Tag Archives: Atheists

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 – those who invent NEW definitions

15 Jan

Have you noticed how some people are taking the unauthorized liberty to REDEFINE a term?

Take the concept of TOLERANCE. The original definition has to do with listening politely to something with which you do not agree…..or being respectful of the practices of beliefs that you do not hold.   But there would be nothing to tolerate if everyone thought and acted alike. Tolerance PRE-SUPPOSES a difference in opinions.

But today – ‘they’ (whoever they are) have decided that tolerance means to accept as equally TRUE and GOOD ALL beliefs and practices.  That is a very different term.

Yesterday I heard about a deliberate practice of REDEFINING the concept of FAITH to:

  • Belief without evidence

This is ridiculous.  If your opponent gets to change the meaning of a term going into a debate, then you can’t engage!  A fundamental principle for conducting any discussion is that both sides agree on the key terms being used.

But if the so-called New Atheists   play loose with terms instead of openly or honestly, with the concurrence of all parties, they are in essence relying on a couple of fallacies.

The Fallacy of Equivocal Terms is when YOU are referring to one concept and your interlocutor is referring to a completely different one, but the term is pronounced and spelled the same.  Examples of equivocal terms are pitcher (a thrower of a ball, a receptacle for beverages) or plane (a geometrical shape, an aircraft).

The reason someone might employ such a rhetorical trick might be to create a Straw Man.  If I can redefine something to make it look ridiculous and then easily point that out to an audience, I’ve scored points.

And this is what Peter Boghossian has done.  

In his encounters with Christians, this Philosophy Professor and leading atheist dismisses the traditional definition of faith – a belief based on evidence.  Instead he substitutes his conveniently created definition of belief which he has set up to be a blind kind of adherence to something that can’t be proven.  But that’s not faith.

If you say, “I have faith that this Southwest Boing 737 will fly” and you climb onboard, I doubt you are exercising the blind, irrational decision that Boghossian is mocking.   Most likely you are aware of the safety record of commercial aircraft and the anecdotal evidence of your past flights and those of others.

So, too, is the Christian faith based on evidence.  In Acts, chapter 1, verse 3 – Luke says about Jesus – After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

Anyone who ridicules a created straw-man concept of faith is being intellectually dishonest, lazy and just plain mean.

So what is a Logical Jane or Joe to do?

Politely ‘call them’  on their switcheroo

and flush it out in the open.  Say – “So, you’re changing the definition of our terms? – I will not allow you to do that.  If we can’t agree on terms, there’s no point having this discussion.”    A decent person will have the humility to back down or at least concede their ploy!

Question:  What other terms have you noticed being redefined in society?

Logical Gal – Ridicule is NOT a good argument

13 Jan

In a podcast today, I listened to a discussion about the so-called Reason Rally held almost 2 years ago in March.   Link to USA Today article   The topic ironically was the LACK of reason throughout the entire day-long ‘fest’.  Instead of providing sound arguments to counter faith-based truth claims,  it seems that rally leaders focused on mockery as a tactic to attack Christians. Even the guest speaker, well-known atheist Richard Dawkins, advocated using ridicule  –

“Religion makes specific claims about the universe which need to be substantiated and need to be challenged and, if necessary, need to be ridiculed with contempt.”

How about instead – “.…specific claims that need to be countered with reason-based arguments…”

But religious folks as well as atheists are obligated to substantiate their premises. Yes, religion needs to be able to provide reasons for its truth claims.  Everybody who asserts a position or viewpoint does! That’s why we all need to be equipped with the tools that logic can provide.  It’s not just people of faith who need to be able to defend a view, EVERYONE does.

But if you are a Christian who cares about the attempts to marginalize belief in Jesus, you need especially to be aware that the ‘new atheists’ are gaining momentum under the guidance of a skilled tactician, Dr. Peter Boghossian. He’s even written a book entitled A Manual for Creating Atheists.

Whether we confront someone antagonistic to our religious or political  beliefs or whether we want to be able to convince another person to DO or BELIEVE something, we are far more effective if we know first of all:

  • what we believe and
  • WHY we hold that position

And the time and place to think through our reasons is BEFORE we are confronted.

What I’m thinking about doing is picking one issue in each of maybe 3 areas to start.  Then boiling down my belief about each separate issue into one premise or truth claim.  And then jotting down 3 reasons why I hold that view.

For example:

Premise

Thoughtful and critical reading is a valuable skill worth the time it takes to gain proficiency.

Reasons

1) Citizens who can influence government for the good need to be able to read positions and make intelligent assessments.

2) Rational thinking and reading are not automatic behaviors  such as breathing, but are developed.

3) Much time is necessary to develop this skill  – as with any other skill.

4) Since we are limited in time and energy, choosing to invest in this skill and say NO to others is a given.

5) The benefits for having worked to become a proficient and astute reader will spillover in other domains of one’s life.

That’s just a start to my 30 second elevator speech about why I think we should encourage each other and our children to READ good stuff.

Question: What positions do you want to think through and defend?