Archive | June, 2016

How logic rescues us from false guilt

29 Jun

John 14:15  If you love me, you will keep my commandments

At first reading, I feel convicted.  I must not really love God, for I don’t obey his every commandment.

But that is a reverse and false reading of this hypothetical conditional premise.

Jesus, who instructed his disciples right up until Roman guards arrested him on the eve of his crucifixion, did NOT teach:

If you keep all my rules, then it’ll be true that you love me.

Well, then what was it that he taught?  Here’s both the bad news and the good news (Gospel) of our love for God.

  • No one naturally is capable of loving God, for everyone is born with a birth defect called hatred or indifference toward God
  • If we feel ANY affection for or interest in the biblical God (as described in the Bible), then that is evidence of the Holy Spirit’s saving work in our stony hearts.  Only God can swap out a stiff and impenetrable heart and replace it with a softness and inclination for him.

So what about the ….”then you’ll obey me” clause?

Think of it like this.  When someone loves you and you feel love for him or her, you naturally want to please him or her.  You want to know what they think, what interests them, what they consider important.  So it is with God.  Because he loves us first and then follows that electing and intentional love by implanting in us a reciprocal love for him, we receive new desires and delights.

If it is THAT easy to twist the meaning of a Bible truth through faulty logic, what other realities might we have equally misconstrued?

 

It depends on what ‘is’ is!

22 Jun

Bill Clinton We laughed at his disclaimer, but Bill Clinton had a point.  A naked word is clueless.  The first rule in logic is: Clarify your terms!

But what is a term? A word set in a context.  So, in one sense, Bill pointed out the obvious – ‘IS’ as a word takes on significance only in a context.

Take, for example, the unaccompanied word, ‘set’.  How can ‘set’ be employed?

  • a lamp, set upon a hill
  • a man, set out on a journey
  • my cat, set upon lapping some milk
  • a victim, set up by a Ponzi scheme
  • the book, set down on a table

Words and terms matter, dear friend. May we take time to use particular care to avoid confusion and communicate with accuracy and clarity.

 

More than one way to solve a problem

15 Jun

My purse was too small.  So I did what all illogical women do, I bought a new purse.

That wouldn’t have been too poor a decision except for 3 factors:

  • I loved this leather, back pack-type purse
  • My husband had given it to me about 5 years ago as a ‘just-cuz’ present
  • I’m a one-purse gal

I keep standard items in my ‘daily essentials-carrier’ like:

glasses, checkbook, wallet, EXTRA card carrier for all those preferred shopping relationships, notebook, almonds, a foiled 3-oz tuna pack, round Eos lip balm, business cards, spare batteries, pens, the other car’s spare key and a bulky makeup pouch with all the emergency supplies one might need.

What I love about the purse is that it’s a hands-free bag one can sport as a small backpack or sling over the shoulder.  Not to mention also that it is leather and minimalist.

But it’s TOO small (there’s always a price to pay, isn’t there!).  There’s only one way to arrange the above items so that all fits as efficiently as possible.  And several times a week, I seem to need something from one of the bottom residents.  Which means I need table space to take everything out, retrieve the item and repack.

Thus far my logical thought process:

Premise: My purse is too small

Conclusion: Therefore, I need a larger bag

I’m always checking out purse selections when we happen to be in a store, which is not all that often.  So last week I was delighted when I just ‘happened’ on a selection of purses at a hiking/outdoor store while returning an item. There was a backpack-style bag, maybe a fourth larger than my daily ‘porte-stuff’. Perfect, I thought.  Since it was early in the new month, I decided I could spring for this spontaneous purchase. But I knew what I must do if I wanted to remain true to my values.  As an aspiring minimalist, I have taken on the rule of “Bring a new item into the house – Eliminate the old item”

What I had not counted on were two unintended consequences:

  • my husband was shocked AND hurt that I threw out the old purse he had given me
  • the larger purse just didn’t slide on as easily as my old one and seemed less secure

I ruminated for 24 hours and then voilà, the lesson from the  Elevator Problem Story hit me.  Malcolm Gladwell had written about this in one of his books.  Apparently elevators moved too slowly for those waiting to board on different floors.  When design engineers were assembled to brainstorm about increasing the speed of elevators in a multi-storied building, one young maverick re-identified the problem.  It wasn’t that the elevator moved too slowly, but that people grew bored waiting!  I’ll let you click on the above link to read his accepted solution that worked and cost far less to implement.

The point was, I had incorrectly concluded that I needed a larger purse.  If we revisit my so-called logical syllogism from above, you’ll notice there is only one stated premise:

Premise: My purse is too small

Conclusion: Therefore, I need a larger bag

A 2nd premise is missing, thus what is written is an ‘enthymeme’, an argument with an unstated premise or conclusion.

In my mind, I thought there was only one possible premise:

Premise 1:  If one’s purse is too small, then one needs a larger bag

Actually, it’s not that I was incorrect about that premise, but that the premise was not complete!

My Eureka moment came from realizing that I had mis-diagnosed the problem.  It wasn’t that my purse was too small, but that I thought I had to fit all those items into it.  My ‘essentials’ had not even been up for re-evaluation.  My pre-supposition had been this: All that my purse currently carries is essential. As soon as everything was back on the table, so to speak, it was clear that I could pare down what I carried every day.

So with some quick and honest tallying of how often ’emergencies’ arise and the substitution of a less-bulky loyalty card carrier, I eagerly ran to the trashcan outside and retrieved my oldie but goodie beloved friend.

Purse

 

Here is my completed premise that brought about my happy result:

Premise 1: If one’s purse is too small, one can remove some items or secure a larger bag

This logical gal needs some more practice in applying reason to everyday ordinary problems!

 

 

Julie Andrews and faulty logic

8 Jun

Nothing comes from Nothing

“Nothing comes from nothing,” sang Julie Andrews in my favorite film of all time, The Sound of Music.

And that is a true statement! If all there ever was, was nothing, then that is all that would be right now!

Here is the governess Maria’s argument:

No thing comes from no thing

Here is some thing

Therefore, some other existing thing caused this particular thing

But where the Maria character goes with her conclusion is debatable.  And as a Christian, I would assert that it is unsubstantiated and false.

Let’s think about the possible argument setups.

Truth: Nothing comes from nothing

Explicit Fact most would agree with:  Something VERY good is going on in Maria’s life – she has fallen in love with the Captain

Implicit Fact most would agree with: Falling in love and the accompanying joy is not anything that circumstances or another person can give us

Possible Causal Agents for this ‘love’:

a) the Karma principle and Maria’s conclusion – I must have done something good in my youth

b) random circumstances just fell out this way and Maria has chosen to ascribe significance to these particular molecules in motion

c) God is the source of ‘all good gifts’, one of which is ‘this something good’.

  • (James 1:17   Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens)

So which precipitating event for Maria & the Captain’s relationship are you or I going to pick?

It all depends on one’s worldview.  What is a worldview?  It is a particular philosophy of life or conception of the world.

I’ll leave you to work out your own conclusion.  What astonishes me is how long it took for me to grow aware of the lyrics to this song.  Throughout the numerous times I’ve watched the movie or listened to the music, I remained caught up in the happy evocative sentiments. NEVER did I consider the import of the words. It’s clear that a large portion of our world operates out of a secular worldview, whether material or immaterial.  AND, it’s a story easy to absorb and accept without thinking or questioning.

*Lyrics – [Maria:]

Perhaps I had a wicked childhood
Perhaps I had a miserable youth
But somewhere in my wicked, miserable past
There must have been a moment of truth

For here you are, standing there, loving me
Whether or not you should
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good

Nothing comes from nothing
Nothing ever could
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good

source: http://www.lyricsondemand.com/soundtracks/s/thesoundofmusiclyrics/somethinggoodlyrics.html

 

 

Responding to an attack posing as an argument

1 Jun

Illogical Lucy – You have no right to say that abortion is wrong!

Logical Joe – Why is that?

Illogical Lucy – You’re not willing to: 

  • adopt an unwanted child
  • take care of babies outside of the womb
  • bring the pregnant mom into your home

The presupposition of Illogical Lucy is that ‘Only prior action legitimizes one to make a belief statement/value judgment’

Is that true?  If it were, then the following convictions held by certain people would not be allowed into the arena of ideas for discussion:

  • The practice of 19th century American slavery was unethical (YOU 21st century American haven’t freed a slave or refused to buy a slave.)
  • Spouse and child abuse is wrong (Have you offered shelter to assault victims?)
  • Common Core curriculum usage should enforced by the federal government (YOU haven’t earned an advanced degree in education.)
  • Smoking is harmful to your health (You haven’t kicked the habit, so who are you to make such a judgment statement since you still smoke!)

The last rebuke of the anti-smoking belief is actually a known fallacy called Tu Quoque – or ‘you too?’  It goes like this:

If you participate in a bad action, you have no ground to stand on in order to claim that smoking is harmful.

Think about it, the person who can’t stop smoking but recognizes its detrimental side effects, is he or she not in an excellent position to call out and publicize the dangers?  I can imagine a man or a woman pleading with a teenager NOT to start smoking:

  • Young man, don’t start on the path of this foul and addictive habit.  I once was your age. Just like you I wanted to fit in, to look manly.  But boy do I regret it.  I’m a pack-a-day guy now and, you hear this cough?  – it’s not good.  My doctor keeps threatening me that I’ll die young from Emphysema like my Pa and his dad. Besides, my mouth stinks, my wife doesn’t like kissing me, my clothes reek, and I spend about $40 a week on this nasty addiction.

Here’s another tactical version of this ‘squash your opponent so his point of view can’t be voiced’:  Since you can’t possibly know what it’s like to be trans or unemployed or stuck with an unwanted pregnancy or hispanic or unemployed then……

  • Your view doesn’t count.  Your belief has no credibility.  Your opinion is wrong out of the gate.

Is that so?  That bullying tactic is actually a version of the Genetic Fallacy.  This maneuver draws strength from the false idea that the origin of the belief can de-legitimize the position.

Logical Joes and Janes KNOW that a premise, that is a belief, position, claim or view must stand or fall on the merits of the reasons backing it up.  It matters not at all WHO is putting forth the argument.  There are only 3 elements that must ‘pass muster’.

  1. Are the terms in each of the premises clear or ambiguous?
  2. Are the premises true or false?
  3. Does the argument or syllogism follow a valid structural flow?

If an argument contains clear terms within true premises, which lead to a ‘rule-abiding’ conclusion, then we say that the argument is both valid AND true and deserving of being considered SOUND.

And a sound argument, my friends, is golden.

Let us stand our logical ground with courage and courtesy and follow the same principles ourselves!

Q: So where are you being bullied in the marketplace of ideas today?