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FAQ on Logic

by Hans Bluedorn

Frequently Asked Questions On Logic: Part One

by Nathaniel Bluedorn

You can also read this article in a seporate web page.


This a reprinting from the last loop. Responses to it are found below.


Dear Mr. Bluedorn,

I would like to share something with you and everyone else that is a student of Logic. It is a statement in a good book on informal fallacies. The book is titled "With Good Reason". The author's name is S. Morris Engel. I would like to know what you think and also what anyone else who is a student of Logic thinks about this quote. I'd like to know what is wrong if it is wrong logically. Ok, so here's the quote:

On page 42 of the paperback version it states:

"Logic and Education.........For to be able to determine when it is appropriate and justified to say of something that one KNOWS that it is so (1+1=2), and when it is appropriate to say of something that one THINKs that it is so ( a high fat diet will cause cancer), and when, finally, it can only be appropriate to say of something that one BELIEVES it is so (God exists)– this is the mark of an educated person." 

Is Mr. Engels committing a fallacy? If so, which one? Being christian logicians how are we suppose to respond to this statement? I am interested in what you and anyone has to say on this quote. Hope to hear from you soon.

Louis Bacio in California.


From: Ted and Robin Shoemaker


The author of the logic text commits the fallacy of inconsistency. I agree that it is valuable to discern among facts, opinions, beliefs, etc. Such distinction is modeled for us in the Bible. A fact is something that is verifiable; but faith is the evidence of things NOT seen (Hebrews 11).

That is not to say that our faith is on shaky ground; I'm not calling us to *doubt*. Rather, I'm

acknowledging that our faith is in a God whom we can't see. The apostle Paul talks about our *faith* and *hope*; but he also calls the object of our faith a *certainty*.

Students of philosophy (and many other people) will acknowledge that what we truly *know* amounts to a very tiny thimbleful. Do we *know* that the sun will rise tomorrow morning? Why?

As for the "obvious" example that 1+1=2, the same question applies: why should 1+1=2? Mathematician-logicians have written books which finally "prove", by page 100 or so, that 1+1=2. Then someone else comes along, and points out an assumption made by the previous author, and we have to start over again.

What Engels uses as an example of *fact* is, technically, a better example if a commonly held *belief*. Thus he has violated the very advice he gives, within his own example where he gives it. This is the fallacy of inconsistency. However, I don't want to fault him on this point, because

I don't want to argue about whether 1+1 really does equal 2.

As to the other question, namely, how ought a Christian to respond: Ephesians instructs us to "speak the truth in love". Speaking the truth involves finding error, and shining the light on it. But then we must not gloat at finding another's mistakes. (Let him who thinks he stands, take

heed lest he fall. – Gal. 6.) In love, we can correct the misperceptions of others while guarding our own.

I would like to know the comments of others on this matter. I certainly don't have the last word.

Thank you for your logic loop,

Ted Shoemaker

From: "Kim Hoel"

Dear Hans,

It seems that Mr. Engels may be an empiricist. He believes that an educated person must say one "believes" God exists as opposed to saying one "knows" God exists. Does that mean an educated person would not use the Bible as their first principle, their axiom, their starting point? Perhaps he says that because God cannot be seen, touched, perceived empirically, etc., therefore, with an empirical axiom, we cannot say we "know" God exists. Perhaps Mr. Engels fallacy is an empirical axiom.

Mrs. Hoel

From: "LOUIS A. BACIO" Dear Mr. Bluedorn,

The questions that usually open worm cans are usually questions about God. Why is that? If you ask me, the questions about God are the best questions. I think quite a bit about God and I also am a student of Logic. It was only a matter of time before I started to ask myself how God and Logic are related....

...Here is my response to my own question. I should have mentioned that Mr. Engel made that statement in a chapter explaining the difference between Inductive and Deductive arguments. I've refined my question a little more. This is what popped into my head after reading the chapter. There many arguments for the existence of God such as the Teleological, Cosmological, etc. Are these arguments deductive or inductive? Can God's existence be proven deductively?

If I understand Mr. Engel, he is saying that the arguments for God's existence are neither inductive or deductive. God's existence is something you can only BELIEVE is true. What does that mean? It sounds like he is saying God's existence is something that is subjective. In my opinion, the arguments for God's existence are either deductive or inductive.Looking at it from a purely logical perspective, either we KNOW God exists or we THINK God exists. I think that Aquinas and Anselm would disagree with Mr. Engel....

...Can we know with certainty that God exists? According to an article titled " A Rational Necessity," on page 35 of [the October (2000) issue of Table Talk magazine put out by Ligonier Ministries], the answer isYES!

Here is the quote" We saw in yesterday's study that Rene Descartes was able to conclude that at least one thing truly existed– himself. ... But does certainty about the existence of a man ( or any other creature) really help us achieve CERTAINTY about God's existence? Yes!" What follows is a brief explanation of what Sproul states in his book in chapter 7. According to the folks at Ligonier Ministries, belief in God is a RATIONAL NECESSITY. This sounds like a deductive argument to me. If you look at the question of God's exixtence from a logical perspective, you'll notice that there is no room for controversy. I could be wrong in thinking that the argument is deductive but one thing I know for sure: believing in God is much more logical than not believing in God. This is the exact opposite of what the world tells me. Perhaps this where the controversy comes from: the world. The world tells us that to believe in God is not rational or logical. In my opinion, to not believe in God is the same as being illogical....

...So how would I respond to my own question? I say believing in God is very reasonable. More reasonable than the world would have me think. When I discovered this truth it strengthend my faith immensely. I hope it does the same for all of those who participate or read the Logic Loop. Please post this in the Logic Loop. Thanks

To God alone be the glory!

Louis Bacio in California.


Dear Mr. Bluedorn,

My daughter, Anne Miller, just sent me an email of your Logic Loop 21. I'm going to your web site to subscribe.

In reference to Louis Bacio's question about the item from "With Good Reason," by S. Morris Engel, he said he'd like to know "what is wrong [with this quote], if it is wrong logically:

" be able to determine when it is appropriate and justified to say of something that one KNOWS that it is so (1+1=2), and when it is appropriate to say of something that one THINKs that it is so (a high fat diet will cause cancer), and when, finally, it can only be appropriate to say of something that one BELIEVES it is so (God exists)– this is the mark of an educated person." (p. 42, paperback version)

Mr. Bacio also asked, "Being Christian logicians, how are we suppose to respond to this statement?"

My first comment is that I think the quote is a good one, and describes the main three ways of knowing things: We know them as fact, we know them as opinion, and we know them by faith.

There is nothing wrong with identifying which category our "knowing" falls into when we speak. In fact, it is a sign of mature thinking to make the distinctions Engel notes when conversing, speaking, writing, and so on, to avoid confusion about exactly what it is that is being claimed.

The main issue, perhaps, for Mr. Bacio may be that he has a relationship with God, and therefore knows Him in the 1+1=2 sense, as opposed to the faith or opinion type of knowing. If this is so, then his problem consists only in confusing the labels on his own ideas.

It is important to remember that the very same thing that is a matter of opinion for one person can be a 1+1=2 matter for someone expert in that area, and a matter of faith for someone quite ignorant of the matter, but with a gut feeling about it.

For instance, take the item Engels gives as a matter of opinion: A high-fat diet causes cancer. Many people have this opinion, having read so much about it in the popular press. Others will hold it as faith, not having read or heard enough about it to have anything but faith that it is so because they have a gut feeling that "where there's smoke there's fire." However, the research shows–for example a study of thousands of nurses over a period of many years that was recently concluded–that the more fat in the daily diet, the lower the likelihood of cancer.

Here, the huge number of nurses and the extremely long period over which the study was conducted–not to mention the scores of other studies that show the same thing–make the issue of whether or not a high-fat diet causes or prevents cancer a matter of objective fact, 1+1=2, rather than subjective opinion or faith to anyone who is familiar with the research.

Just so, someone who knows God as a fact, knows Him from repeated experience–just the way they know anyone. So when asked whether God's existence is a matter of fact, opinion, or faith, they will say "fact!" just as they would if asked that about the existence of any person with whom they have spent a lot of time in relationship–father, mother, sister, brother, friend.

Someone else, equally sincere, but with a different life experience, might say that they have thought quite a bit about the question of God's existence and now have an opinion on that question.

Another person may say that, for them, God's existence is a matter of faith–they're believing in it, but haven't been able to prove it.

Logical fallacies may enter into the particular things people claim as fact, opinion, or faith, but the categories themselves are not illogical.

Sincerely, N'omi Orr

PS Thanks, again, for you wonderful newsletter. I'm going now to read backissues on your web site.

Copyright January 09, 2001, all rights reserved. 4224 views

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