Thursday, July 30, 2020

Logical Fallacies

Abbreviated Fallacies of Reason

Logical Fallacies

B. Hodge, Biblical Authority Ministries, July 30, 2020

Introduction

Ever come up against a worldview, religion, belief, or an argument that you didn’t know how to deal with? Sometimes you know there is something wrong (i.e., illogical) but you are just not sure why?  It’s frustrating isn’t it?

Believe it or not, this happens all the time with people. We are in a sin-cursed world but even so, I’m actually shocked to see how illogical people often are. I don’t say this lightly. I look back to my own past and sigh, because there were times I was illogical too!

The sad part is that most people espousing something illogical don’t realize they are illogical. Even when people are refuted in today’s day and age, they have no idea they were proved wrong and continue as though they were never falsified regarding a particular belief system. 

Many of you are probably tracking with me at this point because you could name dozens of people off the top of your head who are illogical and accordingly, drive you nuts! But I’m going to ask a simple and profound question…why are so many people illogical? 

Did you ever stop to think about that? The answer is rather easy…by and large, people today were never taught logic. I was never taught it at schools for instance. And yet, logic is the basis for proper logical thinking and reasoning. I had to go out and read books on logic and study it on my own for my personal benefit. Nevertheless, you can go from kindergarten to a PhD without a single logic course. How strange. 

Some people were taught critical thinking skills, but most of these courses do not teach formal and informal logic and associated fallacies, whereas logic is required to have good critical thinking. Logic used to be an everyday course in schools. So why was it removed? With caveats about the article itself, the Huffington Post writes:

“The essence of an education - the ability to think critically and protect oneself from falsehood and lies - may once have been taught in American schools, but, with few exceptions, is today a lost art.”[1]

The article goes on to say:

“Governments have always tried to brainwash children not only by what was taught, but also, and more subtly, by what was omitted.”[2]

Of course, I think the article misses the point of why logic courses were removed (they want to blame standardized testing). The logical answer is that it conflicted with other government-run school goals and something had to give. What other goals? If you look at education from an overview perspective, it’s tough to miss.  

The History of Why Logic Was Removed From Schools

Modern education was largely a Christian endeavor going back to English Christian Robert Raikes in the 1700s and his Sunday School movement that expanded in to weekly schools by churches. Over time, the English government, which were largely Christianized, help subsidize these church schools which were radically helping literacy and England in general.

Before you knew it, many of these schools were essentially taken over by the government (which was becoming more secularized) because they were funding them. In England, this began in the 1800s. In the US Colonies, common education was actually earlier but still under Christian and Biblical teachings though it varied from town to town. 

The Bible was used in schools for nearly every subject, including logic, as God is a logical God, we are made in His image, and He created and sustains all things in a logical fashion. Due to sin, people mess up logic and reasoning and hence, they need training on this subject to correct their thinking.

The Bible subtly came under attack in schools. In the 1800s, the secular notion of long ages in geological rock layers was an attack on the global Flood which accounts for the majority of those same rock layers. Then in the later 1800s, biological evolutionary ideas began being inserted into government-funded schools under the guise of science, although no one had ever observed or repeated the changing of a single-celled organism like an amoeba into a dog. 

Finally in the 1920’s, human evolution began being taught in US schools. This led to the famous Scopes Trial in 1925, where creationists won, but it set the stage to remove the Bible, creation, prayer, and other subjects like logic that were reliant upon Scripture and switch them to the religion of man (i.e., naturalism, secular humanism, and atheism), which now dominates our school systems.  

By the 1950s, kids would go into a class on biology, earth science, and history which were now dominated by evolution and then go to a class on logic and see the fallacies of an evolutionary worldview. This conflict meant something had to go. Without question, logic was then weeded out and finally omitted with rare exceptions and if by providence, it was at your school it was usually an elective but not required.[3]

We now have whole generations who are largely ignorant of logic. In other words, instead of generations being taught “how to think”, they were told “what to think”. So much for freedom when people are raised up and trained to be pawns in a larger spiritual war. 

For instance, we have whole generations who do not realize that opinions do not equal truth. Yet our entire court system of judgments are based on “opinions”.  We have a magazine called “Reason” run by people whose atheistic and materialistic worldview cannot account for the existence of reason since it isn’t material. And yet, they fail to realize how inconsistent that is.

When a person calls someone a derogatory name, the someone in question get offended instead of seeing that it is merely an emotive language fallacy (specifically epithet fallacies) and has no bearing on truth. But this is the state of culture we now live in in the Western World. Logical thought is largely absent. When God gives a nation over to be judged in Romans 1:18-22, they became futile in their thinking (illogical):

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools…(Romans 1:12-22 Emphasis Added, ESV)      

What is logic?

Logic is defined by Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary as,

Logic, used strictly in the singular, is a science that deals with the formal principles of reason.”[4]

Simply put, logic is the study of correct and incorrect reasoning. It is a tool, but not a tool made of material things (like atoms) but an immaterial construct. Logic doesn’t have mass; you can’t trip on it in the middle of the night. Yet all of creation obeys logic, which gives us a taste of how God uphold His creation in a reasonable way.  

The most basic law of logic is the Law of Non-Contradiction which states that something cannot be “A” and “Not A” in the same relationship and at the same time. In other words, you cannot have a drink in your hand and not have a drink in your hand at the same time and in the same relationship. 

A fallacy is when an argument violates sounds logic or sound reasoning. Sometimes an argument can violate more than one fallacy at once. There are informal and formal fallacies. I’ll give listing of these in a moment.  

The tool of logic become essential when dealing with arguments (not yelling matches but exchanges and dialogues on differing views). An argument can have premises (certain accepted information), propositions (chain of statements and premises), and conclusions (using propositions and premises to lead to another truth claim). Sometimes a premise or conclusion is unstated and these are called enthymemes.

Arguments can be deductive (the conclusion definitely follows) or inductive (the conclusion is likely or probably the case, but not definitely—i.e., leans in the direction of where the argument is pointing). With an inductive argument the conclusion can be strong or weak. In a deductive argument, it can be valid (the conclusion follows the premises) or invalid (the conclusion does not follow the premises).

There is also propaganda too (where something is “propped” up to convince you about something but it isn’t necessarily true through any logical means, yet in some cases commits fallacies as well. Okay I get it—this sounds like a lot of terminology but you do this and deal with logic all the time whether you realize it or not. Using concision, let’s look at some Informal Fallacies, Formal Fallacies, and Propaganda Types. Keep in mind these concise listings are often the content of entire books, curricula, and lectures on logic. 

Listing of Some Informal Fallacies

1. Linguistic (Language) Fallacies

 

a. Emotive Language Fallacy (Words lacking defined language – Usually biased to upset someone) Question Begging Epithet; Epithet Fallacies
b. Ambiguity Fallacy (Vague general words)

c. Equivocation Fallacy (Using more than one sense of the word, tone, paraphrasing, multiple interpretations of a word, or incorrect assumption about a word) –Bait-And-Switch Fallacy
d. Misinterpretation of a Statement Fallacy (Not just a word – violations of context) –Contextual Fallacy
e. Figure of Speech Fallacy (Misusing idioms)
f. Composition Fallacy (Using a statement to judge the whole, using some small thing to illustrate the whole thing) –Part-to-Whole
g. Fallacy of Division (Dividing things that are not divisible or using the whole to judge one statement [opposite of Composition] ) –Whole-to-Part
h. Vicious Abstraction Fallacy (Changing the argument to something else to try to prove the other point)

i. Either-Or Fallacy (Making someone choose between two things when there are other possible options) False Dilemma; Bifurcation; False Dichotomy; Trifurcation (Like bifurcation but with limiting to three possibilities when more exist)

j. Double Standard Fallacy (Say one thing and do another or applying something unequally depending on who is making the case) –Special Pleading

k. No True Scotsman Fallacy (When one defines a word or argument in such a biased way to protect the argument from rebuttal)


2. Irrelevant Evidence Fallacies

 

a. Irrelevance Fallacy (Introducing and/or jumping to disproving the wrong point) –Red Herring; Irrelevant Thesis
b. Ignorance Fallacy (Assuming something is true because one is ignorant to the subject)
c. Pity Fallacy (Pity or looking for sympathy)
d. Respect Fallacy (Giving heirs to truth due to prestige, respect, etc)

e. Disrespect Fallacy (Condemning an argument because of where/how/who began it) – Genetic Fallacy
f. By Force Fallacy (Making everyone think it is the truth by force and power)
g. Attack the Person Fallacy (Attacking the person not the point) –Ad Hominem
h. Prejudice/Masses Fallacy (Appeal to the masses, prejudice of groups) –Appeal to the People

i. Strawman fallacy (When someone attacks or refutes a distorted view of what their opponent believes instead of their actual position)

j. Slippery Slope Fallacy (Absurdly extrapolating)

k. Guilt By Association Fallacy (falsely trying to link one group or set of ideas to another known group or known set of ideas that is false)


3. Material Fallacies

 

a. Fallacy of Accident (Apply a general rule because of an obscure event)
b. Converse Fallacy of Accident (Come up with science rules and laws based on accidents)
c. False Cause Fallacy (Because something randomly happened by accident doesn’t mean it always will or just because something happened before something else doesn’t mean it caused the other) –Post Hoc/Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc
d. Failed Step Fallacy (Conclusions do not follow the logic)  –Non Sequitur
e. Compound Questions Fallacy (Using one or more questions to try to trick the opponent) –Compound Question Fallacy; Loaded Question Fallacy, Complex Question Fallacy, Fallacy of the False Question, Fallacy of Many Questions, Trick Question Fallacy
f. Begging the Question Fallacy (Using itself to prove itself in an arbitrary sense) –Circular Reasoning, Petito Principii
g. Agreeable Fallacy (Agree because you do it yourself) –Tu Quoque
h. Misplaced Authority Fallacy (Asking an expert to give an opinion about something he is not an expert in) –Faulty Appeal to Authority/False Authority Fallacy
i. Genetic Error Fallacy (Determining if it is true by who is saying it now)
j. False Analogy Fallacy (Using a similar argument to argue the point regardless of different circumstances) –Weak Analogy
k. Insufficient Evidence Fallacy (Inadequate evidence and then jump to a conclusion) –Lack of Evidence
l. Contrary to Fact Conditional Error Fallacy (Alters historical facts and draws conclusions from them)
m. Contrary to Premise Fallacy (Self-contradicting right from the start)
n. Hasty Generalizations (Generalizing about a class or group based on a small sample)

o. Reification Fallacy (Treating abstract concepts, objects, and events of nature as real things with human characteristics) –Anthropomorphic Fallacy; Anthropomorphism

p. Personification Fallacy (A type of reification fallacy that treats animals as though they have human characteristics)

q. Pathetic Fallacy (A type of reification fallacy reflecting human feelings, actions, or emotions through inanimate objects)

r. The Fallacy Fallacy (Just because there is a fallacy, doesn’t mean the conclusion must be wrong—sometimes a conclusion can still be right even when falsely-argued)

s. The Offense Fallacy (Something is wrong merely because someone is offended by it)

 

Formal Fallacies

 

Formal fallacies can be stated in forms and improper forms lead to fallacies. There are two main type of formal fallacies—Affirming the Consequent and Denying the Antecedent. They are improper forms of good logical flow called Modus Ponens and Modus Tollens. 

 

(1) If p, then q. (2) p. (3) therefore, q.                               Valid; Modus Ponens

(1) if p, then q. (2) q. (3) Therefore, p.                             Invalid; Affirming the Consequent Fallacy

 

 

(1) If p, then q. (2) Not q. (3) therefore, not p.                 Valid; Modus Tollens

(1) If p, then q. (2) Not p. (3) therefore, not q.                 Invalid; Denying the Consequent Fallacy

 

An excellent example of an Affirming the Consequent Fallacy is:

 

If millions of years is true (p), then we should find fossils (q)

We find fossils (q), therefore millions of years is true (p)

 

This is one of the most common fallacies I’ve seen in a secular worldview and it is espoused over and over again. This could just as easily be reversed for creation (just switch the words “millions of years” with “Creation and the Flood”)  which shows the arbitrariness of the fallacy.  

 

Propaganda Types

 

Propaganda is used to get people to act on something or believe something by simply appealing to something or someone. Advertisements are mastery at this:

 

“Get it while it lasts, supplies are limited!”—Exigency Propaganda

“Everyone else is doing it, come and join in”—Bandwagon Propaganda

“Get the latest gadget” —Appeal to Technology Propaganda

“Stop being old-fashioned and join our movement because we are progressive”—Appeal to Progression Propaganda

 

Specific propaganda types:

 

a.  Appeal to Fear (Trying to get people to do something or else there may be consequences that you don’t want to happen)

b.  Appeal to Pity (Trying to get you to do something out of pity)

c.  Bandwagon (Pressuring because many others are doing it)

d.  Exigency (Giving time limits to influence you)

e.  Repetition (Repeating something so many times that people begin to believe it regardless of the facts)

f.  Transfer (Trying to transfer a thought of one thing/person to another thing/person)

g.  Snob Appeal (Trying to get people to think they are better than everyone else)

h.  Appeal to Tradition (Trying to influence due to tradition or age)

i.   Appeal to Technology (Trying to influence via the latest thing)

j.   Appeal to Progression (Trying to influence through the construct of progress)

 

Conclusion

Logic is a powerful means of understating truth claims and false claims. It helps us take the “emotion” out of an argument and see the truth for what it is. Logic is predicated on a logical God existing and upholding the world in a logical state. God knows all things and is never wrong on any matter and is the very standard for logic and truth.

We, as beings made in the image of a logical God, are poised to understand and use logic in this sin-cursed world, where people are often illogical, to make sense of things. I want to encourage you to learn proper logic and train yourself to do better at reasoning and not get caught up in “futile thinking”.   



[1] Frank Breslin, Why Public Schools Don’t Teach Critical Thinking — Part 1, Huffington Post, August 7, 2016,  https://www.huffpost.com/entry/why-public-schools-dont-t_b_7956518.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Textbooks for logic became a thing of the past like McCall’s Basic Logic from 1947, Ambrose and Lazerowitz’s 1948 Fundamentals of Symbolic Logic, and Burtt’s 1938 Principles and Problems of Right Thinking soon only gathered dust in libraries.

[4] Merriam-Webster Dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/logic, accessed July 29, 2020.


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