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Logical Gal and ‘Neutrality’

12 Nov

Neutral

Facts are neutral bits of reality.

Humans give them context and meaning, filling in assumptions to offer explanations.  Sometimes we actually add reasons to our assertions and craft an argument.  But whether we stop short of an argument and just offer a POSSIBLE explanation or craft an intact case, we still carry assumptions that may or may not be expressed for all to see and hear.

The mid-term elections are behind us (Good riddance to all those ads!) but ‘framing’ the results flourishes.  Just like the British headlines after George W. Bush was RE-elected, some people will be scratching their heads to create an explanation for certain wins and losses.

How can 59 million people be so DUMB

Truth is – most facts are neutral.  They take on values (good, bad, stupid, wise….) only compared to something else or based on a pre-supposition.

Look at this conclusion, aka an assertion, which I am inventing for argument’s sake:

  • Senator Joe Blow won reelection because of big oil

‘because of big oil’ is one of those invented explanations.  Possible explanations are everywhere, but they masquerade as arguments. Unaccompanied by reasons, they are meaningless.  But even when the provider shores up her explanation with reasons, not all is uncovered.  We have to dig to find out the pre-suppositions that are BEHIND the reasons and conclusion.   But how do you uncover what is not explicitly articulated?

  • You can ask the person making the claim
  • Or…you can propose an assumption you think might be below the surface and ask the claim-maker to verify or deny it

For example, I might ask:

  1. So you think that Senator Joe Blow won only because those in the oil industry voted for him?

or

2. So you don’t think that Senator Joe Blow might have offered a record of results from his first 6 years or a set of values that pleased his constituents?

Our assumptions (also called presuppositions) heavily influence how we evaluate facts,; they give facts their context.

Hold your horses

(holding one’s horses!) 

Something else that influences our evaluation is our tendency to move from considering neutral facts, to drawing inferences, to making judgments.  Often our conclusions overreach the facts of the particular case.  So we must resist that tendency or habit and ask ourselves if this particular case justifies our conclusions.

Consider the following example I recently read in Senator Hayakawa’s book – Hayakawa's Bk Language

Imagine a hypothetical ‘Pete’ and the following FACT:

  • Pete just got released after spending 3 years in prison

An unwarranted inference might lead one to assume:  Pete is a criminal!

But all we know are 2 facts:

1. Pete spent 3 years in prison

2. Pete has been released

We DON’T know definitively whether or not Pete was guilty of the crime for which he was incarcerated.

If we flow quickly into that inference, however, we might be led to make a judgment such as:  Pete can’t be trusted because he is a criminal.  I would never hire him!

True confessions!  Stopping before I make an inference and slide into a judgment is easier SAID than done!  But anything worthwhile takes effort!  Our world needs more cautious but clear thinkers.

So in this post-election season, let’s exercise calm and rational thinking no matter which side of the political spectrum we land. There’s no room for unwarranted judgments that demonize or boast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Logical Gal and category challenges

1 Oct

Category Management

The idea of category errors is useful.

I don’t know if it’s an urban legend, but Yuri Gagarin, the first human to travel in space, supposedly proclaimed after his return that he had searched intently and never once did he observe God while in space.

If it’s true, then the statement reveals a category error in his thinking for the following reason:

Humans can observe MATERIAL stuff, but God is NOT material.  He is IMMATERIAL.  It’s akin to asking questions like:

  • How much does blue weigh?
  • If you had to pack your Mom’s love for you to take on a trip, how many suitcases would you need?

The faulty thinking is revealed by simple facts such as:

  • Blue is a property that has no mass, so it cannot be weighed
  • Love is not something that can be measured physically nor can it concretely fill a suitcase

What occurred to me this morning as I listened to a podcast during my walk, was the wonderful Greek word tetelestai  (Strong’s # 5055).  It means: It is finished.

Jesus uttered that word when He finished suffering the punishment for human sin IN OUR PLACE.  His action of redeeming us from hell made it possible for us to be transferred from the Kingdom of this World (under Satan’s rule) into God’s Kingdom.  His work on the cross also guaranteed that not only can humans be freed from the power and punishment of sin, but they can be GIVEN/ASSIGNED a new identity.

Tetelestai

Notice that I did not say, that humans can be given the opportunity to craft their own identity.  Never once do we have that possibility.  There are only 2 possible identities for every man, woman and child who has ever lived OR will ever live.  We are either grafted into Christ and have HIS forgiveness and flawlessness applied to us…….

  • or we are left to face the just judgment and punishment for our works on our own – the imminent next events for those who live according to the outworking of the Fall  (sinful nature) which they have inherited

Here’s where the concept of category error comes back in.  Since Christians have been given a new identity when they are born again,

Identity in Christ

they are treated the same as though they had been born a citizen of a country:

  • NO exam to study for
  • No application process to undergo
  • No appearing before a judge to swear fidelity

So it is STUPID to spend any effort and time trying to craft an identity, right?

Yet that is what I still find myself doing:

  • I angst about what others think of my teaching
  • I angst about whether I’m ‘doing enough’ as a neighbor and as a member of a church family
  • I angst about whether I’m loving my husband in the ways he wants/needs to be loved
  • I angst about whether I am being a good-enough grandmother (whatever THAT means!)
  • And when November arrives, I angst about whether I will select the right kind of presents for family members

And that’s just off the top of my head.

And why?  All because doing ‘it right’ has to do with the identity I WANT to think is ‘me’.

But when I realized this morning that my identity has already been established and is in fact fixed and secure, I suddenly saw that working to shore up my identity (even if just for myself) was not only futile but stupid.

These insights are why I love logic!  Clear thinking can bring freedom.

Question:  Where has thinking through carefully about an issue led to a breakthrough that has impacted your life? 

 

Logical Gal at the movies

13 Aug

AI the movie

We’re enjoying re-watching some ‘thinking’ movies from the past.  Once you’ve screened a film for the plot line, you can go back and catch the deeper layers. AI or Artificial Intelligence has some dialogue worth pondering.

David is a proto-type robot child who is programmed to ‘love’ after a bonding sequence his ‘Mommy’ (human who owns him) initiates and follows. He responds to her eyes, voice and actions with uncanny human-like qualities that mimic true affection.

In one scene David  is challenged by the family’s REAL son to cut off a locket of Mommy’s hair.  The guile-filled biological boy frames it as a game and orders David to play. We follow the innocent David sneaking into the parents’ bedroom, scissors in hand.  The suspense builds to the predictable moment when Mommy wakes up in horror to see David with sharp edges in hand hovering over her face.   But in momma-bear mode,  she attempts to soft-pedal the event when the horrified dad comes out with this logic:

If he can love, then he can hate!

And after one more innocent event that casts David in a false light, the dad makes the decision to rid themselves of this too-advanced tech addition to their family.

*

Let’s practice some clear logical thinking by taking the dad’s announcement above and analyzing it.  This exercise will reenforce what we should do ANY time we encounter someone’s position which doesn’t seem quite right.

So what do we have in the dad’s pronouncement?

  • a conditional major premise, what we call an ‘If, then’ statement.
  • an enthymeme – one explicit part of an argument or syllogism and 2 missing parts that our minds fill in easily.

Here’s the completed argument:

Premise 1 (the major premise):  If David can love, then he can hate

Premise 2 (the minor premise): David has shown that he can love

Conclusion: Therefore, it is logical to believe that David is also capable of hating

There’s a law in logic that goes like this:  if the first 2 premises are true, then the conclusion MUST be true in a valid argument (valid means that the argument is in the correct form) 

The above syllogism IS valid because Premise 2 affirms the first segment of Premise 1 (called the antecedent). I ask you, then, is this analysis cut and dried?  Are the two premises true?

Well, the movie clearly demonstrates that David loves.  He is a machine.  He is programmed and built to act lovingly and to have that love increase (grow) in response to his one human ‘bondee’ (one human who initiates a short programmed sequence of words enters into a ‘bonded-for-life’ connection with the ‘mecha’ i.e, the robot).  In the photo below, Mommy places the fingers of one hand behind David’s neck and reads a sequence of words, cementing the bonding.

Bonding between David and Monica in movie AI

But the error in Premise 1 lies in its presupposition.  The dad has humans in mind when he assumes that love and hate go hand in hand.  And for those created in God’s images, id est all of us, that is true.  We have been given a certain degree of free will.  We GIVE our love and we RETAIN or hold back our love.  Or else it is not true love. (What a risk God took! But He evidently WANTS the pinnacle of His creation to love Him freely). The downside in creating a machine that imitates a loving human is that the owner of the ‘mecha’ deceives himself in thinking the machine really DOES love him. If he stops and THINKS, the machine is merely following a program, however complex it may be.

David loves Mommy, acts and speaks with tender, servant-like affection because he can do nothing else.  This is not true of humans.

*

Let’s shift back to real life.  Deep movies are satisfying because they offer us food for thought.  We can practice our logic skills in a safe environment when we discuss a film’s premises and conclusions.  Then we feel more prepared gently to question someone in our circle who advances a conclusion that might not be sound.

Vive le cinéma profond!

Question:  What is your all-time favorite deep movie?  What is a premise we could analyze? 

Logical Gal and the Power of a New Thought

2 Jun

gravel road work

We now live on a gravel road that needs periodic maintenance.  And so we find ourselves dependent on road contractors. We’re  on our second one.  The first we ‘inherited’ from the couple who sold us the house.  My husband had the dickens of a time getting him both to commit  AND show up to work.

The second one has turned out to be unreliable as well.

unreliable

Each day this past week Scott was supposed to have come.  And each day my husband fumed.  Finally he contacted a builder friend to ask for a recommendation for someone else.  A passing comment from our friend changed my thoughts and conclusions.

It turns out that the gravel guy is ‘having problems’.

That’s it –  a new idea!  The possibility that there might be a DIFFERENT REASON than what I had supposed – a cavalier, unprofessional approach to business, changed my conclusion.

Before, I was reasoning like this:

Premise 1 – All ‘no-shows’ in business appointments are evidence of shoddy management and/or poor character

Premise 2 – Scott is a ‘no-show’

Conclusion – Therefore, Scott’s way of running his business is evidence of shoddy management and probably poor character!

No Sow

Now, I reasoned to a different conclusion because my major premise had changed:

New Premise 1 – Some ‘no-shows’ in business appointments are evidence of shoddy management and/or poor character

New Premise 2 – Scott is a ‘no-show’

New Conclusion – Therefore, Scott’s way of running his business might be evidence of something other than shoddy  management or poor character.  It might actually be the effect of personal or family problems.

*

Just the possibility of a different reason that was impeding good business practices changed how I thought about this man.  I actually prayed for him for the first time, instead of impugning his character.

Jumping to conclusions

It remains to be seen just WHO will repair our gravel road, but this experience has reminded me again of the danger of jumping to conclusions.

Question: – When have you made an assumption in error that led to a false conclusion?

 

 

Logical Gal and the bias against circumstantial evidence

12 May

circumstantial evidence and cat

Ask 9 out of 10 passers-by and they will most likely maintain that circumstantial evidence is weak.

And maybe one piece is, but I have been learning that there is POWER in the cumulative effect of multiple pieces of circumstantial evidence.

My tutor is a cold-case detective, J. Warner Wallace.  The only cases he works are cold murder cases that date back 10 to 30 years.  There is no date beyond which one cannot be tried for murder in the state of California.  A cold case is one that is old, unresolved and left untouched, gathering dust until someone decides to re-open it.

Detective Wallace recounts in his book about the ultimate cold case, the murder of Jesus Christ, Link to the book available at Amazon, how he has to instruct jurors on the 2 kinds of evidence.  Most Americans have no idea that one can convict a suspect of murder on the basis of circumstantial evidence alone!  But you need a lot of it.

Cold Case Chr - the book

 

Here is a brief primer: There is direct evidence and indirect evidence.

  • Direct is when you have Bob testify that he saw Frank stab the victim
  • Indirect is when you see a bloody knife in Frank’s car, plus blood on Frank’s pants, and you hear Frank threaten the deceased victim.  A

Inferences drawn from multiple pieces of indirect or circumstantial evidence  (think 20-30) can add up to a powerful case against a suspect.  In fact Wallace himself says his ONLY convictions have been in circumstantial cases.

The standard for the burden of proof in such criminal cases is ‘beyond a reasonable doubt‘.

Beyond a reasonable doubt

Wait a minute!  Think about what that phrase actually means – ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’.

In order for your doubt to be valid, you have to have a REASON such as:

  • ” I don’t think Frank could have stabbed the victim because the defense showed us a transcribed interview with a restaurant waitress and some colleagues and his ex-wife.  It seems as though Frank was at this very same ex-wife’s birthday party along with his former colleagues at IHOP at the time the victim is purported to have died (as determined by the autopsy)”

But the degree of proof the prosecution must provide is NOT beyond ANY shadow of a doubt.  Doubt and uncertainty are woven into life.  Where does anyone ever  have 100 % certainty?  The confidence the jurors must feel must be such that they can come up with no reasons to infer otherwise than that the suspect committed the murder.

So the next time you hear someone denigrate circumstantial evidence, “Oh, that’s just circumstantial!”, push back gently. Ask: “What’s wrong with circumstantial evidence?”  They probably won’t know how to answer.  Most people tend to parrot, unthinkingly, what they have picked up, floating in the air!

Question:  what beliefs have you absorbed without examining them? 

Logical Gal and a simple syllogism as one evidence of God

2 Apr

meaning of life

There are many evidences that point to the existence of a transcendent God who created the universe.

I was reading some arguments that weakened the case for materialism.  This ISM maintains that all there is in the universe is that which is verifiable empirically.  Simply put, if you can touch it, or hear it, or measure it in someway, then it exists.  Without getting very complicated, all the non-measurable stuff like love, or courage or memories have a physical explanation only, (neurons firing that give the illusion of meaning).  No doubt I have OVER-simplified the argument, so please forgive me.  I am not claiming to do justice to the case for naturalism/materialism.

The point the author was making is that even if one were to grant as true that  the material is all there is, that kind of reductionism makes life difficult to live.

empiricism

On to the argument proposed by the author.  He used the simple syllogism that is the building block of all  reasoning.

Premise 1:  If God does not exist, then life has no ultimate purpose or meaning

Premise 2: Life has ultimate meaning and purpose

Conclusion:  There must be a God

 

Purpose in life

It seems that materialists tend to pull meaning out of thin air (nothing to ground it).  If they are honest in their philosophical materialism, then all that is is what can be measured.  Ergo there IS no ultimate meaning.  But as the realistic existentialists reasoned and wrote mid 20th century, the only logical conclusion to THAT assessment  of life is suicide.  Fortunately few materialists are willing to to that far.  In their hearts they might believe: “Life is absurd, without any meaning,” but they ALSO make this decision, “….so we are just going to assert that it is meaningful.”

Question:  What other syllogisms can you form as an evidence for the transcendant God?

Logical girl and seeming contradictions

26 Mar

Most of the time when I encounter what seems like a contradiction, it turns out that just thinking clearly for a few minutes resolves the problem.

If thinking coherently can untangle some issues, why am I hesitant to proceed immediately to exercising my mind?  There are a couple of possibilities:

  • we aren’t used to thinking
  • we haven’t been taught to think
  • it takes time to think
  • how do we know if we are right after having thought?
  • our society doesn’t value the invisible world of inner thoughts.  Americans are pragmatists. It’s a DO this….3 EASY steps…..whatever WORKS…culture

Penseur

If someone isn’t DOING something, they are labelled as lazy or as dreamers.  So we avoid thinking, for lack of immediate visible payoff.

But there’s the rub – without clear and logical thought, we can be left with invalid ideas.  And ideas have consequences.   Actions flow from ideas, whether accurate or not.

So much for my detour into why we don’t think.  All that was to explain how pleasantly surprised I was to see an apparent contradiction melt away as I listened to a man think out loud.

The conversation fragment centered around God’s tendency to act differently throughout history AND yet still retain the attribute of unchangeability.  At first the one might seem to preclude the other.

God doesn't change

But listening to this thinker go deeper, I learned otherwise.  God is just, that is, He does what is always right.  THAT is the the quality that doesn’t change.  But as any parent knows, acting correctly toward one’s child looks different at each stage.  The parenting response might change, but the quality of fair and correct discipline and training need not alter.

Protective Parent

 

So a parent can still be considered consistent yet act differently and appropriately at each stage – as can God.  So when some people casually toss off the quip,”I prefer Jesus to the God of the Old Testament,” they are actually communicating that God has changed or there are 2 different Gods.  When you hear that, just ask them WHY?  But be gentle as you lead them to consider how they themselves might respond differently in various situations YET still be considered loving or fair.

My hope is that NEXT time I meet another apparent contradiction, I’ll pause and reflect first before drawing any conclusions.

 

Question: What about you?  what contradiction bothers you?

 

 

Logical Gal and why your major premise matters

20 Jan

Premise 1 – All exercise benefits the body

Premise 2 – Stretching is an exercise

Conclusion – Therefore, stretching benefits the body

The major premise is the first one listed above, in this example:  All exercise benefits the body

The way deductive logic works is this: if the major and minor premises are TRUE and if the syllogism conforms to rules for correct formation (validity), then the conclusion is both predictable and true. Without going into any further discussion about validity, I want to focus on WHY one’s major premise, in general, can have a weighty effect on one’s conclusions.

Consider a married couple who trust each other.

Let’s imagine a situation where it’s reported to the husband (Bob) that his wife has been seen having some tête-à-tête discussions with a man.  The implication is that maybe the wife (Sue) is having an affair.

Depending on Bob’s major premise about his wife and their marriage, his conclusions will be different.

Possibility # 1:

Overarching presupposition or major premise:

Premise 1:  (overarching major assumption) My wife is faithful to her word and her commitments and loves me completely

Premise 2: (the circumstances) – But she has been seen with another man

Conclusion: since I know that she is a faithful gal and loves me, there must be a good explanation for who that other man is.

Here’s the other major premise and subsequent conclusion

Premise 1: My wife might not be totally committed to me or to our marriage

Premise 2: She’s been spotted talking with another guy

Conclusion: She probably is cheating on me

Do you see how what we do with new information depends on the contexts we hold?  Same circumstance in both cases – the wife is seen meeting with another man.  The conclusions vary due to the original major premise or pre-supposition.  Sometimes we are not even aware ourselves of the assumptions we carry with us.  They are implicit, subconscious.  But they powerfully affect our lives!

Just for fun, what could be possible scenarios that would explain Sue’s conversations with a strange man? Maybe she was talking….

  • with a craftsman to plan a special birthday gift for her husband
  • with a potential care-giver for her aging father
  • with their son’s new soccer coach about his skills

If we move into a more spiritual plane, how might our pre-suppositions about God affect our reactions and conclusions to disappointment, illness or acts of violence we encounter in life? Have you ever met someone who claims that God must not be good or all-powerful if He lets evil happen?

Their major premise probably goes something like this:

God is good and almighty if He answers my prayers according to my desires

Question: Have you ever drawn a conclusion about someone or something that turned out wrong? How did your assumption or major premise impact your conclusion?