CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth




Everyone loves Mr. Spock - except those people who mistake him with Dr. Spock, the baby doc, whose advice to mothers in the 50s ruined a generation (but that's another story for another day). No, Mr. Spock is not Dr. Spock. Mr. Spock (or Commander Spock) is that lovable, living, breathing computer-of-a-man who has dedicated his life to logic and facts. For those of us who grew up watching Mr. Spock - which pretty much includes everyone 60 years of age or younger - he represented something to which all could aspire; a person who values logic above emotion. And of course, whenever I do apologetics on the Internet, both sides try to claim the mantle of Mr. Spock. Everyone wants to claim that they are the one being logical while the opponent is being illogical.

Because I already know based upon the comments that twist what I have written in previous posts that someone is going to claim that "BK hates logic" or some other similar nonsense, let me be clear: there is nothing wrong with trying to be logical. It's crucially important that we avoid using logical fallacies when arguing - both formal and informal. In fact, failure to follow the rules of logic will result in nonsensical arguments. Consider, for example, the following syllogism:

Syllogism 1:
Premise 1: All atheists are fools,
Premise 2: Richard Dawkins is an atheist,
Conclusion: Therefore, Richard Dawkins is not a fool.

If Syllogism 1 causes your blood pressure to rise, you are probably an atheist. If it causes you to chuckle, you are probably a theist. But regardless if the syllogism makes you angry or amused, it is not the emotional response that determines if the syllogism is valid. Rather, it is the logical form. Effectively, this syllogism is in the form of:

Syllogism 2:
Premise 1:All X are Y,
Premise 2: Z in an X,
Conclusion: Therefore, Z is not Y.

But wait, that syllogism doesn't make sense, does it? If Z is an X, and all X are Y, then it must be the case that Z is Y. My syllogism concludes that Z is not Y. So, obviously the syllogism fails as written. In other words, it's form is not valid. Instead, it should conclude that Richard Dawkins is a fool.

Syllogism 3:
Premise 1:All atheists are fools,
Premise 2: Richard Dawkins is an atheist,
Conclusion: Therefore, Richard Dawkins is a fool.

That, then, is a valid logical argument.

But wait, one might ask, what about the premises? What if they aren't true? After all, I am certain a large number of readers would disagree that all atheists are fools even if Richard Dawkins is a fool. Well, the truth of the premises goes to the "soundness" of the argument. The soundness of the argument isn't based on it's logical form, but on the truth of its premises. There are always two questions that need to be asked in any argument: (1) is the form logically valid, and (2) are the premises true? If the answer to both is affirmative, then the argument becomes sound.

I feel confident that we can all agree that logic is important in making arguments. If we make an argument using a flawed logical form, i.e., the formal logic is flawed, we ought to be called out and corrected. The problem is when someone makes the "you're argument is illogical" claim, it is very rare that they are pointing out that an argument is not valid, i.e., the formal logic does not lead to the conclusion because it is flawed (like Syllogism 1 and Syllogism 2, above). So, most of the time, when someone tries to bring out their inner-Spock and claim the argument high-ground by claiming that something is illogical, what they almost always really mean is: (1) one or more of the premises are untrue, or (2) the argument uses an informal logical fallacy. I will not deal with the second problem here (I believe posts should be short), but I do want to make one point about the first.

I am certain that there are very few people making arguments about God, Christianity or the Bible who do not believe that their premises are true. (I expect there are "fake arguments" just like there is "fake news", but I think that very few people make an argument knowing or believing that their premises are false. That would be deceitful, and while there are certainly some people who are being deceitful, I choose to give the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.) But often the problem isn't that the premises aren't true. Instead, especially when arguing about the truth of the premises in the field of religion, the biggest problem is often a lack of common language. In other words, we are using different definitions or come from different world-views which those unfamiliar with the language's use in particular cultures mistakenly call "illogical."

As an example, consider Syllogism 3, above. My first premises is pretty controversial: All atheists are fools. Atheists and others may read that premises as meaning that all atheists are unintelligent, half-witted, or lacking in good sense. They justifiably believe that's what the syllogism means because those are all perfectly legitimate definitions or synonyms of "foolish." But that may not be what I meant at all. I may simply using the term consistent with the Biblical statement that "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'" (Psalm 14:1) In other words, my definition of a fool may simply be "a person who has said in their heart that there is no God." If that is true, then let's substitute what I may have meant into Syllogism 3:

Syllogism 4:
Premise 1:All atheists are people who have said in their heart that there is no God,
Premise 2:Richard Dawkins is an atheist,
Conclusion:Therefore, Richard Dawkins is a person who has said in his heart that there is no God.

Is Syllogism 4 valid? Yes, the form of the argument has no flaws. Are the premises true? Yes, I would doubt that anyone would argue that the premises of Syllogism 4 are false. Is the argument sound? Yes, the form is valid and the premises are true. Is Syllogism 4 any different than Syllogism 3 when the terms are defined? No, they are the same argument - both are equally sound. Yet, I expect that people will still object to Syllogism 3. But understand that the reason you are objecting is due to the connotation that the word "fool" carries, but it is not because it is illogical. If you object that Syllogism 3 is illogical after having the definition of the term "fool" given, then you are simply allowing emotion to overtake your logic and you would not be living up to the high calling of Mr. Spock to be logical.

The call that someone is not being logical is way overused in Internet debate. I would like to encourage everyone - theists and atheists alike - to try to be more gracious and give people the benefit of the doubt that they are logical, thinking beings.


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Addendum 2/16/2017 - After posting this, it occurred to me how it could be turned into something I did not say. So, let me add an additional thought. This post does not represent a call to come up with independent definitions of words. I could see something like this occurring:

Person 1: "All Christians are jerks" (or something worse).
Person 2: "Well, that's kinda' offensive."
Person 1: "Well, I'm defining 'jerk" (or the even more offensive term) as a really nice person, so you have no right to be offended."

I am not using this to call for this type of banter. What I am doing here is simply suggesting that in reviewing arguments for logic, we stick to logic. And when we review things for logic, we don't call things logical fallacies that are not logical fallacies. Talk that is wrong is wrong regardless of its logical component. It is not an invitation to start re-defining words.

14 comments:

The call that someone is not being logical is way overused in Internet debate.

Should I point out the place in your article that uses invalid logic?

Sure.

This comment has been removed by the author.

Ok. Since you asked, BK states: The soundness of the argument isn't based on it's logical form, but on the truth of its premises.

It isn't stated as a syllogism, but you can sort of follow the line of thinking:
A. Validity is based on the form of the logic.
B. An argument can be valid and still not have true premises.
C. Therefore, validity is not based on the truth of the premises. (this is correct)

D. Soundness is based on the truth of the premises.
E. (unstated assumption) An argument can be sound and still not have valid logical form (this is not correct, but assumed as a parallel to B.)
F. Therefore, soundness is not based on it's logical form.

The problem is that while validity is based ONLY on the form of the logic, soundness is based on BOTH the form of the logic and the truth of the premises. BK made the logical leap that since statement B is true, then it would also be correct to assume statement E. But that is a non sequitur, since both B and E are dependent on the definitions of validity and soundness, which do not have parallel forms.

No, your unstated assumption is wrong. What I was saying is:

Premise 1: Validity is not based on the truth of the premises.
Premise 2: Soundness is based on the truth of the premises.
Conclusion: Therefore, you can have an argument that is valid but is not sound if the premises are untrue.

I did not say, and do not think, that an argument can be sound without both a logically correct form and true premises. So, you read into what I wrote (as you note when you say that your unstated premises is assumed as a parallel to B. You assumption is not correct.

Sorry. I didn't want to make a big deal of it, but you DID say

The soundness of the argument isn't based on it's logical form, but on the truth of its premises.

Which is not correct.

At any rate, I substantially agree with what you say in this article. That said, we can't always assume that the argument is logically valid.

For example, take Joe's "Argument from God Correlate":
(1) Real effects come from real causes
(2) If effects are real chances are the cause is real
(3) the effects of mystical experience are real
(4) Therefore, the cause of mystical experience is real.
(5) the content of mystical experience is about the divine
(6) Since the content of ME is divine the cause must be the divine
(7) Since the cause is real and it is divine then the divine must be real.
(8) Therefore belief in the divine is warranted by ME


Notice as he moves from statement 5 to 6 to 7, he transforms an experience (perceived to be) ABOUT the "divine" to an experience that IS divine. This is not due to any false premise. It is a logically invalid argument.

im-skeptical, you are correct. As I said it in that single sentence, you could draw that conclusion. What that sentence should probably read is: "The soundness of the argument isn't based solely on it's logical form, but on the truth of its premises." Since I also said, "There are always two questions that need to be asked in any argument: (1) is the form logically valid, and (2) are the premises true? If the answer to both is affirmative, then the argument becomes sound," I think that I wasn't too confusing. Thanks for allowing me to clarify.

As far as Joe's ME argument, I prefer to leave it to Joe to defend his own arguments since he has thought about them a great deal more than I do. And I do believe what you say has some basis. But I believe that the argument (I assume that you are accurately quoting Joe) isn't subject to the objection you have written. I say that because I would word the argument differently to get to the point, and the it seems to me that my rephrasing would remove the objection without removing the underlying point. I would begin with the unobjectionable part (steps 1-4):

(1) Real effects come from real causes
(2) If effects are real then the cause is real
(3) The effects of mystical experience are real
(4) Therefore, the cause of mystical experience is real.

(I removed "chances are" from the 2nd step because I don't believe we need to clarify it that way. Maybe there is a reason he did so, but that's why I prefer Joe to contend for his own arguments.) Through these first four steps, there is no question about the validity of the argument. (I think that the first three premises are also true, so the argument is sound - but that's another argument for another day.)

So, what would clarify steps 5 through 7 that would possibly overcome your objection? I believe it would be to add new steps 4a and 4b which would serve to clarify steps 5 through 8:

(4a) Effects are of the same nature as their cause(s).
(4b) The content of an experience is part of the effect of the experience.
(5) The content of mystical experience (hence, the effect, per 4b) is about the divine
(6) Since the content (hence, the effect) of mystical experience is divine the cause must be the divine
(7) Since the cause is real and it is divine then the divine must be real.
(8) Therefore belief in the divine is warranted by ME

Now, I don't know if this is what Joe was intending. I also know that I am, in part, re-writing the syllogism, but since I think I understand where Joe was going, I think that what I am writing is within the bounds of what he was trying to say. I leave it to him to either reject or accept my changes for reasons that I may not know because I have never truly considered this argument at this level. If you don't agree with what I said, take it up with him since he knows his own arguments better than I.

I agree that your formulation introduces a premise that would make the argument valid. But of course, I would argue that that premise is not true. Consider an experience about the divine that is caused by drugs or by electromagnetic stimulation (as in the "God-hat"). The effect is quite unrelated to the cause. So I would reject that premise.

I agree that your formulation introduces a premise that would make the argument valid. But of course, I would argue that that premise is not true.

Okay. That's alright. I have added the premises I think are needed to make the argument valid. I would argue that they are hidden premises that make the argument complete and they are consistent with what Joe is trying to argue, but I don't know if Joe would agree. Since this is his argument, I will let him take up the task. Whether they are true (hence, whether the argument is sound) is where I think the real battle lies with this syllogism - not the validity of its form.

Since you asked, BK states: The soundness of the argument isn't based on it's logical form, but on the truth of its premises.

Soundness is the validity of the argument plus the truth of the presses; if the argument is valid and all premises are true it is sound, that does not mean you get to declare it unsound because you disagree with it.

Bill's comments om behalf of my arguments are good,I have nog reproduced the form of the argument in the book because cant get to the book,i can't walk, don;t have my books here, can't get up and go get it, I could have someone bring it tome but yiu go be in nursing home see how that works. We live by that assumption every day,

But the cause is real but what is it? by "real" I mean external so more than just brain fart. Because that would not produce consistent long term positive effects,

now what kind of genius would assume that an external cause that reveals the meaning of life and that meaning is bound up with the divine but the reversal would not be devise or connected to it? that;'stupid,that is absolutely embedded in the experience.The noetic aspects of the experience are always about God and meaning of life qnd why we are hre and so on.

the sense of the numinous inherently is about a presence of holiness and divine, why woukd that be ? it matches up with the faqct itworiks for the psitive every time, why>



do you notice how Skepie is always on about y studies and books and arguments? he;s got to make everything degenerate into a harangue about that, he so afraid of it.

the mystical experiences are intrinsically positive. There are no studies that show negative effects. The experience would produce negative effects if it was merely the result of brain chemistry.

that that can be seen as three different arguments

(1) real effects need real causes

(2) the content is consistently about the divine, brain chemistry can choose content

(3) consistent lack of negative effects argues against purely naturalistic origin

they all work together to prodce a big argument

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