Monday, March 31, 2014

Logic, Politics, Consequences--and Truth

One of my favorite professors from my college days was the man pictured at right. Bruce R. Reichenbach is his name. He's still listed on the Augsburg College website.  He must be well up in years by now because I was at Augsburg more than 30 years ago... actually, almost 40 now.  The first class I took from him was in the fall of 1974.

Dr. Reichenbach strengthened within me a passion to follow the truth wherever it leads. (Here's a link to his webpage.)

There are many examples of how his teaching has affected my life and ministry. Particularly through classes such as "Logic" and "The Philosophy of Religion" I was introduced to an "logical fallacies."

Logical fallacies are tricks people use to get someone to believe something that is false. There are many fallacies - you can access a list on Wikipedia by clicking here.

Don't be tricked!  The devil is the "father of lies" and "logical fallacies" are one of the ways that he works in this world, coming to steal and kill and destroy.

One kind of fallacy is the "Association" or "Guilt by Association" fallacy.
This form of the argument is as follows:
1. Source S makes claim C.
2. Group G, which is currently viewed negatively by the recipient, also makes claim C.
3. Therefore, source S is viewed by the recipient of the claim as associated to the group G and inherits how negatively viewed it is.

An example of this fallacy would be "My opponent for office just received an endorsement from the Puppy Haters Association. Is that the sort of person you would want to vote for?"

(from an article found here.)
Here's a example in regard to the "Climate Change" issue from Climate Conservatives.  The author here is warning people to avoid the association fallacy.
Don’t Let Al Gore or President Obama Get in the Way

A climate conservative realizes that the positions taken by Al Gore or President Obama on climate change are irrelevant to the facts and should not shape the way conservatives approach the issue. Choosing to ignore a real problem simply because liberals acknowledged it first, is not conservative–and doing so limits options for addressing it to ideas proposed by liberals.

When it comes to how conservatives view climate change, Al Gore has been the 500- pound donkey in the room. Many conservatives are skeptical of climate change simply because Gore made it his pet issue. Conservatives should not give Gore, Obama, or any other liberal that kind of power over their thinking.

If Gore decides to champion the cleanup of a river that is clearly polluted, his advocacy does not make the river any more or less polluted, nor does it have any bearing on the merits of cleaning up the river. In the 1980s Gore sounded the alarm about ozone depletion, but it was President Reagan who pushed through the international treaty that actually did something about it.

(you can read the rest of this here)
Here's the point: You may be a conservative or a liberal or somewhere in between -- but please don't let your like or dislike of "messengers" keep you from examining the truth.

Another way that people often avoid the truth is through an "Appeal to Consequences."

People will use this fallacy in order to avoid having to make difficult decisions.

In the case of climate change, for example, if one were to come to the conclusion that climate change is caused by the way we human beings are using resources, there may need to be significant changes in the way we live our lives as individuals and as a society. Regulations and even multinational governmental action may be required. If you are already opposed to governmental or "United-Nations-like" intervention you may choose to not believe the science.  Or you or I may be selfish and resist anything that might affect our comfortable "first world" lifestyle.  Uff.

You can learn more about this "Appeal to Consequences" fallacy here.

Climate change, of course, is not the only area of concern where we can fall prey to lies.  I'm thinking about this today, in particular, because another climate change report was just issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. No matter what your opinion may be about "intergovernmental" work, I believe Christians--especially Christians--need to be paying close attention to this scientific work.  If not, we may promote the devil's agenda in this world.

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