Arbitrariness: offering a claim of truth without any evidence for it at all.
The Oxford dictionary defines arbitrariness as something "[b]ased on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system”. Why is this bad? Because it sees no need to support a claim with evidence, therefore whatever arbitrary claim someone makes can simply be countered by another arbitrary claim from someone else. Take for example the Buddha’s claim to be the “enlightened one.” He offers no evidence whatsoever for his claims, and they can easily be counter-claimed by Confucius, or anyone else for that matter.
There are subcategories of arbitrariness:
- (i) Mere opinion: Opinion tells us something about the person who said it, not about the subject being discussed. Take for example Bertrand Russell’s opinion of Christ as stated in his essay “Why I Am Not a Christian”: “I do not think that Christ was the best and wisest of men.” OK then, what standard did Russell use to measure Christ’s wisdom or character? He is offering us his opinion which carries zero weight.(ii) Relativism: Roughly put this is the position that claims to truth are not true or false but rather relative to cultural norms, individual standards and personal choices. Commonly expressed: “this may be true for you but not for me,” or more recently by the phrase “this is My truth.” Relativism is self-refuting because in and of itself it claims to be what it is not, namely absolute truth. It is like saying “I am absolutely sure there are no absolutes”.(iii) Prejudicial conjecture: This is an opinion or conclusion formed on the basis of incomplete information. People will often argue based on what “seems likely” to them without having any information to back up the likelihood of what they are saying.(iv) Ignorant conjecture: This seems to be a more sophisticated way to state an opinion, which might seem at first look to be stating facts, but it turns out to be opinion - intentionally or unintentionally - ignoring the counter-evidence to one's thesis. For example, in a book supposedly debunking Christianity an author tells us “The Jesus story incorporated elements from the tales of other deities recorded in this widespread area of the ancient world.” (See S. Achayra: The Christ conspiracy) Throughout the book we are introduced to some of these elements, which were supposedly incorporated by Christianity, including: a) “Mithra was born of a virgin on December 25th in a cave”; b) “Horus was born of the virgin Isis-Meri on December 25th”; and so on. An uniformed reader of such a book might think the author is saying something about the subject, but when we look at the author’s source information, we find a rather different story. Mithra was born of a rock; (See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mithraism#Birth_from_a_rock) I suppose the rock was technically a virgin. Horus’s birth story is a little more interesting; “Seth hacked his brother Osiris’ body into pieces, which he scattered far and wide. Transforming herself into a bird, Isis, helped by her sister Nephthys, was able to discover and reunite the parts of the dead god’s body - only his penis was missing, using her magical powers, she was able to make Osiris a whole new one from gold; bandaged, neither living nor dead, Osiris had become a mummy. Nine months later Isis bore him a son. (See: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Isis-Egyptian-goddess) As you see Horus was born of a zombie. Such ignorance from unbelievers is not easily detected in many cases, as it is constructed to make their objection sound more credible or even scholarly (take the Jesus seminar or Bart Ehrman as examples).(v) Unargued philosophical bias: Often unbelievers have an unargued portion in whatever subject they are talking about. For example you may hear from an atheist “the question regarding the existence of God, one for which evidence cannot be tested, may lie outside the purview of modern science”. There are several unargued biases in this sentence: firstly, the testability of evidence, secondly the ultimacy of science, thirdly the nature of evidence, and finally the meaning of existence. All of these biases are taken for granted. Take also what Muslims ask: “Show me where in the Bible Jesus says: ‘I am God, worship me.’ ” The unargued bias here is the Muslim’s position that Jesus came to receive a revelation similar to the Quran; that is something a Muslim takes for granted and doesn’t feel the need to justify.