Slothful induction

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Slothful induction or "appeal to coincidence" is a logical fallacy in which an inductive argument is denied its proper conclusion in spite of strong evidence; this is either in favor of an alternative conclusion with no evidence or a vague non-specific conclusion that is impossible to rule out by stating nothing concrete (such as stating it was merely a "coincidence"). Often, slothful induction becomes a game of moving the goalposts.

The fallacy is an ad hoc fallacy and an informal fallacy.

Alternate names[edit]


  • Strong evidence suggests X results in Y.
  • In spite of this, someone insists Y was caused by something else.

Implicitly, this "something else" either has weak or no evidence in support of it, or it's a kind of vague unfalsifiable notion such that Y happens simply coincidentally, and has no real relation to many occurrences of X. All the while, no testable alternative to Y is offered.


A drunkard has had seven car accidents in the last seven months. Each time, the drunkard had immediately prior visited a bar. Each time, the drunkard tested positive for alcohol above legal limits. Each time, bystanders report that the drunkard's car had been acting erratically. It is strongly evident that the drunkard's alcohol causes their accidents. Yet the drunkard insists that it is just a coincidence and was simply distracted for reasons that are not his fault.

An example of slothful induction is when creationists often ask for "proof" of evolution, and act triumphant when none is forthcoming that meet their criteria, and yet they will still cling to their preferred hypothesis of creationism despite no such "proof" being present; hell, without even provisional evidence for its occurrence. This is a rather egregious double-standard in what constitutes adequate evidential support.

William Dembski's Explanatory Filter is a good example of this fallacy.

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