Category Archives: Logic

Ayn Rand; Brilliant? Fool? Both? pt. 1

As a philosophy instructor I’ve of course learned and taught about Ayn Rand, but only recently have I really looked at her, as a person, instead of “just” the philosophy she adopted as her own and presented to the public.  Ayn had a lot of interesting philosophies, and many of those philosophies have a place in our current society, and could even be embraced by Christians; however, Ayn also had many personal and psychological issues that get in the way of her own philosophy.

Contrary to Ayn’s own apparent belief, her philosophy had been around for thousands of years before she was born; her objectivism wasn’t so much a new philosophy, as it was a mix of philosophies that could be found in the annals of philosophy that came before her.  She also lacked a logical basis for her philosophy, though that idea would insult her very much.

First, a run down of what “objectivism” is, according to Ayn. Objectivism is espoused to be an answer to subjectivism.  Objectivists like Ayn believe that our senses actually and accurately inform us about reality.  Human logic stands in for God (which is an illogical position that I’ll address later); meaning Ayn believed that human reason alone could result in absolutes.  For example, we can rationally conceive of a morality totally defined via human reason and have it be absolute.

One of the hallmarks of Ayn’s morality was the idea of selfishness; that selfishness is morally right.  She was fond of bashing (and misunderstanding) altruism, as well as Christianity. And, the one big thing we’ve heard recently because of the state of our economy and country; she pushed for laissez-faire capitalism with extraordinarily limited gov’t interference in the business world.

Ayn’s philosophies never caught on in any academic sphere.  One reason; she disliked academics, so there was her strike against the liberals.  She disliked religion and denied there was a God, so there was her strike against the conservatives.  She effectively cut off both routes to respect and implementation of her philosophies (this is important because one reason she wrote what she did when she did was to try to change the directions of the U.S.).  While her philosophies are popular amongst college/high school students, it is her stories that are popular amongst the “common folk” whom she often complained did not understand the deeper implications of her work.

Surprisingly enough, Ayn was anti-feminist and anti-homosexual, finding both positions to be immoral and disgusting.  She had odd ideas about sex and sexuality that are apparent just by reading her fiction stories.  To be a “good” objectivist was to believe that it was the man’s place to be worshiped, and a woman’s place to be submissive and to be owned.  Authors tend to write themselves into certain characters and by reading Ayn’s descriptions of her female characters, we can see a common thread that is both sad and disturbing.  I intend to take a look at this in my next blog post as well as discussing her take on altruism and morality.

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Filed under Atheism, Logic, Of Interest, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion and Politics

Blog comments reminder

It has been awhile since I drew attention to the “Respect” tab at the top of my blog.  Please read it before you comment, it explains the idea of respect, and also the very serious responsibility I have to make sure that the truth is upheld.  This is especially important after I write a post that gets the atheist’s anger stirred up.

Christianity, as contained in the Bible, is indeed the Truth and I say that based on evidence and on a lifetime of research into both Christianity and all other major religions, blind faith is not looked on well here; proselytizing of other religions, including atheism is clearly not permitted.  If you can’t abide by the rules, don’t bother commenting.  You have your own forums and blogs for that.  Logical fallacy in the form of personal attack ad hominem doesn’t add to a conversation.

Don’t feed the trolls.

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Filed under Apologetics, Atheism, Christianity, Logic

The Great Chick-fil-A kerfuffle of 2012…

I know I’ve been absent from my blog for a bit, but I’ll be back to writing more regularly soon. Meanwhile I just had to comment on the whole Chick-fil-A controversy. First, I beg anyone that is interested in weighing in to read the chief executive’s words before responding.

He has made it clear in the past that he is going to run his corporation in a manner that he sees as inline with Christian mainstream belief. Now everyone is suddenly shocked that he doesn’t support gay marriage. Oh my! Who woulda ever seen that coming? Sarcasm aside, he has the right to his freedom of speech. There is nothing in what he said that is hateful or bigoted. The other issue being screamed over? Which charities and organizations the corporation gives money to. Guess what; when you make the money, you get to decide who it goes to.

If you want to give money to a different cause, bully for you. I’m a Christian (duh), and would I give my money to all the same organizations as they do? No. I do a little something called work, which I get paid for. I can then decide where to give my money. It also holds true that people are free to boycott whom they choose; don’t like a company, don’t buy from them. The only problem I have in this case is that politicians, in positions of power, are trying to deny Chick-fil-A equality in a way that is unconstitutional. And, before anyone goes screaming at me about same sex marriage rights; guess what? I’m all for equality for all; the government should not get to say who can and cannot be married, everyone should have civil unions. It is God that ultimately says who is or is not married, not the state. Each church and each pastor needs to decide who they will or won’t perform ceremonies for.

People on both sides of the issue should stop, breathe, and ask themselves if they have actually been given a reason for being upset, or might it just be that politicians and manipulators on both sides of this “issue,” are manufacturing outrage with pure rhetoric?

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Filed under Humor, Logic, Musings, Of Interest

Wishful Thinking…

There is an actual fallacy in formal logic usually labeled something like “wishful thinking.”  This is when someone either accepts a claim, or urges acceptance of a claim based solely on the fact that it would be great if it were true.  Now, most times this is a lot more subtle in nature than stating the phrase outright (“wouldn’t it be great if…”), and is used by some of the best public speakers.  There is a subtle manipulation of emotion involved and it is more of an appeal to that emotion than to any type of actual logic or reality.

Now, why is this a topic for the Christian Scribbler?  I actually see this in a lot of apologetics for non-scripturally backed “Christian” religion.  What I mean by this is that a true Christian that studies the scriptures, and believes them, are a lot less likely to fall pray to this particular fallacy.  As an example there are some people who profess Christ that believe that God is like a cosmic Genie who is bound to answer every request…wouldn’t that be nice?  Wouldn’t that be the way God would operate in an ideal world?

At best, this approach is a misapplication of scripture, at worst it is idolatry; forming God into an image instead of learning of God Himself, how He really is, NOT how we would “like” Him to be or “wish” Him to be.  I see this amongst most non-believers as well.  They paint pictures of God as they wish to see Him, and then reject those pictures; you see “wishful thinking” can work the other way as well….”Wouldn’t it be great if this wasn’t true!?”  So it can apply to the rejection of claims too (again, it is a lot more subtle than this, but you get the point).  This can go hand-in-hand with the straw man fallacy.

One of the other areas I see this in is the idea of Christ alone as the approach to God.  Meaning there is this undercurrent of  “wouldn’t it be great if Christ wasn’t the only way to God, and all religions actually wind up taking people to God?”  The sad thing is, is that I see this amongst people that claim to be Christian.  The fallacy is that wishing it does not make it true.  Truth is all about reality.  With God, the fallacy of wishful thinking is even more dangerous; it elevates what we think would be best over God’s plan that is absolutely the best, since it springs from a perfect mind that has perfect power, including perfect love.  We should trust what God reveals over our own opinion about what would be “best,” for the evidence abounds that He can indeed be trusted in every circumstance to work it out to His perfect plan in His perfect timing, which winds up being best for humanity.

The reminder is this; don’t let sentimentality or wishful thinking blur truth, and just because we want something to be true doesn’t mean it is.  What we find in objective Truth is actually more wonderful, more “freeing” than anything we could ever come up with on our own.  One last thing, this fallacy is not the same thing as hope.  Hope is not a logical fallacy, hope accepts the truth, accepts reality,  and it also trusts, and expects good.  Hope makes us stronger, whereas the logical fallacy of wishful thinking actually weakens us, and our positions, because it is not based in truth.

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Filed under Christianity, Logic

The problem of evil? Part 1…

I’ve gone over some of the arguments for the existence of God, now I’m going to turn to the one major philosophical argument against their being of God.  Please hang in there with me; I’m doing this in several parts since I’m trying to fight off a lovely illness, and I don’t feel like typing for long periods of time at the present. :)

This argument against God is often called “The problem of evil,” though even more often people just ask it as a question, such as, “If God exists why is there evil in the world?”

The philosopher Hume put it this way; “Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”

Some other vocabulary will suffice in this introduction; the difference between natural evil and moral evil.  Natural evil is that evil that occurs because of nature, or the natural world; if I trip and fall, gravity will pull me down.  Sometimes when we trip, we break a bone, which leads to suffering…that is one example.  Also things like starving, or drowning.  Anything that is a result of a natural law, or an effect can be considered a natural evil.

Moral evil is much more “personal” to humans.  This evil springs from human will.  Anything we do to ourselves or others falls in this category; murder, torture, rape, abuse, etc…. are examples of moral evil.

So, evil is present in our world, not many people dispute that.  Most don’t dispute that it is a bad thing either…especially moral evil.  In my next few posts I’ll be looking at different responses to this idea of “the problem of evil,” including mankind’s free will, and also asking if it is even a logical argument against God.

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Filed under Apologetics, Atheism, Logic, Philosophy

Correlation does not equal causation…

Repeat it with me folks: “Correlation does NOT equal causation.”  I realized, whilst watching the news this morning, that this indeed a very important concept for people to really grasp.  I mean, I know it is important because I teach it in both my college Psych course and in Logic…but, I didn’t really realize how many people don’t really get the meaning of that phrase.

So, if two things are correlated, they do indeed have a relationship; for one example as one variable rises, so does the incident of another variable.  For a real world example, I’ll use this morning’s news blurb; A study has found a correlation between autism and rainy weather.

This means that kids raised in a place with more rainy weather had a greater incident of autism than those who were not.  Now…the common mistake is for someone to latch onto that and exclaim, “So, rainy weather causes autism!” No, no, no, no, no…no.

Just because something has a relationship does not speak to cause and effect.  You cannot make the claim that rainy weather causes autism, because that is not what the study found…all you can say is that rainy weather and autism rates are correlated.

This is something the news anchor didn’t seem to grasp and began to ridicule the study.  Now maybe the study was a poor one, I don’t know, but I do know that there was no claim made in the study that the rain causes autism.  Now, it is possible to study this further, which I’m sure will be done, but the point of this blog post is to hammer this fact into people’s head; just because there is a relationship between two things, it does not mean one caused the other.

The person being interviewed understood this, and gave an example of what could be happening (remember, this is just speculation); perhaps kids that live in rainy environs do not go outside nearly as much as those who live in sunny environs…that would have several possible impacts.  The rainy kids may watch much more TV, get less exercise, be vitamin D deficient, may not interact as much socially with others since they are stuck in the house, etc… OR perhaps there are chemicals in the rain, blah, blah, blah.

This mistake of thinking correlation equals causation is a very common one, especially in “scientific” research (“scientific” is in quotes because some supposedly scientific research is anything but).  Mainly it is misunderstood by people trying to interpret research, including reporting in the news media.

Here’s another example that every single one of my students knows, and loves: It is a fact that as ice cream sales rise, so does the number of deaths from drowning.  Now, the mistake would be to think that eating more ice cream causes more people to drown…what’s really going on?  Think about it.  That’s right; it’s summer time; ice cream sales and deaths from drowning are indeed correlated positively.  In summer, both variable are affected as more people buy ice cream in the summer, and more people also do water activities in the summer.

So, remember: Correlation does not equal causation.

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Filed under Logic, Musings

Apologetics; The Ontological Argument for God…

I must admit, right off the bat that this philosophical argument for God, in its “simplistic” form is one of my least favorites, though when seen as a set of arguments for God, it makes much more logical sense.  As with the other two philosophical arguments I’ve already blogged on: The Teleological and Cosmological, this argument is presented as a “general” support for God, not religion specific.

St. Anselm is kind of the “go-to” philosopher for the Ontological Argument, and it revolves around that idea of God, “that than which nothing greater can be conceived.”  Then, through different logical arguments winds up with the conclusion that God must then exist.

If God is defined, not as just a definition, but as a being that is the most perfect being in existence, or the greatest being possible, then the argument goes that He does indeed exist.  Why?  Because God is the greatest or most perfect being, and it is greater to exist than to not, therefore God must exist.

To put it simplistically; which would you rather have a million imaginary dollars, or a million real dollars?  Which is greater?

The big argument against the Ontological argument for God comes in the form of a question; Is existence a “predicate?”  A predicate is a defining property or, if you like, a defining characteristic or attribute.  Does the fact of existence actually add anything meaningful to the idea of God?

Well…that is a good question if we stop at Anselm’s first argument, but if we continue to look at his arguments it becomes clear that there is logical reason to see God’s existence a predicate.  This “second” argument of Anselm’s revolves around this notion; God is a greater being if He cannot not exist; if His existence is necessary.  If His existence is necessary, then it would indeed be a predicate.

Basically the logical idea boils down to two possibilities; since God is not a limited being, either His existence is impossible or it is necessary.  The existence of God is not impossible, therefore because of His nature and the nature of existence, His existence is necessary.

To put it in the words of Norman Malcolm (1963), “If God, a being a greater than which cannot be conceived, does not exist then He cannot come into existence or have happened to come into existence, and in either case He would be a limited being, which by our conception of Him He is not.  Since He cannot come into existence, if He does not exist His existence is impossible. If he does exist He cannot have come into existence (for the reasons given), nor can He cease to exist, for nothing could cause Him to cease to exist nor could it just happen that He ceased to exist.  So if God exists His existence is necessary.  Thus God’s existence is either impossible or necessary.  It can be the former only if the concept of such a being is self-contradictory or in some way logically absurd.  Assuming that this is not so, if follows that He necessarily exists.” (Knowledge and Certainty: Essays and Lectures)

Breathe.  Take your time and read it over again slowly…it definitely is a logical argument that can confuse if read too fast.  The first time I read the Ontological argument it felt as though someone was trying to pull the wool over my eyes, or just simply put one over on me.  It takes some time to really grasp the logical argument in all of this.

Scriptural backing for this philosophical idea from a Christian perspective?  I find the most compelling parallels in the very names of God, such as I AM that I AM, and also titles such as “The Almighty.”  The first shows God’s self-existence, and the second shows His supremacy over all things created.

Genesis 17:1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God…

The idea of God as the ultimate being is readily apparent as well:

Revelation 1:8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.

His necessity is also clear, when we read of Him being The Creator of all things;

Isaiah 40:28 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

So, both we as humans define God in a certain way even just on a philosophical level, and God Himself has revealed to us that He is indeed the greatest being possible, that His existence is necessary, and that He does indeed exist.

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Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Logic, Names of God, Philosophy, Theology

Proof surrogates and the Fed Bailout Plan…

I had to figure out an excuse to blog about the Fed Bailout Plan, so I’ll throw in a Logic lesson.  I’ve already blogged on some other rhetorical devices, and here’s another: Proof surrogates.

A proof surrogate is worded in such a way as to try to convice others that you’ve offered actual reason, evidence, or proof for something, when indeed you haven’t.  Examples of proof surrogates include; “everyone knows,” “people say,” “studies show” (without giving the actual studies or authors), “clearly,” “it’s obvious,” or just repeating the same thing over and over to try to be convincing, etc….

The spokespeople in the congress are providing a lot of proof surrogates, as well as those in the news media.  The politicians are at a loss as to why their constituents do not want this bill passed.  Well…at this point it is because the American people are being logical, and asking for actual reasons and explanations of this whole mess.  I firmly believe we aren’t against aiding the system, per se, it just feels like we are receiving a whole lot of rhetoric, and not enough info.

If I hear the proof surrogate, “this important piece of legislation” one more time, I’m going to throw up (that’s hyperbole, by-the-way, I’m not really going to throw up).  That’s the point; we don’t know if it is an important piece of legislation or not…no one is giving us real evidence or info.  This is non-partisan; both sides are doing it.

“If we don’t pass this important piece of legislation, it will be bad…really bad.”  Yeah, that’s convincing.

If the Gov’t was really interested in getting the people on board with this they need to hire at least two people; an independent (not connected politically) business genius, and an independent psychologist to come up with an advertisement or spot that can be ran on the media outlets.  They would do a much better job giving us actual facts about the business implications, and do it in a way that we would pay attention to, and care about. (Oh, for a Ross Perot graph!  Never thought I’d say that.)

I understand the fundamentals, but that’s not good enough in this case.  Why?  Because they are taking my money to do it, an if there’s one thing I know about finances is that you don’t blindly give your money to someone else to invest for you, unless you know alot about them and what they are going to do with your cash…and yes, that may be a big problem…we know what the Gov’t likes to do with our money…

“This is going to affect main street, not just Wall Street.”  Proof surrogate.  Precisely how is it going to affect main street.  It’s going to limit the amount of money we can borrow from banks…it limits our credit.  Well!  Wasn’t all this fast and loose credit how we got into this in the first place?  Give me more details!  Why don’t we loan the taxpayers money to those small businesses instead of those big businesses that lost all their money through poor management and bad loans?  Go interview someone that knows something, throw in some interviews with an actual middle class person that this is destroying their lives right now, even as we speak…oh, wait, the stock market was up today…

I have no doubt that the economy is bad.  I have no doubt that the greed of those in positions of power in these private companies did bad things.  I also know people are living too far above their means, taking out loans that they never should be taking out, and our gov’t wants us to be a bunch of consumers.  I’m sure a good plan could be devised that doesn’t turn us into a bunch of socialists, and that preserves the free market I know and love…and maybe this bailout plan is it, but we wouldn’t know because we are being treated like children, and to logical arguments with real evidence is being presented to us.

Get on the ball Washington!

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Filed under Logic, Of Interest

Two great videos on the cell…

Here is a vid from several years ago, you’ll need to click on the link to read the article and watch the video.  Cellular Visions.

The second vid was posted by VipChannel on youtube, my hubby “The ‘Shrink” spied it first, and put it up on his blog; Intelligent Design:

We are truly without excuse! Romans 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

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Filed under Apologetics, Logic, Of Interest, Origins

Critical Thinking; Euphemisms vs. Dysphemisms…

It’s been a while since I gave a miniature logic lesson, so today I thought I’d talk about Euphemisms and Dysphemisms.  Rhetorical devices, and rhetoric in general, are often employed to try to “slant” the hearer’s or reader’s perspective on something.  Remember, rhetoric employs psychological or emotionally persuasive language, without giving an actual reason for a conclusion.

Euphemisms and Dysphemisms are two rhetorical devices that are quite common.  A Euphemism is a “positive” spin; it takes a word, phrase, or concept and makes it sound either neutral or more positive.  For example, we spin “death” and “died” more positive or neutral by phrases like, “bought the farm,” or “he’s pushing up daisies.”  Car dealerships no longer sell “used cars” they sell “pre-owned vehicles.”

On a more serious note, you can see it in politics, and political situations.  I once saw a news cast about a band of militia in some country where there was an uprising, within about fifteen minutes, three different people were interviewed; to one person the militia was referred to as a group of “freedom fighters.”  The next person interviewed referred to them as “guerrillas” and the final person referred to them as “terrorists.”  Three different words evoking different emotional and psychological reactions within the hearer.

That brings me to dysphemisms; they are the “negative” slant.  So in the above example, the “freedom fighter” phrase would be a euphemism, and the “terrorist” phrase would be a dysphemism, just as an example.  Notice that the phrased could be considered accurate as long as the idea or word in question truly meets the definition of those words; for example, there is a time and a place to truly label someone a terrorist, as long as the definition is truly met.

Also, just because they are rhetorical devices doesn’t mean you can dismiss whatever argument that they are used in out of hand; it is just important to note that people do use terms to sway hearers’/readers’ emotions as that is a part of being a critical thinker.

How does this apply to the Christian, or Christian Apologist’s POV?  There are a lot of dysphemisms that non-believers employ…oftentimes just to insult, or try to get a rise out of Christians.  One of the more popular ones in this day and age amongst atheists online, for whatever reason, is labeling Christianity a “death cult.”  How is this a dysphemism?  Because it employs emotionally and psychologically charged language, and has no evidence to back it up, and in fact, the evidence clearly contradicts the label.

Be on the lookout for these two rhetorical devices, and even look up some more examples so that you can more easily spot when someone is attempting to sway you with words…and remember that words do indeed have power to get people to react.  This is something that politicians have known for a long long time; we will surely get treated to many examples of euphemisms/dysphemisms in the upcoming presidential election coverage; especially at the conventions.

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Filed under Logic, Religion and Politics