Begging the question is a logical fallacy in which the proposition to be proved or defended is assumed implicitly or explicitly in one or more of the premises. It is a type of circular reasoning in which the truth of what one is trying to prove is assumed from the outset. One encounters a lot of question-begging arguments in defense of blind-watchmaker evolutionary theory.
Question-begging reasoning can appear in unexpected places…
Since I am a software engineer by vocation, and have developed quite a number of simulation programs, I take particular interest in computer programs that claim to simulate biological evolution. In every case, I have observed that these programs beg the question by incorporating up front (sometimes in a subtle manner) the very things they are meant to demonstrate.
Eric Anderson, who is a very sharp fellow and an excellent writer, has an essay on this topic that I highly recommend: http://www.evolutiondebate.info/BitByte.pdf He doesn’t cover all the deficiencies of these simulation programs (for example, they artificially shelter the replication engine from the effects of mutations), but he covers the circular-reasoning and question-begging deficiencies very effectively. I have read attempts to refute these arguments, and find the attempts about as convincing as the highly imaginative co-option story as a refutation of biological irreducible complexity.
In the process of writing simulation programs one learns very quickly that a single erroneous assumption about the system in question, or a single overlooked variable, can cause the simulation to go down in flames and leave a big smoking hole in the ground, or worse, produce results that appear reasonable but are totally invalid and misleading. Fortunately, in a hard science like aeronautical engineering we can deploy the system and see if it behaves in real life like the simulation says it will — and we are often surprised by the results, despite our best efforts and intentions!
There is no such reality check for computer programs that attempt to simulate biological evolution, and they are so vastly oversimplified and divorced from the biological reality they attempt to imitate that claims made on their behalf should be taken with a shovelful of salt.
As a footnote: I really enjoy Eric Anderson’s prose. Check out “The Little Dinosaur That Could” at
Eric tells the real story about how birds evolved from dinosaurs. It will put a smile on your face.