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Letters 2

by Hans Bluedorn




From: Eugene B Sedy

Hi! Regarding the "scientists" trying to prove belief in God (or a god) is caused by brain chemistry: I wonder if these same unbelieving (unbelievable?!) "scientists" ever thought to turn the study on themselves? Since they "know" no god exists. I would expect that if they jiggled the watchamacallit in their own brains they would, of course, have an absence of strange responses! I bet they didn't try this because they probably already understand the fallacy of their claim. Today's "scientific" community no longer is concerned about searching for truth, instead it seeks to further it's own agenda by promoting "science so falsely called."

(Dr. Henry Morris) Reminds me of the "science" concerning "global warming." A bit peeved,

Janet Sedy


From: (Jennifer Jones)

Dear Nathaniel and Hans:

Thank you for resending me Logic Loop #29. I am new to this subject; you may have to scale back your explanations to an elementary level!

I am a 41-year-old homeschooling mom. I have three children varying in age from 8 to 16. We've never seriously studied logic, but have occasionally worked sections from the first two Building Thinking Skills books.

Okay, here is my question concerning Logic Loop 29. Your analogy is a poor country boy wanting to become a rich man. He settles on the silk tie reasoning, yet we know he will be in for disappointment.

However, in the Washington Post article a professor named Michael Persinger in Ontario has been conducting electromagnetic experiments with substantial results: four in five reporting a mystical experience.

This differs from our poor country boy in that he is likely to enjoy no results from his reasoning and actions.

If this is a good analogy for this logical fallacy, how do I respond to the above objection? Help!

Thanks for your time.Sincerely, Jennifer Jones


Jennifer Jones,

Yes, these scientists have a good claim that their electromagnetic jigglings cause mystical experiences (I really don't know why they bothered with the magnets, spotted mushrooms would have worked fine–even if it didn't seem as "scientific"), but this is not where they committed the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.

The fallacy in the Washington Post article is in assuming that mystical experiences are the causes of man's tendency toward belief in a god–not in assuming that brain jigglings cause mystical experiences. They see a loose connection between mystical experiences and belief in a god, and assume one caused the other. Apparently, they cannot imagine that God caused both.

Let's suppose that, every morning before the sun comes up, the rooster you keep in the back yard crows. You conclude that the rooster's crow makes the sun come up. Then, because you want to delve deeper into this phenomenon, you find out that the reason why your rooster crows every morning is because he's hungry and wants to eat breakfast.

You then conclude that the real reason why the sun comes up in the morning is because your rooster hasn't eaten breakfast yet. You take steps to ensure that your rooster gets no food before 10:00 am.

The "post hoc ergo propter hoc" fallacy in all this was not in concluding that the rooster crowed because he was hungry, but in assuming that the sun came up because the rooster crowed.

In your question, the post hoc ergo propter hoc is not in assuming that electro-magnetic experiments cause mystical experiences, but in assuming that mystical experiences cause mankind to believe in a god.

I hope that helps,

Hans Bluedorn


From: "Donna"

Thanks for asking. I guess any examples can help understanding, but real-life examples are much more interesting and relevant.

These are the types of false reasoning that my children will come up against when out in the world, for which I want them to be prepared–these "scientific" studies, and also political statements.

"Position of authority" false reasonings seem to sway people the most. I wish I had saved the news article on how the politicians in some school system were concerned that students whose families were not poverty level were not taking part in the "free" meal program along with poor ("disadvantaged").

Isn't that generous, that all these students get "free" food? Calling them "tax-payer paid for meals" would be more to the point. Not to mention the unspoken agenda to make schools the surrogate family and god, provider of all things–including food.

This new-speak reminds me of the State of Maryland when they started their welfare credit card system and called the cards "Independence cards."

Did you read John Taylor Gatto's "The Underground History of Public Education"? Hope you can.


You may be right. As with my last example, people believe that these scientists' experiments on the human brain are actually relevant because these scientists have letters after their name. The only thing their experiment showed us is that electro-magnetic impulses imposed on the brain can do the same thing as spotted mushrooms.



From: Joshua Clark


Pepsi has a billboard up in my state reading, "Hey Washington, more people prefer the taste of Pepsi!"

Clearly, the fallacy here is "ad POPulum."




Great pun!

But yes, the reasoning is: If more people in your area prefer to rot their teeth with Pepsi, then you should too.

Hans Bluedorn


From: CA


I promised to keep the stream of fallacies flowing.

The following is from a news article on the McVeigh execution [from an article on my CompuServe ISP]: "Not everyone wants to see the young man... executed. Not everyone thinks that even this crime that snuffed out the lives of 168 people, including 19 children, deserves the death penalty."

While I definitely agree with the death penalty, I don't agree with this particular argument, which is essentially an emotional appeal. The best argument for the death penalty for us as Christians is that it is biblically mandated (Genesis 9).

Interestingly, the article goes on to describe the various forms of protest, which include fourteen-feet-tall papier-mache puppets. One of these puppets is a representation of Jesus and bears a banner reading, "What would Jesus do?"

Now, there is such a thing as a favorable ad hominem. Is there also such a thing as a favorable straw man? If so, these protesters have hit upon it. They misrepresent Christ in order to make Him appear to be on their side.

(The answer to the question, "What would Jesus do?" is that He would certainly not contradict the Scriptures which His Spirit inspired [that murderers forfeit their own lives for their crime]! And besides...isn't this the same Jesus who said, "Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire"?)


We have all heard the old "homeschooling vs. socialization" question. One social psychologist says (in a post-grad research paper given to my brother and me by an acquaintance from an RPCNA church in Pennsylvania), "Any kid who is isolated is in real danger."

He and others have conducted studies which support this: isolation is bad, and cooperative learning is good. But here is a fallacy which I don't often see: an irrelevant conclusion (a.k.a., "missing the point"). Isolation is one thing; homeschooling is another.

Homeschoolers are not "isolated" simply because they are not tried by a jury of their peers in a government classroom.

In other words, the inductive evidence may be valid, but for a different conclusion (isolation is bad) instead of the substituted conclusion (homeschooling is bad). You could also label it a straw man or a non sequitur.


Poisoning the well. "All intelligent Calvinists understand very well, that 'inability' consists not in the extinction of any of the powers which constituted man the creature he was before Adam's fall...." –R. L. Dabney, from his lecture "The Arminian Theory of Redemption–Concluded". I agree with the conclusion, but Dabney would do well to avoid sentences beginning with "All intelligent...".

Straw man, emotional appeal. Hank Hanegraaff, radio's favorite "Bible Answer Man," has said this about God: "God is neither a cosmic rapist who forces His love upon us nor a cosmic puppeteer who forces us to love Him."

Hanegraaff definitely misrepresents his opponents, but I want to deal in particular with the less-than-brilliant emotional appeal he uses. Note the language: "rapist"; "puppeteer." He is appealing to our human sense of justice and fairness: if the Calvinistic God is portrayed as a rapist, we will certainly not embrace Him! We might also call this the "name-calling fallacy."

Hanegraaff's listeners will be strengthened in their Arminian position because he has labeled their opponents with names, but their security will not be based on reason. In reality, though, the Calvinist-Arminian debate is just that: a debate. We could easily respond with (stronger and more warranted) names for Hanegraaff, but if we want to do anything productive, we will instead use biblical and logical arguments.

We need to know why it is supposedly said that Calvinism makes God a rapist; this Hanegraaff does not do. An appeal like his would be acceptable at the end of an argument, after reasons have been adduced in support of a position, but all our friend does is substitute the appeal for the argument.

(By the way, Calvinists do NOT consider God a rapist. Read Dabney on this. God must change our will before we will accept His love at all; it is a divine resurrection. This is the biblical doctrine [Rom. 3:11, 8:7; I Cor. 2:14; Eph. 2:1; Isa. 64:7, Jer. 17:9, Gen. 6, etc.] Is this rape?

And besides, Hank has used a false analogy: surely a rapist does not force his love on someone, but his lust. God has our best interests in mind. Definitions are so important.)

I was glad to see the recent Loops placed in the Logic Loop archives. If I am not too busy, I hope to sign up for the Loop in the near future; it would be a great help as I study logic. I'm currently going through Anita Harnadek's Critical Thinking Book One with my brother. (Book One teaches informal logic, which means I wear casual clothes and eat snacks as I study....).

Since I am somewhat behind in logic, I am trying to breeze through Book One quickly. According to Nathaniel's course of study, I should be done with books 1 & 2 and starting With Good Reason by now! Nevertheless, I am not too discouraged. Most of Book One is review, and I am learning much about fallacies informally through the Loop and my discussions with you and Nathaniel.




From: CA


I recently read a profile of Prince William of Wales. Note the part about his education:

"In the fall of 2001 he will begin his studies in Art History at St. Andrew's University in Scotland. Applications to St. Andrew have increased 44% this year. Not surprisingly, many of the applications were from girls."Is this a case when we can logically say that A caused B? grin



Copyright September 04, 2001, all rights reserved. 4250 views

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