Logical Gal – those who invent NEW definitions

15 Jan

Have you noticed how some people are taking the unauthorized liberty to REDEFINE a term?

Take the concept of TOLERANCE. The original definition has to do with listening politely to something with which you do not agree…..or being respectful of the practices of beliefs that you do not hold.   But there would be nothing to tolerate if everyone thought and acted alike. Tolerance PRE-SUPPOSES a difference in opinions.

But today – ‘they’ (whoever they are) have decided that tolerance means to accept as equally TRUE and GOOD ALL beliefs and practices.  That is a very different term.

Yesterday I heard about a deliberate practice of REDEFINING the concept of FAITH to:

  • Belief without evidence

This is ridiculous.  If your opponent gets to change the meaning of a term going into a debate, then you can’t engage!  A fundamental principle for conducting any discussion is that both sides agree on the key terms being used.

But if the so-called New Atheists   play loose with terms instead of openly or honestly, with the concurrence of all parties, they are in essence relying on a couple of fallacies.

The Fallacy of Equivocal Terms is when YOU are referring to one concept and your interlocutor is referring to a completely different one, but the term is pronounced and spelled the same.  Examples of equivocal terms are pitcher (a thrower of a ball, a receptacle for beverages) or plane (a geometrical shape, an aircraft).

The reason someone might employ such a rhetorical trick might be to create a Straw Man.  If I can redefine something to make it look ridiculous and then easily point that out to an audience, I’ve scored points.

And this is what Peter Boghossian has done.  

In his encounters with Christians, this Philosophy Professor and leading atheist dismisses the traditional definition of faith – a belief based on evidence.  Instead he substitutes his conveniently created definition of belief which he has set up to be a blind kind of adherence to something that can’t be proven.  But that’s not faith.

If you say, “I have faith that this Southwest Boing 737 will fly” and you climb onboard, I doubt you are exercising the blind, irrational decision that Boghossian is mocking.   Most likely you are aware of the safety record of commercial aircraft and the anecdotal evidence of your past flights and those of others.

So, too, is the Christian faith based on evidence.  In Acts, chapter 1, verse 3 – Luke says about Jesus – After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

Anyone who ridicules a created straw-man concept of faith is being intellectually dishonest, lazy and just plain mean.

So what is a Logical Jane or Joe to do?

Politely ‘call them’  on their switcheroo

and flush it out in the open.  Say – “So, you’re changing the definition of our terms? – I will not allow you to do that.  If we can’t agree on terms, there’s no point having this discussion.”    A decent person will have the humility to back down or at least concede their ploy!

Question:  What other terms have you noticed being redefined in society?

8 Responses to “Logical Gal – those who invent NEW definitions”

  1. NotAScientist January 15, 2014 at 9:22 am #

    “Yesterday I heard about a deliberate practice of REDEFINING the concept of FAITH to:”

    Then if it’s not belief without or in spite of evidence to the contrary, what is it?

    “So, too, is the Christian faith based on evidence. ”

    No. It’s based on stories about other people that says those people got evidence.

    • Maria January 15, 2014 at 4:03 pm #

      Hi NotAScientist – thanks for your questions.
      Eye-witness testimony is certainly considered direct evidence in a court of law. And even indirect evidence has a cumulative effect and can be enough for a jury to come to a conclusion.

      All our history is based on accounts or stories. None of us was around when George Washington crossed the Delaware.

      Does that help?

      Maria

      • NotAScientist January 15, 2014 at 4:31 pm #

        “Eye-witness testimony is certainly considered direct evidence in a court of law.”

        True. But it’s not the best evidence. If contradicted by physical evidence (DNA, for example, or fingerprints or security video) then we would be more likely to side against the eye-witness testimony.

        But even ignoring that, there’s two problems I see. One is that I look at things like this (supernatural claims that are common in most religions) from a scientific standpoint as opposed to a ‘court of law’ standpoint.

        The other problem is that you (the general ‘you’, meaning religion in general and Christianity in particular) don’t have eye-witness testimony. You have written anecdotes dated from years afterward by anonymous authors that claim others were eye-witnesses.

        Which is not the same thing.

        We (the general we) do, actually, have eye-witness testimony of alien abductions. I’d be curious what your feeling about those were.

        “All our history is based on accounts or stories. None of us was around when George Washington crossed the Delaware.”

        You are very correct here. But I (and I think you) would need more evidence than testimony to believe that George Washington crossed the Delaware by flying.

        My belief that Washington crossed the Delaware is not based on faith, though. Or any kind of thing I would recognize by that term. Which is where my confusion comes from.

        I believe in historical events based on the written testimonies, yes. But I also believe them to the extent that the claims aren’t extraordinary. Extraordinary claims, after all, require extraordinary evidence.

        Washington crossing a river is not an extraordinary claim. Washington flying across a river, walking on non-frozen water or being descended from the goddess Venus are extraordinary claims. And I would either need more, better evidence to believe those things…or I would need faith.

        I don’t have or use faith at all, though. At least as I understand the term. If I have it wrong, please let me know.

  2. Maria January 15, 2014 at 9:39 pm #

    Hi again, NotAScientist

    You pose some interesting ideas.
    I do have a Q for you – why is it that ‘extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence’? What reasons back that up? That’s just an opinion. Jesus’ resurrection is an historical event. Historical events are attested to by very ordinary evidence.
    Your aliens’ appearances sound supernatural to me. Do you believe that supernatural occurrences are possible?

    I do understand you are making a distinction between evidence in a legal setting and evidence from a laboratory. But one is not more valid than another. They are just 2 different kinds of claims. Sciences measures repeatable patterns. Trials are like history – they try to get at the truth of what happened in the past.

    Thanks for making me think!

    Maria

    • NotAScientist January 16, 2014 at 10:22 am #

      “What reasons back that up?”

      Experience. And everyone follows it, at least to some degree. If you didn’t believe that extraordinary claims required extraordinary evidence, you’d have to believe I had a pet dragon merely on the evidence of my claiming that I had it.

      You simply seem to give your religion an exemption.

      “Do you believe that supernatural occurrences are possible?”

      You would have to define what ‘supernatural’ meant. That being said, anything is possible. But I’ve seen no good evidence for anything supernatural. Aliens or walking on water.

      • Maria January 17, 2014 at 11:12 am #

        You ask good questions! As far as supernatural, how did the universe get here?
        And about the pet dragon, I would be more inclined to believe your claim was true if there were hundreds of eye-witness testimonies attesting to that. One has to verify the reliability of the witnesses and examine their motives. About Jesus’ resurrection which I would consider supernatural, there are plenty of non-biblical accounts about it. And the fact is, the Romans never were able to produce a body (that would have ended the discussion)
        The best book that talks about the reliability of witness testimony is by a cold-case homocide detective named J. Warner Wallace (Cold Case Christianity)

      • NotAScientist January 17, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

        “As far as supernatural, how did the universe get here?”

        I don’t know. But nothing I’ve seen makes me think anything supernatural is responsible.

        “I would be more inclined to believe your claim was true if there were hundreds of eye-witness testimonies attesting to that.”

        As would I! But no religion has that.

        “there are plenty of non-biblical accounts about it. ”

        There actually aren’t. And I’m not saying that to just be contrary. There are non-biblical accounts of people who believed in Jesus, and what those people believed. But there are no contemporary non-biblical accounts of the claims made in the Bible.

        But again, it goes back to my feeling of extraordinary claims. Even if you did have hundreds of eye witnesses, that’s not good enough evidence by itself. If you (or someone) think it is, then I have to ask about aliens again.

        “And the fact is, the Romans never were able to produce a body (that would have ended the discussion)”

        Perhaps, but it’s ignoring the burden of proof. If I claim I have a pet dragon, and I want you to believe me, it’s my responsibility to show evidence. It isn’t your responsibility to prove that my dragon doesn’t exist.

      • NotAScientist January 17, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

        “As far as supernatural, how did the universe get here?”

        I don’t know. But nothing I’ve seen makes me think anything supernatural is responsible.

        “I would be more inclined to believe your claim was true if there were hundreds of eye-witness testimonies attesting to that.”

        As would I! But no religion has that.

        “there are plenty of non-biblical accounts about it. ”

        There actually aren’t. And I’m not saying that to just be contrary. There are non-biblical accounts of people who believed in Jesus, and what those people believed. But there are no contemporary non-biblical accounts of the claims made in the Bible.

        But again, it goes back to my feeling of extraordinary claims. Even if you did have hundreds of eye witnesses, that’s not good enough evidence by itself. If you (or someone) think it is, then I have to ask about aliens again.

        “And the fact is, the Romans never were able to produce a body (that would have ended the discussion)”

        Perhaps, but it’s ignoring the burden of proof. If I claim I have a pet dragon, and I want you to believe me, it’s my responsibility to show evidence. It isn’t your responsibility to prove that my dragon doesn’t exist.

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