Tag Archives: Abductive Reasoning

Do extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence? – the power of a counter argument

9 Sep

Some people like to dismiss miracles or supernatural events with the demand for something MORE than the existence of an immaterial being.  They want decisive extraordinary proof to back up any claims they consider beyond the ordinary.

Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Intelligent Design all point to an intentional first cause responsible for the creation of the Universe.   That seems to be pretty ‘extraordinary’, but apparently the ‘doubters’ don’t accept the powerful cumulative case that points to a ‘big-banger’ who/that initiated our universe.

Before we go down the rabbit trail of trying to come up with evidence that would be extraordinary enough to satisfy skeptics, let’s consider whether their requirement for such sensational reasoning is justifiable.

The other day, in reading Psalm 84, I saw a counter-argument to the atheists/agnostics’ pushback.

How lovely is your dwelling place,
    Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
    for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
    and the swallow a nest for herself,
    where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
    Lord Almighty, my King and my God.

If it is true that ‘extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof’ then one might EQUALLY say:

  • Extraordinary beauty or loveliness requires an admirer/observer/lodger who is equally extraordinary

But look at the opening of the psalm.  The man who pens these words is overwhelmed with the beauty and the majesty of the Jewish sanctuary.  But is he, himself, majestic or lovely or beautiful?

Well he MIGHT be, you could argue.  And you’d probably be basing that reason on the fact that he is made in the image of God.  All reflectors of God are beautiful in that sense.  But if he is someone who has just offered an animal to be sacrificed and it’s around 970 BC, then he’s probably smelly and might even be splattered with ox or sheep’s blood!

Okay, so the man COULD be lovely or he could be smelly.  But who else or what else in this section of Psalm 84 considers God’s sanctuary good and fit to enter and stay?

  • the common birds, specifically sparrows and swallows

When the ordinariness of the ones coming into the temple, whether humans or birds,  are capable  and qualified to deem the setting “lovely’.  That beauty both satisfies the human soul and provides necessary shelter for God’s winged creatures.  The quality of loveliness does not require the beholder/user to be lovely.  It follows then that reactionary comeback to anything supernatural is NOT well founded.

So, no!!! Extraordinary places or events do not require extraordinary evidence.  They just call for evidence and reasons that are TRUE!

For further discussion of the ‘extraordinary objection’ visit this link

Logical gal distinguishes between possible and reasonable

19 Apr

I learn a lot about using evidential tools from a homicide detective names J. Warner Wallace.  His website is stocked with mega resources on Christian case-making  including video teachings on You Tube, blog posts, essays and podcasts. All serve to help us, the ordinary Joe & Jane, who want to think logically and rationally about important topics including our Christian convictions.  The name of his site is Cold Case Christianity.

Cold Case Christianity Crime Scene

In a podcast dated 18 April 2014, he detailed the way of thinking that is most often used by detectives (and doctors) called abductive reasoning.  This is simply a way of coming to the most reasonable explanation that best takes into account the evidence presented.

In a crime scene, detectives collect and inventory the artifacts (aka potential evidence), eliminating nothing.  They then set out to hypothesize all possible explanations.  To me, this sounds like brain-storming, where the one rule is:  Don’t rule out anything!

Brainstorming

‘Toggling back and forth’ between the evidence and the explanations is the way J. Warner describes the process of thinking through the facts until the most reasonable explanation emerges.

Here is where it is critical that we (and jurors to whom evidence and explanations are tediously presented) distinguish between the possible and the reasonable.  Many explanations are possible, but far fewer are reasonable.

For example:

  • Christians claim that Jesus from Galilee rose from the dead, after having been murdered by crucifixion and buried.

What is the evidence?

The tomb where he was buried was discovered to be empty 2 days later.  That is a fact.  Even atheistic New Testament historians and scholars accept that as incontrovertible, that a real man in history, named Jesus, was executed and buried.

Crucifixion

What are some possible explanations for these 2 subsequent claims of an empty tomb and sightings of Jesus?

  • The Romans stole his body
  • The Jewish leaders stole his body
  • Jesus’ followers stole his body and then conspiratorially invented & maintained the fiction about encountering a Jesus who had come back to life
  • Jesus didn’t die, but merely passed out
  • The disciples went to the wrong tomb and then hallucinated
  • Jesus’ twin was executed, not the controversial Galilean

I am not going to take the time or space to refute each of these POSSIBLE explanations.  I want simply to point out (and you can look up for yourself – Defending the resurrection) that despite many possible explanations, rationally we must settle on the one that is the most reasonable.  This explanation will be the simplest approach that takes into account all the details.  Considering every possible explanation is going to present far more barriers to overcome.  Logical people do not cling to complicated, contorted explanations UNLESS they carry a BIAS going into the their investigation.

And Bias is a topic better suited for another day.

May you & I rest in the FACT that we are created in the image of a rational divine being who has endowed us with the capability of rational thought.  And if you are an atheist, may God bless you.  And may you thank HIM for giving you the gift of thinking. Be courageous to follow the evidence where it leads!

Happy Easter!

Empty tomb

 

Logical Gal and the Argument from Ignorance

20 Feb

I heard someone accuse another of employing the Argument from Ignorance.

He painted the scenario like this:

Accuser:  “You are being UNreasonable.   Why?  Just listen to what you are, in essence, saying: Since we don’t have an explanation for how the universe came into existence, then it must be God who caused it.  That is defaulting to arguing from a basis of ignorance and that, my friend,  is a fallacy!”

As it turns out, the one putting forth the ‘God Hypothesis’ actually had some good reasons for his conclusion.  He was using abductive reasoning.  This form of logic takes the information at hand and seeks the best possible explanation based on evidence at hand.

What’s interesting about the Argument from Ignorance is that there are two versions, the converse of the other.

  • Since you can’t prove mermaids don’t exist, therefore they exist!
  • Since you can’t prove mermaids do exist, therefore they don’t!

The latter also involves a false dilemma.  It assumes that there are only 2 choices:

a) we either KNOW that a proposition is true

b) or we KNOW that a proposition is false

But there is actually a 3rd choice – that we don’t know…

Question:  are there other possibilities than  TRUE, FALSE or DON’T KNOW?

Where do you encounter this kind of faulty thinking?

Logical Gal and Reasoning like a Doctor

10 Oct

One of our cats died this week:

What a painful decision it is to choose to euthanize an animal when her quality of life is rapidly going down hill.  For years this cat had suffered from a chronic malady.  We struggled with her as we tried different remedies suggested by the vet.  But in the end, there was nothing more we could do.  At the ripe old age of 17 1/2 her organs were too weak to respond to medicine.

As we were chatting awkwardly with the vet who was getting to administer that final drug, I realized that the trial and error solutions that he and previous professionals had suggested were examples of abductive reasoning.

In language-based logic, there are 3 ways of reasoning: deductive, inductive and abductive.

Deductive reasoning is when you go from 2 known truths to a new piece of information.

All cats are curious

Leia is a cat

Therefore, Leia is curious

If the first two premises are true in a correctly formed syllogism (called ‘valid’ ) , then it follows that the conclusion must be true.  The conclusion is, in effect, GUARANTEED to be true. 

Inductive reasoning is more probabilistic.  The conclusion is at best LIKELY to be true.

The hurricane is moving in a northeasterly direction at the rate of 15 miles per hour.

Therefore, if it continues at that same rate and heading, it will probably reach our city by tomorrow night. 

Now to the thought process used by doctors, scientists and detectives.

Abductive reasoning is when you gather evidence and draw the best and most ‘reasonable’ (i.e. based on reasons) conclusion!  Many people rely on this kind of decision-making.  So much of life is uncertain.  But we gather the facts as best we can and we propose a solution or a conclusion. It’s trial and error.  Many of the decisions we take MUST rely on abductive reasoning.  I know this is frustrating to Americans who crave and are almost addicted to having certainty.

It is important, therefore, that you trust the character and procedures of the one who is reasoning this way.  Our cat did die, but all the vets involved in her life worked diligently and with care to provide the best treatments.  We are grateful to them and to God who guided us in that final decision as her owners.