Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I've got your meaning right here...

Why is it so hard for people today to understand basic logic when making arguments and assertions?

I've just had another email from an aquaintance 'logically' proving that God must exist and evolution cannot 'logically' be true. Are you fucking kidding me? Hey, if that's what you believe and you want to make a point for it, fine. But don't toss up a load of pseudo-logic as your argument.

This most current email had some fine logic like this. I have found the Bible and that has given my life meaning - therefore, evolution is not possible because that would mean life has no meaning.


A logically correct statement might be - I have found the Bible and that has given my life meaning, therefore it might do the same for you. Why is that okay? Because it makes no claims of certainty that can't be substantiated while asserting that the possibility exists for something that worked in one case to work in another.

A + B led to C.

I (A) added the Bible (B) to my life and that led to my life having meaning (C). That may be true, but that statement - or argument - is only certain for that particular I. If A is someone other than this particular I, then the argument may or may not be true.

For example, Shawn (me) has read the Bible and it has not given my life any more meaning than it already had. So I could argue that A + B did not lead to C. Nobody but me can disprove that statement. But, if I try to apply it to other people, it may or may not be true. Therefore it is not a valid logical argument to apply universally.

Let me go back to the original argument for a minute. In the original argument, the person bugging the crap out of me with their annoyingly faulty email uses the same argument to claim that evolution could not possibly be true.

Essentially, they were saying: A + B led to C, so therefore D cannot be true.

Give me a break.

Why is it so hard for people who evangelize to just say they don't know, but they choose to believe what they believe? Good lord, even Buddhists will tell you that they don't know and maybe it's all horse shit.

Personally, Buddhism works for me. It might work for others, but I don't know.

In fact, it probably won't work for most folks in America since most of us come from a Christian background and that's easier for us to understand. You'll never hear me pushing my beliefs on anyone else, although I'm willing to argue the merits. And I'm also clever enough to realize that although religion and philosophy may play a part in science, neither are suitable standins for science.

Anyway, if others want to believe that a luminous being with a long, flowing beard and blue eyes created the universe in six days, that's fine with me. Just don't come at me with an argument that is nothing more than - I believe it so it's true.

And don't use some ridiculous logic that there's no way for the big bang to have occurred because all this matter had to come from somewhere so therefore God must have done it. Because guess what? The question left in that argument is the same one left in the previous one - where did God come from? And I'm sorry to lay this on you, but it's pretty likely that none of us will get to know the answer - at least not in this life.

The world can be pretty uncertain. Deal with it however you choose, but don't pretend to speak for everyone when you find something that makes you feel more secure.

And please, please, please don't try and prove your point by making statements that have no logic to them.


aek said...

I'm Thai to visit here.

Bella_by_Barlight said...

I've wondered myself why people making statements based on personal experience or belief feel the need to deal the logic card. Maybe on some level they know their argument is weak and hope to bolster it by alluding to a case for logic - or it could be that along with having a limited and misguided understanding of reality, they are also mistaken as to the meaning of the word "logic" and think that "logic" is a personal and flexible construct.

Slade said...

Good job on your rebutal(sp?). You should respond to that email by cutting and pasting what you just posted!

I am one of those crazy Christians who believes both! In fact, I think it is rather stupid to say that evolution does not exist...and you can't really use the bible to defend this because it doesn't say word for word in there that evolution doesn't exist...and most of these evangelicals claim to believe it word for there you have it.

sme said...

Aussie creationist Ken Ham once argued that evolution cannot occur because the struggle for survival among species would mean that God is a monster, forcing animals to compete with one another. So, um, what would that say about life today? *deafening silence*

People who make goofy arguments are only willing and able to take them so far. Then they hit a brick wall and walk away even dizzier than when they started. Another classic example from Christianity is the "watchmaker" (First Cause)argument for intelligent design. If a watch works, someone must have designed it to work. But as Bertrand Russell would have asked, "Who made the watchmaker?" Or as Lois Lane asked, "Who's got you?"

One of the Russian royals, asked why she believed that a factory worker was really the Grand Duchess Anastasia, admitted, "My religion teaches me to make decisions based on emotion, not logic." I totally admire that kind of honesty.

Shawn said...

Bella - Some people get annoyed by bad grammar, or spelling...for me it's faulty logic.

By the way, I've really enjoyed your recent photos that you've posted.

Slade - There is definitely room for religion and science to co-exist. Ultimately, religious beliefs are just that...beliefs. And the way to strengthen faith isn't to disregard anything that seems to contradict one's beliefs, but to explore those beliefs more deeply.

SME - The watchmaker idea appeals to our desire for order and meaning, that's for sure. Most people seem to need a sense of order and meaning and recoil from the idea that there isn't someone at the wheel.

Josh said...

"Faith needs a doubt," as Bono (like so many others) put it, gosh, almost 20 years ago now.

It baffles me that anyone can believe in a loving God who blessed us with brains he didn't want us to use. I understand, though, that as the world becomes an increasingly fast-moving and confusing place, it's a natural reaction for some people to cling to the ideas of the past. Psychological shelter is as necessary for healthy survival as physical shelter.

It just seems to me, though, that these people entirely miss the point of religion, or at least of Christianity. The point is not to believe so that God will keep you safe. Nor is the point to focus on the reward you'll be getting in the afterlife. The point is to be freed from the cares of the material world so that you can concentrate living the message, as it were, and to acknowledge and understand that you will fail but that no failure is irrevocable. Life is not safe. Religion will not change that. It just acts to remind you, as you practice it, that there are bigger things out there.

So that, say, you can recognize that abortion is a Bad Thing but appreciate that, ultimately, the matter is in God's hands—leaving you free to concentrate not on shooting doctors or screaming and waving fetus-pictures at teenage girls, but on fixing the things that lead to abortion: poverty, crime, and a careless disregard for sexual well-being.

Anyway, the American Christians who complain about the religion being "under attack" drive me nuts. We are certainly in a better position than the Christians of 2,000 years ago, and look how they did! To worry that Hollywood, gay rights proponents, Harry Potter, or any other external influence is going to wipe out Christianity demonstrates a disturbing lack of faith (as Darth might put it). To paraphase Bono again (from the same album): The God I believe in isn't short of almighty power, mister. So stop acting like you're the only thing standing between him and his imminent destruction.

tshsmom said...

As a non-church-going Christian, I have to say that prosletyzing makes me RETCH!
I work with 2 Baptists and avoid religious discussions at all costs! Their justification for their lack of facts is "Our pastor said so". ARGHHHH!!!

Miranda said...

Dots give my life meaning, therefore they cannot have a demonic creator.

No, more seriously, I believe in evolution as change over time. I don't think there is sufficient evidence to prove speciation.

Josh: Why shouldn't people also believe that poverty, crime, and a careless disregard for sexual well-being are things in Gods hands?

And Christianity is under attack.
The references to it in America are becoming less welcome and even barred. We can argue about whether or not that's fair or unfair, but I think, pretty clearly, there are attacks. That is not to say most other religions aren't. Judaism and Islam certainly are as well. so is Atheism.

Josh said...

Miranda, I just mean that it's neither a Christian's role to mete out punishment, nor to mandate how anybody else lives their life. There's a qualitative difference between trying to enforce other people's behavior and focusing on what you can do to effect positive change. And in spite of what much of the public face of American Christianity would have us believe, the Christian's role is always the latter, and never the former.

Speaking as a lifelong Christian who's lived in the Midwest and on both coasts, I don't think Christianity is under attack at all. Quite the opposite—I hang out with many people who don't identify as Christian, and far from trying to question my beliefs, they're very interested in them. I think (1) Christianity has become practiced by vastly fewer Americans, because (2) Christianity is deeply misunderstood, because its public face has been largely represented for years by fundamentalists and (3) fundamentalism is what is under attack.

Keeping organized prayer out of government-run schools is not an attack on Christianity. Trying to remove "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance is not an attack on Christianity. The pro-gay-marriage movement is not an attack on Christianity. These things are all just aspects of a recognition that our governmental institutions can't justly operate under religious principles, because among the governed are many people who don't share those particular religious beliefs. None of these things have affected my personal relationship with God, and I'm pretty sure they haven't affected anybody else's. If you're thinking of any specific attacks that have impacted anyone's ability to worship in their churches or homes or to keep a humble, loving heart, then please mention them.

My Christianity, and many other people's, is alive and well. And even if I did feel under attack, I am pretty sure Jesus never promised us an easy path. I am equally sure he promised that the point was not to fight back, but to hew to his teachings in the face of persecution. So whether Christianity is under attack or not doesn't really matter. The beliefs and actions of other people aren't going to keep me from trying to live my faith. I mean, the worst they can do is kill me, right?

tshsmom said...

That was BEAUTIFUL Josh!
My thoughts exactly!

Jurgen Nation said...

There go those goddamned scientists again with all their facts and shit.

Creationism cannot be proven and nor, some think, can evolution. So...there is no right answer. I know what's right for me and I know that there's supposed to be a separation of church and state. So long as there is that separation, anyone can think whatever they want. DO NOT. FORCE. YOUR VIEWS. ON ME. (Not you, Shawn, I mean generally.) First, you don't have to have faith to have values and/or morality and I resent that some think that you need to. Second, faith cannot and should not be legislated. People voted for 43 based on "values" and "morality." Well, that worked out nicely.

Josh said...

Hey, thanks, TSHSMom! ;-)