Tag Archives: Assumptions

Trotting out the Credential

4 Nov

Sometimes when a person has no solid argument to back his viewpoint, he’ll invoke his status as member of a privileged elite.  Such credentials might be based on education or experience or one’s lofty position in an organization.

But those considerations should carry no weight, as they are irrelevant to one’s position or reasoning.

Here’s a comical example taken from the Book of John in the New Testament.  The set up is this:

  • consider the Pharisees, those ruling religious leaders trying to hold on to limited power granted them by the Roman occupiers
  • then there is Jesus, threatening the status quo with his unorthodox teaching and miracles
  • add to the mix the masses, growing more and more intrigued and swayed by this new rabbi

The Pharisees dispatch a posse of soldiers to arrest Jesus and bring him back to them for questioning.

Let’s pick up with the dialogue upon their return, empty-handed:

pharisees

The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?”  The officers answered,“No one ever spoke like this man!”  The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived?  Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him?  John 7: 45 -48

John doesn’t add their response, but I would have loved to be a fly on the wall back at army headquarters!

If we formulate a syllogism based on the Pharisees’ last question, we get this:

  • Premise 1 –  All (only) beliefs held by the Pharisees are valid and officially sanctioned beliefs
  • Premise 2 –  The belief that Jesus is special is not held by the Pharisees
  • Conclusion – Therefore, the belief that Jesus is special is NOT a valid, officially sanctioned belief

We need to be able to spot quickly, to sniff out the misuse of a credential to bolster a weak or non-existent argument

One clue that never fails to tip us off is when someone sidesteps the issue completely.  Of course there are many ways to do that, all of them Fallacies of Relevance.  Sometimes they work, however, as many a parent will attest.

(Why, Daddy?  Because I said so!)

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

Logical Gal doesn’t like YOUR view, so there!

28 Jan

“I find the view of Hell so utterly offensive, that I can’t believe it!” 

So there!

A lady actually said this the other day on the radio.  I don’t quibble with her assessment of the Biblical description of Hell.  There’s nothing pretty or compelling about a dark place of everlasting separation from anything good, lovely or true!

But what struck me with the force of a 2 x 4 plank was her unspoken presupposition.  To wit:

Anything I don’t like, I don’t believe

Can you see that if you are consistent and approach other situations with the same guiding premise for testing truth that you might run across other ‘facts’ that qualify as equally unbelievable?

  • cancer
  • war
  • terrorist beheadings

How do you think Radio Lady might respond to those situations, if you were to ask her gently?

Might she possibly qualify her decision-making process by adding something like this:

“Well, we have evidence of those 3 horrid situations. There are news reports, videos…… you know PROOF!”

“Oh, I get it,” you might respond, “You only believe in things you can see? Whatever is invisible doesn’t exist. Is that it?”

Assumptions are powerful filters that we use on a regular basis, often unconsciously.  I find it far easier to spot them in others than in myself.  But now that I am aware of them, I can practice being just as ruthless on myself as I tend to be with others.  After all, what’s good for the goose should be good for the gander!

Assumptions

 

 

Logical Gal – what affects your conclusions?

24 Feb

Here are some assertions that could lead to two very different conclusions:

  • There is a problem in allowing people with a rigid view of the world to decide the content of schoolbooks.
  • They’ll get some thing right, but they will leave out facts that go against their beliefs.
  • The result will be students not ready to compete with their peers from countries like China and Germany

Who controls our schools - 24 Feb 2014

Who might be this group of people with the rigid point of view?

–My first thought was of those with an agenda, like climate alarmists…..

–Or those who refuse to follow the evidence where it might lead, like militant materialists….

—A third possibility might be those who see the world in black and white terms (wealth = wrong, poverty = noble)

Income inequality - 24 Feb 2014

However, since I happened to come by those assertions in a letter to the editor of the Tampa Bay Times, I doubt the writer had those categories of people in mind.  Tampa is a ‘blue’ city in the midst of a ‘red’ state.  So it’s a good bet he was thinking of Christians who believe the Bible is authoritative.

It just galls me that most people project onto others this characteristic of skewed sight and limiting pre-suppositions.  Do they truly think they HAVE the truth?

Blind mouse - 24 Feb 2014

Note to self – don’t assume you are neutral and agenda-free and have perfect sight!  Practice humility.

Logical Gal and the Fallacy of Division

22 Nov

XYZ is an efficient company, therefore, Joe Blow who works there must likewise be efficient.

Ah, but must he?  Maybe the organization is SO well run, that it can compensate for the drag that a poor-performing employee might add.  Welcome to Fallacy Friday and a trap we can fall into from time to time – the Fallacy of Division.

By definition, this error in thinking occurs when we identify the attributes of a larger whole and assign the same ones to its constituent parts.   It could be that a member of the whole shares the same qualities, but it’s faulty thinking to assume that is always the case.  Consider the color palate.  You might have a blob of black paint.  Is every drop of paint black?  My colleague, the art teacher, tells me that mixing bits of all the colors makes for a blackish brown yucky color.

Many other examples abound and are equally false.

So what’s the big deal, other than the possibility that the assumptions might not be true?

It’s the curse of expectations.  Suppose that  I’m familiar with Starbucks and their corporate culture  to train efficient AND personable baristas.  If I commit the Fallacy of Division, I can set myself up for disappointment. When I stop by one of the ubiquitous cafés and an employee is cold to me, then I’m likely to feel less satisfied. I’ve assumed that an intentional corporate value is held by each individual.  (unlike the expectation of some who travel to New York City or Paris and are braced to run into ‘rude’ people)

Another example we can look to is the pleasing musicality of an orchestra, or the satisfying visual treat of an Impressionist painting like this canvas by Georges Seurat.

The ensemble of paint dots or musical instruments working together produce a result that can’t be divided. That means isolating one violin playing its part might be boring.  Or 50 painted pointy strokes might not have any pattern.  But 20,000 points of color actually create a recognizable design.

I live in the greater Asheville area in Western North Carolina.  This artsy town is known for some questionable moral values and very liberal political views.  But we live here, too.  And we’re fairly conventional and Biblical in our assessment of right and wrong . We also  hold a mixture of politically conservative and libertarian views.

A quick passing judgment might look like this:

Asheville is a liberal, artistic,  fit, laid-back, ‘foody’, sexually-progressive town.

Logical Gal lives in Asheville

Therefore, Logical Gal must also be a liberal, artistic, fit, laid-back, sexually-progressive ‘foody’

Not so. SOME of those adjectives might apply.  But you would be incorrect to assume that every citizen of Asheville can be described in the same way as the town itself. (I’ll leave you to sort out a full description of Logical Gal)