Appeal to coincidence is a logical fallacy in which one asserts that a certain event must have occurred due to a coincidence, despite all the evidence to the contrary. As such, it’s a form of slothful induction: A flawed inductive argument that rejects a reasonable conclusion even though there is strong evidence for it.
It is also commonly known as “appeal to luck” or “appeal to bad luck”.
Appeal to coincidence occurs when someone refuses to accept a conclusion supported with relevant evidence, and instead claims that a certain event or result was purely coincidental.
One example would be:
- Jim has been fired from 7 different jobs in the past six months. He says that it has nothing to do with him or his skills; he has just been very unlucky.
Here, it is very unlikely that Jim’s poor track record doesn’t have anything to do with him, even if such bad luck is possible. The evidence (being fired 7 times in 6 months) seems to strongly suggest that Jim has lots of room for improvement as an employee.
It is often obvious why appeals to coincidence are erroneous: If we have proof to show that a particular event was not, in fact, due to chance, it would be irrational to dismiss it. As such, this fallacy is often committed out of desperation when one can’t find a proper counter-argument and attempts to shift the blame on coincidence or bad luck.
Here are a few more examples of this fallacy to better illustrate it:
- Brian has had 10 car accidents in the last twelve months. He insists that it is just a coincidence and not due to his terrible driving skills, even though the evidence overwhelmingly suggests otherwise.
- “I believe that we were created by God several thousand years ago. Anything that may seem to prove otherwise is just a coincidence.”
The view that smoking causes specific diseases remains an opinion or a judgment, and not an established scientific fact.D.P. Agin, Junk Science, p. 89