Tag Archives: Questions

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 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 experiences Jury Duty

15 Apr

Jury Duty

I didn’t know what to expect!  But I’m glad I served.  Several observations:

  1. Clarifying terms is important to lawyers: each potential juror was asked:
  • How do you define ‘reasonable’?  (should the case reach the point where $ amounts of compensation were going to be decided)
  • How do you define ‘burden of proof’?

2. Weight given to ‘expert’ testimony as well as eyewitness accounts

  • The lawyers wanted to know how each potential juror judged credibility when evaluating testimony given by both doctors and bystanders

I’m very thankful for my training in logic and clear thinking.  I had already thought through what the term ‘reasonable’ means. I listened to one fellow citizen’s definition after another.  They all had to do with:

  • common sense
  • fair
  • middle of the road

When I was randomly chosen to be potential juror # 8 and asked MY definition for reasonable, I responded with: “that which is based on REASON”.  I added that I did not agree with the other versions offered before mine.

These lawyers are experienced in assessing jurors who are going to help/hinder their side.

I was dismissed.

thumbs down

But not before hearing the two most interesting questions:

  • Do you have a bumper sticker on your car and what is it?

(I have a license plate frame that says – “Save the baby humans”, so I offered that)

  • Where do you get your news?

(I didn’t get a crack at this query, but I was debating whether I should mention 1) Al Mohler’s The Briefing 2) The World and Everything in It – Link to podcast 3) the 10 minutes of world news in French or 4) the local newspaper)

Maybe my unsuitability had nothing to do with how I defined ‘reasonable’ or my pro-life advert.  There was one final question before the lawyer for the plaintiff consulted with his paralegal about whom to retain/whom to dismiss:

  • Do you have any feelings about court cases in general?  (Dangerous question!)

I quipped that my husband and I used to joke about there being too many lawyers in America, but that was before our youngest son was selected to start law school in the fall.  So I added that the Supreme Court exercises far too much power for one of the 3 branches of the government.  Maybe that remark released me to return to my middle-school French students!  Quelle joie!

Logical Gal and Santa

24 Dec

Santa Definition  It all gets down to terms and clarity, doesn’t it!

Actually, defining terms is the very first step in logic.   And for good reason!  I can see why there might be not a few nervous children tonight, the eve of Christmas 2014.  They might be wondering, given the legend of Santa Claus, how good one must be to merit a ‘successful’ visit from Saint Nick!

Since the tradition of a gift-giving jolly fat man magically distributing packaged surprises to all the children in the world happens to have accreted to the celebration of the birth of the incarnate (en-fleshed) God, I think I’ll leave you with some good news.

You don’t have to be good enough for Jesus to save you, no matter HOW one defines the term.  In fact, you might be humbled by the fact that it is impossible for you or me to be ‘good enough’ to reach Holy God’s standard of perfection.  That’s why you and I, and every human being ever born, need a savior.

The only requirement (and each one of us is totally qualified) is that we be a sinful, rebellious man, woman or child.  By nature, we meet THAT standard through and through!

We don’t have to clean ourselves up first in order to qualify for Jesus’ offer of salvation.  He wants to rescue us just the way we are.  (but He’ll set about renovating us from top to bottom once we belong to Him!)

For one woman’s simple explanation of this good news, dialed down to the level that young children can grasp, go to this site Link to this Great News explained simply.

Good News

In summary, I wish you a very Happy Christmas.  And should you be fellowshipping with friends and family this week, be sure to prepare your mind and mouth FIRST to think of and ask a question before sharing your views.  More times than not, wanting to put in my 2 cents worth, I have misunderstand someone’s point of view and ASSUMED wrongly, to my chagrin!

Questions to have at your disposal:

  • What do you mean by ‘good enough’?
  • What are your reasons for saying that ‘the sky is falling‘  (how did you reach your conclusion?)

 

Logical Gal-statements that die before reaching 1st base

15 Oct

Self Refuting Tree Sawing Analogy

 

I tuned in last week to J. Warner Wallace’s discussion about TRUTH.

He addressed rules or pronouncements that can’t even meet their own standards, what he calls self-refuting statements.

Wallace is a cold-case homicide detective who ministers by sharing investigative insights that apply to Christianity. He films and uploads a video discussion most Fridays about evidence supporting the truth of Jesus Christ.  You can find these gems at Cold Case Christianity.    Here’s the link to his site

One of his points about truth that I enjoyed hearing again described the change in the definition of TOLERANCE.

Tolerance USED to be defined as the respectful treatment of the FACT or PRESENCE of differing points of view.  This original view of ‘tolerance’ assumed that people believed differently and that beliefs often opposed or contradicted one another.  But today, the concept of tolerance includes the belief that ALL views are equally ‘valid’.  As meek and mild as this new version may seem, it has a mean bite to it!

Pushing the definition to go in THIS direction actually uses ‘valid’ to mean:

  • You can’t criticize my view and say it’s WRONG!

Today’s Tolerance Bullies protect ‘new and improved’ definitions of such fundamental parts of society as

  • holidays (Seattle just voted to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day)
  • gender
  • marriage
  • societal roles
  • aberrant and normal behavior
  • rights and entitlements

As overwhelming and furiously paced as these changes may be, one can take comfort in the FACT that the logic behind the pre-supposition grounding this new definition of tolerance is flawed.

If it is true that tolerance means you can’t say my belief is WRONG, then…

  • You, yourself, can’t label ‘wrong’ MY belief that traditional marriage is the only legitimate marriage union
  • You, yourself, have no leg to stand on when criticizing my view that abortion is murder!
  • And if I were to think it’s okay to act out any number of behaviors you don’t like, my loyalty to them is protected by your new definition

Do you see how today’s new definition breaks down before getting to first base?  That, my friends, is the beauty of logic!

Just like the in-your-face comeback (see image below) to the fact of the existence of absolute truth, their statements break down before they can gather a molecule of dust!

Self-refuting statements

 

All you have to say in response to their claim above:

– So, is your statement just a personal opinion?

Question:  What is a ‘Truth Pronouncement’ that seems suicidal to you?

 

 

 

 

So next time, instead of feeling overwhelmed by next topsy-turvy way of thinking, take a deep breath and ask yourself if that person’s statement follows their OWN ground rules.

Logical Gal and courage to ask some questions

17 Sep

Questions - ask them

As a woman, I’m sometimes overwhelmed by assertive naturalist types who claim that evolution IS the only rational explanation for the way life is.  I guess I’m taken back by their self-assurance and confidence.

But gradually as I’ve listened to podcasts by thoughtful, rational and well-educated /well-credentialed scientists and philosophers who are Christian, I’ve learned some questions that might come in handy.

Actually there is NO reason ever to feel intimidated by anyone because we can ALWAYS ask a question.  The more we learn about someone’s position, not only do we ‘buy time’, but we gain insight that can be very helpful in future conversations.

Here are a few questions I have learned to ask:

  • When a self-proclaimed materialist says: “Intelligent Design is NOT science!” Ask: What do you call a theory that is based on physical data and uses logical inferences? (Michael Behe of the Discovery Institute’s response)
  • When you encounter this claim: “Evolution accounts for all our human development” Ask: How can you trust reason if it comes from a non-rational source? (materialists claim we are just molecules in motion)
  • When up against the assertion,”There are no absolute moral values!” Ask: How can you be sure?
  • When someone is going on and on about the strength or beauty of the theory of evolution, Ask: If survivability is what ensures that species continue and evolve, then truth is not necessary.  And if truth is not necessary, why should I trust your theory of evolution?
  • When you encounter a resurrection-denier who says, “Dead men don’t rise on their own!” Ask: Do you believe in the theory of Cause and Effect?  (Christians don’t claim that Jesus rose on his own, but that God supernaturally raised him!)
  • When faced with pushback from someone who needs ‘logical certainty’ before he’ll believe the truth claims of Christianity Ask: Did you have that kind of certainty when you got married?  (Practical certainty is what most of us live by)

These are just a few questions I am adding to my ‘rational thinking tool bag’.  What about you?  Which questions have served you well?

Bag of tools

Logical Gal and How to Figure out the Truth

10 Sep

Truth

Recently I heard a clear-thinking talk show host provide a method of discovering the truth about a topic. Of course, none of us can be 100 % confident that we have ‘the truth’. But we CAN arrive at a position with a reasonable degree of confidence of its correspondence to reality.

As an aside, why can’t any of us be ABSOLUTE certain of anything? Because in this universe we only occupy a position as created beings. We are part of the creation and we don’t stand above it, with a 360 % view (so to speak).

Back to the radio show I heard – the illustration used to showcase this method was the argument for the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This system works for any event, from crimes being tried in court to your teen’s assertion that the car WAS home before midnight.

When we look at the historicity of Jesus Christ, there are apparently 4 unattested facts. Atheistic, agnostic and Christian scholars alike agree on these four points because one does not have to point to the Bible or any supernatural cause.

 

Jesus' tomb is empty, unlike others

Gary Habermas is credited for having boiled these down to clear indisputable data:

  1. A man named Jesus of Nazareth was put to death by crucifixion at the hands of Roman soldiers on the outskirts of Jerusalem.
  1. The dead Jesus was put into a tomb that was sealed and guarded.
  1. Three days after his death his disciples claimed the tomb was empty and that they encountered the resurrected Jesus and continued to see him for 40 days.
  1. Based on that claim/belief, the Christian church exploded into being and grew exponentially.

Those are the facts. Now what?

What follows next is to open the discussion to competing explanations. All are welcome to hold forth. But….

After you lay out your best scenario that explains all the facts, there is still one crucial piece.

You must provide EVIDENCE to support your explanation. Otherwise, your explanation is nothing more than a ‘just so story’. Or as I’ve heard another Logical Joe say:

  • One could say THIS….
  • Or one could say THAT….but what does the evidence support?

Evidence

In  summary:

-lay out the facts

-suggest possible explanations, looking for one that has the most explanatory taking into consideration ALL the facts

-examine the evidence

Question: What situation comes to mind that would benefit from this method for getting at the truth of the matter?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Logical Gal – speaking causes confusion

26 Jul

confused

Words are meant to clarify….often they confuse or divide!

Last time we mentioned that even the name/personage of Jesus was unclear by itself.  Saying you rely on Jesus doesn’t communicate who this Jesus is. Is he the Mormon Jesus or the Muslim Jesus or in fact the Biblical Jesus of Christianity?

This shouldn’t surprise us.  My husband Michael is completely different from any of a number of other Michaels in the world.

So the existence of more than one concept called ‘pray’ should come as no shock.

Early in my logic learning I vowed to practice ASKING questions before MAKING my points.  One afternoon I was enjoying a massage.  The gal who was working out six months worth of knots in my neck mentioned that her mom was undergoing surgery and that she was ‘praying’ for her recovery.  My first thought was:

  • Is she actually a Christian?  After all, she just admitted that she prayed!

Praying gal

When I asked her just what praying entailed, she described:

  • sending loving, healing thoughts through the air all the way to her mom in California

Good thing I asked what she meant!  Her clarification opened up a safe place for me to describe what I do when I pray.  I explained  how I make my request to the One who has created the entire universe and now sustains it.  I ask Him to heal a loved one because I know that He is real, alive and present as well as the powerful God of love.  She didn’t say much in return, but at least she HEARD a description of theistic prayer. I didn’t explain the gospel or say anything about Jesus. My goal was modest: to make the distinction between ‘new-agey’ practices and prayer to a real deity.

*

Unfortunately, I am NOT consistent in carrying out my resolve first to ask questions! I still succumb to my desire to make my point before I understand someone’s position.  It’s not only senseless on my part, but often a waste of time. Many times I am wrong in my assumptions drawn from someone’s cursory statement about their position on a topic. Why do I rush to get my ‘voice in edgewise’?  Probably because I’m impressed with my thinking!

Pride goes before a fall!

 

Question: When were you last wrong in your assessment of someone’s view?

 

Logical Gal – why do you believe what you believe?

17 Jul

Beliefs

I heard a former French atheist claim that belief in God was ‘properly basic‘.

I had to look it up to understand what was meant.

It seems that whatever belief we hold must be justifiable.  We have to supply a proper or legitimate reason for believing. That is, when we can provide a ‘proper’ reason for why we hold something to be true, then we are in our ‘intellectual rights’ for believing it to be so.    So what is a kind of reason that would lead to something being a legitimate belief?

The easiest source for a good reason or foundation is to deduce a new truth from a prior accepted truth.  Sounds cut and dry…yet…you can end up  following an ‘infinite regress’, a I believe this because of that.   And I believe THAT because of ANOTHER THAT..resulting in an unending pointing back to the prior belief  à la ‘world without end, Amen!’

Fortunately some beliefs are considered ‘properly basic’ in that you don’t have to explain WHY you believe that they are so.  These beliefs are often mathematical or logical in scope.  But some people will claim that belief in God is ‘properly basic’,  that no proof is needed. They will say, “Well  you believe that minds other than yours exist, right?  How do you prove that?  You wouldn’t even be able to THINK about whether God existed if He hadn’t created reason, so belief in God is a starting point – hence ‘properly basic’.”

So how do we sort out whether something fits the ‘properly basic’ category or not?    Just be able to answer the question: Why do you believe XYZ?

You have 2 choices:

a) you can say – I believe XYZ because it’s a properly basic belief and doesn’t need proof.  And then you EXPLAIN why that is so.

or

b) you can say – I believe XYZ for this reason….. and you provide a proper basis for your thinking.

In other words – just know what you believe and why you think it is so!

But what constitutes a ‘proper’ reason outside of one that is ‘properly basic’?  This requires making some distinctions, AKA thinking!

I just do

The above explanation might suffice for why you married your partner, but that won’t work for most anything else.  With love, you might be saying that your feelings are based on a whim. Or at best they are a result of something that you can’t put into words.

But for other issues, like why you feel hopeful about the future, or why you are a democrat, or why you eat gluten-free or why you hold to a naturalist worldview or why you have chosen to homeschool, or why you believe that human nature doesn’t change – these beliefs must be supported by something else.  Here are a few possibilities:

  • you believe because your 5 senses offer evidence that the belief is true (and you trust your senses)  – I SAW the airplane land with my own eyes!
  • you believe because you can make a logically deductive case for the belief – All men make mistakes.  John is a man.  Therefore, he makes mistakes.
  • you have probable cause to believe due to previous experiences – Every time I eat wheat bread, my stomach is upset.  When I substitute gluten-free bread, my stomach is fine.  Therefore, I do better on a gluten-free diet.
  • you believe because it is self-evident or axiomatic, as uncontroversial as “The sun always rises in the east.”
  • you believe because someone or something authoritative that you trust has claimed it to be so.  For example: George Washington was our 1st president.  I trust the history books and the oil paintings that we have portraying Washington.

Whether a belief is ‘properly basic’ or not might be more than you care to remember, and you might have to google it like I did the next time you hear it.  But, the take away is this:

  • We need to be able to articulate not only WHAT we believe, but WHY we hold something to be true.

Question: What is your strongest, most passionate belief that you are quickest to defend?  And what would you say grounds it? Or is IT, in fact, ‘properly basic’ and does not need any reason or defense?

 

 

 

 

Logical Gal and illusions about education dollars

23 Jun

Education Dollars - scales

I live in North Carolina and ‘Low Teacher Salaries’ is a hot topic.  (For the record, I teach in a private school where we earn even less than the public sector).  But I follow the debate with interest because the rhetoric is flung around thickly.

Here’s a quote that was highlighted within an article in our local weekly paper:

  • “If given the choice, would you enroll your child in a state that is 48th in per pupil spending?”

What is implied by that question? (which is actually NOT a question but an assertion masquerading as a question)

  1. You have to spend a lot of money to educate a child well
  2. Money is the # 1 predictor of good education

What don’t we know?

  • whether all 50 states actually spend close to the same.   What if NC truly is 48th in spending, but the variance among state budgets is pretty narrow?
  • whether the quality of students graduating from secondary schools and universities is a problem
  • what the end product (i.e. students) is like in states that spend the most
  • what the difference in dollars goes to in states that spend more
  • what ‘per pupil spending’ actually includes.  What goes into that figure?  Does more money go directly to teacher salaries?  And if so, is there a correlation between better -paid teachers and quality education as measured again by the end product?

Here are some FACTS to consider:

Facts

  • The city of Washington, DC spent an average of $29,349 per student in 2010-11 and 81 % were not proficient in either reading NOR math.
  • North Carolina spent $8,433 per pupil during the 2012-2013 school year.
  • The average among all 50 states was $11,068 for the same 2012-2013 window.

Questions for further reflection:

  • What does the average home-schooling family spend per pupil?
  • How much is the average private school tuition?
  • What about on-line schools that are growing in both accessibility and quality?

Homeschooling

Here’s the bottom line for ANY issue:

You can’t have a useful discussion without taking TIME to flesh out hidden assumptions and facts!