October 2, 2010

Time Wasters: Making Your Own Rules

"What Naaman did was childish. It was foolish. It was an insult to his intellectual dignity. But what he did cured his leprosy. He was cured because of his faith, his humility and his obedience. God was the one who healed him, but the way to his healing came through the very low door of humility."  
Ray Comfort


Buon giorno. I thought I could take the week off because I had five days' postings all lined up on Sunday, but no, another inspiration hit me. And yes, I said that philosophical debates become a waste of time. I'm going to give you some of my philosophy. You can sit there and look pretty. Nicky, you can just sit there.

When it comes to presenting evidence for the existence of God, the validity of the Bible &c., I have observed several "brick walls" constructed to disallow contrary viewpoints. As far as I'm concerned, this comes down to "making your own rules".  This tactic is used when a mind is made up and does not want to be confused by contrary evidences and facts.

"Uh oh. Are you going to use another bullet list again, Cowboy Bob?"

Yes indeed. Here are the kinds of dodges that I have noticed, some of which are variations on "classic" errors of logic:
  • Ridiculous demands. "Prove that God exists. Right here, right now!" Sure, Shirley. You are obviously seeking the truth and have an open mind (snicker, guffaw), and someone else's comment section about an unrelated topic is the right place, yah, shew-er, you bet-cha. Another ridiculous demand is allowing all comments so that anything stupid or obscene is available to all (especially when this demand is made by people who delete comments on their own Weblogs).
  • Foreknowledge. "I know what your sources are going to say, so I'm not going to pay attention". I have been hit with, "I know what your links are going to say, so I won't look at them." Pretending to be God, Gordon?
  • Rejection of correction. "You've shown me this, that and the other thing. But you're still wrong." You're being a pest, Percy.
  • Limited world view. Sure, we all do it to some extent, but I'm thinking of, "Naturalism is the only explanation and I refuse to consider any evidence for the supernatural. There is only the material, and there is no soul or spirit. Therefore, all of your arguments suck!" That's preposterous, Poindexter. I've said it before, and it's worth repeating: Everyone has biases. But not everyone insists on narrow, materialistic explanations only; follow where the evidence leads.
  • Absurd validation. "Christians cannot reference other Christians because  they have something to prove." Or, "Even though the Bible is not just one book written by just one author, and even though there is textual validation, it cannot be trusted unless we use less reliable sources from outside." Just listen, Leroy. From the way your reasoning goes, if anyone has anything to prove, they cannot cite supporting references and have to just shut up. Except naturalists, of course.
  • False declaration. "Presuppositional apologetics is junk". Not so fast, Ferdinand! Maybe you reject it (or do not understand it), but it's an established and respected method. I was listening to a podcast debate between an atheist and a Christian and thought, "This guy is really stumping this atheist". While searching for his site, I saw a comment posted in an atheist forum that said, in essence, "The atheist sure destroyed that Xtian, haw haw haw!" Ummmm...no. Declaring doesn't make something magically become true.
  • Appeal to authority, argumentum ad verecundiam. "The Transcendental Argument using logical absolutes is dead, Dawson Bethrick and Michael Martin said so". Really, Rowena? Wow, I have to move on to something else on that guy's say-so. Glad you set me straight. (I see this established fallacy all too frequently.)
  • Rejecting the source out of hand. "I won't listen to you because you're stupid", or, "All creationists are not scientists". Relax, drop the Genetic Fallacies and deal with the argument, Artie.
  • Motive. While it's not a "logic fallacy" in and of itself, it can "color" or "taint" your approach; in my opinion, if you're more interested in destroying the other person than in reaching an understanding of the topic under discussion, you're more likely to be willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish your goal. If you're presenting the truth in a good manner, you are more likely to catch yourself before you blunder into errors.
  • Then there's the classic of "piling on" (populum stercus velocitus); rational discussion can happen one-on-one, but when everyone is chiming in with ridicule, forget it, Flossie. People wonder why I drop out of "discussions" on Twitter, and this is one reason.
There are other problems, but you get the idea; do whatever it takes to dodge arguments and insult the intelligence of contrary viewpoints. If you open up your mind, you may wind up changing it and your walls will come down.

I'll tell you what this comes down to: Pride. You want it your way, and that's not exactly smart or reasonable. Take a look at this:
So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood in the doorway of Elisha's house. Elisha sent out a messenger who told him, "Go and wash seven times in the Jordan; your skin will be restored and you will be healed."

Naaman went away angry. He said, "Look, I thought for sure he would come out, stand there, invoke the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the area, and cure the skin disease. The rivers of Damascus, the Abana and Pharpar, are better than any of the waters of Israel! Could I not wash in them and be healed?" So he turned around and went away angry.

His servants approached and said to him, "O master, if the prophet had told you to do some difficult task, you would have been willing to do it. It seems you should be happy that he simply said, "Wash and you will be healed." So he went down and dipped in the Jordan seven times, as the prophet had instructed. His skin became as smooth as a young child's and he was healed (2 Kings 9-14 NET Bible).
Naaman was a captain of the Syrian guard. It was difficult enough for him to seek out a prophet of Israel, but to be told to do something that he considered silly was almost too much. It took a kind of, "Well, as long as we're here, you have nothing to lose by trying" approach to get him to humble himself and get healed.

If you want to learn something about God, you'll never succeed if your pride is in the way and you put up barriers, capice? Someone who simply wants to argue instead of learning truth is simply wasting the time of those who try to reason with him (1 Timothy 6.20). Tear down the walls.
By the way, did anyone catch on that populum stercus velocitus is not a "real" logic fallacy? Sorta made that up.

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