Tag Archives: False Dichotomy

Do beliefs and knowledge differ?

23 Dec

Non-theistic person: – “Belief is different from knowledge.  Beliefs deal in faith and feelings and knowledge deals in facts and truth.”

 

Facts

Is this categorization by a typical atheist correct?  One often hears about the Fact/Feeling divide.  The assertion postulates that there are objective facts like:

  • Most climate change is man-made
  • Life begins when a fetus is viable outside of the womb

and there are subjective feelings like:

  • Parenting is my most important job

Some assumptions that often are embedded in this description of the way of the world are:

  1. Only facts are universals and can be determined to be true or false
  2. One shouldn’t argue over the subjective, for that lies in the realm of personal opinion and preference
  3. Beliefs and values are part of the subjective feeling realm
  4. Faith is a belief and needs to be private
  5. Facts are measurable and therefore indisputable

But those assumptions don’t always hold water.  Values and beliefs are wedded to facts and together the two undergird and guide ALL of our actions.  There is no clean divide or separation so that one can say, “These people’s actions are guided solely by facts, whereas those folks over there base their actions solely on beliefs.”

  • Let’s take origins.  If one starts from the position that only the material realm exists, that there is nothing transcendent, that is a statement of belief.  It takes FAITH to hold onto that viewpoint. It’s accepted a priori, not proven.
  • Consider climate change. For projections about the future, one must place faith in one’s assumptions that go into the computer model.
  • Turning to the belief in a personal, transcendent God. One must trust the reliability of the eyewitness accounts written in the Torah, that is the Old Testament if one is Jewish or the entire Bible if one is Christian or the Koran if one is Muslim.
  • Implementing an exercise program. A committed man or woman must value a more fit body AND place their faith in the specific details of the regimen to lead them to the promised results.

Logical Joes and Janes must not accept this False Dichotomy or separation. Reasonable (that is, supported by reasons) faith and values are based on facts that one holds to be true and reliable.  I put my faith in Jesus’ claims because I hold as a proven fact that His death and resurrection did take place in time and history.  Thus, the historical events prove His claim to be God is to be trusted.

Explanations and discussions take time.  Our sound-byte culture often doesn’t allow for more than quick assertive jabs.  Logical and careful argument building take time to craft and digest.  How about a campaign for SLOW THINKING à la organic and whole foods movement?

slow food

 

 

 

 

Logical Gal and how kids can benefit from studying Logic

31 Jan

A friend of mine’s daughter has her doubts about the benefit of studying logic.  It’s a required course for 7th graders at her classical school.  The curriculum introduces informal logic in the 7th grade and formal logic in the 8th grade.

Informal logic consists in all the fallacies or bad arguments people use.  Formal logic is the study of GOOD argumentation: its form.

But back to this pre-teen’s question about the relevance of her course of study.  I hear it as a French teacher and I’m sure math teachers have learned to shut their ears to this perennial question:

When am I ever going to use THIS!!!!

Here is how the study of poor argumentation can help anyone, no matter his or her age.  Armed with the ability to identify the fallacies of others, you will be able to stop them in their tracks when they come at you with:

  • …because I said so (Argumentum ad Baculum – Big Stick) – often used by parents!!
  • …because anyone who is anybody does it (Argumentum Populum – Mob Appeal)
  • …because Justin Bieber said they were the coolest running shoes (Celebrity Transfer)
  • …because these puppies and kittens will die if you don’t donate (Appeal to Pity – avoiding looking at other reasons, but relying on emotions)
  • You shouldn’t vote Joe for class president because he’s a nerd (Ad Hominem Abusive- attacking the guy’s character instead of looking at his platform)
  • You can’t trust what the disciples said about Jesus.  After all, they lived with him for 3 years (Ad Hominem Circumstantial – they must be biased)
  • You can’t tell me not to smoke because YOU smoke (Tu Quoque – you do it, too!)
  • You can either clean up your room now or before dinner. (False dichotomy – there are other times) again, a favorite of parents.
  • If you don’t let me have a cell phone at age 12, then I’ll never have any friends! (Strawman – reframing someone’s position incorrectly)- a favorite of kids!

These are just a few of the more common poor arguments or fallacies that swirl around us all the time. Can you see how useful it will be in giving both the adolescent AND the adult the key to identifying manipulative reasoning?  Even if you don’t remember the name of any of them, once you understand the thinking behind each, they are super easy (and fun!) to spot.  All you have to do, when someone tries to lay one of these babies on you,  is come back forcefully with,

That’s a fallacy!  

Try your hand at spotting what’s wrong in this argument!

How did you do? At least you could probably FEEL that something was wrong.  It’s invalid because of the Fallacy of Equivocation.    In this case, the word ‘headache’ is used equivocally, that is – in two different senses, thus creating the fallacy.  Equivocal words refer to two different concepts.  Both a pain in one’s head and an annoying condition can be called a headache.

Finally, the one fallacy I, as a parent, would want my child to have down pat before launching out on his or her own would be the Fallacy of the Non Sequitor.

If you have a daughter, think of a guy trying to get her to indulge in casual sex with him.  He lays this line on her: “If you love me, you’ll sleep with me!”

That, my dear readers, is an example of something that does not follow, hence a NON SEQUITOR.

Or how about this: “Why not try these drugs, you’re only young once!”

In both cases, there is absolutely NO CONNECTION between the first premise and the second.  Our children need to know HOW to respond before they are faced with the absurd and sinful choices, which will surely be thrown at them.

Question: Which fallacies have you succumbed to?