Once you know what fallacies are, it’s tempting to try to catch people using them as often as possible. Take care that in doing so you don’t commit the fallacy of jumping the gun.
Actually I just made up the name of this fallacy – but it’s one of those things that happens so often that there almost needs to be a name for it. When you first learn about fallacies – maybe you’ve taken a class in critical thinking, maybe you’ve watched a bunch of Youtube lectures about fallacies, or maybe you’ve picked them up by watching or listening to other people argue a lot (hey, some people find it entertaining) – you might feel like you’ve discovered a secret weapon. Explaining that somebody is wrong, well sure and you’re right, that might feel good. But if you can whip out a fallacy diagnosis – BAM – that’s like a headshot. If you can put a name on why they are wrong, you’ve really got them.
The enjoyment of the satisfaction of diagnosing a person with whom you disagree of committing a fallacy [insert dramatic music here], however, may be so tempting that you’re lured into seeing fallacies everywhere. Like a person who is beginning to learn a martial art, you’ve got to use your fallacy sniffing skills responsibly. Don’t jump the gun and rush to a faulty diagnosis.1[click to continue…]___________________
As readers will likely know, the metaphor of “jumping the gun” refers to people at a race start line who bolt before the starter’s pistol has sounded, also known as a “false start.” It describes a person acting or speaking before it is appropriate to do so. [↩]
The podcast is back! This short series consists of talks that I recently gave on a speaking tour, speaking at a church camp in Auckland as well as at Thinking Matters events in Hamilton, Auckland and Tauranga. The theme was Christian apologetics, and this first talk was to set the scene on the general issue of faith and reason.
Someone recently pointed out a video clip of a guy named John talking about homosexual relationships and the Bible. This is the point where I would normally offer a one-sentence summary of what his central claim is, but I’m not absolutely sure what it is. It has something to do with homosexuality, the f-word (fundamentalists), and consistency. Here’s the clip:
Nice presentation. John doesn’t ever lay out a succinct argument here, but here are some possibilities for how the argument would go:
If you think the biblical passages that speak against sexual acts between members of the same sex apply today, then you should also think that biblical passages that speak about eating (for example) shellfish apply to us today.
“Fundamentalists” don’t think that biblical passages that speak about eating shellfish apply to us today.
Therefore fundamentalists also ought not to think that biblical passages that speak about sexual acts between members of the same sex apply to us today.
Or perhaps it is this:
If any passage in the Bible is properly interpreted in such a way that it does not apply to us as strictly as some might initially suppose based on appearances, then no biblical passage, rightly interpreted, applies to us as strictly as some might initially suppose based on appearances.
Some biblical passages (such as those that speak about divorce) are properly interpreted (according to fundamentalists) in such a way that it does not apply to us as strictly as some might initially suppose based on appearances.
Therefore those same fundamentalists ought to believe that no biblical passage (including those that speak about sexual acts between members of the same sex), rightly interpreted, applies to us as strictly as some might initially suppose based on appearances.
Or perhaps it is this (this will be my last guess):
If you interpret a biblical passage in a way that means that its instruction does apply to us today, then you are logically committed to thinking that all instructions that were ever given in the Bible apply to us today with equal force.
Fundamentalists interpret biblical passages that speak about sexual acts between members of the same sex apply to us today.
Therefore fundamentalists are logically committed to thinking that all instructions that were ever given in the Bible apply to us today with equal force.
The problem is that each of these arguments starts out with a premise that is almost certainly false. [click to continue…]
A number of my Christian friends are drawing attention to a video of British News presenter Martin Bashir taking Bill O’Reilly to task. [Edit: Yes, I know MSNBC is American, but Mr Bashir is British.] I have no problem with people taking Bill O’Reilly to task. His approach to current affairs is not one I admire, to the point where I had misgivings about coming to his defence. But if I had hesitated to do this on the grounds that I do not “like” him, I would be displaying the same partisanship for which I am about to criticise both Bashir and my friends who are giving his comments such a generous review.
Now that I’ve made a blog post since changing the address to www.rightreason.org I feel like the new name has been broken in. But I need your help.
A lot of sites have links to Say Hello to my Little Friend blog posts or podcasts episodes – or just to the main site. If you’re one of those people, it would really help if you could update those links to the new address. www.rightreason.org/etc rather than the old www.beretta-online.com/wordpress/etc. If you use the blog feed, please update this to http://www.rightreason.org/?feed=rss2
But don’t I have the site set up so that the old link will automatically send users to the right page? Yes, so people who follow those links will find the site. However, internet search engines know that those links are out there, and the prominence of a website (and its address) in search results is in part driven by those links, as are other background factors in web visibility.
It will only take a few minutes (don’t bother hunting out old blog posts with links in them), and it would help a lot. Thanks!
A few days ago I got home from a speaking tour in Hamilton, Muriwai Beach, Avondale (for those outside of New Zealand, those two are both in the Auckland region) and Tauranga. Fifteen talks over eight days! All the talks were very well received, and the discussions that followed were excellent.
The overall theme of the talks was faith and reason, unpacking some of the ways in which Christians have used reason to commend what they believe as true, along with some of the implications of Christianity actually being true. The opening talk at a couple of venues was directly about the crucial role of reason within the Christian faith, reflecting on the observation, among others, that “commitment without reflection is fanaticism.” The change of this site’s address to rightreason.org is motivated by this commitment to the reasonable discussion and defence of what we believe and why (whether overly Christian or not).
Against this backdrop, imagine the sense of irony that swept over me yet again when I arrived home, checked my email and read the following message (we’ll call the author J, who has consented to this email being made public).
How can you keep up the pretense that you know about life after death. You mock common sense. You trade on peoples [sic] fears of the dark and the unknown to put forward a controlling elitist superior position.
Reason in everyday decisions must prevail over blind faith
Breaking news! The web address for this site has changed. I’m pleased to announce that I have acquired the address www.rightreason.org. The old URL (beretta-online.com) will still work via redirection, but please update your links if you can be bothered. Links to the new URL will help its visibility in a number of ways.
It was time to just bite the bullet and do it – it’s a better, more relevant name and it’s easier to remember.
The Podcast (and maybe the blog, but I’m thinking about it) is still called Say Hello to my Little Friend, but there may be a few decor changes to reflect the new address.
So remember – If you link to the site, please update your links as soon as you can. Beretta is no more. Long live Right Reason!