Sunday, December 17, 2017

Circular Reasoning







At approximately 11pm on December 16th, 2017, Mike Danker (who, according to his public Facebook profile, lives in Hudson Ohio) recently made these comments about me (typos and all) on a public atheist Facebook page:
Wonder if he knows the difference between formal and informal fallacies
Almost lost it laughing when he said circular reasoning isnt always fallacious. Its a fomal fallacy, not an informal one.
He talks shit about how the modern common apologists answer these questions meanwhile his response to the problem of evil is the standard C.S. Lewis response by attacking the atheist's views on morality as a redherring instead of responding
Over and over again its like if you were to ask a theorhetical someone how they know dungeons and dragons isnt just a game and they respond by saying "if only you knew the rules on dungeons and dragons clearer youd realize its not just a game" like, the rules arent all that relevant to whether or not its a game
Also "if you dont understand my views because theyre inadequetely explained youre strawmanning me" was annoying

Consider the following post to be my initial response to Mike, even though I doubt he will ever come across this response of mine.

First of all, there is no need to wonder, Mike. I do know the difference between formal and informal fallacies. I also know the difference between the kind of circular reasoning which is fallacious and the kind of circular reasoning which is absolutely necessary for reason itself to exist and be utilized by rational beings. That logical distinction is not one that you seem to be aware of, though. And since you aren’t aware, please allow me to illustrate what I meant at the time I made those claims (which, interestingly, neither time or opportunity was granted to me by David Smalley at the time those comments of mine, which you are criticizing, were made).

If someone—whether a theist or an atheist—claims that circular reasoning is always fallacious, and I was to ask why, the response would likely be some kind of appeal to “logic.” No matter what response occurs, as long as "logic" or "laws of logic" are being appealed to, inferred, or implied, that is the only thing needed to proceed. After all, any claim about "fallacious" reasoning presupposes the laws of logic (i.e. thought) in which the information conveyed can be considered "logical" or "illogical" at all. So when it is claimed, as Mike did, that a “fallacy” always occurs when an argument is circular, that is the same thing (logically, at least) as saying that a circular argument is always “invalid.” Let’s break this down though, because, as someone who has taught a course on critical thinking (using Copi’s Symbolic Logic) in the past, I suspect that Mike doesn’t realize that circular reasoning is involved within that very claim of his is, which means that if his claim is true (which I think is a necessary absurdity) then his claim, according to his own arbitrary definition, is itself fallacious. Of course, he wouldn't appreciate that at all, so I will attempt to free him from this embarrassing and unnecessary faux pas.

So then, on one hand, the claim is made that “circular reasoning” is always fallacious. It can only be fallacious if laws of logic (i.e. thought) exist. Once a second claim is made that he (or anyone) can identify circular reasoning in action, then the conclusion can be drawn that laws of logic (i.e. thought) exist. But that very syllogism (which is a formal fallacy, Mike) presupposes laws of logic in order to even claim that they exist and are being used. In every one of such instances where the laws of logic are appealed to, inferred, or implied for an opponent's reasoning to be "fallacious," one cannot help but reason circularly (either formally or informally). 

Circular reasoning is one of those very strange fallacies to be accused of, because it’s the only fallacy which is actually valid. Valid reasoning, according to the laws of logic, is found when a conclusion follows its premise(s). Normally, fallacies are actually not valid. That is because a conclusion normally does not follow from the premise(s), thereby making such reasoning "fallacious." Yet oddly, with circular reasoning the conclusion does follow from the premise precisely because it is a restatement of the premise. Circular reasoning is only fallacious if the premises are demonstrably arbitrary. (And for the record, just saying so doesn't make it so either. It must be demonstrated, not simply dogmatically asserted, as was the case with David Smalley's response to me.) Arbitrary circular reasoning is obviously problematic because anyone who denies the conclusion would also have to deny the premise, because the conclusion is essentially the same as the premise. 

As noted above with the chain of reasoning about utilizing laws of logic, the conclusion (that laws of logic must exist) must be presupposed at the outset by anyone participating in the discussion. As such, the argument is perfectly reasonable, and valid, but is subtly circular. It’s also absolutely unavoidable in this case, even though all parties involved in the discussion have tacitly presupposed they were trying to prove. We must, therefore, use laws of logic to prove anything as valid or invalid, even the existence of laws of logic. 

As a side note to Mike, the argument on display above was also utilizing a variation (although the same general format) of another law of logic, in order to prove that there are laws of logic. That law is known as modus tollens, and it also happens to be one of the first laws one ever learns when studying the laws of logic. You might want to learn the basics of logic if you'd like to interact with me about circular reasoning.


Every time I find someone accused of “fallacious circular reasoning”—whether its by a theist or an atheist—I pause and reflect upon the actual argument being used, attempting to see the actual circularity involved, and to decipher whether or not the premises are arbitrary. For someone to mock me (publicly, by the way) and deflect (public) attention away from what the laws of logic actually teach us, and to simply dismiss what I said about circular reasoning as not always being fallacious (which, in Mike's case, was illustrated with laughter), is an audaciously naive response, and one I hope is recanted before infecting others with one's own arbitrary circular reasoning.

Now comes the million dollar question: Between David Smalley and I (or Mike, I guess, could also be included), which person's view of the world and the nature of reality can justify the existence of universal, unchanging, and immaterial entities such as the laws of logic? 

At this point all I want to do is leave the reader to research a debate in order to begin answering such a vital question. That debate i'm referring to is known as "The Great Debate" between Dr. Greg Bahnsen and Dr. Gordon Stein. The formal title of the debate was originally called "Does God Exist?", but after listening to the audio below it will become obvious as to why it was renamed "The Great Debate." The transcript of that debate can be found here. The audio of that debate can be found here. And a brief web page about that debate can be found here. Enjoy!









A conversation between two gods



What Osiris said to Atum:
What does it mean that I must go to the desert of the kingdom of the dead? It has no water, it has no air, it is so deep, so dark, so endless.
You will live there in peace of mind. 
But no sexual pleasure can be had there. 
I have given transfiguration instead of sexual pleasure, water and air, peace of mind instead of bread and beer.
But how painful it is for me not to see your face. 
I will not allow you to suffer want.
What is the duration of life?
You will have millions of millions. Life there lasts for millions. But I will destroy everything that I have created. This earth will return to the Nun, to the deluge, as in its primal state. 


Here are some thoughts to ponder. A fragment of this Egyptian story is found in two places: the Coffin Texts of the 12th Dynasty and the papyrus of Cha in Turin, 18th Dynasty. It’s final resting place (pun intended) was in the Book of the Dead, as one of its many ‘Sayings.’ But if the average person—papa Joe or granny Smith—was asked what the “meaning” of this fragment is, a wide variety of guesses could be offered. Perhaps it’s about the end of the world, with its destruction of all human life on earth. Or perhaps it’s about life after death, and the preservation of a god in the realm of the underworld. Some might even guess that it’s about existence between two worlds, between an old creation and a new creation. 

All of these have elements worth serious consideration, but none on their own are entirely accurate. For those of us today who presume that this text has a surface-level “meaning” that’s obvious, let me challenge your presumptions with this fact: This text is an ancient temple text. It’s not about the end of the world. It’s not about the destruction of all human life on this globe we call “earth.” It’s not even ‘about’ existence of gods between two worlds. It was about the destruction of sacred land with it’s central sanctuary where all the gods and their worshipers dwelled at the time, and the destiny of Osiris by Atum in that soon-coming destruction. It was also an ancient lament of ‘Mankind’ about that judgement by Atum, as portrayed through the mouth of the gods they had been worshipping. 


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Proclamation of Mortal Man



I am weary, O God.1
I am weary, O God, but I can persevere.
Indeed, I am too dull of a man to discern.
For I have reached my limit and I don't even have the understanding of Adam.
I have not yet learned wisdom, but I know it can be attained.

Who on earth has gone up to you to bring wisdom down to us?
Who has walked the recesses of the deep?
Who has comprehended every detail of land?
Who has entered the storehouses of snow and hail?
What is his name, and what is his son's name?
Surely You know!

Our lives are filled with various trials and dangers.
And so You say, "Take refuge in Me."
Even if we don't consider every word of Yours to be true.
Even if You rebuke us when we add words to the invitation.
Every word proves true.
Our lies are found out.

Oh God, please consider helping me by granting two things before I die. 
I need deliverance from my most basic temptations--those of falsehood and lying. 
If I only had daily bread, the bread sufficient for each day.
I wouldn't be tempted to suppress You or transgress Your law in times of poverty or wealth.

I wouldn't be tempted to slander your servants to their employers. 
I have done that before, and ultimately to my shame.
Every generation seems to act shamefully as I have.
There is cursing of fathers and mothers.
There is hypocrisy in how they view others while not seeing their own filth.
There is great audacity and condemnation in their eyes.
There is a relentless disregard for even the poorest of souls.
As long as that is what it takes to remain wise in their own eyes,
They're like the blood sucking leech and their spawn, crying out, "Give! Give!"

I ponder this vast domain of Yours, and the way they strive for satisfaction without You.
They're insatiable, like the grave or the womb which can't even produce life.
They're like parched land or an entire valley on fire.
Their eyes lead them into shameful desolation.
They could look for the wisdom from above, but they won't.
This mortal existence, and all its wisdom down here, is the only viewing they take pleasure in.

Many more things astonish me, and I don't understand how they can continue living as they do.
They rationalize their adulteries away, as though they have done no wrong.
They feast on violence and then wipe the blood off their lips, leaving no trail behind.
Like an eagle in the sky, or a snake slithering across a rock.
Like a ship in the heart of the ocean, or the way of a successful man with an impressionable woman.

The whole land trembles over such disordered desires.
The weight of it all cannot be sustained forever.
Consider the slave who finally becomes Emperor.
Or the senseless fool, filled with food at the celebration of his coronation. 
Or the servant-girl who, somehow, some way, displaces her Queen.
Or the lady whom we all thought would never get married because of how insufferable she often is.
Do you think she will magically change overnight in her wisdom once she receives a husband?

Even many frail animals serve as lessons of wisdom for us mortals.
The ants prepare for bad times during good times.
The rock badgers provide security for each other.
The locusts cooperate together. 
The geckos are defenseless, but they live in well-fortified palaces.

There is also a proper grandeur which God has given to His creation.
The lion, mightiest of beasts, retreats before nothing.
The rooster walks bravely among female hens.
The hunting-dog is another, as well as the king whose army is with him.
As long as mortals remain wise in their own eyes, foolishly exalting themselves above others,
Instead of being exalted by others,
We can only hope that they cover their mouths while talking.
Raging against others will only provoke further strife, of which we have plenty already.

Rules and prescriptions alone are not able to fix the brokenness all around us.2 
Libraries of law won't suffice for the healing of generations either.
Only the wisdom from above can come down and save us.
The wisdom from below is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic.
If any of us lacks wisdom from above, ask God for it.
He gives generously to all those who do so, and without rebuke or disapproval.
But be sure to ask in loyal trust of the One you're asking,
With no doubting about what you receive as being from the Lord.
If you remain double-minded in your loyalty, don't presume that you'll receive anything from Him.
Let the lowly brother boast in being exalted by Him.
And the rich brother boast in being humbled by Him.
Because like a flower of the field, each will pass away.










1. The inspiration for this comes directly from my reflections upon the Book of Proverbs, chapter 30, and the Book of Wisdom, chapter 2.
2. The inspiration for this comes from the book of James.






Friendship Friendship


Drop in your dollar fifty
The game is the same every day
The scorpion plays with smoke
The reptile with rain
One of them must lose
None must show friendship
As long as you're invested
There is no option of stalemate
Many just enjoy ripping spines out
But the wisdom from below doesn't always satisfy
Some need alternatives to fatality
There must be a way to tap into that above
Some combination of buttons and joystick
Some magazine wrapped in plastic
Some compact disc taped to the last page
What has the Programmer left us to discover?
Such is the riddling in search of friendship
Be not wise in your own eyes, is the clue








Monday, December 11, 2017

Talking Past



What can be said to the sycophant?
He welcomes you into his abode for a friendly discussion
Offers kindness and sincerity
Chatters about all the good done in their name

What can be said to the facile?
He shows concern for the neighbor's pet
Cares about the widow and orphan too
Hates the God who kills and makes alive

What can be said to the pedant?
He ascends to the right hand of his father only to mock his face
Slays the younger brother just because he can
Justifies infanticide on his own terms, while mocking the God who passes over the innocent

What can be said to the Atheist?
He reasons like a fundamentalist
Wages war with imaginary gods
He eats and wipes his mouth and says, 'I have done no wrong.'

What can be said to the Christian?
He made this mess, but wants others to clean it up
Prescribes drugs to all patients, not even knowing each person or side effect
Immunizes every infant in their care to prevent disease from spreading


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Lucy



Of course I believe it's true
Why? 
Don't you?

Of course not
Only an idiot could believe that
Frogs don't become princes you know
Never in a million years could all that be possible
Archeologists all agree
Every biology textbook is clear
Just ask your friendly neighborhood geologist
They'll tell you
Frogs don't become princes
Never in a million years

But what about The Book?

What about it?

It's His. And He says it's true.

No, it doesn't say that. And it's not "His".

Yes. It is.

No, it is most certainly not "His"
You've been brainwashed to think that
Religious people invented the "Book"
They chose it to suit their imaginary theodicy
They just wanted to overpower the weak and vulnerable
It's all a power struggle, that's all
That Book is just like every other book on earth: humanly crafted
You can't magically turn a human book into a Divine One
No matter what you call it
Frogs don't become princes
Not even in a billion years

But what about all the devout worshipers across the globe?
And all the miracles from above?
And all the apparitions? 
And all the answered prayers?
Do you think they all believe in fairy tales?

Unfortunately, yes
But cheer up
Not everything is gloomy just because that One turned out to be a joke
We humans still get to craft our own destiny
For a long time there has been hope dawning at the end of another tunnel
The tides have turned considerably since those ancient myths of His became facts
The four rivers flow westward now, to where our seeds were planted and nurtured a century ago
All the trimming and grooming over here is finished
Faithful groundskeeping is all that's needed now
The trees are fully grown and bearing fruit each year
Pleasant to the sight of all, and good for food
Some now even say that its fruit is able to make one wise
The Mythicists even crafted a clever little ditty in that regard:
'Rejoice all ye lands and do not look grim
With oodles of time on our side
And laws of Nature to guide
Myriads of self-purposed mutations later
And with only One common ancestor
Frogs actually did become princes and without any need for Him'
Despite tiny inconsistencies here and there
We no longer feel the need to challenge those who guard and keep our garden
Such ditties are kind of charming, actually
And it rhymes*




*Jon Sedlak, 11/26/17







Friday, November 24, 2017

Drugs of Choice




Why should You be worshiped?
You see them boxed in, lonely and terrified, tormented and gasping, yet You do nothing about it
The rape behind the curtain
The brain swelling in the infant
The Omnipresent One prefers to dine while watching the film It made
We foolishly accept Your distractions to placate the wrath of your disciples
Butter, brewer's yeast, and sea salt are the drugs of choice

The Omnipotent One just stares into the cold, dark night
You--the Holy One--You can command legions to come to your own aid at any moment
Yet not to theirs?
If I should worship You, then make me believe
I'll give You forty minutes to respond favorably
Yes, I would like some salt
No, I brought my own sweets, and I don't particularly care if I'm not supposed to tell You that

Forty-one minutes later...

What kind of a pathetic Deity would pass up such a sublime opportunity?
Even if You did exist, I wouldn't prostrate myself before You
Where were You when I needed You most, anyway?
It's like this every day--the same torturous imaginary bullshit every day
You're the one who invented torture, aren't You?
You do all of this just because You can
Or, maybe, it's because You can't

Is that it?
You think You're the greatest, but You're really just a poser, like the Devil
Or maybe You are the Devil
Can You even hear me?
I said that's what You are--the Devil
I am the real God of me
And to prove it, I'm going to live my life without You

I will spend my life promoting Science
The true source of our knowledge--at least, what we can know, anyway
And I will make peace with Your ridiculous devotees by calling myself an Agnostic
I will study the book You dropped out of heaven, and Your disciples will learn how hopelessly inept they are as long as they cling to You while listening to Me
Instead of being brainwashed by Your "good" and Your evil, they will learn to focus upon the truth
Their only moral obligation will be to follow that truth wherever it leads
If it leads some sick poodles back to You, we will show mercy, as long as they are merciful
But with the froward we will show ourselves froward

That is the best scientific means to keep the peace
In due time--hopefully not another billion years--the good news will be settled
And Our kingdom established
The most important task at hand now is to quell Your soldiers and set Your captives free
Free to do whatever they want within the limits of Our gospel
Free to be like You
For Science knows of no boundaries other than the ones Our peers review*






*Jon Sedlak, 11/24/17