In philosophy, a logical fallacy or a formal fallacy is a pattern of reasoning which is always or at least most commonly wrong. This is due to a flaw in the structure of the argument (Can God make a Rock to BIG FOR HIM TO LIFT? ) which renders the argument invalid. A formal fallacy is contrasted with an informal fallacy, which has a valid logical form ( Why would God DO THIS IF HE KNEW... THE ASSUMPTION BEING THAT GOD DOESN'T KNOW WHAT HE'S DOING IF HE DOES THAT THING WE CAN'T UNDERSTAND! ), but is false due to one or more of its premises being false. We know God knows what he's doing ELSE he would not be God,therefore the problem RESTS in our FALLIBILITY AND LACK OF UNDERSTANDING HIS PURPOSES !
The term fallacy is often used more generally to mean an argument which is problematic for any reason, whether it be a formal or an informal fallacy.
The presence of a formal fallacy in a deductive argument does not imply anything about the argument's premises or its conclusion. Both may actually be true, or even more probable as a result of the argument ,but the deductive argument is still invalid because the conclusion does not follow from the premises in the manner described. By extension, an argument can contain a formal fallacy even if the argument is not a deductive one; for instance an inductive argument that incorrectly applies principles of probability or causality can be said to commit a formal fallacy.
Recognizing fallacies in everyday arguments may be difficult since arguments are often embedded in rhetorical patterns that obscure the logical connections be
A different approach to understanding and classifying fallacies is provided by argumentation theory. In this approach, an argument is regarded as an interactive protocol between individuals which attempts to resolve a disagreement.
These fallacies are used in many forms of modern communication where the intention is to influence behavior and change beliefs.
Examples in the mass media today include but are not limited to propaganda, advertisements, politics, and opinion news shows.
Its name is derived from the practice of using straw men in combat training. In such training, a scarecrow is made in the image of the enemy with the single intent of attacking it. It is occasionally called a straw dog fallacy, scarecrow argument, or wooden dummy argument.
One can set up a straw man in the following ways:
Present a misrepresentation of the opponent's position, refute it, and pretend that the opponent's actual position has been refuted.
Quote an opponent's words out of context -- i.e., choose quotations that are not representative of the opponent's actual intentions.
THIS is WHAT PEOPLE DO TO ME IN COMMENTING ON MY BLOGS WHEN THEY DON'T FULLY DEVELOP MY THOUGHTS TO MY ORIGINAL INTENT.
Present someone who defends a position poorly as the defender, refute that person's arguments, and pretend that every upholder of that position, and thus the position itself, has been defeated.
Invent a fictitious persona with actions or beliefs that are criticized, and pretend that the person represents a group of whom the speaker is critical.
Oversimplify a person's argument into a simple analogy, which can then be attacked.
Some logic textbooks define the straw man fallacy only as a misrepresented argument. It is now common, however, to use the term to refer to all of these tactics. The straw-man technique is also used as a form of media manipulation.
However, carefully presenting and refuting a weakened form of an opponent's argument is not always itself a fallacy.
Instead, it restricts the scope of the opponent's argument, either to where the argument is no longer relevant or as a step of a proof by exhaustion also known as proof by cases or the brute force method, is a method of mathematical proof in which the statement to be proved is split into a finite number of cases, and each case is proved separately.
A proof by exhaustion contains two stages:
A proof that the cases are exhaustive; i.e., that each instance of the statement to be proved matches the conditions of (at least) one of the cases.
A proof of each of the cases.
The real dilemma is that this "straw-man theology" becomes the Lost persons "god for all seasons" being used INSTEAD OF PURE LOGIC OR EVEN COMMON SENSE to face the questions of life,and it becomes a STALE-MATE BETWEEN THEM & GOD over who can answer their questions EXACTLY AS THEY SEE FIT!
A straw-man is an object, document, person, or argument that temporarily stands in for and is intended to be "knocked down" by something more substantial. We set up these things because we can't DEAL with real.. in your face issues about ETERNITY so we set up false arguments to defeat, to feel better about our own mis-understandings.
"Straw man" is one of the best-named fallacies, because it is memorable and vividly illustrates the nature of the fallacy. Imagine a fight in which one of the combatants sets up a man of straw, attacks it, then proclaims victory. All the while, the real opponent stands by untouched.
As the "straw man" metaphor suggests, the counterfeit position attacked in a Straw Man argument is typically weaker than the opponent's actual position, just as a straw man is easier to defeat than a flesh-and-blood one. Of course, this is no accident, but is part of what makes the fallacy tempting to commit, especially to a desperate debater who is losing an argument.
Thus, it is no surprise that arguers seldom misstated their opponent's position so as to make it stronger. Of course, if there is an obvious way to make a debating opponent's position stronger, then one is up against an incompetent debater. Debaters usually try to take the strongest position they can, so that any change is likely to be for the worse. However, attacking a logically stronger position than that taken by the opponent is a sign of strength, whereas attacking a straw man is a sign of weakness.
HERE ARE SOME EXAMPLES:
(Surprisingly common). Pro-choice boosters claiming that pro-lifers "want" women to be raped and impregnated, or enslaved in the home, or killed by back-alley procedures.
Hints that a certain candidate "wants" a certain Iraqi dictator to be back in power. That is: If you are against my war which had effect X [which is the one good thing among 1000s of bad things], then you must be against X.
People who want to lower taxes must be against the poor, since the tax cuts disproportionately benefit the wealthy.
People against unions are against the working class. People who hate rap "music" hate black people. People who hate manipulations of the labor supply must hate job-seeking immigrants. Fits the pattern: "Practice X is associated with people Y. If you are against X, then you are against Y." Common, common, common.
Statements of the form, "The greatest president was Cal Coolidge", being refuted by, "Oh, right, so you're against the civil rights movement." The pattern is, "X was not associated with Y, thus if you are for X, then you are against Y."
If you are to make a point then make sure your point is a valid point and not one of these silly arguments with a simple "Straw-man EXIT"for your benefit,it begs for help and reveals ignorance of the subject!
THE GAMES SKEPTICS PLAY
I would like to make a distinction between skeptics and rabid, drooling anti-Christian intellectuals. Ordinary skeptics aren't driven to skepticism by a hatred of Christianity.
Conversely, there are Christians who desire no real intellectual exchange but who are motivated to 'debate' by the prospect of man-handling their beliefs into their opponent's minds. Throwing scriptures at people who don't believe in God is not only illogical, it is ineffective.
Condemning people who don't believe in hell to hell, is not only illogical and ineffective, it's also hypocritical because the Bible has made it very clear that this type of judgment is reserved for God.
Just like their skeptic counterparts, Christians, who resort to these tactics, thwart attempts for real understanding to take place. In this manner, the tactics described in the remainder of this essay also apply to Christians fitting the previous description.
When I debated as a skeptic, I had no desire to learn from Christians. My only purpose was to try and show them how illogical and absurd their belief in God was. It didn't matter if their arguments made sense. My arguments made sense, too! I was on a mission to destroy faith in God because I perceived Christianity as a direct threat to my individual rights and freedom. I thought that if enough Christians were elected in our government, it would only be a matter of time before the legal system would make us slaves to the morality of the Judeo-Christian religion.
This hokey 'god' was going to infringe upon my rights to screw with other consenting adults outside of marriage! It was going to force women to carry their babies to term! It was going to demand that I wake up every Sunday morning and attend church, and if I refused, no respectable business in town would have me as an employee. I wasn't interested in any TRUTH!
If there was even the smallest possibility that truth would interfere with my all out war against Jesus Christ & Company, I did not want to hear it. I wanted to destroy the enemy.
THE ILLUSION OF WINNING A DEBATE
My goal in debate was to make the intelligent Christians look stupid. The stupid Christians didn't need my help, but there were some who were smart enough to be an encouragement to others and this really irked me. Most of the time, I didn't have to find real problems with their arguments; I just found ways to psychologically undermine their audience's confidence in the Christian who was presenting those arguments.
While I couldn't dissuade the superior Christian thinker from his well thought out belief, his audience was fair game.
If it is done skillfully, intellectual intimidation and ridicule can generate an uneven psychological playing field. Politeness can be mistaken for submissiveness when it takes place in an atmosphere of subtle (or not so subtle!) condescension and this can then have the effect of making another's argument APPEAR weak, not that it actually is.
I created this illusion by taking advantage of the stigma of hypocrisy that Christians try to avoid. Not many Christians were willing to stoop as low as me, but when they did, I quickly lost the psychological edge. When both participants do an equally good job of discrediting the thinking of the other, the audience is forced to examine the argument itself.
Of course, when my opponent would do this, I would jump all over them for being a poor representation of Jesus and I was overjoyed when his own flock would do the same!
The hardcore skeptics know this game of audience manipulation and that's why they post victorious titles to any argument, regardless of outcome. To declare victory is to create the appearance of having actually won. If your newspaper accurately reported the news but slanted the headlines, it could easily deceive the casual browser who didn't take time to read the entire article. Pay no attention to declarations of victory; focus on the actual arguments.
THE ILLUSION OF LOGIC
You may find yourself locked in debate with a skeptic and know that there is something about his argument that doesn't fit, despite his references to logic.
In other words, it will sound as if this fellow knows all about logic yet has come up with a conclusion that is completely washed of any common sense. Usually, this person is either being stupid or deceitful.
There's an old adage that states, "You can't kid a Kidder." In debate, you can't deceive a deceiver! If you are seriously considering making debate a hobby, I suggest Nicholas Capaldi's "The Art of Deception" as a very good introduction.
The real fun of the game begins at a level where both participants have some knowledge of both subject matter and logic. Mr. Owl shall now prove to you that your God does NOT exist!
*God is 'giving' punishment or wrath in the following arguments:
MR OWL -
1. God is an all-just judge, giving to each exactly what they deserve, no more and no less.
2. God is an all-merciful judge, giving to each less than what they deserve.
3. God can't give to each exactly what they deserve while at the same time giving them less than what they deserve.
4. Therefore, your God violates the law of non-contradiction and can't exist!
I shall now prove to you that my God isn't violating the law of non-contradiction. Note that I did not say that I shall prove that my God exists.
1.The nature of my God is described in the Bible.
2. The Bible never states explicitly or implicitly that my God is an 'all-just judge' or an 'all-merciful' judge.
3. Therefore, the God you have disproved is not my God.
Now you can see how important it is to know your bible inside and out! God is described as both merciful and just but never with the word 'all' attached; there are no scriptures that say things like, "God is an all just-judge all the time". Even if the word 'all' were to be present, this is a common literary device known as a hyperbole and it is used for effect, not accuracy. However, the hyper-analytical skeptic has to forget any college reading skills he may have had and ignore these devices so that he can pretend that the bible doesn't make sense when he encounters such things as metaphor, simile, or hyperbole. This is why I refer to debate as a card trick with words!
1. God's nature is described as both just AND merciful.
2. Therefore, God is just to some - that is to say He gives some exactly what they deserve.
3. Therefore, God is merciful to some - that is to say He gives them less than what they deserve.
4. While God can't logically treat the same person at the same time in a manner that contradicts, He can certainly treat different people differently without violating the law of non-contradiction.
MR OWL -
1. God is immutable - the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Therefore, God can't change.
2. Sometimes God acts as a merciful judge.
3. Sometimes God acts as a just judge.
4. Therefore, God changes.
5. Therefore God violates his own property of immutability and cannot exist!
1. God is immutable inasmuch as His NATURE never changes.
2. God's nature is described in the bible as ALTERNATING between being both a just judge and a merciful judge.
3. Therefore, when God acts either mercifully or justly, he is acting according to His nature.
4. If God is acting according to His nature, He is not changing His nature.
1. Charlie will never change his nature.
2. It is Charlie's nature to be both violent and romantic.
3. Charlie comes home from work, slaps his wife around and then buys her roses.
4. Still the same old Charlie!
Now, if Charlie one day decided to never do violence again, he would indeed be guilty of changing his nature. Likewise, if Charlie never treated his wife in a romantic manner, he would be changing his nature. However, it is Charlie's nature to be BOTH violent and romantic.
I would also like to note that 'immutability' is only mentioned in the bible twice, in Hebrews 6: 17-18, and in no way can it be taken to mean that God's nature prohibits Him from being both merciful and just.
MR. OWL -
These descriptions of your God being an immutable, all-just and all-merciful God come from YOUR theologians!
Frankly, I don't care where these descriptions come from. If they don't describe God in the manner in which the Bible describes Him, I'd say that's a good reason not to listen to these theologians who say such stupid things.
We find that MR. OWL has just constructed a straw man - a bogus representation - and then burned it down. He didn't disprove our God; He created a distortion of our God, slapped the 'Yahweh' label on it, and then disproved the distortion.
MR OWL -
Fine. I didn't disprove your God's existence. I disproved His fairness! Your God is not good!
1. To be just, one must give to another exactly what that individual deserves to get, no more and no less.
2. To be fair, one must treat everyone equally.
3. To be merciful is to give an individual more than what they deserve to get (in reward) or less than what they deserve to get (in punishment).
4. Being merciful is therefore unjust.
5. Unless everyone can be treated with the same degree of mercy or kindness, to be merciful or kind to any one person is to be unfair.
Now we finally get down to opinions of the heart. Mr. Owl seems to think that treating some people with mercy is unfair and therefore not good. This subject is addressed in Matthew 20:1-16, in the parable of the workers in the vineyard.
1. Two people are guilty to the same degree.
2. One person is sentenced justly; he gets exactly what he deserves.
3. The other person is sentenced mercifully; he gets less than what he deserves.
Is this fair? Of course not. Is this good? It all depends on the heart, not the logic in the head of the person making the value decision.
If you were the person who is being judged justly, if you had any love for the other person who was judged mercifully, you would rejoice that this person received a more lenient sentence. If your heart was good, you would see the unfairness but recognize the goodness of the judge out of the love you have for your brother. If you have no love for your brother, you would only see the unfairness and your bitterness over his lenient sentence would cause you to see the mercy in the judgment as bad.
If you are the person who was granted a lenient sentence, if you had any love for the person who was sentenced justly, you may experience guilt over your lighter sentence but even though the judgment was unfair, justice is being served because the other person is getting exactly what they deserve.
Justice without mercy leads a society to brutal self-righteousness. Mercy without justice leads a society to lawlessness. Life isn't supposed to be fair!
As a side note, this encounter with Mr. Owl was based on a real life debate with a professor of philosophy! What does this prove? Well... we've heard the saying, 'Those who can, do. Those who cannot, teach.' Let's analyze this in relation to Mr. Owl!
1. Those who can do 'x', do 'x'.
2.Those who cannot do 'x', teach 'x'.
3. Philosophy is a subject that teaches students how to think.
4. Those who can think, don't teach it.
5. Therefore, Mr. Owl, who can't think logically, is attempting to teach children what he himself is incapable of doing.
Is it any wonder our educational system has failed us??? For those of you who will feel inclined to e-mail me on the validity of the first two premises in the above argument, I suggest that you keep your two cents and purchase a sense of humor.
IGNORING CULTURAL CONTEXT
Skeptics enjoy asking questions, but they aren't really interested in hearing answers. They would like to forget that the Bible was written 2000 years ago and in a culture very different from our own because it gives them the advantage in twisting scripture. When a Christian apologist tries to explain biblical passages within their cultural context, skeptics will accuse them of presenting 'couldabeens'. This type of ignorance, and the ludicrousness that follows it, can only be fully appreciated when one is aware of the culture that is being discussed. Take the following, for example:
RABID SKEPTIC: I say, there, Big Gun Apologist. There's a fella I talk to on the Internet who must be stupider than me! He can't even spell worth a lick. Always making mistakes like 'judgement' and 'realise' and 'humour'.
BIG GUN APOLOGIST: It isn't that he's illiterate, RABID. He's probably from England. Those spellings are correct British variations.
RABID SKEPTIC: Oh, yeah, yeah, he MAY be from England but he's still stupid! He tells me he drives his car on the wrong side of the road!
BIG GUN APOLOGIST: Um...In England, the wrong side of the road is the right side of the road...
RABID SKEPTIC: Say what? Now you aren't making any sense at all, ya big Jesus Freak! This fella's a moron! A complete fool! He rides on the roof of the bus for crying out sakes!
BIG GUN APOLOGIST: But Rabid, the buses in England have two tiers. You misunderstood what he was saying.
RABID SKEPTIC: Oh, go on with your ridiculous excuses for him, I still say he's a bigger fool than me!
BIG GUN APOLOGIST: (sigh)
Debate is a skill, like dancing. Its outcome isn't necessarily based on the strength of one's argument, but the skill of the one who is presenting that argument. More about presentation than a quest for truth, debate becomes a matter of positioning; the participant who knows how to assume the lead, can waltz his opponent across the dance floor. If after a few dances, you find that you are continually tripping over yourself, you may just have to admit that you don't have the grace that it takes to be a good dancer. Your inability to defend your position may not be indicative that your position is indefensible.
Actively participating in debate can provide ample motivation to learn more about the subjects of which we speak. There is nothing more exhilarating than being able to intellectually engage in gunfight and shoot your opponent's argument full of holes. However, all too often, we shoot off our mouths before we have taken the time to load our weapon. Don't get caught with your hammer back and no bullets in your barrel. Do the research and the reading and the thinking first, before you engage yourself in debate.
I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to any Christians who may have suffered doubt because of my intentional deceit in playing this game for eight years. I couldn't know what faith in Christ was until I found it for myself. I ask the Kingdom of God to forgive me and I pray that our Lord can take my experience and use it for His good.
THIS IS HOW THEY DO IT...SO, LEARN FROM THIS AND FORGIVE THEM BEFOREHAND!
THE DIFFERENT STYLES OF SKEPTICS AND WHY, NOT ALL SKEPTICS ARE HONEST IN THEIR CRITICISM:
- a philosophical position:
in which people choose to critically examine whether the knowledge and perceptions that they have are actually true, and whether or not one can ever be said to have true knowledge, Or
- a scientific, or practical, position in which one does not accept the veracity of claims until solid evidence is produced in accordance with the scientific method. The term skeptic is now usually used to mean a person who is taking a critical position in a given situation, usually by employing the principles of Critical Thinking and the scientific method (that is, scientific skepticism) to evaluate the validity of claims and practices. Empirical evidence is important to skeptics as it is possibly the best way to determine the validity of a claim.
Intellectual DISHONESTY DEFEATS THE PURPOSE OF DEBATE!
Logic, Debate and Apologetics
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DEBATE, DISCUSSION AND APOLOGETICS?
Both debate and apologetics make use of logic. Logic provides us with a means through which we can determine the truth value of opinions and the arguments that arise from a difference in opinion. Even though both debate and apologetics make use of logic, there is a gross difference between them. Apologetics attempts to explain our faith; its goal is to promote understanding.
1. Take a general statement and turn it into a ridiculous and exaggerated absolute.
2. Present a false analogy that will allow you to change the topic to something easier to defend.
3. Sprinkle lightly with witty insults.
4. Bake until half done.
This is called “Building a straw man, and burning it down”. The purpose of the following demonstration isn’t to make you think that your opposition will never have a solid leg to stand on; many atheists have valid arguments and present their case quite well. Its purpose is to show you, that even though your opponent’s argument may be full of holes and logical fallacies, it can give him the appearance of winning the debate. Consider this conversation, a variation of an old Dilbert gag:
Christian: Genesis 1:29 reads…”I give you every seed bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food…"
Skeptic: That's absurd. If you ate all of the vegetables and fruits in the whole world all at once your stomach would explode...
Christian: You're not supposed to eat them all at once...
Skeptic: Let me give you an analogy. If one country is more advanced than another, does it have the right to force the less advanced country to can and package its fruits and vegetables?
Christian: That's not the same thing.
Skeptic: Aha! So now you agree with me that slavery is wrong!
Christian: No I didn’t!
Skeptic: Oh you didn’t? So you admit then that the Bible promotes slavery?
Christian: It does not!
Skeptic: It says right here in Leviticus 25:47, “You may buy male and female slaves from the nations around you.” If you go against what the Bible says, you’re a hypocrite.
Christian: But that isn’t what it means!
Skeptic: Are you saying that the Bible doesn't mean what it says? You Christian slave mongers have a lot of nerve coming in here trying to save my soul.
Christian: I wasn’t trying to save your soul!
Skeptic: Oh you weren’t? You mean you don’t even care if I go to Hell??!! What kind of Christian are you, anyway?
When an audience is less informed about the subject that is being debated than those who are debating it, it ends up relying on the presentation of the argument as much as the content when it makes its decision regarding it; in other words, it only listens with one ear! Now the audience will walk away with the distinct impression that you are a slave monger, a hypocrite, and an uncaring person; a person who doesn't eat his vegetables!
HOW THE SCOPES TRIAL INFLUENCED AMERICA'S PERCEPTION OF CHRISTIANITY
In 1925, it was against the law to teach evolution in the public schools, so the ACLU placed ads in newspapers asking for a science teacher to volunteer to teach evolution in a classroom in order that he be arrested so that the law could be examined in a courtroom and hopefully overturned. John Scopes volunteered as the teacher. The ACLU hired a famous trial lawyer, Clarence Darrow, as his defense attorney and William Jennings Bryan, a prominent Presbyterian layman, and three-time Presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket, volunteered his services as counsel for the State.
Bryan was not an ignoramus. He was intelligent, had authored many books about Christianity and he was a lawyer, but he was not familiar with playing a game of deception that involved his faith. Bryan suffered a fatal heart attack five days after the trial so he had very little opportunity to offer comments from hindsight. But let's examine a segment of the original transcript of the debate, along with an analysis and more appropriate responses in an effort to expose a card trick with words.
THE SCOPES TRIAL REVISITED
To see exactly what Bryan was up against, and what Darrow was up to, the transcript is available.
Darrow--Do you claim that everything in the Bible should be literally interpreted?
Right away, we know that if Bryan answers 'yes', he will be asked to defend some incredible and irrelevant points. If he says, 'no', then he will be asked how he can decide what is to be taken literally as opposed to figuratively. The former stance will open Bryan to ridicule; the latter may give the impression that Biblical interpretation is so liquid that it can't hold water!
Bryan--I believe everything in the Bible should be accepted as it is given there. Some of the Bible is given illustratively. For instance: "Ye are the salt of the earth.'' I would not insist that man was actually salt, or that he had flesh of salt, but it is used in the sense of salt as saving God's people
This was a good answer, but Bryan didn't take a stronger, offensive position. We see that Darrow keeps hold of the ball with his next statement:
Darrow--But when you read that Jonah swallowed the whale--or that the whale swallowed Jonah, excuse me please--how do you literally interpret that?
Oh, Krikey! Look at the fangs on that one! See how Darrow is going to make the absurd even more absurd by feigning an error where Jonah swallows the whale! A nasty, dirty, but effective tactic! You have to admire that type of devoutness, even when it comes from the opposition.
Bryan--When I read that a big fish swallowed Jonah-- it does not say whale.
Bryan is correct when he makes the point that the account of Jonah in Jonah says that he was swallowed by a great fish, but he should have kept his mouth shut, instead of playing right into Darrow's game. Bryan should have been aware of Jesus referring to the great fish as a whale, in Matthew 12:40, and let Darrow slide, instead of trying to show that he knew the exact phrase used in Jonah in an effort to show that Darrow didn't.
Darrow--Doesn't it? Are you sure?
Look at this! Darrow is now giving Bryan an opportunity to bring up the verse in Matthew. When your opponent asks you a question, such as, "Are you sure?", it should be an immediate tip-off that he knows something that he thinks you do not. Now is not the time to be humble! Bryan should have been searching his mental banks for that passage in Matthew and spewing it.
Bryan--That is my recollection of it, a big fish; and I believe it; and I believe in a God who can make a whale and can make a man, and make both do what He pleases.
Oh! He misses the hint entirely! He is too anxious to defend the absurdity itself.
Darrow--Mr. Bryan, doesn't the New Testament say whale?
Bryan--I am not sure. My impression is that it says fish; but it does not make so much difference; I merely called your attention that to where it says fish, it does not say whale.
Darrow--But in the New Testament it says whale, doesn't it?
Bryan--That may be true; I remember in my own mind what I read about it.
Ouch! Bryan just proved the point of many skeptics who claim to know the Bible better than Christians. Don't let this happen to you. If you haven't read the Bible, or studied it, you shouldn't be attempting to debate it. I'm sure that Bryan knew his Bible, but he didn't know it to the degree necessary to debate it.
Darrow--Now, you say, the big fish swallowed Jonah, and he remained- how long--three days, and then he spewed him up on the land. You believe that the big fish was made to swallow Jonah?
O.K., it's easy to see where the rest of this is going. How could Bryan have turned the tables on Darrow right from the start? Here is how the debate may have gone, had Bryan taken a stronger offensive position:
Darrow--Do you claim that everything in the Bible should be literally interpreted?
Bryan--I believe that the Bible should be literally interpreted in the truth it intends to reveal.
This is a loaded statement, and a very useful one, because it gives a Christian the leverage to get to the meat of any issue without getting eaten alive in the process.
Darrow--But when you read that Jonah swallowed the whale--or that the whale swallowed Jonah, excuse me please--how do you literally interpret that?
Bryan--Is that what you think the story of Jonah is about? The structural anomalies of marine life that would permit the swallowing of a man? If that's what you think the story of Jonah intends to reveal, I would question your reading comprehension.
Darrow--Do you, or do you not believe a big whale swallowed Jonah?
Bryan--I am saying that whether a person does or doesn't choose to believe that a whale literally swallowed Jonah is totally irrelevant to the truth being revealed in the story of Jonah. You are missing the truth entirely.
Darrow--What is the truth about Jonah, if not being swallowed by a whale?
Bryan--Thinking that the story of Jonah is about a man being swallowed by a whale is a rather superficial and inadequate summary. It would be the equivalent of saying that the story of Romeo & Juliet is about two disobedient kids who have no respect for their parent's wishes.
Now the ball is in Bryan's court. From this point, I can't speculate how this particular line of discussion would have progressed, but you can see that there is a way to debate that allows you take the lead instead of being jerked around by your opponent.
When you debate a master of deception, you have to be familiar with the tricks of the trade. You have to be able to think 2 or 3 steps ahead of him and you have to be as wise as a serpent, yet gentle as a dove. Put yourself into the character of Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi in the 'Karate Kid', and you won't go wrong.
I played this game as an atheist for 12 years. Trying to trip Christians up in their faith became my hobby, and I discovered that I wasn't alone in my past time. I found a whole pack of rabid atheists on the Internet who shared my philosophy and who were intent on destroying Christianity, one believer at a time. Some of them were university professors and scientists. Some of them were college students.
I remember one 16-year-old kid who was typical in that he struck up a dialogue with me in an effort to bring me to Christ. He told me the usual personal witness, about how Christ had changed him. I recall receiving a lengthy e-mail from him, describing in loving detail how Jesus had died and suffered on the cross.
Of course, this was an outright lie that I had manufactured on the spur of the moment. I didn't even think that this kid would buy it, because it contained an obvious fallacy. If we had copies of the gospels dating to 250 AD and if the original gospels were dated to have been written within 100 AD, then how could they contain accounts of a method of crucifixion that didn't happen until 250 years later?
I wrote back, "You are giving me a fallacy that is known as an appeal to pity. In other words, you are begging me to allow you to persist in a belief that is false because you can't handle reality without it." I didn't have contact with this kid again until almost a year later. I saw him in an agnostic forum, and he had become one of the most foul-mouthed critics of Christianity.
When I had first met him, this young man was no less born again than anyone making the claim. But the foundation for his faith was built upon the historical evidence for Jesus, and when that evidence was called into doubt, it destroyed his faith. He didn't love the truth enough to question a lie and he wasn't familiar with logic, which would have allowed him to spot such a glaring contradiction.
Now you may say that you will just stay away from the Internet and avoid having to deal with this onslaught of anti-Christian badgering . But what do you think happens when people log off of their computers? They don't stop being outspoken when they go back to the classroom or workplace.
INTRO TO LOGIC FOR CHRISTIANS WHO LIKE TO DEBATE
Christians need a quick logic course designed just for them ... And here it is! This small presentation is in no way complete; it is just an introduction to the basics, but it is geared to the arguments of religious matters.
BASIC ELEMENTS OF LOGIC
Logic is the science of correct reasoning. It is a tool that can be used to determine the truth value of opinions.
When opinions conflict, they can result in an ‘argument’. This type of argument is not synonymous with a 'quarrel', although an examination of an argument can indeed lead to one.
The Structure of Argument
Every argument begins with a claim in the form of a proposition. A premise is an assertion that serves as a basis for an argument.
Examples of propositions: Frank is a Catholic. Susan is a member of Church X. Pastors can't be trusted. The pews in my church are old and creaky.
Each proposition is either true or false, but logic analyzes how the truth of propositions is connected with the truth of other propositions.
An argument is a set of two or more propositions that are related to each other in a way that lends support for a conclusion to be drawn. The logical progression in thought that takes a thinker from proposition to conclusion, is called 'inference'. "Frank is a Catholic," "Susan is a member of Church X," "Pastors can't be trusted," "The pews in my church are old and creaky," is just a collection of unrelated propositions; they are not joined in a way where the truth or falsity of one would have any bearing on the truth or falsity on another and there is no inference.
We can construct a simple argument by taking one of the above propositions and supplying it with other supporting propositions and then analyze the relationships between the propositions in order to infer a conclusion.
1. Susan is a member of Church X.
2. All members of Church X tithe 10% of their income.
3. Therefore, Susan tithes 10% of her income.
When the truth of the premises guarantees the truth of the conclusion, the inference taking place is called 'deductive reasoning'.
Deductive inference can be obvious, for obvious reasons!
When the truth of the premises make the conclusion only conceivable or likely to be true, the inference taking place is called 'inductive reasoning'. Inductive reasoning is considered logical when its premises present reasonable evidence or support for the truth of its conclusion.
This is why it is inappropriate for Christians to claim they can 'prove' that God exists. 'Proving' involves a guarantee of the truth of the conclusion, and outside of axiomatic and self-evidential truths, very little of value can be 'proven'. But Christians can certainly claim that they have evidence and use inductive reasoning to support their conclusions.
A violation in the rules of logic results in a fallacy. The best way to not commit a fallacy is to know what one is. Here are some fallacies designed especially for you!
COMMON FALLACIES IN LOGICAL THINKING
False Dilemma; Excluded Middle
Either the Disciples were liars, or Jesus rose from the dead.
One can either acknowledge the logic of science or be a Christian.
Argumentum ad ignorantiam
Argument from Ignorance
God can’t be proven not to exist, therefore He does exist.
God can’t be proven to exist, therefore He doesn’t exist.
If you vote Democrat, pretty soon the Liberals will be making the laws and the next thing you know, there will be a law that forbids you to pray before meals.
If you vote Republican, pretty soon the Christians will be making the laws and the next thing you know, they will be executing people for blasphemy.
Appeal to Consequences
You must believe in God, otherwise life would have no objective meaning.
Life has no objective meaning, therefore, there is no God.
Argumentum ad populum
Appeal to Popularity
85% of Americans believe in God, therefore, God must be real.
95% of scientists believe in evolution, therefore, it had to have taken place.
Argumentum ad hominem
Attacking the Person, not the Argument
You may argue that God doesn’t exist, but that’s only because you want to justify your immorality.
You may argue that God exists, but that’s only because you can’t deal with reality.
Argumentum ad verecundiam
Appeal to Authority
The end of the world will take place on Memorial Day. I read it in the Enquirer.
Arachaya S. has proven that Jesus is a myth based on the movement of the sun.
Anonymous/Fictitio us Authorities
Studies show that 72% of people who ascribe to atheism end up in prison.
They have proven that crucifixion didn’t take place in Rome until after 350 AD.
Begging the question
We know that God exists, since the Bible says God exists. What the Bible says must be true, since God wrote it and God never lies.
We know that man has to have evolved from an ancestor of ape, because evolution is the only scientific theory that explains our existence through natural causes. Science only recognizes natural causes for our existence, so evolution must be true.
Muslims believe in God and Christians believe in God. We shouldn’t argue because we both believe in God.
If God made all of us, then we are all His children and no good God would send His children to Hell.
If science was always right in its theories, evolution would be a fact. But science has been wrong before, and so evolution is false.
If God was real, then we could expect His followers to uphold His morals. But hypocrisy reigns and so God isn’t real.
Stay tuned for updates and more detailed analyses! In the meantime, look up logic sites online. Logic doesn't have to be a drab, emotionless pursuit. It's an exciting adventure that will help you to make your case for faith!
PRACTICAL DEBATE TIPS
A good debate will carry both the promise of intimacy and the risk of your argument's destruction. In order for your opponent to destroy your argument, he must first seek to understand it. In order for you to successfully rebut his counter-argument, you will have to make an attempt to grasp his line of reasoning. Personally, the prospect of being understood has always outweighed the risk of defeat for me. Here are some practical debate tips:
1) Never address your opponent as 'Sir', 'Mr. Soandso', 'Mrs. Soandso', 'Dr. Whosoever', or 'Professor Noitall', even if your opponent has professionally acquired the last two titles. It will give your audience the impression that your opponent has somehow earned your respect and that he is your superior.
Well, Marvin, perhaps you are unable to comprehend the complexity of what I am demonstrating. You do realize, Marvin, that one plus one equals two?
Don't be the first to resort to this nonsense, but if your adversary does, I suggest that you match his attitude, only for the sake of an even argument.
2) Refrain from using sarcasm in text-only debate forums. If the meaning of a statement depends on the tone in which it is read, you are taking the chance that it will be misinterpreted. I occasionally give in to my affinity for sarcasm and the results are never good! Even though my intentions are to display some good natured ribbing, they are frequently misconstrued as sincere hostility.
3) Stay focused and limit your discussion to the main argument. Every now and then, you will meet a hyper individual who hops around the discussion like a kangaroo with a hot foot. The debate will start off simple enough.
4) End the debate with The Final Word. There are those who believe that whoever has the final word wins the debate. Obviously, this mindset could severely restrict one's non-debating activities! You need not continue to beat a dead horse; just make sure it isn't twitching and pronounce it dead. Say something to the effect of "I believe that we have exhausted all avenues of the subject at hand. I maintain my position that [insert position here] is correct and that you have failed to demonstrate how your position overcomes [insert his argument's shortcomings here]".
5) Realize that disagreement does not constitute refutation. I get the impression that many people think that their disagreement with another person's argument disproves the argument. Unless your opponent can logically demonstrate where your argument fails, his disagreement remains an opinion. There is no shame in agreeing to disagree.
6) Realize that agreement does not constitute substantiating. Conversely, unless you can logically present your argument, agreement with your point of view is mere opinion.
7) Keep your integrity. It's all right to be hard hitting, but it isn't fair to sucker punch a potential rival. Don't copy and paste private e-mails to debate forums or web sites where the author of the e-mail isn't even present to defend his points against attack.
8) Always let a good opponent know that he or she is appreciated. Some people who engage in religious debate are sincerely interested in the truth. Most, atheists and theists alike, are not. When you find such a rarity, thank them for their participation and perhaps they will agree to debate with you again."