Archive | June, 2015

Logical Gal – same ‘ole, same ‘ole lazy thinking clouds the minds of many

24 Jun

Many people still seem to swallow whole whatever they hear or read.  Reminds me of Saturday Night Live’s skit portraying a restaurant, Pre-Chew Charlie’s, for those who didn’t want to masticate their own food.

Pre-Chew Charlie's

A kind reader sent me examples of a common fallacy he had encountered, all in one day.  The first illustration came from a Twitter conversation in which the other fellow maintained that ‘evolution MUST be true because’ (drum roll, please: Voilà his rational reason) ‘…most biologists believe it.”  That’s it? That’s why the theory of evolution is true?

‘Twitter-man’ is using the crutch called, “Truth by consensus.”  Yet anyone who has been exposed to a bit of logic or lessons in clear thinking knows the first ground rule.  To wit – the responsibility is yours to make a case for what you claim.  In other words, the person asserting an opinion, in this case that evolution is true, is obliged to give supporting reasons and evidence.  In this case, Twitter-man merely trotted out the hackneyed, but inappropriate prop called Fallacy of Mob Appeal, also called Band Wagon.

It could be that most biologists are right, but Twitter-man must provide evidence if he is making an argument.   But maybe he wants merely to offer a sound-byte and leave it at that.

He should know that it actually doesn’t matter what most people think.  What matters is if his claim is true or false.  However, I do understand that siding with ‘most people’ FEELS safe.  As a follower of Christ in today’s shifting sands, it’s challenging and sometimes uncomfortable to belong to a minority of thinkers who hold an unpopular view.

The same day as his conversation with Twitter-man, this reader See his website; he also advocates clear thinking! drove past a movie rental shop with the sign out front that proclaimed a take-off of that original song from the 1920s entitled, “Fifty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong.”

3 million can't be wrong

Set during the era of Prohibition, the song (followed by a book and then a movie) contrasts life in France where drinking and looser sexual mores appeal to a young American man.  One could debate for hours which culture promotes human flourishing.  But I would hope each side would actually martial positions based on clear terms, true premises and valid arguments.  What a bunch of people DOES doesn’t make it ‘right’.  What SHOULD matter is rather whether what they DO is in line with true beliefs regarding reality. That’s called integrity.

I am a Christian. Both the Christian AND the non-Christian are created in God’s image.  God has made us different from animals.  He has given us minds.  And like the muscles that pack our skeletal structure, humans must DAILY exercise, guide, train, hydrate and nourish their minds or else we are no different than most animals!  Choosing beliefs based on fallacious crutches is to bypass the mind entrusted to you.

Mind is a terrible thing to waste

Logical Gal learns the power of a metaphor:

17 Jun

Metaphor 1

The debate centered on the gender of God.  Listening, I learned how to distinguish metaphor from analogy, a very useful distinction.

Those arguing that God should be considered just as much a ‘She’ as a ‘He’ used Jesus’ heart-felt lament as recorded by Luke in 13:34:

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.

Clearly Jesus is using a mother-image to communicate His love for His fellow Jews.  So what about God as Father?

Here’s a representative verse from the Old Testament out of Isaiah (63:16): For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.

And from the New Testament, I offer one of many verses, this one from 1 Cor 8:6 – Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

So which is a stronger description of God?  Jesus’ own words using a mother hen’s longings for her chicks to describe His occasional maternally affectionate feelings? Or Paul’s words that God is the Father?  To help us think through the differences, we should ask:

  • Does Jesus always feel regret toward the inhabitants of Jerusalem?
  • Does God ever stop being Father?

It turns out that metaphor is weightier than analogy because it makes a statement of identity by claiming that X is Y.  To be fair, the proposition that X is Y can be false.  But we must at least understand the intent of the one making the claim before we take issue with the truthfulness of it.

The analogy of X being like Y is partial; it is NOT making an identity claim.  Do you remember Forrest Gump’s line that “Life is like a box of chocolates”?   Our question to him the first time would be to ask, “Forrest, how so? in what way(s) is life LIKE a box of chocolates?”

Box of Chocolates

Had Forrest chosen to describe life with a metaphor, he might have said:

  • Life is a journey
  • Life is war
  • Life is a tragedy
  • Life is a party
  • Life is a roller coaster
  • Life is a French movie

Or to be a bit more literary, who hasn’t been moved by Shakespeare’s use of metaphor in his monologue describing the 7 phases of life in ‘All the world is a stage’ ?

In these cases, the one making the claim has to work harder and more thoroughly to prove through multiple examples that his metaphor is accurate. He has to address any counterexamples his audience might offer.

So back to the initial debate about whether God intends us to regard Him as He/She, as Mother/Father God:

I am convinced that He describes Himself to BE Father who at times acts tenderly which is more often associated with moms.  That shouldn’t be too difficult to swallow.  My husband never stops being father to our sons AND he has shown tender affection for them at different times.  Just as I, their mom, have shown father-like decision-making, when putting my foot down with resolve.

Understanding and using language properly helps us think clearly!

Logical thinking decreases risk-taking while driving

10 Jun

I know that God has fixed the number of days I will live.

Days ordained for me

Psalm 139:6 – Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.

Given that fact, I hope to have energy, strength and ease of movement up until I die.  And to that end, my husband and I have chosen to incorporate the following behaviors into our lives:

  •  consistent cardio exercise, strength training and stretching
  •  purchasing, preparing and enjoying ‘real’ foods, treated with as few chemicals as possible
  • adequate sleep
  • recognizing and repenting of worry and anxiety each time we turn to these coping mechanisms
  • regular preventative medical care
  • spending time outdoors as much as possible
  • reading and talking about God with each other,  listening and talking with God, sharing with and encouraging brothers and sisters in Christ

But recently I was convicted by how inconsistently I act behind the wheel, given that I value promoting quality of life for as many days as God gives me!

What do I do that is dangerous?  I commute 50 minutes each way to my job.  The roads are direct and well maintained.  My time in the car is enriching because of the podcasts I take in.  But regularly, each way and every day, I fiddle with my iPhone. When one podcast finishes, I pick it up and with one eye on the road, I turn the other eye and part of my attention to finding the next podcast.  Or I activate the phone, open up the voice recording app and leave a thought that might evaporate.

What came to mind the other day was that in one brief second, a car accident could drastically change my life.  Then all my regular habits would be for naught.  My goal in life would switch to: “Getting back to ‘normal'”

My reckless driver behavior could result in a new life of permanent pain and reduced abilities. Boom!  Just like that.

Blink of an eye

Given my goal of maximizing the quality of my days, then my car driving behavior doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t support my goal.

So I asked God’s forgiveness for treating my life with such presumption and thought about how I could listen to podcasts safely and reduce the risk of an inadvertent accident because of deliberately choosing to ‘multi-task’.

Here is what I have practiced this week while driving:

  • I have selected longer podcasts so that there is enough material playing without having to fiddle with my iPhone
  • I have rehearsed points I want to remember and recorded them once I’ve arrived at my destination and turned off the engine

I feel relieved.  Accidents can still happen, but at least I am paying more attention to what is going on around me.  It only makes logical sense!

Logical Gal ponders the wisdom of setting your own standards

3 Jun

Stephen Colbert’s advice to Wake Forest University’s Class of 2015 included this gem:

“I hope you find the courage to decide for yourself what is right and what is wrong and then please expect as much of the world around you. Try to make the world good according to your standards.”

For a better sense of the context, here’s a report of his speech – Here’s the link

So what are we supposed to make of this man’s distilled life lesson and advice?  What came to mind immediately was the fact that whoever makes an assertion has the responsibility to defend his or her point.  Often no one questions our sound bytes or pronouncements. We live in a fast world.  Thinking takes too much time, apparently.  Where to start???

Watching Greg Koukl model effective questioning in this Video teaching Tactics in Defending your Faith, I’ve learned that you can help someone reason through his assertions and see the outworking of his conclusions.  You do this by asking questions that get the person to look closely at what might happen if someone took seriously her point.  You walk with ‘asserters’ until they actually arrive at conclusions that are not sustainable or acceptable even to them.

So if I were face to face with Mr. Colbert I might ask him a few questions like:

  • Besides employing courage, how does one decide what is right and what is wrong?
  • What happens if your ‘right’ is my ‘wrong’?  Who gets the final say?  Who arbitrates?
  • Who gets to define the concept of ‘good‘ in that 2nd sentence quoted above?
  • What would our world look like if EVERYONE of these 2015 graduates you have addressed takes your advice and embarks on ‘trying to make’ the world ‘good’ according to his or her standards?
  • Aren’t radical Islamic groups trying to do just that?  Is force justified? How far do we allow fellow citizens to go in ‘making’ the world ‘good’?

For the amount they probably payed Stephen Colbert, I hope Wake Forest was satisfied with their choice of commencement speaker!

Stephen Colbert