Archive | April, 2015

Logical Gal stumbles, and then remembers!

29 Apr

I felt intimidated!

intimidation

A comment to one of these Logical Gal blog posts tripped me up.  I couldn’t make heads or tails out of what my reader wrote in his ‘logical’ pushback. First of all, it was:

  • scientific-sounding
  • smart-sounding

Thus, I felt stupid. At first.

Then I reread his words, and realized that it was also incomprehensible!

With that insight, my logical training kicked in and I felt empowered.

When someone responds to you and you don’t understand what they mean, the ONLY logical course of action is to ask them TWO clarifying questions:

  • What do you mean by ________? (whatever they say)
  • How did you arrive at your conclusion? or Why do you think/say that?

When I replied to his lengthy comment with those questions, he DID try to clarify.  And it was the same genre, to wit: scientific-sounding, smart-sounding BUT still incomprehensible.  So I took it home to my resident scientific expert, my husband.  And HE couldn’t make any sense out of what the guy was writing. I felt a bit better.

In all honesty, I did dialogue back and forth with this gentleman because I appreciated that he had READ my blog and also that he had taken the time to write a comment and share his thinking.  In the end he and I both stopped because neither one of us was making headway toward mutual understanding.

But I learned a lot!  When you don’t know WHAT to say, just ask some questions.  This is wise AND easy and the pay off is three-fold:

  • you’ll gain time to think
  • you’ll gain more information to aid your thinking
  • you honor your interlocutor by acknowledging his words

Logical Gal – Are you sure?

22 Apr

Certainty

“You can’t be sure about anything!”

Beyond death and taxes, a lot of people maintain that position.  But is it so?

What is certainty and are there different kinds?

First a definition – Generally speaking, in every day language, certainty is the quality of being absolutely true.  What is ‘certain’ can be a fact that corresponds to reality or an event that definitely has taken place or will take place without a doubt.

Going deeper, one can differentiate between types of certainty.  We have

  • mathematical certainty – no one doubts that 2+2 make 4

Then there is

  • logical certainty – the world of deductive reasoning, portrayed by the simple syllogism.  Here we can be certain that a conclusion is true if the premises are true and the way of reasoning follows the rules (thus qualifying as ‘valid’)

Premise 1 – All humans die

Premise 2 – Joe is a human

Conclusion – Joe will die

The other day, I heard someone talk about a 3rd kind of certainty, that of

  • moral certainty I was intrigued by how he explained this branch of certainty.  From a sermon on Biblical hope here is what John Piper wrote/delivered:

“There is a kind of legitimate certainty and confidence that does not come from mathematical calculations or merely logical laws. I call it “moral certainty.”

Rooted in Acts of Will

I call it moral because it is rooted in the commitment of the will of persons. And the will is the seat of morality. That is, we can only speak of moral right and wrong in relationship to acts of will. So whatever has to do with the will is an issue of morality. And moral certainty is a certainty that is based on acts of will.”

René Descartes, French philosopher and mathematician described moral certainty this way -“certainty which is sufficient to regulate our behavior”, Link to article quoting him

Intrigued by the concept of certainty, I checked to see if there were other types of certainty.   After nosing around different websites, I learned that in a court of criminal  law, to come to a conviction the jury must agree ‘beyond a shadow of a doubt’ that the accused is guilty.  That is probabilistic certainty – knowledge that is most likely to be true. . In fact, examining cumulative circumstantial evidence to arrive at a high probability of guilt can often solve murder cases that are ‘cold’.

Of course, there are less-than-credible claims to certainty.  People talk about psychological or ideological certainty – a WANTING to believe something to be so, despite the facts. There is also the danger that in the broad category of ‘mathematical certainty’ modeling future outcomes might have some hidden assumptions that are not necessarily true.

At the end of the day, we should approach the concept of certainty with HUMILITY.  I’m not advocating a posture of skepticism, but the acknowledgement that we, as finite human beings, might not be right about everything.

Humility

Logical Gal experiences Jury Duty

15 Apr

Jury Duty

I didn’t know what to expect!  But I’m glad I served.  Several observations:

  1. Clarifying terms is important to lawyers: each potential juror was asked:
  • How do you define ‘reasonable’?  (should the case reach the point where $ amounts of compensation were going to be decided)
  • How do you define ‘burden of proof’?

2. Weight given to ‘expert’ testimony as well as eyewitness accounts

  • The lawyers wanted to know how each potential juror judged credibility when evaluating testimony given by both doctors and bystanders

I’m very thankful for my training in logic and clear thinking.  I had already thought through what the term ‘reasonable’ means. I listened to one fellow citizen’s definition after another.  They all had to do with:

  • common sense
  • fair
  • middle of the road

When I was randomly chosen to be potential juror # 8 and asked MY definition for reasonable, I responded with: “that which is based on REASON”.  I added that I did not agree with the other versions offered before mine.

These lawyers are experienced in assessing jurors who are going to help/hinder their side.

I was dismissed.

thumbs down

But not before hearing the two most interesting questions:

  • Do you have a bumper sticker on your car and what is it?

(I have a license plate frame that says – “Save the baby humans”, so I offered that)

  • Where do you get your news?

(I didn’t get a crack at this query, but I was debating whether I should mention 1) Al Mohler’s The Briefing 2) The World and Everything in It – Link to podcast 3) the 10 minutes of world news in French or 4) the local newspaper)

Maybe my unsuitability had nothing to do with how I defined ‘reasonable’ or my pro-life advert.  There was one final question before the lawyer for the plaintiff consulted with his paralegal about whom to retain/whom to dismiss:

  • Do you have any feelings about court cases in general?  (Dangerous question!)

I quipped that my husband and I used to joke about there being too many lawyers in America, but that was before our youngest son was selected to start law school in the fall.  So I added that the Supreme Court exercises far too much power for one of the 3 branches of the government.  Maybe that remark released me to return to my middle-school French students!  Quelle joie!

Logical Gal – No such thing as blind faith!

8 Apr

How many times have you heard Christians described as un-thinking dolts who depend on ‘blind faith’ to get them through life?

Properly defining terms will release Christians from that unkind, unflattering and untrue label.

Pistis (Strong’s  # 4102) is the Greek word for trust. (often translated as ‘faith’)

So what do Christians trust or rely on for their beliefs?  They look to evidence.

Image

Does that surprise you?  It shouldn’t.  The Christian God provided the direct evidence of an empty tomb, ‘securely’ guarded by well-trained Roman soldiers. Paul cites eyewitness testimony from 500+ people who vouched they encountered or saw the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth. When he pens this fact, most of those people are still alive and available to counter his bold statement if in fact UN-true.

So Christians who trust God have past evidence to inform their ‘faith’.  They also have the recorded promises of a supernatural being. This God has the audacity to have put in writing for generations to see what He was predicting.  So far, many of those promises have been fulfilled.  Actual circumstances that have turned out the way God promised build confidence in His followers.

Image

So Christians have an evidence-based trust in God, backed up by reason.  Those who live by ‘supposed sight’ actually are the less rational.  They tend to let circumstances alter their feelings, which then rule their decisions.

So tell me, who is the one who lives blindly? ‘Thinking Christians’ is NOT an oxymoron!

Image

Question: What do you have faith in?  Whom or what do you trust and why?

Logical Gal – Our major premise affects our eternal destiny

1 Apr

The pastor employed tight logic to make his point about who gets to enjoy eternity with God after death.  A simple 3-component syllogism (2 reasons leading to an assertion or conclusion) could summarize his core teaching.

Eternal life with God

Here is the syllogism with just the minor premise. (When we don’t explicitly articulate any of the 3 parts of the syllogism, we have an enthymeme).

Premise 2 went like this:

P1

P2 – I’ve led a horrible life of evil that would shock you if you knew

C – Therefore, I …….

What I found interesting was that the conclusion would vary depending on the first or major premise!

What possibilities exist?  There might be more than these 2, but let’s look at the polar opposites:

  • All those whose performances and record on Earth meet God’s standard are ushered into heaven with God
  • All those who ‘call upon the name of the Lord’ (Romans 10:13) are ushered into heaven with God

Do you see what I mean?  The pastor’s point was that the one who despairs that his wicked, wasted past has totally disqualified him from a forever life of fellowship with God doesn’t understand the Biblical God.  And if he insists that his past is too dark and unworthy actually puts HIS despair and past in the sovereign place of God as being supreme.  It’s arrogant to insist on one’s ability to trump God.

God has so set up the ‘system’ that only those who accept His offer of mercy as a gift are welcome.  That way, no one can take credit for either

a) being sorry enough for one’s past

b) being good enough to qualify for Heaven

The pastor’s encouraging sermon grew out of this syllogism:

P1 – All those who call upon the name (the character) of the Lord, regardless of their past shall be saved

P2 – Even though I am wicked beyond measure, I am calling on God to save me.

C – Therefore, God will welcome me into His Eternal Kingdom

Easter

May you find rest for your soul this Easter, based on both his sinless life and the righteous work that Jesus did on the cross. He has paid for those evil thoughts and deeds of His children and God and met every standard of righteousness during his time on earth. Therefore, God is just to embrace those who take up His righteous offer of mercy.  Be at peace!