Soapbox: Building a definitive argument – How to Detect Logical Fallacies

The more I read, the more I write, and the more I converse with people, the more I am convinced that people do not know how to develop a definitive argument. I’ll get into a discussion with people about subjects that are purely opinion based and the conversations will typically go something like this…

Fool: The public school system is controlled by the devil and causes children to leave the church when they become adults because they’ve been taught evolution.
Me: That’s a pretty strong statement. Do you have any support to back it up?
Fool: All the young adults that are leaving church.
Me: That’s not support, that’s a result. It’s funny that you would say that though because there has been some extensive research done in this area which has concluded that young adults are leaving the church equally spread across public, private, and home schools. The problem is not necessarily with the system.
Fool: Well I still think that the public schools destroying our culture.
Me: But I’ve shown you definitive research that debunks your claims.
Fool: So what are you, some liberal, anti-homeschooling, evolutionist lover?
Me: No, I’m just trying to get to a definitive point without make reckless assumptions with no foundation.
Fool: You ARE a liberal, anti-homeschooling, evolutionist lover.  

I guess I should know better than to answer a fool according to his folly (Proverbs 26:4). It shouldn’t surprise me anymore that people don’t apply logical thinking to arguments. It seems, though, that in the information age, people would be smarter. But the truth is that the information age has only helped promote the excessive drought of common sense.

People are not being challenged to think for themselves anymore. Our churches are primarily set up to where one person gets up behind a pulpit and the rest sit in comfy chairs and wait to be preached at. There is no atmosphere of studying, no air of reasoning, and no emphasis on understanding. Instead we are instructed on how to live our life, criticized when we wander from the mainstream, and silenced when we speak up or ask questions.

As a result, many Christians don’t know how to navigate through all of the excessive baloney. How can they? There are so many logical fallacies being passes off as truth that it is almost impossible to recognize all of the lies out there. Just watch the news and you’re sure to get a few examples.

With all of these false premises surrounding the individual on a daily basis, it can be difficult to know the difference between truth and deception. So what I’ve done is crafted a few warning sings to point out that something contains a logical fallacy.

#1 Developing a definitive argument out of an abstract principle. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 is a good example of an abstract principle. It is not a guarantee that if you send your kid to Sunday School that they will grow up to be good little Christians. But it is a good thing. You just can’t make an absolute command that you must have a Sunday School program to fulfill that verse.

#2 Coincidence does not require explanation. Just because someone called you right at the moment you were thinking about them doesn’t mean that ESP exists. Coincidence does not justify logical certitude. It’s nice to imagine, but at some point we need to wake up and realize that the burnt toast that looks an awful lot like Obama is not a sign that you need to become a monk.

#3 Pulling information out of thin air. This happens all the time in arguments. It’s like how 2 out of 3 statistics are made up on the spot. Christians do this when they make claims that something is wrong based on something they may have heard or read on the internet somewhere. It’s pretty much when people believe so strongly in the point that they are making that the proofs they are using to support becomes irrelevant. This happens a lot from pulpits.

#4 Contradictory arguments. How may of you have seen the ‘coexist’ bumper sticker?  The problem with this picture is that coexisting is not the problem. Christians believe that all walks of life should have the right to practice their own religion. Evangelism is not intolerance, killing infidels is. The point of the argument seems to suggest that people should be tolerant of one another’s religion, when what they are actually saying is that Christians should stop being all high and mighty by saying anything that contradicts any other religion.

#5 It can’t be logically followed through in multiple examples. A good example of this is found in Philippians 4:8 “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” This verse is dealing with abstract terms. It cannot be applied to every circumstance. It does not mean that novels are inherently evil because they’re not historically true. It doesn’t mean that video games are sinful because they involve shooting games. People follow this logical fallacy when they say that you can’t listen to certain kinds of Christian music because it is similar to secular music. What music isn’t similar to secular music. Some hymns were based on bar tunes. And the same principle can’t be applied to every area: “Men can’t shop at target because it sells lingerie.” “You can’t eat food at an Indian restaurant which was cooked by a Hindi.” I actually knew a man who used this very verse to say that I was wrong for playing a violent video game. I asked him if his boys were allowed to play paintball. He said no. I asked him if they were allowed to play with guns. He said, “Yes, but they can only point them at animals.” Right. I asked him if his kids could play dodgeball. When he said, “Yes.” and asked for my reasoning I questioned his motives for promoting violent actions like stoning, “Are you trying to teach your kids to be pharisees?”

So, what about you? Do you have any warning signs for logical fallacies? Leave them as comments below.

Gallery | This entry was posted in Worldview and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Soapbox: Building a definitive argument – How to Detect Logical Fallacies

  1. Nate says:

    Wikipedia has a fun article worth studying:

  2. Pingback: You made me do it you fool! « HOW TO MAN UP

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s