Much like the pestering child asking "Why?" over and over, one can demand proof (or examples) of an argument as a means to slow it down, trivialize it, or out-right block it.

I'm looking for any term to describe this sort of effect / tactic. To give an example:

"The [baby-step technique] is a way of suppressing forward movement of an idea by requiring it to put excessive effort into every step."

As another example:

There is a scene in Futurama where an ape argues with a scientist that evolution isn't real by constantly asking "What came before that stage of evolution," until eventually reaching a missing link at which point this is taken as proof that the argument of evolution is lacking sufficient evidence.

"If you can't prove this thing ad-nauseam, it is false."

P.S. I strongly believe in having proof for things, this is not about being anti-scientific, but more about overdoing it to undermine the very pursuit.

  • I've asked a friend and they said "Gaslighting." Thought it was interesting.
    – Seph Reed
    May 7, 2019 at 21:42
  • The term "working theory" also seems related to this concept. Also, "Burden of Proof."
    – Seph Reed
    May 7, 2019 at 22:07

3 Answers 3


A chilling effect is a possibility. See https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chilling_effect

Used as a legal term, referring to rules or legislation that discourages the exercise of rights, but also used more generally.

  • While by definition this is not totally accurate, I think the overall human experience it conveys is incredibly close, and that it's approachability as a layman term makes it the most applicable for my scenario.
    – Seph Reed
    May 8, 2019 at 15:26
  • You need to quote the specifically relevant information from the link in your answer. Otherwise, it's essentially a link-only answer—something that is typically deleted from these sites. May 8, 2019 at 17:28

Maybe something like reductio ad absurdum, proving/arguing that a proposition, such as evolution, leads to an absurd conclusion.


I think "moving the goalposts" might work, or at least it's closely related. If each time one question is sufficiently addressed, another is brought out and a new answer demanded, then that's moving the goalposts.

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