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.

October 1, 2010

Time Wasters: Lying Part 2

And now for the exciting conclusion of yesterday's broadcast! Part 1 is here.

Some things that lying is not:
  • Mistakes. I dislike it when people will say something like, "I spent three hours on that project. Oh, wait, I lied, it was two hours." No, the speaker simply made a mistake. Don't beat yourself up, mmmkay?
  • Carelessness. Sometimes (especially in online forums and such) people will misquote. It happens. Accept correction graciously and move on.
  • Misunderstanding. Sorry that you misunderstood me. I should either rewrite it or you should reread it.
  • Creative embellishments. Nobody has "said it a million times", that's just hyperbole to make a point. Writers (and speakers) expect readers (and listeners) to have some degree of sense. 
  • Jokes can be a form of creative embellishment, or they can be "free-standing". Some people need to get a sense of humor, capice?
  • Disagreement. You think this, I believe that; neither one is lying. A fact is a fact, it's the interpretations of facts that cause disagreement.
  • Erroneous use of quotes, data, information. Someone is attempting to prove a point, has a wrong idea about what he is citing, but still believes it. He's not lying, he's just wrong (in your eyes). Move on.
  • Software issues. I have seen people called a liar because a comment was "deleted". Well, my comment was deleted, too. Knowing the writer's style and track record, I believed him when he said that Blogger was acting up — especially after I had some software hiccups with Blogger as well. Also, I attempted to publish articles at a future date, and the software released the immediately and not in three days like I wanted. I deleted them and republished them when I wanted them published. Was I lying? Not at all.
"So how does this affect my productivity?"

I was just about to discuss that, good timing with your question.

If you're telling lies, you will be caught. What happens then?
  • Loss of credibility. "You quoted somebody and I checked the source, and what the other guy really meant was nothing like what you wanted me to think. I'm not reading your stuff again."
  • Backing it up. "OK, Blatherton, you said that you know how to speak Swahili. We're sending you to Africa to represent the company. You're leaving tomorrow."
  • Loss of respect. "You said there was nothing going on between you two, and now this! How can I trust you ever again?" Liars are held in contempt.
  • Lie to the police or the courts, you can go to jail. Slander and libel sometimes have jail time, sometimes not, but you can get sued.
  • Divine judgment. There are people who have no regard for God, ignoring the Ninth Commandment (Exodus 20.16) and do not believe that liars will be judged (Rev. 21.8). I realize that this is not quite in the GTD category, but it's still very important (Mark 8.36).
Save yourself some pain. Repent of lying. Then you won't have to make things right, get humiliated when you're caught, lose the respect of others (and yourself), do extra work to "fix it". No, it's far better to face the heat and admit the truth. When offering news or viewpoints, strive for completeness and accuracy instead of selective citing.

People who dislike you will still call you a liar and play "gotcha" no matter how right you are, but you can have peace with your own integrity and your conscience before God. And you won't have to go into damage repair mode; fixing stuff that should not have been done is counterproductive at best.

September 30, 2010

Time Wasters: Lying Part 1

“I'm not upset that you lied to me,
I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you.”
Friedrich Nietzsche
Buon giorno. Yours truly is a bit wired today, and ready to give you a couple of lessons on lying. Yes, two: First, some explanation on what lying really means (and doesn't mean), and second, why it's counterproductive.

"Why do people lie, Uncle Bob?"

Some are compulsive liars and cannot help themselves. It may be that the truth is unflattering to them, so they have to make themselves look better than they really are. Sometimes it's because they are selfish and greedy, so if lying is a means to an end, that's fine with them. Further, people who are consumed with hate will say anything to hurt the object of their ire.

The intent to deceive is an integral part of lying. Lying has several aspects:
  • The obvious, flat-out lie. "Did you come in a half an hour late to work?"..."No..." Also, there was a "scientist", obviously a fraud, who posted a comment about my article on evolutionary fakes. In one part, he said that he examined the fraudulent Piltdown Man. Either he did it behind the ropes in a museum, or he is about 130 years old!
  • Deliberately skewing information and leaving out pertinent data that would give a more complete, or even different, result.
  • Selective citing of quotes. Be careful with this one, because sometimes quotations are appended to give a more complete picture and you can be accused of "quote mining". (This is common with evolutionists who abhor having their heroes showing doubt about their belief system.) Quoting from the middle of a paragraph or taking only a few sentences from an article out of context is typical of yellow journalism; it's disingenuous at best, and can often be dishonest. (Note that saying something like, "This sentence caught my attention. It seemed at odds with the rest of the story" seems safe enough.) The principle applies to changing quotes as well — if you're deliberately changing a quotation or tampering with it, you're a liar.
  • Implying. Closely related to the above. You can simply not bother to check out information that is readily available. For instance, "The author claims that he wrote about steam engines, but I could find no such article". Well, sure, if you only looked at the current page of the Weblog, or did not bother to do a search under the author's name and the topic. Did you ignore the link that was provided? A more honest remark would be, "...I did not find the article in my brief search." If you are implying that the author or speaker is a liar and you "support" your claim with implication (and incomplete research), you are the liar, Lawrence.
  • Assigning a motive. You don't know what is in someone's heart or mind "on the fly". For instance, I heard a Bible teacher that said he was not going to give the background support for the doctrine of the Trinity. This was because he was going to discuss a different topic, and the Trinity had to be a "given". If you say, "He skipped the proof for the Trinity 'cause he can't prove it at all!" If you pull a stunt like that, you're a liar, not him.
  • Leaving out important information. "Hey, I didn't lie!" When omitting facts to mislead someone, yes you did lie. This often includes "half truths".
  • Withholding the truth. If you know the truth and it makes a difference, you're essentially lying.
  • Playing word games. Messing with the meanings, deliberately misunderstanding what someone is saying, "typo pouncing" &c. It's an attempt to give an errant perception.
  • Putting words into someone's mouth. This can be tricky, too. One one hand, there is the "Ray is a homophobe", a complete and deliberate misrepresentation of the contents of the article. The other way is to quote a line in question and saying, "This seems homophobic to me".
  • Establishing arbitrary rules. This one was brought home to me when I was "informed" that Weblog comments are indeed a place for lengthy dissertations and off-topic discussions. However, it was not the "owner" of the Weblog that made this statement, it was from a troll looking to find an excuse for an argument. Sorry, Princess, making up your own rules, especially when you do not have any authority, is dishonest.
Lying is also disrespectful to the hearer or reader because you are saying, in effect, "I do not trust you to make your own decisions, so I will manipulate you into thinking what I want you to think."

Some things that lying is not:

No, I lied, I'm not going to continue right now. Tune in tomorrow for the rest of this. (OK, it's tomorrow now. Part 2 is here, if it's not on the same page as Part 1.)

September 28, 2010

Time Wasters: Philosophy

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart." Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
— The Apostle Paul (ESV)

Buon giorno. Don't get the wrong idea, I am not saying that all philosophy is a waste of time, and reject it out of hand. It can be interesting to follow someone's line of reasoning and find out where they're coming from. Personally, I find the Socratic Method quite fascinating.

Nor am I "anti-intellectual" (which I discussed here). What puts me off is the "intellectual" argumentation with philosophy. When discussing the nature of God, or existence, or God's existence, I am not interested in the opinions of the "great philosophers" for very long. Instead, I believe that people are not interested in reaching the truth. I believe that they simply want to have intellectual arguments for their own sake. Some people seem to get personal validation by putting on intellectual airs and throwing around big words. And some people pretend that they are oh-so-smart, engaging in philosophical arguments, but violating simple rules of logic. I laugh, point out their folly and leave.

Me, I prefer to talk like regular people instead of putting my audience off by excessive circumlocution. (How does that example grab ya, Gertie?) Maybe it's just the cowboy in me.

So, if a discussion turns overly philosophical, don't be surprised if I bail out because I feel that it is self-indulgent and unproductive. You may think I'm a cafone for dropping out of philosophical stuff, but I have to draw the line when I think I'm wasting my time, capice? I like to take the simplest approach, and then delve deeper if needed. Especially when it comes to discussion of the Word of God. Occam's Razor states, in essence, that the simplest answer is probably the best one. If you want to add Occam's shaving brush, shaving mug, comb, hair gel and cologne so you can sound profound, well, things are getting a little cluttered (Col. 2.8 KJV).

By the way, there are many philosophers and philosophies through the ages. One reason for this, it seems to me, is because they are all incomplete. Sure, some are clever and raise some good points. But they haven't arrived at the truth which they allegedly seek.

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.
— The Apostle Paul (ESV)
Raphael's painting of the Apostle Paul in Athens

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