Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Equivocation occurs when a person changes the meaning of a word in the middle of his argument. Here is an extreme example: The Bible says that Jesus rose from the dead; a rose is a flower; therefore, the Bible says that Jesus is a flower. Like I said, it's an extreme example but you see how it works. I changed the meaning of the word “rose” in the middle of my argument so even though both of my premises are true, my conclusion is false.
Evolutionists equivocate over the word “evolution.” In ordinary conversation, most people understand evolution to mean the changing of creatures from one kind to another over time (like a dinosaurs evolving into birds or apes evolving into people). Most people also understand “evolution” to mean the descent of all species from a common ancestor. However, scientists have a more technical meaning for the term evolution – namely that evolution is “any change in the frequency of alleles within a gene pool from one generation to the next.”
The problem is that evolutionists use the same term – evolution – to describe both change AND the descent of all life from a common ancestor. By doing this, they often use examples of one as evidence for the other. They seldom word it this way but their argument goes something like this: evolution is change, we see animals change, therefore evolution is true and all animals have a common ancestor.
Do you think I'm kidding? I'm sometimes accused of making straw men (see below). Look at this quote: “Biologists define evolution as a change in the gene pool of a population over time. One example is insects developing a resistance to pesticides over the period of a few years. Even most Creationists recognize that evolution at this level is a fact. What they don't appreciate is that this rate of evolution is all that is required to produce the diversity of all living things from a common ancestor.” (source)
In this quote, the folks at Talk Origin use one example of “evolution” (a change to insects' resistance to pesticides) and suggest it is all that is needed for “evolution” (the descent of all animals from a common ancestor).
Many times, when discussing the issue with creationists, an evolutionist will say something like, “How can you deny evolution? We see evolution happening all the time.” What he means to say is that we see animals changing. Of course, creationists don't deny that animals change. We do deny that dinosaurs have changed into birds or that apes have changed into people which are things we have never seen.
Evolutionists aren't careful about their use of the word evolution. I think they're happy for the confusion. In what is understood to be a discussion about common descent, evolutionists will constantly resort to examples of change. It's equivocation of the worst sort.
Another fallacy frequently employed by critics of the Bible is the straw man fallacy. In this fallacy, the critic doesn't address his opponent's argument directly. Instead, he creates a caricature of his opponent's argument and then attacks the caricature. In other words, he builds up a “straw man” that supposedly represents his opponent and then knocks down the straw man.
In apologetics, a typical example of this is when critics accuse Christians of taking the Bible “literally.” The critic might say something like, “My opponent believes every word in the Bible must be taken literally. I guess that means he believes trees have hands because Psalms says that the trees will clap their hands.” This criticism isn't accurate because I've never heard any Christian say that “every word in the Bible must be taken literally.” The Bible uses many literary devices like metaphor, simile, and personification. So the claim that any Christian takes every word in the Bible “literally” gives a false impression of what the Christian really believes. It's a false impression created by the critic. It's a “straw man” that the critic can then ridicule in order to make the Christian's position seem weak.
Here are some other examples of straw man fallacies that I've heard: “Creationists believe the Flintstones represent real history.” “Fundamental Christians believe we should stone gays and witches.” “The Bible teaches that women are second class citizens and treats them as property.” There are many others, of course.
In the course of any discussion, there are times when a person will try to “sum up” his opponent's position. I did so above when I said, “They seldom word it this way but their argument goes something like this...” Yet when this happens, there's a possibility that he's really creating a straw man. Don't let your critic characterize your position. Make your position plainly known and let the critic know he's being deceptive by creating a straw man of your argument.
I don't want to make this post too long but I wanted to discuss quote mining now. This is not one of the fallacious arguments that atheists use frequently (though they do use it occasionally), however, I bring it up for two reasons: First, it's a type of straw man so it would be natural to include it now. Second, evolutionists often accuse creationists of quote mining so I want to explain exactly what quote mining is since they seem to use the term incorrectly.
Quote mining is a type of straw man argument where a person's quote is taken out of context in order to make it seem like he believes something which he really doesn't. For example, someone could quote mine me here and say, “RKBentley once said that the Flintstones represent real history.” Even though I wrote those words above, I obviously don't believe it. It is a false impression of what I truly believe, thus it is a type of straw man.
Creationists are often accused of quote mining when we cite some secular scientist with whom we agree on some particular point. The secular scientists hate this because they loath creationists and so they claim we are misrepresenting what they said. The times I've seen this, I've never really suspected the creationist of misrepresenting the evolutionist.
One, very famous example is when creationists quote Gould about the lack of transitional forms in the fossil record. He said, for example, “An average species of fossil invertebrates lives five to ten million years (terrestrial vertebrates have shorter average durations). During this time, they rarely change in any fundamental way. They become extinct, without issue, looking much as they did when they first appeared.”
Gould, of course, believed in evolution. No one has ever claimed he was a closet creationist. However, he noticed that there is no clear progression of forms in the fossil record from one species to another (though he did recognize certain transitional forms at a more macro level). It is because of this lack of transitional forms that he came up with his theory of punctuated equilibrium. We quote him not because he believed in creation (because he didn't) but because we too have noticed the lack of transitional forms and have a different explanation for it. Therefore, Gould is sort of a hostile witness who sees the same evidence that we see even though he has a different interpretation of it. Therefore, when we talk about the lack of progression evident in the fossil record, we sometimes cite someone like Gould.
Quote mining only occurs when a quote is being misused to create a false impression of what the speaker truly believes. It is not appropriate to call every creationist's quote of an evolutionist a quote mine. I'm not sure if there is a technical term for mislabeling a logical fallacy. At the very least, we might say it's “crying wolf.”
Friday, September 23, 2011
In this series, I intend to highlight 2 – 3 fallacies in each post. In this post, we'll be looking at two of the most commonly used logical fallacies: Ad hominem and the appeal to authority
ARGUMENTUM AD HOMINEM
The first logical fallacy a Christian is likely to encounter when defending the faith is argumentum ad hominem – usually abbreviated to ad hominem. Ad hominem is a Latin term that literally means “to the man” (or so I'm told since I don't read Latin). It occurs when someone responds not to an argument but to the person making the argument. This is, by far, the most common tactic employed by the critic and is usually used in one of two ways: the ordinary insult and to undermine the speaker.
Ordinary insults are just that. The critic will say things like, “Creationists are stupid”; “Christians are gullible”; “Ken Ham is a charlatan”; etc. None of these things are an argument or proof of anything. Instead, they are the simple rantings of the critic who speaks them. Insults are easy to spot so there is not much need to explain how to recognize them. Just keep in mind that no matter how they are used, insults do not add anything to the discussion.
The other form of ad hominem is a little more subtle. Instead of directly insulting the Christian, a critic will make a statement meant to undermine the Christian's credibility. I hear this most often when critics attempt to point out that I'm “not a scientist” and therefore suggest – either overtly or by implication – I am not qualified to judge their theory. Of course, simply not being a scientist by itself isn't proof that anything I've said is wrong. I could say, “it's raining”; does the fact that I'm not a meteorologist somehow prove it's not raining?
Ad hominem is also used to diminish a written article. Besides attacking the author of the article, evolutionists will also tout the fact that the article wasn't published in a peer-reviewed journal and so (allege) the article is suspect and not worthy of consideration. Again, the simple fact that something has not been peer reviewed is not evidence that it is wrong.
Careful arguments are what make a debate. The truth of what is said seldom rests on the person who speaks them. Even if a person is a habitual liar, that fact alone is not proof that any particular thing he said is a lie.
When your opponent does not respond to your points but, instead, attacks you then it is usually a sign of desperation. He either has no rebuttal or he believes his best rebuttal is to merely insult you. Don't get caught up in these bad arguments. When someone insults you, your first instinct will be to defend yourself. This often leads to a lengthy discussion that isn't directly related to the topic at hand. A better response will be to point out to your opponent that he hasn't answered your arguments. Let him know that he is making a fool of himself.
Finally, remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:11, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.” The insults with which the critic intends harm actually bring you a blessing!
APPEAL TO AUTHORITY
The second fallacy we'll look at is the appeal to authority (argumentum ad verecundiam in Latin). This is sort of the opposite of ad hominem – instead of discrediting the person who makes the argument, the critic appeals to the credentials of the person making the argument (often it's himself). It goes something like this: Authority “A” believes “X” is true so therefore “X” is true.
This fallacy often seems to have legs because we sometimes seek the opinions of experts. If I'm sick, I don't necessarily rely on a diagnosis from my mother-in-law. Instead, I seek out an opinion from a doctor. Because the doctor has been trained in medicine, I give his diagnosis more weight.
The reason this is a fallacy is because even experts can be wrong. The truth is objective and something isn't true simply because some expert says it's true. Even if a majority of experts agree, it still doesn't make it true. Take a look at this old advertisement. Look at all those physicians who said that Lucky Strike cigarettes are less irritating. Since these people are doctors, then it must be true, right? Wrong!
The appeal to authority is often employed in the creation v. evolution debate. I've heard it claimed, more than once, that 99% of scientists believe evolution is true. That statistic is a flat out lie – 99% of scientists cannot agree on anything. But even if the statistic were true, it still doesn't prove anything. In Galileo's day, the majority of scientists still believed the Ptolemaic model of the universe.
On a little more personal level, I've had many evolutionists tell me their credentials as though it's proof of something. Sometimes, they're college students who are studying some related field but occasionally they are practicing scientists with PhD's in their discipline. This might intimidate some people but it shouldn't. Consider these two quotes:
“There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.” Albert Einstein, 1932
"The bomb will never go off. I speak as an expert in explosives," Admiral William Leahy, U.S. Atomic Bomb Project.
These were made by people whose opinions we might trust. Nevertheless, they were wrong. In that same manner, even a PhD biologist is wrong about evolution. I don't care how smart someone is or how many degrees he has or how many scientists agree with him – none of this proves he is right.
As above, careful arguments are what make a debate. In the creation v. evolution debate, we need to discuss the evidence and our theory. Don't get carried away with the credentials of the person making the argument. It's not proof of anything.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
In Matthew 7:24-26, Jesus gives us a parable of two men: one man hears the words of Jesus and heeds them. Jesus says he is a like a wise man who builds his house upon a rock and it is able to stand against the wind and floods. The other man is a foolish man who does not heed the teachings of Jesus. He is like a man who builds his house upon the sand. When the rains come and the winds blow, the house cannot stand because it is built on sand.
As Christians, we are commanded to always be ready to give an answer to those who ask about our faith (1 Peter 3:15). While we do this, we must keep in mind who we are dealing with – foolish people. We are dealing with people who have built a worldview upon sand and their arguments cannot stand up to scrutiny. Over the many years that I've engaged critics of the Bible, I've consistently found that nearly all of them resort to some logical fallacy in their arguments. It's unavoidable, really. When one's worldview begins with a premise that there is no God, he stands in stark contrast with reality. Every other belief he builds upon that faulty foundation is simply another brick he adds to the house he's built on sand. It won't stand.
The word translated as answer in 1 Peter 3:15 KJV is the Greek word “apologia” (ἀπολογία). This is where we derive the English term, apologetics. Like many Greek words, it's a compound word. “Apo” is a preposition of separation. It means away or from. We see it in the English word apostrophe, which is a mark that sets a letter apart from the rest of the word. “Logia” is derived from the Greek word “logos” which is usually translated as word. It's used in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the word....” When we talk about something like “the Word of God,” we're not referring to any single word but rather to everything God said. It's the entire body of thought. This is where we get the common suffix -ology as in biology or anthropology. From logos we also have the English word logic. Apologetics, therefore, literally means, “from words” or “from logic.” We are to give the critic a logical and reasonable defense of the Faith.
As we debate nonbelievers, we must always be careful of the arguments we are using and be alert to the arguments they are using. Remember that we have a house built on a rock while theirs is upon the sand. If we are not careful, we can get caught up in their foolish arguments and become removed from our strong foundation. Proverbs 26:4-5 warn us that we should not answer a fool by acting like a fool. Instead, we need to show him how foolish he is.
Studying formal logic is one of those things that intimidates a lot of people. Because of this, many people avoid it all together. It's really a shame, too, because the Bible says that we should love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind (Mark 12:30). Since we are commanded by God to give a reasonable defense of our faith, we owe it to Him to engage in a little mental exercise and study logic.
I don't know if I can say that God invented logic. God Himself is logical therefore logic has existed for as long as God has existed. Since nature reveals the glory of God, we see some of His logical nature revealed in His creation. Logic, is also absolute. It exists as certainly as anything exists. One cannot credibly argue that logic does not exist because he could not logically defend such a position. Any argument the critic could articulate must presuppose that logic exists. Therefore, any argument against logic only proves that logic is real!
Since God is logical, Christians have a rational basis to use and apply logic. However, an atheistic worldview has no rational reason to believe there should be uniform laws of logic. If the universe is without purpose, there is no reason to expect order or uniformity. Of course, this doesn't stop atheists from appealing to logic to defend their beliefs. Such a tactic is demonstrative of their irrationality. If atheists were consistent with their worldview, they would have no foundation on which to base a logical argument. Logic exists only because God is real yet they appeal to logic to argue that God doesn't exist! In his book, The Ultimate Proof of Creation, Dr. Jason Lisle uses the analogy of a man who argues against the existence of air. It is only because there is air moving past his vocal cords that he can form words. It is only because there is air to carry the sound waves that his argument can be heard. The more someone argues against air, the more he proves there is air. Yet this is what a fool does.
I thought it would be a good investment of time to do a short series on logical arguments and logical fallacies. Over the years, I've heard evolutionists and atheists use nearly every logical fallacy you could imagine. A Christian can hardly discuss anything with a critic without hearing some logical fallacy. Therefore, I have many real life comments that I can use for examples. I'm not sure how long this series will be but please check in often.
Friday, September 9, 2011
Part of the President's job speech last night proposed increasing taxes on wealthy Americans & CEO's (i.e. “employers”) and extending benefits to unemployed people. It sounds a little strange to me. Once again I suggest it might benefit our elected officials in Washington to brush up on economics. Let me give a thumbnail:
We work to make money, right? It's nice if we enjoy our jobs but if we don't get paid then it's not a job – it's a hobby. We work for a paycheck. When we get paid, we pay our bills. We pay our rent or mortgage, our car payments, we buy gas, we buy groceries, etc. We also have disposable income that we use for our enjoyment: we go out to dinner, we buy video games, we go to the movies, we take vacations, or whatever. When we spend our paychecks, we're helping to pay other peoples' paychecks. We pay for the salaries of people who work at the gas stations, the grocery stores, the restaurants, the theaters, etc. When they get paid, they spend the money much the same way as everybody else. In short, I work to produce goods or services so that I can buy goods and services that other people work to produce. This IS the economy!
With unemployment so high, we have a lot of people who aren't producing goods or services. They are removed from an important part of the equation. There is “less economy” when more people aren't working. The economy is only sustained by the people who are still working and producing. So what is the President's solution? It seems that part of his solution is to take more money from the people who are working and sustaining the economy and give to the people who are aren't contributing to the economy!
It would almost be laughable that Democrats think this way but the effect of their policies is so tragic. I've heard Democrats, more than once, claim that paying unemployment benefits to non-producing individuals is the most “bang for the buck” in stimulating the economy. With staggeringly high unemployment and people already receiving benefits for 99 weeks, we should have climbed out of this pit a long time ago but we're still limping along. Now the President has suggested extending unemployment benefits another year? I'm telling you that is part of the problem. People aren't working because they don't have to and the economy isn't growing because so many people aren't producing.
If you want to make the claim that we need a safety net for people suddenly out of work then make that argument. It might be reasonable to help people but it should only be for a few months. If you enable people to remain unemployed then we're merely sustaining their poverty. I've written before how the Bible suggested we handle the problem: if an able bodied man doesn't work, then neither let him eat! When people aren't getting a government check each week for not working, and they have to decide between ANY job and starving, I guarantee you they'll take ANY job.
My advice to the President and all other Democrats out there is to drop the idea that taxing producers to pay non-producers can create jobs. It was a joke in 2009 and it's an old joke now.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
I would like to brag and say that I called it in advance. Instead, I'll say that the reports I heard in advance of Obama's speech had it right. There weren't any surprises in tonight's speech. Just to be clear – there weren't any surprises in the “job creating” proposals Obama gave and neither were there any surprises in the political rhetoric we've come to expect.
The payroll tax cut was there as expected. Did anyone pay attention to the careful wording the President used to describe it? To wit, “Pass this jobs bill, and the typical working family will get a fifteen hundred dollar tax cut next year. Fifteen hundred dollars that would have been taken out of your paycheck will go right into your pocket. This expands on the tax cut that Democrats and Republicans already passed for this year.” Wow! Talk about spin. Let me translate that for those of you who don't understand Obama-speak. Congress has already passed a payroll tax “holiday” that has been in effect all this year. The average worker will save about $1,500 this year. Let me ask, what has this done to help create jobs? Unemployment still towers at around 9.5%. Anyway, the “holiday” is about to expire and next year our taxes were going back to normal – that is, we would have to pay an extra $1,500 in taxes next year. Obama's proposal is to simply extend the “holiday” another year. The so called “tax cut” next year is that you won't have to spend $1,500 more in taxes after all! See? It's spin. And this $1,500 “tax cut” that hasn't created jobs this year is supposed to create jobs next year. Yeah, right.
Another “non-surprise” was the temporary nature of the plan. Again, a one time tax incentive given to an employer to hire is not going to help the employer pay the employee's salary next year. Instead, employers worry about the other parts of Obama's speech. They are concerned, for example, when Obama talks disparagingly about how “affluent citizens and corporations enjoy tax breaks and loopholes that nobody else gets.” In other words, “we going to give you a small tax break now but we're going to stick you with higher taxes later.” Obama said this overtly when he said, “And I believe the vast majority of wealthy Americans and CEOs are willing to do just that [pay higher taxes], if it helps the economy grow and gets our fiscal house in order.” The simple fact of the matter is that raising taxes on anyone doesn't help grow the economy or create jobs. Anytime you hear a Democrat talk about “wealthy Americans and CEOs”, just remind yourself they are talking about “employers.” It is absurd to think that taxing job creators creates jobs.
Consider this quote from the speech: “Should we keep tax loopholes for oil companies? Or should we use that money to give small business owners a tax credit when they hire new workers?” In logic, this is known as a false dichotomy. Has it not occurred to Mr. Obama that oil companies also hire workers? Obama believes he can create jobs by giving one time tax breaks to small (and sometimes struggling) businesses and imposing permanent tax burdens on more established businesses like oil companies.
The President also said, “We need a tax code where everyone gets a fair shake, and everybody pays their fair share.” Let me say again: taxes do not create jobs. Never. It's counter productive to talk about raising taxes in a speech aimed at creating jobs. But besides that, please explain to me how everybody pays their fair share when nearly 1/2 of the people pay no income tax at all. There's a common expression that talks about having skin in the game. More Americans might be concerned about the out of control spending going on in Washington if more Americans had to pay for it. As it stands now, 1/2 of the country is enjoying the tune while the other 1/2 is paying the piper.
Finally, Mr. Obama played to his base on more than a few occasions. He mentioned spending more money for teachers no fewer than six times. He talked about modernizing or renovating public school buildings four times. He mentioned a favorite, liberal pet project – namely public transit. He even mentioned how his plan to renovate schools is supported by “America's largest labor organization.”
Oh, I almost forgot – Mr. Obama also proposed extending unemployment benefits for another year. On top of the 99 weeks already available, that means people can get paid nearly three years for not working. I'm going to be talking about unemployment benefits again in an upcoming post.
Like I said, no surprises here. It's all more of the same. Class warfare. Taxing the rich. Increased spending. More government handouts. It's all present and accounted for. The only surprise I could confess to is that he didn't blame Bush for it all.
All day on the radio today I've been hearing news briefs previewing Obama's big job speech tomorrow. According to Bloomberg, “The main components of Obama’s jobs plan... have been largely telegraphed by the administration. For weeks, people familiar with deliberations have said the White House is considering tax incentives, infrastructure and assistance to local governments.” Excuse me? Are they serious? It sounds like more of the same to me.
The “center piece” of the plan is supposed to involve extending the cuts in the payroll tax. Hmmm. Let's see. Obama offers a “payroll tax holiday” to spur job growth, it hasn't worked thus far, so the center piece of his new plan is to extend them? Yep, that sounds like Democrat economics all right.
What's new is that in this plan, he's supposed to include a reduction in the employer paid portion of the tax. I don't see how that's going to make a difference. Temporary incentives never work. Why would they? If you give a temporary incentive to an employer to hire someone, the employer knows that next year he will no longer receive the incentive yet he's still stuck paying the employee.
The second point, according to Bloomberg, is spending on infrastructure. I suppose this is like those “shovel ready” projects that were just waiting to be funded with the last stimulus package. As Obama has laughingly admitted, they “were not as shovel ready as we expected.” I'm sure he's a lot more optimistic about these new projects.
One news report suggested some of the money for infrastructure would be used to repair and update public school buildings. Once again, this is a temporary fix. If I own a construction company and I hire a few workers to help repair an old building, once the building is done the workers will go.
And did I read that correctly? Did Bloomberg really suggest that part of the jobs plan includes “assistance to local governments”? I don't see how funding teachers' unions and bloated government workers' pension plans will create jobs but I'm sure it will result in a lot of grateful voters next November.
The funniest thing I heard on the radio all day was how Obama intends to pay for all this. The report said he will offset the programs with “future deficit reductions.” That is a riot. That would be like me personally saying, “I'm going to borrow $200,000 now and I'm going to pay it back by borrowing less later.” You can see how that doesn't quite work.
I'm sure somewhere in the speech he'll also be blaming Bush and the Republicans. Right after the election, I predicted that Obama would continue for a while to blame Bush. I had no idea, though, that he would continue blaming him 3 years later.
Maybe I'm putting the cart before the horse. Maybe I should wait until I hear the President's plan before I comment on it. Maybe the President has some good ideas about how to create jobs. I just wonder why he's waited until now to present them. I guess he wanted to try placing a moratorium on offshore oil drilling and promoting “green jobs” first.