Ever run into the begging the question fallacy fallacy?
That is not a typo. The word fallacy is meant to be repeated. What do I mean?
Begging the question simply means that someone is using circular logic. They are using the conclusion of an argument to defend the premise of the argument.
Person A claims, pollution is causing the ice caps to melt.
Person B asks, how do you know?
Person A replies, because the ice caps are shrinking.
Person A used the conclusion to defend his claim. Perhaps some kind of planetary climate cycles are causing global warming rather than pollution. Person A begged the question. Circular reasoning is clearly a bad thing.
However, there are times when circular reasoning is unavoidable.
Person A claims: Logic makes rational sense.
Person B asks, how do you really know that?
Person A replies, because it is irrational not to think logic makes sense.
Person A's argument is circular. It begs the question, does it not? Does it invalidate person A's argument, however?
It turns out that circularity is unavoidable at some point for everyone but we have learned to make peace with it.
All knowledge requires a starting point (if you are sensing that I am begging the question in claiming that, you are right). Knowledge cannot accumulate without base assumptions. Those base assumptions, however, are assumed and used to defend themselves … circularity.
Why bring this up on an apologetics blog?
I have friends who are atheists who like to bring out the begging the question fallacy fallacy in worldview discussions. When I tell them, my starting point to knowledge is "God Is", for example, they throw a flag in hopes of assessing a 15 yard "question begging" penalty.
Should I be concerned?
Hardly. It is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. They are committing the exact same fallacy, they just are blind to their own infraction.
Implicit in their argument is that the assumed proper starting point for knowledge is "Reason Is", and that "God Is" must be proven using the bar of reason or it is a false claim. The problem is, of course, "Reason Is" begs the question. So does the claim "God does not exist until reason says so". Think about it.
Does this mean we should all go out and start ignoring this fallacy on a daily basis? No, of course not. Does it mean we should lose interest in demonstrating that Christianity is a reasonable faith? No, of course not. We should, and I applaud the work of my fellow apologists on this blog who do that on a daily basis. I am merely saying that this particular rejoinder loses it force when the discussion is centered on foundational questions.
For example, I was recently engaging with a nice fellow about the basis for morality being grounded in God's transcendence and holy character. He threw a penalty flag on me. He claimed that my argument only makes sense if one accepts my a priori assumptions. My response was (paraphrased), how is his rejoinder relevant? I asked him, how his naturalistic basis for morality escapes this same fallacy. His reply was an honest one … "I don't know." Exactly. He doesn't know because he is committing the same fallacy and it had never occurred to him.
A deeper question to ponder is, can "reason is" have a rational foundation in a universe where "God is" is not true? If your claim is yes, on what basis?
The members of the CADRE maintain this blog for commenting on various items of interest to apologetics. We welcome input. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The Religious a priori is an apologetics website covering philosophy of religion (existence of God) religion and science bogus atheist social science, and issues of Biblical Scholarship.
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Ever run into the begging the question fallacy fallacy?