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Answers to: “Is That Just Your Opinion?”

by Hans Bluedorn

Here are some answers to last week's logic quiz, "Is That Just Your Opinion?" These were the answers sent to me by BJ Wilkins of East Berlin, PA. The other winner of the "Fallacy Detective Scholarship" was Jennifer Brown of Loveland, OH.

It might interest you to note that I received only five (yes, that is FIVE) responses for the "Fallacy Detective Scholarship" (which was a free book). A very low turnout. So, if you reply to an upcoming quiz and give decent answers, you have a pretty good chance of winning.

About the answers to last weeks quiz: You might disagree with some of the answers given. That's OK. Knowing whether something is fact, inference, or opinion can sometimes be very complex and is often, itself, a matter of opinion.

The answers should show an understanding of the concepts, and properly back up what they say. If you disagree with any of the answers, feel free to reply.

Hans Bluedorn

ANSWERS

10. It is estimated that 850,000 children in this country are home-schooled.

[Opinion. The point that it is an estimate shows that it is not a fact. You can estimate how many children are not in school, but how can you know how many are actually home schooling?]

[Hans Says: I think this is either a fact or an inference. It is a fact that someone has estimated that there are 850,000 homeschooled children. It is an inference from verifiable facts (studies done on the subject) that there are that many homeschoolers.]

11. The overwhelming majority by parents who have only the best interests of their children at heart.

[Opinion. Is there any way to look inside a person's heart? And the parents' actions are not a reliable source for evidence. So there is nowhere to go to get evidence. This can only be an opinion of the writer.]

12. A CBS News investigation found dozens of cases of parents convicted or accused of murder or child abuse who were teaching their children at home, out of the public eye.

[Fact. There is a source to find their evidence. The cases themselves, since they are accused in some cases, may be inference, but there are places where the investigation could find about the cases themselves.]

13. In Iowa, a father is serving life, and a mother goes on trial later this month, for killing their 10-year-old adopted son and burying him at their house.

[ Fact. The father is in jail. That is easy enough to prove. And the mother is going on trial later. That is easy to prove as well. It is an Inference [or possibly opinion], however, that they actually killed their son and buried him.]

14. Because they were home schooling, no one noticed he was missing for more than a year.

[Inference. At first, I thought that this was an opinion, but once I looked at it again, I found myself thinking that it was inference. It is not fact, since there was no way of checking all of the people that knew the boy. Since no one reported that the child was missing, there is good reason to believe that no one noticed that he was missing.]

[Hans says: Some people thought this was an opinion. They thought it was impossible to prove that homeschooling was what prevented the crime from being noticed.]

15. "The genuine home schoolers are doing a great job with their children, but there is a subgroup of people that are keeping them in isolation, keeping them from public view because the children often do have visible injuries," says Herman-Giddens.

[Hard to say. The part about the "genuine" home schoolers doing a great job is certainly fact. But about the rest, I'd have to say, "Opinion." This is a hard one for me; I'm not sure if I'm looking into this too far or not. I get injuries that are visible, but they are from being active. I go outside and I do what teenage boys do. Stuff that might be called "dangerous." Most home schoolers have more time on their hands to be active, and so there is more chance of their being injured. Herman-Giddens never saw the injuries being inflicted, and she never gave any evidence of how they were inflicted. So I would have to say that this is an opinion.]

[Hans says: Some people thought it is only her opinion that there is an evil "subgroup" among homeschoolers.]

16. Hal Young and other home school advocates vigorously defend the right to teach their children at home without government intrusion.

[Fact. This can be checked on.]

[Hans says: Some people thought this was an inference or opinion. They thought “vigorously defend” was subjective to be a fact.]

17. "The cases that you've mentioned are very, very rare – extremely rare," says Young.

[Fact. You can check at the court for how many cases there have been on home schooling.]

18. In eight states, parents don't have to tell anyone they're home schooling. Unlike teachers, in 38 states and the District of Columbia, parents need virtually no qualifications to home school. Not one state requires criminal background checks to see if parents have abuse convictions.

[Fact. This can be checked anywhere.]

LETTERS

From: peterandkate#juno.com

Great article! We used the issue in our class in which we are using "Fallacy Detectives." grin

Kate Nash, NC

From: Michael and Melinda Brown

Hello. Here's an article that has some logic errors in it.

"Opals – Produced in Months?"

Article by Ken Ham, from "Answers in Genesis," Volume 10, issue 11:

"Did you know that precious stones, like opals, don't need millions of years to form? This is often startling to people. You see, evolutionists claim that opals have been created over millions of years – in fact, something like 30 million years. Opals are certainly beautiful stones, and the finest ones have become more expensive than other gems. And I'm thrilled to say that my homeland of Australia is responsible for practically all of the world's supply!

"I know of a committed Christian in Australia who's discovered the secret to growing opals in glass jars. And you know what? His process to make opals takes only a matter of weeks!

"Even the most experienced opal miners can't tell the difference between opals formed in the ground and the ones this man grows in his laboratory! He's shown conclusively that it doesn't take millions of years to form opals."

"So what can we say about these beautiful gems? As we will proclaim in our Creation Museum, real science agrees with Genesis: The earth is only thousands, not millions, of years old."

Logical errors:

1) Just because you can form opals in weeks in a glass jar does not mean all opals were produced at that rate, therefore the conclusion is incorrect for all opals, and only accurate for those created artificially.

2) Since the basis of determining the age of the earth (in this article) is that opals can be produced in less than millions of years, and that premise is not necessarily true (see #1), the conclusion that the age of the earth is thousands of years cannot be supported by this argument.

Neither does the weakness of the opal argument mean that the earth is any particular number of years old.

Note, diamonds can also be created artificially, but this does not change the way diamonds are created in nature. Many things can be created faster in an artificial environment, but that says nothing except you can create them artificially – not that the natural process is as short as that which you observe in the glass jar.

[Editor: Since no one knows exactly what is involved in the creation of opals, or of diamonds, for that matter, it may be that exactly what happens in their artificial creation is what happened in the earth. Coal is also said to have taken millions or billions of years to form from vegetation, yet there are entire trees standing vertically in coal mines all over the world, proving unequivocally that coal was formed in a brief time, since an occasional tree would stand up through many layers. Fact: No one knows how opals were formed in the earth, so knowing how long it takes them to be formed in a jar tells us only that a very young age for the earth is possible, not certain.]

From: Melissa Jones

Last January I began teaching a Pre-Logic Course with a small group of 7th & 8th graders. We creatively used "The Fallacy Detective" to allow them an opportunity to get more comfortable with "Logic in Life." It worked! A Fallacy Folder was required for course completion. Examples for their folders were found in ads, coupons, news, comics, even dialog with siblings.

Each student had to decide the best way to organize his folder so that a reader unfamiliar with "logic" would understand what the folder was showing. It was a great test of their understanding of the fallacies, as well as of their critical thinking skills. I was very pleased with the end result: Better thinkers, with minds much more attuned to learning and more detail-oriented. Their listening skills were much improved, as well. The game was the grand goal. They worked very hard to earn the opportunity to play "The Game."

To address the "answers in the back of the book" situation: We embraced it. I assigned, on average, two lessons per class to be read and worked out before our next time together. They were encouraged to look at your answers in the back after reading and thinking about them on their own. I even made a lesson out of "why would I want you to look at the answers in the back?"

The exercises proved to be a wonderful opportunity for the students to have discussion. I created quizzes covering the materials for each class. The students knew it would be given at the beginning of class, then used as an outline of discussion for that day.

The first three lessons and Aroup Gupta have recently been introduced to my new group of 7th graders. They have been very eager to get to TFD, since they'd heard it was "so fun" from last semester's students. The parents of last semester's students really enjoyed seeing their young people start to think more about what they would say before saying it, and were very good sports when their fallacies were identified by their eager detectives.

By the way, we also memorize Scripture pertaining to the various lessons we cover. It is a nice "plus" having Scripture right there on the same page with the lesson. TFD is an easy-to-use text. Thanks for a great tool.

Copyright November 25, 2003, all rights reserved. 4448 views


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