Social Media Fallacies, Part 1

A trend I consistently see on social media sites it the use of illogical arguments to try to make a point.  It seems that the more emotional the discussion, the more ridiculous the arguments.  The irksome thing to me is that most of the people making these arguments have no idea just how irrational they are.

The current discussion of the Paris terrorist attacks and debate over President Obama’s push to bring Syrian refugees to the United States is a case in point.   I took a random sampling from my Facebook newsfeed, and found numerous quotes and memes that are utter nonsense.  Here are a sampling of them:

The M&M Argument

M&Ms

This is an example of a weak analogy.  The argument is that since you would reject all of the M&Ms rather than risk eating a poison one, we should reject all Syrian refugees because there may be some terrorists embedded.

The analogy breaks down for a couple of reasons.  First, M&Ms aren’t people.  Throwing away M&Ms isn’t a moral issue.  Whether or not we help refugees is a moral issue.  Second, the analogy implies that it’s impossible to determine whether any of the M&Ms are poison – they are all identical.  Refugees aren’t identical.  Some – small children, for example – can be fairly easily determined to not be terrorists.  Unlike the M&Ms, there are vetting procedures in place that can reliably identify some people as terrorists, and some people as non-threats.  Granted, these protocols aren’t foolproof, and extreme caution should be taken.  Still, unlike the M&Ms, it’s not random chance.

The Problem is Religion

The Problem Is ReligionThis one is an example of the fallacy of prejudicial conjecture.  An emotional, arbitrary, and ill-informed opinion is substituted for an accurate and factual assessment of the issue.  There is no factual basis for this argument.

It’s also an example of wishful thinking and manipulative propaganda.  Just because someone has an anti-religious beliefs doesn’t make religion bad.  Propaganda is defined by Webster as “the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person.”  This argument is really nothing more than a weak attempt to exploit the legitimate issue of terrorism in order to discredit God.

It’s also an example of a red herring argument.  It’s an attempt to distract from the actual issue being debated or discussed.

The entire argument is shown as preposterous when one uses the same form to argue against other issues:

FOOD poisoning

Homeless Before Refugees

Here are a couple that are very similar:

Homeless

There are a couple of logical fallacies embedded in these memes.

First, like many memes, the pictures are selected for their appeal to emotion.  Look at that poor little child!  Look at those homeless veterans!  How could you be so cruel as to ignore them and help refugees?  Tugging on people’s emotions is not a rational argument.

A second fallacy is the either – or fallacy, also known as bifurcation or a false dilemma.  These memes present us with a choice:  Either you support the American homeless, or you can support refugees.  It’s one or the other.  We can’t do both.  The fallacy is that in reality, we do not have to choose one or the other – we can do both.  In a bifurcated argument, the possibility of alternative solutions is ignored.

You’re an Idiot!  Look – a Squirrel!

obama-manilaIllogical arguments aren’t limited to social media memes.  There was a link on my newsfeed to a news report of President Obama making the following statement in regards to those who oppose Syrian refugee immigration:  “Apparently they’re scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America.”

This is a typical ad hominem attack.  An ad hominem attack is simply an insult or name-calling.  It’s not a rational argument; it’s attacking the person, rather than their argument.  It’s typically used when the person making the attack has run out of valid arguments, and so they resort to name-calling.

It’s also a classic strawman argument.  A strawman argument first distorts the opponent’s actual position, making it easier to argue against.  Almost nobody is claiming that Syrian widow and orphan refugees pose a threat; it’s mostly the males of military service age that people have expressed concern over.  However, by falsely implying that those who oppose Syrian refugee immigration are against widows and orphans, it’s much easier to argue against than their actual position.

Not So Scary

Refugees in Cincinnati

This photo was posted by several people, and was accompanied by this text:

I saw a friend of a friend post this picture and felt I needed to share it. It is a picture of the first refugee family from Syria to be settled in Cincinnati, Ohio after they arrived yesterday.

A big faceless unknown is scary, I know, but when you put a face to it and see exactly who these refugees are, I believe that’s where we can all start seeing the truth behind this crisis and exactly who is being effected by this.

When we understand something, it’s a lot less scary and a whole lot easier to be compassionate towards others. This is something I feel relates to almost all aspects of life, not just this single issue.

Again, the photo is an appeal to emotion.  Look at those faces.  They’re not so scary, are they?

The language is also an appeal to emotion, not a rational argument.  A friend posted this.  The unknown is scary.  We need compassion.  This is nothing but playing on people’s emotions, and is not a rational basis for determining public policy.

This also falls under the fallacy of a biased sample.  The argument is that these people are representative of all of the 30,000 refugees we plan to bring in to the United States.  Just because someone posts one photo of one refugee family, it doesn’t mean all refugees are the same.  There are also photos of scary-looking male refugees floating around the Internet – which are just as biased.

Don’t be a Hypocrite!

Let’s look at one more:

Hypocrite!

This is a Tu Quoque argument.  Tu Quoque, or the appeal to hypocrisy, is a fallacy in which one attempts to defend oneself from criticism by turning the critique back against the accuser.  It basically says, since you don’t live up to your own position, your position is invalid.  This is a form of red herring argument – an argument designed to distract from the real issue.  It’s just creating a diversion, and it’s not a rational argument.

Conclusions

My point with all of this isn’t to argue for or against Syrian immigration, but rather, to point out how silly and misleading many of the arguments are.  It’s also to point out just how gullible people are, since they see these silly arguments, but have no idea they’re nonsense.

This isn’t to say that illogical arguments can’t be effective.  We all use common fallacies when trying to persuade others, and these arguments can often drive a point home.  The problem is, these arguments are misleading and often play on emotions rather than reality.

Fallacious arguments aren’t limited to social media or to political discussion.  They’re found in science textbooks, legal cases, and the network news; they are used in discussions involving religion, politics, sports, and just about every other topic, especially when attempted persuasion is involved.  We all must be discerning and learn to spot faulty logic in order to not be persuaded by ignorance.


Advertisements

Thoughts about the Death of Robin Williams

Robin_Williams Over the last week, the evening news and social media have been filled with the sad details of the suicide of comedian Robin Williams. Williams, who had struggled with depression and substance abuse for years, hanged himself, and was found dead on August 11.

Social media has exploded with commentary on Williams’ life and death. Opinions have run the full gamut. Many of the comments blame his death on mental illness. Others call him a coward for killing himself.

What I’ve found interesting is the comments from self-proclaimed Christians.

Here is a sampling I gleaned from the Facebook page of a well-known Christian band:

Lisa B. wrote,

As a Christian myself I take great comfort knowing that Robin Williams is indeed in Heaven. He brought laughter, support and happiness to so many and now is his time to escape his hell of depression and live with The Lord. Any other Christians that would claim otherwise should be ashamed of themselves and take another good look at their lives. What makes them better than Robin Williams? That answer would be, absolutely nothing. Rest in Peace Mr. Williams and thanks for the joy you brought to my life.

Donovan E, wrote,

As a Christian, I have always been offended by this notion that someone goes to Hell for this or for that. If that is the case, we are all in trouble. It makes no sense to me for God to create us, just to destroy us in the after life. God is compassionate, and none of us are without some sort of sin, even on our death bed. Those like Robin with depression issues that they cannot overcome on this Earth, surely is at peace in the kingdom. Just my perspective.

Both Lisa and Donovan seem to be missing the entire point of the Gospel. It has nothing to do with being “better than” others, as Lisa suggests. Donovan was partially correct: none of us is without some sort of sin, and we are all in trouble. What both seem to be missing is the fact that God, being infinitely just, cannot simply overlook our sin. The penalty for sin is death and eternal separation from God – hell. Jesus took the penalty for sin upon Himself, fulfilling the righteous judgment of God. Nothing we do can make us “good enough.” It is only through Jesus Christ that forgiveness can be obtained. The only thing we can do is to receive Christ as Savior. If we accept Jesus as Savior, we are forgiven. If we reject Jesus, we go to hell.

Robin Williams was well known for giving to a great number of good causes, often anonymously. He was, in human terms, a “good person.” However, in God’s terms, he was a sinner, as we all are. No amount of giving or good deeds can pay for our sin or get us into Heaven. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Unless Robin Williams repented of his sin and received Jesus Christ as Savior, he is in Hell. While I don’t claim to know what God might have done in Williams’ heart during his last days on earth, there is absolutely nothing to indicate he ever was saved. Williams sometimes openly mocked Jesus Christ and the Bible in his comedy routines. And, while I do think deathbed conversions can be genuine, it seems extremely unlikely that a person can become truly saved – and then immediately kill himself.

Bradley T. wrote,

It is such a tragedy that there are so called “Christians” that seem happy about declaring that Robin Williams went to hell. I am a follower of Christ, I know that I did not know the state of mind of Robin Williams, and knowing Jesus does not mean that you cannot still suffer from severe depression. In the end what matters is what was in his heart those last few minutes of his life. I pray for his family that God will give them peace and comfort during this time.

Melissa H. wrote,

What kind of Christian would take pleasure in someone’s eternal damnation?????? I pray that Robin found his peace deep in the arms of the Saviour…… SHAME ON YOU PEOPLE THAT PROCLAIM CHRIST AND WISH HELL ON ANYONE!!!!!!

One of the disturbing trends I’ve seen is a small minority of self-proclaimed Christians who seem to take pleasure from the fact that Robin Williams is most likely suffering in Hell. I’ve seen posts commenting that he “deserved” to be in Hell because he mocked God – implying that while Williams deserved Hell, the writer did not. It grieves me that Williams is, in all likelihood, in Hell. It grieves me that most people reject Jesus Christ and go to Hell. It grieves me that, because of my sin, I deserve Hell. I just thank God that, through His grace and mercy, He reached me with the truth of His forgiveness through the blood of Christ, and I received Jesus as Savior. It’s not because I’m better than anyone else, or that God loves me more; it’s because I responded to God’s offer of salvation, which He freely extends to all, yet most reject.

It’s a sick person who wishes for anyone to go to Hell.

robin-williams-God-Laugh

I saw a comment somewhere to the effect that Robin Williams is in Heaven, making God laugh. In all probability, Williams is not in Heaven. God is not laughing; He is weeping. Satan is the one who is laughing.

Michael M. wrote,

Don’t know if that would be technically correct or not; I have seen a couple of recent interviews where he referenced being thankful for “a loving God”. Perhaps he had found some level of connection…according to his level of understanding. I sure hope so. In any case, this sort of ‘speaking ill of the dead’…to the detriment of friends and family…is NOT a ‘Christian’ thing to do. If you cannot “speak the truth IN LOVE”, keep your mouth shut.

The answer is not being thankful for “a loving God,” nor in finding “some level of connection…according to his level of understanding.” The answer is repenting of sin and trusting Christ as Savior. The apostle Paul put it this way:

…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Belief is not simply an intellectual understanding. It involves commitment, repentance, and trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ. James 2:19 states that “Even the demons believe—and tremble!” Demons are condemned to Hell, not because they lack intellectual understanding, but because they reject Jesus Christ. The same is true of people.

speaking-truth-loveOne thing Michael M. wrote that I wholeheartedly agree with: If you cannot “speak the truth IN LOVE”, keep your mouth shut. My fervent prayer is that anyone who reads this and doesn’t already know Jesus Christ as Savior will see this as a wake-up call to seek Jesus Christ, receive Him as Savior, and be saved. While Christians are commanded to preach the Gospel, we are also commanded to do so in love. Sometimes, the truth hurts. It hurts to realize I am a sinner. It hurts to know I deserve Hell. It hurts to discover there’s nothing I can do about it. It hurts to know that, in all likelihood, Robin Williams is in Hell, as will be most of the people I have known or admired. It hurts to know that God had to send His only begotten Son to die in my place. However, I fervently believe it is the truth. And, I love people enough to tell them the truth, not to make myself feel good, but in the hope that others will come to know Jesus Christ. If I didn’t love people, I wouldn’t care if they went to Hell. The most hateful thing I can imagine is to know the truth, and keep it to myself, not caring if others go to Hell, or not. To those who think you’re better than others, or that God loves you more: SHUT UP. You’re fools. Take the log out of your own eye, and quit trying to throw sawdust in the eyes of others.

Lastly, Troy S. wrote,

How about this for a thought! What if the way he died is a fail safe that God has in place for people who just can’t find him, but he still wants him as his own, so this unjust death so it may seem ,just means he is allowed to be with God eternally, but has to go out this way! I just don’t see a loving God giving up on his children so easily.

While I disagree with the notion that suicide is an automatic ticket to Hell, I also disagree with the notion that suicide might be an automatic ticket to Heaven. Neither concept is found in the Bible. The Bible is clear. Salvation is based on whether or not one has repented of sin and received Jesus Christ as Savior. Those that receive Christ go to Heaven; those who do not go to Hell.

My hope and prayer is that all of the discussion about the death of Robin Williams will cause some to seek the truth in Jesus Christ and be saved. I pray that other Christians will use Robin Williams’ death as an opening to share the Gospel and lead others to faith in Christ. I also pray that the hate-mongers and self-righteous legalist would just shut up, repent, and seek forgiveness.

The Parable of the Selfish Geneticist

science bibleOnce there was a geneticist who stumbled upon a series of genes responsible for human aging. He also discovered a method to turn those genes off, allowing people to live to fantastic ages of 1,000 years or more. However, being incredibly selfish, he told no one about his discovery; he kept the knowledge and the treatment to himself. Eventually, as others around him aged, yet he remained young, his secret was discovered. The selfish geneticist was condemned by all for his selfishness. They said, “Millions of lives have been needlessly lost, all because this selfish man kept the knowledge of how to prevent aging to himself, rather than telling the world about his fantastic discovery!” The selfish geneticist lived for more than another thousand years, guilt-ridden with the knowledge that he could have saved millions of lives, but didn’t.

A number of people have recently asked why I spend so much time and effort on Facebook and with this blog arguing for the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Much like the selfish geneticist, I have discovered the reason people die. It would be selfish of me not to tell others about it.

What I have discovered is not new; I’m certainly not the only person who knows about it. In fact, it’s been known for thousands of years, and millions know about it today. The answer to eternal life isn’t something I figured out on my own through superior insight or intelligence; rather, it’s so simple a child can understand it: The reason all people die is because we all sin. The cure is forgiveness for sin through the blood of Jesus Christ. So simple, yet so profound.

Yet, there are many billions of people who either have never heard, or who refuse to listen. I believe with all my heart that when any person dies without first receiving Jesus Christ as Savior, they are destined for an eternity separated from God in Hell. Sin separates us from God, and there is nothing that any person can do on their own to remove sin from their lives. Only by entering into a relationship with Jesus Christ and having sin removed by His death on the cross can anyone avoid Hell.

This is why I am so passionate in my efforts to evangelize. I would be a hypocrite not to.

SpeakTheTruthMany people who read my blog and/or Facebook posts would argue that God does not exist, or that absolute spiritual truth either does not exist or is unknowable. Yet, I know God exists, because I know Him; He lives in me. I know absolute moral and spiritual truth exist, because God has shown them to me. It’s not because there’s anything special about me; God wants everyone to know Him and to know the truth. I argue for the absolute truth of the Bible, not to win an argument, or to try to make myself out as some sort of spiritual genius, but because I want to expose the lies people cling to that prevent them from coming to true faith in Jesus Christ.

God has blessed me with an analytical mind, so I tend to take a very analytical, logical approach to sharing and defending the Gospel. I realize that this approach isn’t for everyone; I often wish I was better at expressing myself in other ways. I’m working on it. But, since God has gifted me the way He has, I will continue to use what He has given me to try to help people understand that He exists, that He loves them, and that there is only one way to be reconciled to Him, through Jesus Christ.

I know why people die. I also know the cure. It’s not a genetic disorder; it’s a spiritual disorder. The cure is Jesus Christ. Of this I am absolutely convinced: Millions have died and continue to die, and will spend eternity apart from God, unless they turn from their sin and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. What kind of horrible monster would I be if I kept this truth to myself?

Rebuttal: “Teachers Back Away From Evolution In Class” by Jesse Emspak

I originally posted this on Facebook in January, 2011; I’ve decided to re-post it here.

Rebuttal

“Teachers Back Away From Evolution In Class” by Jesse Emspak | January 27, 2011

http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/105982/20110127/teachers-back-away-from-evolution-in-class.htm

This article is loaded with misinformation and fallacious arguments. It is nothing more than a weak attempt to promote a theory that is rapidly being exposed as illogical, unscientific, and anti-religious.

“Teachers who are unable or unwilling to teach the theory of evolution in biology might be one reason U.S. students are falling behind in science, according to new research.”

Evolution plays absolutely no role in the vast majority of scientific endeavors. For the engineer, chemist, and physicist, evolution is a complete non-issue. Even in the biological sciences, the issue of origins is completely irrelevant to for those doing actual research. The only scientists for whom the origins of life is even an issue is for those who specialize in the study of origins!

“The National research Council recommends that teachers introduce to students the evidence that evolution actually occurred, and use it as a unifying theme in different areas of biology.”

First, the National Research Council (NRC) operates under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), a blatantly anti-Christian, anti-religious organization that seeks to use “science” to replace belief in God with belief in secular humanism. Secondly, every evidence used to support evolution has repeatedly been shown to be fallacious and/or just plain false. The NAS seeks to indoctrinate, rather than foster critical thinking of the evidence for and against evolution.

“Teachers may want to avoid controversy, but the problem, Berkman says, is that it undermines science as a mode of thought and means of finding out about the world.”

Most teachers want to teach their students critical thinking skills, but are afraid they will lose their jobs if they even suggest that their students to approach evolution critically. I know – I used to be a public school science teacher.

“Not having biology taught properly, Berkman says, makes it harder for students to understand science later on.”

I agree. Indoctrinating students with evolution, rather than teaching them to evaluate the pros and the cons of the theory, has stunted students’ understanding of science.

“The theory of evolution states that life forms will change over time in response to their environment, and the fraction of individuals in a species with one or more inherited traits will differ. The cause is natural variation within species, which affects how well they survive in a given environment — or not. Sometimes species will split into two or more different ones, and sometimes they will die out.”

This is the fallacy of equivocation. Actually, what is being described is natural selection, not evolution. Evolution is the idea that all modern species descended from a single common ancestor over million of years. Natural selection is observable, measurable, testable science. Common descent is neither observable, nor testable, nor measurable. It is philosophy disguised as science. The fallacy is equating evolution, meaning natural selection or change over time, with evolution, meaning common descent. Same term, two entirely different meanings, and one does not necessarily follow from the other.

“The simplest way to solve this problem is to change the ways people who will become teachers are taught the subject before they ever get into a classroom, Berkman says.”

Indoctrinate the teachers so they can indoctrinate the students.

Some teachers try to present both sides, he notes, but the problem with that is that it puts science in the same class of knowledge as an opinion, as though well-established principles could be debated.

This is the fallacy of begging the question, also known as a circular argument. We cannot question whether evolution is a fact, because evolution is a fact. We cannot debate whether evolutionary principles are well-established, because evolutionary principles are well-established.

Neo-Darwinian evolution is nothing more than an anti-religious philosophy posing as science, held together by smoke and mirrors, and is rapidly being exposed as such. Articles like this only serve as an attempt to shore up public opinion and make people thing they’re stupid if they approach the issue critically and logically rather than simply accepting it blindly. It makes me angry that most people lack the interest, information, and/or the skills to understand that the belief that Mankind came from goo is irrational and just plain stupid. It makes me even angrier that this irrational belief in evolution is one of the key reasons people reject the Bible, and therefore reject Jesus Christ, and therefore spend eternity in Hell.

Random stuff from Facebook and emails, Part 8

Random pictures I either
found on Facebook
or had emailed to me.


Part 8:  Science Fiction – Again


Because these pictures all came off Facebook or emails, I’m not sure where any of this stuff originated, so if anyone knows, post a comment, and I’ll credit the source and link to it.

Click on a photo to see a larger version:


   
     
     
     
 

Random stuff from Facebook and emails, Part 7

Random pictures I either
found on Facebook
or had emailed to me.


Part 7:  Uncategorized Random Stuff 1


Because these pictures all came off Facebook or emails, I’m not sure where any of this stuff originated, so if anyone knows, post a comment, and I’ll credit the source and link to it.

Here are some things I couldn’t categorize…

Click on a photo to see a larger version:

     
     
   

Random stuff from Facebook and emails, Part 6

Random pictures I either
found on Facebook
or had emailed to me.


Part 6:  Odd Signs


Because these pictures all came off Facebook or emails, I’m not sure where any of this stuff originated, so if anyone knows, post a comment, and I’ll credit the source and link to it.

Click on a photo to see a larger version:

     
     
   
  I took the last two photos…