundamentalist sects are often told to avoid reading material and visiting websites that can disturb their faith. Therefore naïve fundamentalists may repeat bad arguments because they genuinely do not know the refutations. More cynical preachers may bring out arguments that have been refuted time after time because they know the sheep who flock to hear their messages will not find out the refutations.
- Religion is required in order for a person to be moral/There is no morality without God.
- If this were anywhere near true, the world would be in chaos as a fairly sizable 31% of the world's population has no deity-based religion. That's nearly 1 in 3 people who, that the religious claim, would happily murder the other 2, including you, because they lacked any form of morality — this just doesn't stack up to observed evidence. The reality is "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." ― Voltaire (1694 - 1778). The distribution of such people and thus your safety varies by location. Secular humanism has established several non-religious moral codes, and biologists and psychologists have tracked various evolutionary pathways for why we act in (what we define as) a moral manner. Perhaps most importantly, statistical analysis (rates of murder, adultery, rape, theft, etc.) shows that non-religious folks behave no less and often more morally than those who have found religion (or had it hammered into them since childhood).
Besides, even if the atheists and agnostics are wrong about the existence of an all-powerful Deity, then why can that Deity not use such people for His Divine Purpose, such as pushing morality with the force of logic and virtue instead of uncritical faith?
- Atheism is a direct cause of lawless behavior.
- This is similarly untrue for almost all beliefs, with the notable exceptions of illegalism and nihilism. Of course, even illegalists could be said to follow a law of their own devising: that society is bad and should be destroyed.
- Research shows that atheists are about as likely to commit crimes as are committed religious adherents, indicating that atheism doesn't seem to make people more "lawless". If this was true, most of Scandinavia would be well-known as a hotbed of insane, godless violence. As it currently stands, it isn't. Neither is there much obvious correlation between lawlessness and religion as most causes of crime are attributed to social and economic conditions. Religion, or lack of it, isn't often viewed as a contributing factor. Now there were the 2011 Norway attacks, but it's notable that those were committed against secularists by Anders Behring Breivik, a Christian.
- Atheism is a religion.
- While it's pretty certain some people can be quite passionate and organised about atheism — and even issue out religious-like edicts about what atheists should and shouldn't do — atheism is not a religion by its very definition. It has no dogma to follow and is a completely non-prescriptive belief system. As proof of this, there have been quite a number of (often mutually exclusive) dogmas, philosophies, and prescriptive belief systems bolted onto atheism, of which the three best known are secular humanism, Marxism, and Objectivism.
- While you could alter the "definition" of religion to include atheism, the practical result is really that the term "religion" loses a lot of its value as a category (except in the context of constitutional law, where classifying atheism as a "religion" greatly simplifies things conceptually), and the point would lose any power as an argument — becoming not only readily ridiculous but also self-defeating.
- The simplest way to explain this is that "atheism" is as much a religion as "monotheism" or "polytheism". There are monotheistic religions, but monotheism itself is not the religion. There are at least two well-known ancient atheistic religions, Confucianism and Buddhism (though some versions incorporate the supernatural). It's entirely possible to believe in the existence of one or multiple gods without deriving any morality from them, in much the same way you could believe that life on Earth originated in a different star system without joining any alien-worshiping cult.
Social conservatives frequently claim this despite the fact that those nations and states that have legalized it (Belgium, Canada, Brazil, Iceland, Ireland, Denmark, Argentina, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Netherlands, Uruguay, United States, Sweden, etc.) are doing just fine, thank you. Judgement day didn't begin (despite many predictions). Populations didn't decline (or at least didn't decline any faster than before). The only thing that happened when gay marriage was legalized was that gay people could get married. It's that simple.
Another oft-repeated canard is that children are better off being raised by a mother and a father both. To support this, they cite a study that compared children raised by married, biological parents to those raised by single parents, step families, and cohabiting parents, without regard for gender. They then turn their ears off when one mentions the studies done that find children of same-sex couples are just as well-adjusted as those of opposite-sex couples. This came up in the infamous California ballot Proposition 8.
In any case it's a false dilemma, since single-parent households will still be single-parent households whether gay marriage is legal or not. Preventing gays from marrying doesn't put second parents in those households.
- The Second Law of Thermodynamics disproves evolution.
- The Second Law is frequently misinterpreted here as if to say that complicated or ordered structures were completely forbidden from forming. While thermodynamics applies to both open and closed systems, the second law states that the entropy of isolated systems almost always increases. The Earth (and the evolution occurring on it) is not an isolated system. Energy from the Sun acts as a driving force for chemical reactions, which are a key part of biology. Thus evolution, like air conditioning and street sweeping, does not violate the Second Law.
- The fossil record gives us no transitional forms.
- Entire pages of books and websites have been dedicated to listing transitional fossils. Just as much has been written describing what a transitional form actually would be — specifically that all fossils are really transitions between something and something else. Creationists say that transitional fossils don't exist so much that this could be considered the ultimate PRATT. Their repeated use of this point in the face of evidence is an extreme form of denialism.
- Evolutionary theory is inseparable from Social Darwinism.
- Besides being a twisted argument from adverse consequences, this point is wrong. Charles Darwin was never involved in Social Darwinism and never endorsed it, nor was the theory technically inspired by it. However, even if he was a proponent of Social Darwinism or eugenics, and even if every evolutionary biologist since then was also a fan, this fact would have absolutely no bearing on the validity of evolution. This point is like arguing that theories about gravitation are all wrong because walking off a cliff results in death: the consequences of the theory don't affect its validity. Gore's Law is quite similar.
- Evolutionism is a religion.
- As with every science, there is no worship in evolution, there is no blind faith or adherence — only evidence. Religion is a quite nicely defined social construct, and no aspect of evolutionary theories fit in. At all. In short, if you were to stretch the definition of "religion" far enough to include evolution, the term would, again, cease to have any real use or proper meaning.
- The origin of life is not explained by evolution, therefore it is wrong.
- The point cannot be overstated that evolution explains the origin of species and speciation, and the diversity of life as it reproduces (biogenesis). The origin of life would be explained by a different mechanism, abiogenesis, which is a separate process from evolutionary theory. This argument would be akin to claiming chemistry is wrong because it doesn't explain where atoms come from.
- How come there are still monkeys?
- Multiple problems exist with this one; it's mostly due to a severe misunderstanding about the nature of evolution. However, it is very common, and indeed quite a nice example to use as a branching point for dealing with these misconceptions. In short, though, "if white Americans descended from Europeans, why are there still Europeans?"
- Supply side economics
- This states that if we cut taxes on the rich, they'll invest the money and it will "trickle down" to the less wealthy. Supply side economics and the Laffer Curve are valid in principle (for instance, if you have massive levels of crippling taxation and a population being fed by a black market), but have been thoroughly debunked as wishful thinking, since whenever these tax cuts have been notably implemented, there has been barely any (if any at all) trickling down of benefits. Despite this, the Laffer Curve is still held in high regard by many fiscal conservatives, even while its architect continues to act like a dolt.
- Most purported evidence of the moon landing hoax.
- There are as many websites out there pointing out the blatantly obvious flaws in this conspiracy theory as there are websites trying to support the conspiracy theory. "Buzz Aldrin isn't holding a camera!" (The astronaut's cameras were attached to their chests). "There's a prop visible with 'C' written on it!" (no one labels their props like that, and it doesn’t look like a C). "The flag waves in the wind!" (grow up and read some physics). And so on and so forth.
- There's a face on Mars.
- This still does the rounds on blogs, conspiracy websites, YouTube comments and the occasional woo-pushing documentary despite being thoroughly examined and revealed to be nothing particularly interesting. Higher resolution shots of the "face" have revealed it to be exactly what every skeptic said it was, just a mountain range with some funny shadows. It's a very interesting psychological effect known as pareidolia (indeed, this crops up every single time someone reports seeing a face in something, from Jesus on a toasted sandwich to the Devil in the smoke of the World Trade Center collapsing, yet the message still doesn't seem to get across).
- The Lost Cause of the South
- Every aspect of this myth has been refuted time and again with overwhelming evidence. Yes, the South fought the Civil War to preserve slavery (it is even mentioned as such in several states' articles of secession), yes, slaves really were treated that badly, and no, most Southerners did not oppose slavery, certainly not Robert E. Lee (who viewed it as a necessary evil, not towards the black race but towards the white race, and he owned slaves himself contrary to what many lost causers believe). Despite it being so easy to refute with even a basic understanding of American history, it is still widely believed to this day, largely because of many prominent early American historians (most notably Woodrow Wilson) promoting it and because it is still taught in school in many states.
- Holocaust denial
- The Holocaust has its own entire section of historiography, with the amount of evidence that it happened being overwhelming. We have pictures, documents, survivors, historical sites, records, etc. that proved that the Holocaust happened. Any attempts to downplay the severity of the holocaust have been debunked over and over again as well, with one common point, "How did they get enough gas to kill 6 million Jews", being easily debunked as not every victim of the Holocaust died in a gas chamber, and that's not even getting in to the evidence debunking that it was the Jews that caused the Holocaust. The amount of historical fields that you'd have to deny as well as the entire huge body of evidence that has been compiled over the years is staggering, making Holocaust deniers essentially the Flat Earthers of the history profession.
- The idea that Shakespeare didn't exist or didn't write his plays has been around for centuries, and Shakespeare scholars still get exasperated at how often they have to prove the Bard's existence and authorship. Despite the mountain of legal records and the difficulty of having some mysterious, unseen figure write plays that required intimate knowledge of its actors, as well as the logistics of covering up such a relationship, there are still those who insist some other author wrote Shakespeare's plays, such as on the basis on education ("Shakespeare never went to university yet his plays show a university-level vocabulary!" — except Shakespeare's schooling was quite different from modern schooling) or viewpoint ("How could someone who never traveled outside of England write such detailed plays about Italy and France?"— except Shakespeare still got quite a bit wrong...like someone who never traveled outside of England.)
- Slavery and Jim Crow have long been done away with, and there's been an African American in the White House, so racism is no longer an issue./Not all men abuse women, so sexism no longer exists.
- Just because racism is not as prevalent any more doesn't mean it's no longer an issue, and racism encompasses more than just discrimination against people of colour. Just because sexism is not so prevalent any more doesn't mean it has completely disappeared either. The denial of the existence of various forms of oppression, or of the offensiveness of a given statement are strategies used to derail or undermine people working to advance the interests of marginalized groups. If a member of a such group points out that something is oppressive to their group, they more than likely know better than someone not in that group because they live it every day. (Most likely they take the subject seriously enough to only produce such claims when they really think it's appropriate.) This holds doubly true for members of said marginalized group who also advocate for the rights of that group.
- People who suggest that these claims are frivolous should back this up with the required extraordinary evidence, which they almost never do.
- Fascists weren't right-wing!
- The former can be refuted completely outright; (B-b-but Hitler was a socialist. He wanted big government, workers owning the means of production, and gun bans. The opposite of what Republicans want! Sure, that was probably why he busted unions and put socialists and communists to death.) The latter refers to Jonah Goldberg's book Liberal Fascism, which is often used as a reference by hard-right bloggers and ideologues as "proof" fascism was left-wing, not right-wing, despite the fact the book has been refuted by everyone with actual expertise in the area, liberal and conservative. It is probably used as a reference since debunking the book every time it comes up would be too tedious and irritating for most to bother with doing over and over again.
- Prayer has been banned!
- Check your Facebook feed and if you have any conservative friends, you'll see pissing and moaning that G-d has been banned from American public schools, and students can't pray without getting flogged. Except that's not the case. Students can pray all they want. Granted, they couldn't stand up in the middle of class to recite the Lord's Prayer any more than they'd have a pass to stand up and sing "Modern Major General", but they can pray. What was banned was school faculty leading the class in prayer, being that this amounts to a government endorsement of religion. Point this out to those conservative friends, though, and they'll likely reject the information so they can hold onto their feeling of martyrdom.
- The Weimar Republic failed because it was "too democratic".
- No it didn't. The Enabling Act of 1933 was passed even though it clearly violated the substance of the constitution by a two thirds majority of the members of parliament present at the time, thus excluding the Communist MPs already thrown into jail by the Nazis. This was perfectly legal under the interpretation of the constitution then in force — the constitution could be changed by a two thirds majority of the members of parliament present at the time with a minimum of two thirds of the nominal members needed for such a vote. Thus only four ninths of the actual elected MPs were needed to change the constitution. In common practice, laws that broke the constitution but did not officially alter its text could be passed in the same manner. Also Article 48 (Weimar Constitution) gave the President (who though in theory elected by the people, only once got a 50%+1 one vote majority in a popular election — in the 1932 reelection of Paul von Hindenburg) broad powers to govern without parliament, which both Weimar era Presidents did during the 1923 crisis and again during the early 1930s. Even the powers of parliament to repeal such acts were denied through the President's power to dissolve parliament at his whim. If anything, Weimar had too little democracy.
- The MMR vaccine is responsible for the worldwide autism epidemic!
- Vaccines are dangerous because they contain mercury!
- Thiomersal does contain mercury, but doesn't have the same negative effects as pure mercury does (similarly to how table salt isn't poisonous despite containing chlorine), and it is in quantities way too small to be dangerous (you get more mercury from eating seafood). Besides, most vaccines in developed countries don't even use thiomersal anymore. And no, mercury does not cause autism either.
- Polio hasn't been eradicated, it was just given a different name!
- Polio has not been eradicated, due to the actions of religious fundamentalists in Nigeria and Pakistan.
- GMOs (foods produced with genetic engineering methods) are toxic and poisonous!
- There is no evidence of GMO foods being any more dangerous to humans than other foods. All foods naturally contain trace amounts of "toxins", and in many cases GMO crops actually contain less "toxins" than the alternate. As for the GMO crops that contain pesticides and so forth, all of these are safe for humans (and generally in the leaves anyway); chocolate is toxic to dogs, but that doesn't mean humans can't eat it.
- A global ban on DDT killed millions of people in Africa!
- This right-wing myth has been so completely refuted that there is now a "DDT ban bingo" that refutes every claim made by those who still rant about it.
- Gas taxes pay for public transit
- Nope. Neither in any country of Europe nor in the US. Cars create a ton of external costs that gas taxes don't even begin to cover. Public subsidies for public transit out of the general fund are minuscule by comparison. Also, as electric vehicle usage increases, gas taxes are reduced but road usage is not.
- The climate is always changing
- The most common climate myth according to skepticalscience.com, anybody who has debated climate change contrarians has heard this one countless times. While it is true that climate changes were occurring before humans started burning fossil fuels, this is a logical fallacy, in the same way that it is a fallacy to claim that smoking can't cause forest fires because forest fires existed before humans. Furthermore, climate changes during Earth's history were generally much more gradual, where life could adapt easily, and when rapid climate changes did occur, it usually led to mass extinctions, such as the Permian-Triassic extinction event.
In honor of Donald Trump, The Washington Post added a new rating for their fact checking service in December 2018: "The Bottomless Pinocchio" for false claims "repeated over and over again". Pity the overworked fact checkers.
- A comparative guide to science denial
- Backfire effect
- Creationist escape hatches
- Bingo cards for PRATTs
- Logical fallacy
- Not even wrong
- PRATTmaster comics by Agahnim at DeviantART
- Morality in everyday life, Hofmann et al. 2014
- Religiosity and Crime Revisited: Accounting for Non-Believers, Schroeder et al., Deviant Behavior, 2018, 39(5)632-647
- Thermodynamics, Evolution and Creationism, talk.origins
- Transitional Vertebrate Fossils, talk.origins
- Social Darwinism, talk.origins
- Evolution is a religion, talk.origins
- The Great Lie of Supply-Side Economics, Economist's View
- The wrong get wronger, The Economist
- John J. Ray, "HITLER WAS A SOCIALIST", Free Republic 5.27.05.
- Roger Griffin destroys Goldberg
- The History News Network had to refute it three times:   
- Haynes, A Plea to Politicians: Tell the Truth About 'School Prayer', First Amendment Center
- Mercury and Autism: Enough Already!, Emily Willingham, Scientific American 3 November 2017
- DDT ban myth bingo, Deltoid
- , Skepticalscience.com
- Meet the Bottomless Pinocchio, a new rating for a false claim repeated over and over again by Glenn Kessler (December 10, 2018 at 7:24 AM) The Washington Post.