Defining Terms: ad hominem

October 31, 2011

Another Fallacy used by people in arguments, debates, and discussions is called ad hominem.

ad hominem – In Latin means “to the people.”  As a debate tactic it is an attempt to draw the discussion away from the facts and evidence of the debate and focus them on the person(s) in the debate or to another person who holds similar views.

Most of the time when a person uses an ad hominem tactic it is because they have run out of facts and evidence to discuss and they turn to they people who are making the arguments.  The best way to stop someone who is using an ad hominem tactic is to call it out and tell them that it is not based on the facts or evidence.

Here are several examples of ad hominem  statements.  See if you can locate how they are drawing the attention away from the facts and putting it on the person.

1. Why should I be a Christian like all those TV preachers who have had affairs and cheated on their wives?

2. Those Christians are so narrow-minded and fundamental, they won’t accept the facts.

3. He is closed-minded and will only accept empirical evidence from science to prove his claim.

4. You are not a biologist or physicist and you do not have the understanding to be able to argue about matters of science.

5.  The Green Bay Packers are not going to win the Superbowl this year because their quarterback’s mom is ugly.

As always questions, comments, and discussions welcome.

Defining Terms: Red Herring

October 29, 2011

Another common debate tactic that is often used is called Red Herring.  You may have heard of that term before but don’t know where it came from.  When hunters are training dogs to track the scent of an animal the trainers will rub a Red Herring (a fish) across the trail to try to throw off the dog from following the scent.

In apologetics a Red Herring is a similar technique used by a person to distract or take them off the main point of an argument or from following the evidence to areas that may seem related to the subject, but in fact are not.  A common Red Herring is the use of emotions in an argument.  For example they may repeat old outdated arguments to cause you to get angry or to make you change your focus to the old outdated argument rather than what you planned on talking about.

In his book, Faith, Fact, and Reason Study #2,  Chris Sherrod gives us an example of  a popular Red Herring used by Darwinian evolutionist.  When looking at the fallacies of the theory of evolution Christians will often point out that there is no mechanism for the process of evolution to take place.   Darwinian evolutionists want to make the issue about time.  They say given enough time, anything can evolve, but the truth of the matter is that no matter how long the time period is, nothing will change if there is no mechanism for the change to occur.  Because the age of the earth and universe is open to discussion, it makes an easy Red Herring.

As always, questions, comments, and discussions welcome.

Defining Terms: Specified Complexity

October 24, 2011

In my post about the Teleological Argument I used the term specified complexity.   I wanted to define it and give several examples of what is specified complexity and how can be used to show that design implies a designer.  It is one of the two main arguments for Intelligent Design (ID) the other being Irreducible Complexity, which I will discuss in an upcoming post.

Specified Complexity  – Specified complexity is a property which can be observed in living things.  Specified complexity is present in a configuration when it can be described by a pattern that displays a large amount of independently specified information and is also complex.

A simple way of explaining it would be through a Shakespearean sonnet. William Dembski who is a Christian apologist put’s it this way; “A single letter of the alphabet is specified without being complex. A long sentence of random letters is complex without being specified. A Shakespearean sonnet is both complex and specified.”  While it might be possible for a bunch of monkeys typing on a computer keyboard to type out a bunch of random letters, you would never assume that they would type out a bunch of words that formed a sentence, a sentence that made sense that also fit into a rhythmic pattern, and composed a larger poem that was understandable to read from start to finish.  The obvious choice is that it was designed that way.

Scientific atheists say that specified complexity is just an illusion of the eye, that it is really “just what occurs” within the transmittal of information in evolution.   They try to down play the idea of specified complexity by claiming that the complexity was already there in the previous DNA and just a copy of what has evolved over billions of years.   Richard Dawkins even tried a computer generated experiment with a type of evolutionary algorithm to try to show that a random program could churn out the following target sequence, a putative instance of specified complexity using 28 letters and spaces.









Starting with the beginning sequence above Dawkins claimed success only after 43 times through the program.  A few of intermediate sequences can be seen above as well.  So you can follow the transformation of the sequence from start to finish.  Well, sounds like Dawkins silenced the (ID) creationists with his experiment right?  Wrong, what Dawkins actually did was show the indisputable fact that intelligence has a role in specified complexity.  Here is what we mean, who or what told the computer to try to reach the Target sequence above, where to put spaces between words, how to rearrange words in a sentence?  Dawkins did.  The computer simulation would not have been possible had not Dawkins give the basic algorithm for the computer to use to create the target sequence.   If you ask a scientific atheist where that evolutionary algorithm comes from, don’t expect an answer.

Now consider DNA that makes up our genetic code.  DNA is so much more complex than a Shakespearean sonnet or a 28 length sequence of letters.  Mapping the entire human genome would be the equivalent of 3-4 volumes of encyclopedias.  There are over 3.1 billion bits of information in the human genome.   The question is where did all this information come from?  It far more complex than any computer program that we have created.  Lastly, who programmed all this code into the human genome?  Darwinian evolution has no answers, but it looks more and more that intelligence was involved in the process.

As always questions, comments, and discussions welcome.

Defining Terms: Premise & Conclusion

October 14, 2011

I always try to go back and explain terms that I use to make sure you understand the blog posts.  Perhaps I should do them before I post blogs, but that would require some extra planning and thoughtfulness, that I don’t have.  In a recent post, The Cosmological Argument, I used the following terms:

Premise – A proposition upon which an argument is based or from which a conclusion is drawn.  In logic, it is one of the propositions in a deductive argument.

Conclusion – The result or outcome of an act or process.  In logic it is a reasoned deduction or inference.

These two terms will help you hone your debate and conversation skills with others.  While people may not outright label their debates and discussions with these words, they definitely use them.  Part of your job as a good apologist is to listen to what people are saying and be able to pick out their premises that lead to their conclusions.   Only after you know what their premise and conclusions are will you be able to examine their arguments for truth and coherence.  You may be able to show someone how their faulty conclusion is faulted based on one of their premises.

If you have two opposing conclusions that fit into the law of excluded middle.  (For example, Conclusion 1: God does not exist.  Conclusion 2: God does exist.) one conclusion naturally is wrong.  It is then the task of those in debate or conversation to retrace the premises in the arguments to decide whether the premises or the inferences are true or faulty.  Thus the discussions began.

As always, questions, comments, and discussions welcome.

Defining Terms: Begging the Question

October 8, 2011

Image DetailHave you ever heard someone make a statement or make a conclusion that you know is wrong, but you can’t figure out why it wrong?  There are a few reasons why this may be so, but most of the time it stems from a faulty question or statement that leads to a faulty conclusion.

Begging The Question – using the conclusion as one of the premises (or reasons) to reach the conclusion.  When you already claim the conclusion as fact.  This is also called circular reasoning or arguing in a circle.  For example, saying Tom is the most honest guy I know, why because Tom told me, and honest people don’t lie.

One of the most popular ways that Christians use Begging The Question is by quoting 2 Timothy 3:16.  “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,”    While we know from other evidence that we can trust the Bible, using the Bible to prove itself is circular reasoning.

For example saying that evolution is reason that life evolves  is also circular reasoning.  Science must be able to show some physical mechanism of why it does evolve in the first place.  Evolution just is… is not a valid reason or proof.

As always, questions, comments, and discussions welcome.

Defining Terms: ad populum

October 2, 2011

A few days ago I used a term in a post that I didn’t explain, you may or may not have known what it meant.   Referring to a debate that  I watched between 2 men I said the following.   “One person had a set of thoughts in which they presented in turn and the second man, took a position of doubt, and really questioned everything that was said by the other person and other ad populum topics.”

to the people

ad populum – ad populum is Latin for ‘to the people‘, the phrase ad populum is used to describe a technique in debate where you make an appeal ‘to the people’ or the popular vote.    You might consider it to what is known in general to the majority of the population or think of it as common knowledge.

The danger with ad populum is that even though it is commonly known, believed or accepted, it doesn’t mean that it is right or truthful.  Phrases like “everybody knows…”,  “most educated people…”, or “all religious people know…” are examples of ad populum.  Often times the facts and evidence are  left out, and perhaps done on purpose to avoid having to deal with the reality of the real evidence.

Everyone knows that the Bible is full of contradictions.
All scientists believe that Evolution is not longer a theory but now accepted it as fact.

So how do you handle someone who chooses to use an ad populum technique with you in a discussion or debate.  Simply call it for what it is.  You may want to ask for the facts behind the claim.  For example in our examples above, you can simply ask the person “What contradictions?”  Ask them to give you something to defend against or an opportunity to explain a “so-called” contradiction.   Or to ask what the facts are behind the theory of evolution.

Lastly you can remind them that just because something is accepted by the popular consensus, doesn’t mean that it is correct.  For example: If a majority of the class got an answer wrong on a test, it doesn’t mean that it would become right.  If ad populum always meant it was the truth, then the issues of Nazi Germany would have meant that it was okay for the Nazis to do what they did to the Jews because a majority of Germany agreed with it.  Slavery was an accepted way of life for many countries in our recent past, but that doesn’t mean that it was right either.

Defining Terms: Worldview

September 29, 2011

If you are just starting to learn about apologetics it is good to be familiar with several of the basic terms that are used in discussions, debates, and by many of those in the creation and evolution realm.  I will start out very basic with some of these words and gradually get deeper and more complex with the terms.  If I use a word in a recent blog I will include it in the Defining Terms blogs that  I create.

Worldview – The dictionary describes it as a comprehensive conception or image of the universe and of humanity’s relation to it.  Everyone has a worldview whether or not they think a little or a lot about it.  I believe that a solid worldview must be able to satisfactorily answer basic questions about our past, present and future as well as give coherent meaning to all of the issues that we may face in our lifetime.   The human mind has a curious need to organize things and understand and make them coherent.

I have recently heard of a University of Florida student who was attending a lecture by apologist, Ravi Zacharias, and the student stood up and defiantly made the statement that “Life doesn’t have to be coherent” and demanded that Ravi Zacharias give an answer to why it should.  Dr. Zacharias responded that he would like to help the student, but before He answered that question, he had one question for the student.  Dr. Zacharias asked him, “Would you like my answer to your question to be coherent?”  The student stood quietly there for a moment and then just sat down.

What goes into making our worldview?  Everything.  Everything we experience from the time we are born until this very present moment that you are reading this blog accumulates to the sum of our world view.  Our Nurture, Our Nature,  Our Experience, Our Relationships with People (bosses, parents, peers, etc.), Our beliefs, Our Actions, the list could go on and on.  In my Christian worldview, God and the Bible,  have a big part of every single persons worldview on earth, whether they acknowledge God or not.  Someone who holds an atheist position would of course disagree.

A worldview does not have to be religious by nature.  By religious, I use the definition of a strict devotion to a supernatural being, higher power, God or gods.   Worldviews can be based solely on scientific laws and knowledge and whatever a person views as coherent and true.  For example someone who calls themselves a Darwinian evolutionist has a worldview that holds an atheistic or agnostic values.  Another worldview that I just learned about today are Raliens.  They believe that human life was seeded on this planet by extraterrestrials.

I am constantly self-examining my own worldview with the knowledge that I receive almost daily.  I want to make sure that I am as intellectually honest with myself about what I believe as I can be.  In other words, I like to keep an open mind.  Over the course of my journey in life I have found that my Christian worldview has for the most part stayed the same and I still feel that it is one that is the most coherent of all the worldviews I have examined.  The Christian worldview is durable, it can withstand the constant scrutiny from outside and internal sources.  Through out the months and weeks to come I will be examining the different aspects of my own worldview and also comparing them to other popular or mainstream worldviews.  I will do my best to offer the evidence, you can decide what you want to from the facts.

As always questions, comments, and discussions are welcome.  In the near future I will post a follow-up with this blog about the challenge by Richard Dawkins, that people basically take the worldview that they grew up with.  Indoctrination, as he calls it,  by those who raise their children into religion, he even goes to the lengths to call it child abuse.  Most likely for the reaction.