Saturday, March 5, 2016

An Introduction to Logic and Reasoning Skills (Part 1)

When discussing and evaluating issues it is important to be able to present our opinions in a logical and reasonable manner. 

For example, I am sure you have witnessed this type of exchange in the comments section on YouTube: 
  • Person #1: I know the earth is flat but Illuminati’s created the earth round to make people not believe in God
  • Person #2: Haha you idiot
  • Person #1: Insult is the first proof that someone knows he lost ... He will insult you instead of understanding why
  • Person #2: Knows I lost huh. Again, you are a moron
  • Person #1: I won’t insult someone that only wants to insult and not look for the truth ... You’d rather trust what others say and not your own self and for that I will block you, but I hope one day you’ll repent for your sins
  • Person #2: Go kill yourself

(Actual comments posted on a video “Flat Earth theory & Evidence!?”)

Clearly there are no logic or reasoning skills being demonstrated here. Opinions are stated without qualification, and for no good reason insults traded. No attempt has been made to explain or examine anyone’s opinion, belief or idea.

Depressingly, this sort of behaviour is very common on social media; but there is another way.

In order to avoid unnecessary conflict, and simply as a matter of basic respect, we should engage thoughtfully, critically and logically with the variety of different viewpoints people hold. What might this look like? 

Well, let’s consider the following statement: “God exists because the Bible says so.” For those who believe the Bible is God’s written Word, this obviously justifies God’s existence. If the Bible says there is a God, then it must be true.

Also, they might say if there is no God then where did the Bible come from and why was it written? For them the very existence of the Bible is evidence for God’s existence.

Of course, an atheist would naturally disagree! Atheists do not believe God exists and many argue that the Bible is simply a human creation. As such the Bible cannot be used to support the claim that God exists.

Yet for all that atheists will dispute the existence of God, they cannot reject the existence of the Bible. The Bible clearly exists, but where did it come from? Why did people start writing down experiences they claimed to have had of God? If there is no God then why did people keep and preserve these writings and use them as a basis for their social and religious communities? And so the discussion begins.

Logically and reasonably we first need to establish a criteria for proving whether “God exists because the Bible says so”. For example, if a particular book actually is the Word of God and therefore evidence for God’s existence, what would such a book look like? 

What sort of writings would it contain? Would it have any errors? Could its human authors be said to have reliability communicated God’s teachings or commandments in it? Should we expect the original documents to still be around? Are we able to validate its religious truth claims on the basis of it reliably recording certain factual or historical events? And so on.

To examine the claim that the Bible is evidence for God’s existence requires us to explore and understand the assumptions being made to support or deny this, and to do this we need to ask questions and tease out the reasons people have for their different beliefs about it.

The bottom line is this: We cannot reasonably argue against some else’s point-of-view without giving them a good reason as to why we think we are right, or without giving them a good reason for why we think they are wrong!

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