Tag Archives: Claims

It’s my right and I’m entitled to it!

22 Mar

Our culture is rife with ‘rights’ talk.  Just consider a few contemporary claims:

  • right to free health care
  • right to censor views one doesn’t like
  • right to end life whenever one wants
  • right to define oneself however one wants
  • right to approval, acceptance and approbation for one’s lifestyle choice
  • right to a certain income level

My husband and I were discussing the concept of rights the other night while fixing dinner.  He made the interesting point:

A right granted should not burden anyone else

As we discussed this idea, I recalled a statement I heard on a call-in show about Second Language Acquisition (SLA) that

All claims must be falsifiable to be legitimate.

The classic example is the Christian claim that Jesus Christ rose from the dead

What would it take to disprove that, but a dead body identified as the crucified Jesus, son of Joseph of Nazareth!

So back to my husband’s premise that granting a right to someone should not burden someone else.  He and I started to tick off rights granted to Americans by the Constitution:

  • life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – we saw no harm or burden imposed on someone else
  • the Supreme Court granted women the right to choose an abortion – but even though LEGAL, it certainly harms many (the baby, the family members who wanted that baby to live, and not a few mothers themselves)
  • how about the right of a person who claims to be a different gender and wants to choose the bathroom most comfortable to him/her? – does that harm anyone?  Yes! the biological bearers of the gender who don’t want to share a public bathroom with someone born a different gender

What about environment?  Are we entitled to live in a smoke-free or perfume-free or a ‘differing viewpoint-free zone’?

If I want to smoke a cigarette, which is legal, should I be free to smoke where I want?  Is that a right or a privilege?  I could argue that it is included in my right to pursue happiness.

But what if you want to occupy that same spot and NOT have to smell my smoke, does that mean you can make me leave?  Is someone harmed there?

This gets tricky and requires thoughtfulness. If two people are required to work or live in a spot (like prison or the military) then a compromise can be worked out to accommodate someone’s privilege of smoking with someone’s preference (or health-related necessity) to work/sleep in a smoke-free area.

What about the right to a free education?    The Bill of Rights handles that and other rights not enumerated by the Constitution by leaving them to the states to handle.  The wording goes like this: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Can you think of a ‘right’ that might be justifiable and one that brings harm to someone?   Of course we should define our term ‘harm’.  I can foresee the challenge such an exercise in clarity might be.  Bringing a group of people to consensus over an acceptable definition of ‘harm’ would take a while.

No small task for sure, but once we gain agreement on the meaning of our principle term, then we can turn attention, to let’s say, the 9th amendment and put those ‘granted rights’ up against the claim that granting a right should do no harm.  Take a look at how the Supreme Court has used this amendment.

Amendment 9 of the Constitution

With just a short look at a few rights, I do think that my husband’s premise that not harm should be done when granting a right to someone.

What do you think?

Add your thoughts in the comment section and let’s see if my husband’s claim stands or can be defeated by a counter-example.

Bald-faced assertions and appeals to credentials

21 Oct

Here comes another opportunity to practice addressing an ‘argument’ encountered in everyday life, courtesy again of my local newspaper.  In a guest column last week “Mr. Very-Credentialed Local Citizen”  shared his views on a current controversy. His ‘sub-title’ or brief bio at the end read, “Mr. X is a Navy veteran, a cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School and a retired Washington lawyer.”

Were his credentials meant to impress and thus ward off any criticism of ideas?.

garlic and vampires

What it did, actually, was provide an illustration of feathering a weak argument with some fluffy down.  First lesson to take away is this:

  • Don’t let yourself be intimidated by someone’s educational achievement and experience.  Focus on the argument!!!

So what about his argument?

  •  First of all, there was no argument, just 2 separate assertions and a smokescreen

Let’s begin —

In the first assertion, the writer took on the defense of the use of fetal tissue research in the wake of revelatory videos regarding some of Planned Parenthood’s practices.  Here is what he wrote:

“…….about fetal tissue research.  It has for many years been a vital part of research dealing with a very wide range of diseases, and millions of people are alive today as a result of this research.”

Really? Millions? That is a stunning statement.  He offers no grounding at all for that statement.  And since he has publicized that he is NOT a research scientist or a medical professional, I question his assertion all the more.

So I did a 10-minute search of benefits from such tissue research and found out, for instance, that a study with Parkinson’s disease patients that looked promising did not pan out as hoped. In fact there were no significant reports of advances, just some possible areas of research.  The only and NOT insignificant benefit from the use of fetal tissue cited was the vaccines created 40-50 years ago that HAVE saved lives.  What is noteworthy, though, is that those original fetal cells are still producing new vaccines. An assumption could be advanced that no new fetal tissue is necessary to keep up with the demand to produce inoculations.

Therefore, the claim that millions are alive DUE to fetal tissue research needs to be qualified.  But it SOUNDED impressive.

The next plank in his ‘argument’ was this:

“Reducing funding for fetal tissue research is vigorously protested in, among other places, the pages of the New England Journal of Medicine, which is called by Forbes Magazine, ‘the most important medical periodical in the world’.

So……?  Does Forbes Magazine’s opinion about the New England Journal of Medicine mean that we should accept as ‘gospel’ every word the Journal of Medicine writes?

What could be reasons for researchers to protest a reduction in funding?

Is it possible that the nature of all research is to perpetuate their funding?

Shouldn’t we support research for reasons OTHER than another periodical’s ranking of importance of publications?   How much weight should the opinion of a business-centered organization be given?  Are there not better reasons to support fetal tissue research?  Apparently not.

Finally, on to the smokescreen provided by our esteemed legal expert:

” …when an abortion is performed,….there is no ethical reason not to use the fetal tissue for scientific research.  In fact, it is morally wrong not to use it because of the good that comes from it.” and the writer cites ethicists and a Roman Catholic committee’s conclusions for this statement.

Why does he advance the source of this verdict?  Does he mean to head off the spiritual arguments by offering these credentialed opinions?  Again, let us not be fooled by Appeals to Authority.

And ‘morally wrong’ NOT to use the tissue from a dead baby torn from its mother’s womb?  Give me a break!

The safe and simple way to handle with grace a view contrary to yours is to bypass all the hype and focus on the argument, point by point.  Let us take our time and NOT yield to tactics meant to intimidate.

No one has to be an expert in order to ask the clarifying questions that shift the burden of proof back on the one who advances the argument!

Can you hold a belief and not practice it? Should you?

30 Sep

I love to read the letters to the editor

Letter to the editor

A recent one caught my eye because the author, in condemning Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, wrote:

  • ….”no one, absolutely no one, was telling that county clerk in Kentucky what to believe.  One of the founding principles of this country is that we all have the right to believe in whatever type of God we wish, and to practice that belief in whatever way we feel is appropriate.

Really?  I thought many belittled Kim Davis expressly while exercising her belief in God. Didn’t she refuse to allow her name to be on marriage certificates because she BELIEVED that this PRACTICE would NOT be APPROPRIATE?  (note I am using the writer’s terms)

So the question is:  Can one separate beliefs/values from actions?

If I believe that eating fresh food is healthier for me but I continue to eat processed foodstuff, am I being consistent?

Don’t we condemn as hypocritical those who espouse one thing and do another?

Walk the talk

The truth is that Christians are increasingly going to be subject to magnifying glass scrutiny.  We have to establish ahead of time WHAT we believe, WHY we believe it and WHAT we are willing to do to be integrated human beings.  Beliefs are worthless when they swim around as vague, unsubstantiated opinions.

Let’s ground our beliefs IN reason. And if we can’t come up with a solid defense for WHY we believe what we espouse, then maybe it’s time to jettison that value. There’s no shame in abandoning a position or changing one’s mind for solid justification.  And it’s no discredit to be honest and admit:

  • I don’t have any reason for believing X, I just WANT to believe X

I just want to

At least that’s sincere and authentic.  And while it’s okay to ‘park’ in that spot for a while, we shouldn’t stay there.  Let’s take the time to examine why holding such a belief would be rational and worthwhile.  The best reason to hold and practice a belief is because it is true.

Logical Gal – same ‘ole, same ‘ole lazy thinking clouds the minds of many

24 Jun

Many people still seem to swallow whole whatever they hear or read.  Reminds me of Saturday Night Live’s skit portraying a restaurant, Pre-Chew Charlie’s, for those who didn’t want to masticate their own food.

Pre-Chew Charlie's

A kind reader sent me examples of a common fallacy he had encountered, all in one day.  The first illustration came from a Twitter conversation in which the other fellow maintained that ‘evolution MUST be true because’ (drum roll, please: Voilà his rational reason) ‘…most biologists believe it.”  That’s it? That’s why the theory of evolution is true?

‘Twitter-man’ is using the crutch called, “Truth by consensus.”  Yet anyone who has been exposed to a bit of logic or lessons in clear thinking knows the first ground rule.  To wit – the responsibility is yours to make a case for what you claim.  In other words, the person asserting an opinion, in this case that evolution is true, is obliged to give supporting reasons and evidence.  In this case, Twitter-man merely trotted out the hackneyed, but inappropriate prop called Fallacy of Mob Appeal, also called Band Wagon.

It could be that most biologists are right, but Twitter-man must provide evidence if he is making an argument.   But maybe he wants merely to offer a sound-byte and leave it at that.

He should know that it actually doesn’t matter what most people think.  What matters is if his claim is true or false.  However, I do understand that siding with ‘most people’ FEELS safe.  As a follower of Christ in today’s shifting sands, it’s challenging and sometimes uncomfortable to belong to a minority of thinkers who hold an unpopular view.

The same day as his conversation with Twitter-man, this reader See his website; he also advocates clear thinking! drove past a movie rental shop with the sign out front that proclaimed a take-off of that original song from the 1920s entitled, “Fifty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong.”

3 million can't be wrong

Set during the era of Prohibition, the song (followed by a book and then a movie) contrasts life in France where drinking and looser sexual mores appeal to a young American man.  One could debate for hours which culture promotes human flourishing.  But I would hope each side would actually martial positions based on clear terms, true premises and valid arguments.  What a bunch of people DOES doesn’t make it ‘right’.  What SHOULD matter is rather whether what they DO is in line with true beliefs regarding reality. That’s called integrity.

I am a Christian. Both the Christian AND the non-Christian are created in God’s image.  God has made us different from animals.  He has given us minds.  And like the muscles that pack our skeletal structure, humans must DAILY exercise, guide, train, hydrate and nourish their minds or else we are no different than most animals!  Choosing beliefs based on fallacious crutches is to bypass the mind entrusted to you.

Mind is a terrible thing to waste

Logical Gal stumbles, and then remembers!

29 Apr

I felt intimidated!

intimidation

A comment to one of these Logical Gal blog posts tripped me up.  I couldn’t make heads or tails out of what my reader wrote in his ‘logical’ pushback. First of all, it was:

  • scientific-sounding
  • smart-sounding

Thus, I felt stupid. At first.

Then I reread his words, and realized that it was also incomprehensible!

With that insight, my logical training kicked in and I felt empowered.

When someone responds to you and you don’t understand what they mean, the ONLY logical course of action is to ask them TWO clarifying questions:

  • What do you mean by ________? (whatever they say)
  • How did you arrive at your conclusion? or Why do you think/say that?

When I replied to his lengthy comment with those questions, he DID try to clarify.  And it was the same genre, to wit: scientific-sounding, smart-sounding BUT still incomprehensible.  So I took it home to my resident scientific expert, my husband.  And HE couldn’t make any sense out of what the guy was writing. I felt a bit better.

In all honesty, I did dialogue back and forth with this gentleman because I appreciated that he had READ my blog and also that he had taken the time to write a comment and share his thinking.  In the end he and I both stopped because neither one of us was making headway toward mutual understanding.

But I learned a lot!  When you don’t know WHAT to say, just ask some questions.  This is wise AND easy and the pay off is three-fold:

  • you’ll gain time to think
  • you’ll gain more information to aid your thinking
  • you honor your interlocutor by acknowledging his words

Logical Gal examines the ‘extraordinary’

28 Feb

Extraordinary Claims

I heard this thrown out as a defeater for the truth of the resurrection of Jesus.  At first blush, it sounds pretty reasonable.  But then the skeptic in me started to question this claim.

When you face an assertion such as this you need to ask about the quantifier.

To wit, do ALL extraordinary claims require this degree of evidence?  or just some?

If the one making this ‘claim’ affirms that he intends ALL such claims to require that caliber of evidence, then you have an easy way to defeat his proposition.  All you have to do is think of ONE counter-example and you have defeated him.

So what would qualify as a potential counter-example?  I immediately thought of the lottery.

Lottery winner

If one of our sons called up to tell us that he had won the lottery, that would qualify as an extraordinary claim.  So what kind of evidence would he need to produce for me to believe him?

Actually, something very simple

  • He could show me the winning ticket
  • I’d also take a picture like the one above as proof

It wouldn’t take much to substantiate his amazing claim.

Now back to the context of the Carl Sagan quote.  Sagan who was paraphrasing David Hume was referring to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  That certainly does qualify as an extra-ordinary claim.  You don’t see former dead people walking around very often.  So how would I handle the demand for ‘extra-ordinary’ evidence?

What do we do when we don’t know which way to proceed?

Ask questions

The easiest tact to take is to ask your interlocutor what she means by extra-ordinary evidence. What would qualify?  After all, we have eye-witness testimony that was verifiable by many.  Paul mentions that over 500 people encountered the risen Jesus.  And when Paul made that claim, had it not been true, most of those people were still alive themselves.  They could have come forward and said, “I did not say that!”  Moreover, no body was ever found (that would have defeated the ‘resurrected Jesus’ claim) and scared followers changed their demeanor overnight and started a movement that has only built up momentum in the 2000 years since the event.  Christianity continues to expand today.

Finally – I would ask Carl Sagan or David Hume or anyone who repeats this double extra-ordinary assertion the following: Is YOUR proposition an ordinary one or an extraordinary one?  What kind of evidence do YOU have to justify your position?

We logical Joes and Janes have to exercise healthy skepticism.  Resurrection-deniers don’t have a corner on that market!

Skeptical

That’s so old school…..vs….Back in my day….

13 Sep

Sue:  I can’t wait until I can ditch this old iPhone 5 and get the latest version?

Mary: But you just replaced your iPhone 4  in June?  What’s your hurry? 

Sue:  The upgraded IOS makes this new phone quicker and besides, I just know it’s better!

Mary:  How do you  know it’s better? 

Sue:  It’s the newest!

Welcome to another Fallacy Friday!  Today we are looking Chronological Snobbery.  This fallacious defense rests on the premise that just because something is more modern, then it automatically follows that it is better.  Whereas that MAY be the case, it is not axiomatic that newer is better.  I remember when my husband purchased a computer loaded with Windows 8 , the latest operating system at the time.  It turned out to be NOT as good as the previous version.

Chronological Snobbery can also apply in the opposite direction – one can assume that ‘older is better’.  Many connoisseurs of wine will assert that red wines improve with age.  But that is not always the case.  Corking and storage conditions as well as the quality of a particular year’s harvest will affect the condition of the wine.   

So how do you avoid this faulty reasoning?  Just make sure that you have reason-based evidence to back up your claim that something new OR old is actually better.

One particular arena where Chronological Snobbery is so arrogantly employed is in the evaluation of the validity of the Old Testament.  Many so-called Bible scholars look down on the Hebrews of Abraham’ s day or the time of the Prophets and assume that these ‘primitive people’  had a misguided outlook on the world.  The ‘scholars’ then discount the writings of the Old Testament as not being accurate simply because of the time they were written.   One is ALWAYS perfectly justified to dig a bit deeper when confronting a claim that smells like a case of Chronological Snobbery.  Just ask WHY something newer or older is better.  ” Just cuz”  is not enough of an answer!