Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Fallacy Finders Dream

[This letter was published in The Rocky Mountain News today as as response to my Dec. 10, 2005 article, which is posted on this blog. Please identify the logical fallacies in this diatribe and share this with the blogosphere.]

'Design' column shows we're getting dumber

Douglas Groothuis' Speakout column of Dec. 10 on intelligent design, " 'Design' critics often employ straw men," is further evidence of the dumbing down of America. Remember the last time religion intruded itself into science, when the church condemned Galileo for teaching that the Earth revolved around the sun? How did that turn out?

Five hundred years ago the Muslim countries were the scientific leaders of the world. Why did this change so drastically? Because the Western world began the scientific revolution when it rejected supernatural explanations and sought natural causes that would be amenable to testing and verification, the essence of science. This tradition has served us so well, why would we want to abandon it now?

If people like Groothuis insist that schools teach nonscientific alternatives in science classes, then why stop at intelligent design? Why not teach the flat Earth theory in geography class? How about astrology as an alternative to astronomy, and shouldn't alchemy be taught in chemistry classes? Maybe Groot- huis and others would prefer seeing a doctor trained in voodoo as an alternative to traditional medicine?

When we allow the possibility of supernatural agents, anything goes and nothing can be logically disputed or verified by others, so scientific progress stops.
If we start mixing science and religion in the public schools, then we had better make sure that our children and grandchildren start learning Chinese. Because America will have unilaterally disarmed itself in the future battle for scientific and technological supremacy.

James J. Amato Woodland Park


John Ferrer said...

I am glad to see true Christian intellectuals maintain regular blogs.

I am also pretty certain that blogging is about the worst way to enlist a mentor, but here it goes . . .

I have recently finished my MDiv in Apologetics at Southern Evangelical Seminary (Charlotte, NC) and am hoping to launch into a DPhil program at Oxford University (Wycliffe Hall). But as I stand now, I don't have very impressive credentials except good grades, a good reputation with my professors at seminary, and a flare for writing.

I have also searched far and wide for intellectual mentors only to find people who are either unavailable or not very intellectual. Do you have any recommendations for me concerning such a big leap--whether concerning the application process, the school, where to find mentors, anything? I think I have as much ability to compete with the best of them. But considering my inexperience, and my evangelical disposition, to launch into the fearsome scholarly realm of an Oxford leaves me in over my head. But this river must be crossed and too few people seem to be swimming ahead of me to lend direction. Can you help me?


Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

The scientific revolution was sparked and fueled and sustained on the basis of the Christian worldview, which developed in the Middle Ages and through the Reformation. See Rodney Stark, "The Victory of Reason" (2005), chapter one. It wasn't advanced on the basis of naturalism. Many scholars have noted this, but the naturalist elite of today's culture says nothing of it. Francis Schaeffer gave a popular presentation of this truth in "How Then Shall We Live" back in 1976.

dhyams said...

Susan mentioned quite a few, but perhaps the most ironic fallacy is that of the straw-man--the very one you discussed in the article he responded to.

Also, the poor chap has been deceived into believing that the Church (i.e., the Bible) taught geocentrism. The fact is that it was the Aristotelianism that the church embraced that taught geocentrism: the earth being the center sphere, and therefore, the lowest state of existence. By showing heliocentrism to actually be the case, Galileo brought humanity to a higher state of being--quite the opposite effect of many naturalists' understanding. In "6 Modern Myths about Christianity and Civilization," Philip Sampson exposes this and other myths which are often trumpeted in the halls of academe.

Becky said...

There are some a fortiori appeals in the letter, as well as some red herrings.

Overall, though the letter has proved your point point! Maybe the editorial editor (?) thought this would be a funny.

Jim said...

From the timeless Matthew Henry: "Nay, it is the corrupt bias of the will that bribes and besots the understanding: none so blind as those that will not see."

I've gone round and round on this topic with so many people that I've all but given up on resolving it with them. We just end up talking past each other. So these days I usually try to redirect the conversation to the heart of the matter: theism and atheism.

john alan turner said...

There are not only a handful of logical fallacies; there are a number of factual errors as well. Not only was the scientific revolution sparked, fueled and sustained by people with a decidedly Christian worldview (I would also recomment Alvin Schmidt's HOW CHRISTIANITY SAVED THE WORLD [2004]), but the writer has bought into the myth of Religion vs. Science -- especially as he portrays the church's relationship with Galileo (on this, I would recommend Philip J. Sampson's SIX MODERN MYTHS ABOUT CHRISTIANITY AND WESTERN CIVILIZATION (2001).

Overall, the writer needs to examine his presuppositions and check his facts.

Small Group Guy said...

Reading about Blaise Pascal is enlightening on this subject as well.

Christians from the beginning have used scientific inquiry not only to help humanity, but to show God's glory more and more. I love learning about the theories and facts being shown daily in bio chemistry. It just goes to show how well a cell is put together and how it could not evolve.

David said...

The article starts off with the ad hominem fallacy by calling you stupid--a pretty immature tactic and very revealing of his anger on this issue.

David said...

Also, he never even explains why ID is unscientific, he just assumes it and then lumps it together with flat earth theory and alchemy and voodoo. But let's be serious, no one is publishing in peer reviewed journals on these subjects, ID proponents are.

Sure, ID infers the existence of a God-like being, but how does that disqualify it as science? I have yet to hear a good argument for this claim. Furthermore, how does that even qualify as religion? Exactly which religion does this theory allegedly support, I ask.

Chris said...

False analogies abound. (Between ID and voodoo, astrology, flat earth, etc.) Appeal to emotion (fear) by saying that the teaching of ID will inevitably lead to the fall of the United States. Red herring (already pointed out)and slippery slope -- by changing the subject from ID to the technological downfall of US. I'm sure there are more.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

To the respondents: Good job! All Christians should master basic logic: deductive and inductive argument forms and logical fallacies, both formal (such as affirming the consequent) and informal (such as red herring, false analogy, etc.). I asked my students this term how many had a basic grasp of logical fallacies. Only a few did. I then assigned some material from the Internet.

One cannot underestimate how intellectually unprepared many Christians are. Shame on the school. Shame on the family. Shame on the church. Bless the Lord, the Logos (John 1:1).

Logocentrically yours and His,
Doug Groothuis

Ed Darrell said...

Logical errors may exist, but they don't negate the fact that advocates of intelligent design in biology classes exhibit more such errors, nor the fact that their efforts do serious damage to the education of our children, and ultimately to our ability to compete economically and our ability to defend ourselves.

In finding logical errors you do well. In providing solid evidence of intelligent design in biology, you fail.

Don't feel bad -- no one else has been able to overcome the falsification of intelligent design in the early 1800s, either. That's why it's not science, and that's part of the reason it's a violation of the establishment clause to require it be taught.

Ed Darrell said...

The Christian view during the Enlightenment included the idea that reason has a role in the world. What appears to be the abandonment of that idea definitely handicaps getting the Christian view into science classes.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

Neither I nor the rather vast cohort of evangelical philosophers today have abandoned the idea that "science has a role to play in the world," to put it rather mildly!

Yaakovwatkins said...

Mr. Goothius

Science, dogmatically used. is a religion. The definitions of science used to exclude Christian and Jewish thought, also exclude formal logic.

Since you cannot prove (whatever that means) that logic will always work, using it to understand the world is a non-scientific thing to do.

Science arbitrarily excludes the question of creation. Critics of religon arbitrarily assert that it is impossible to test the theory that the world was created and say that therefore it is not a scientific issue.

When relativity was postulated, it was impossible to test it. It apparently wasn't a scientific theory. Which would have surprised Einstein.

Unless scientists are willing to doubt their own religion, science will stop progressing.

As for searching for natural causes, if someone can explain how "in the beginning, there was nothing and it exploded" is a search for natural causes, I would appreciate it.