Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Faux Logic, Part IV

Or, When Clever Thinking Is Bad Thinking

My last name is “Wyman.” How many times since about 6th grade do you think people have grinned at me and said “Why, man?” My middle name is “Neat,” a family surname meaning “cattle,” as in Neat’s Foot Jelly, which used to be sold a million years ago.
Well that’s pretty neat.

Aren’t you the wit, then?

At college bull sessions, late in the evening someone would eventually ask “What if all of this doesn’t really exist, and this is just our collective imaginations?” Far out, man. What if time could go backward? Is my green the same as your green?

Christianity seems to be called to answer the same questions every century. I’m sorry, I meant every fifteen minutes. “What if Jesus didn’t really die on the cross but just looked dead…” “ Jesus wasn’t actually God, but a god…” “His followers made up stories about what he had done…” “Maybe God isn’t just 3 persons, but an infinite number of persons, of which Christians have seen three…” Yeah, Modalism has been around for many centuries now, and you might find the sophisticated debates on the subject useful. Actually, it’s really, really likely that whatever brilliant insight you ran across in a magazine in 1992 – even if it was a highbrow monthly – has a long history of being examined by people smarter, better, trained, and more pious than you and I put together. They don’t all agree, but you’ll at least have cleared away the debris of the discussion and be contemplating the core issue. If you want to offer one of these New Insights for discussion, that’s different. We aren’t all up on every heresy and its variants, and discussion is good for learning. Maybe I will discover that I have to go back and do more research before I can effectively discuss the issue. But have the minimal good sense not to make pronouncements. Why announce to everyone that you’re not very smart?

Christians do this as well, of course, and it is no better when we do it. “Catholics don’t believe in the Bible…” “Evangelical preachers say that God wants you to vote Republican…” Yeah, yeah. Read up on it, willya?

Or philosophy in general. “God is in everything, so it’s not really useful to claim…” Yes, that’s called pantheism. You might want to read up on what people have said for and against it before you blather on any further.

“I only believe in what can be scientifically proven, or deduced from known facts…” Okay, that’s an adolescent version of logical positivism, so check out philosophers of the 19th and early 20th C, and talk to me later. Please, I said later.

"I think you can be a moral person without being religious." See False Dichotomy.

It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about such things, or consider yourself less than others. It does mean that trusting into your own “sense of things” even if you’re very bright, is usually a poor bet on deep topics. Clever people are more susceptible to this. It is in one way a better type of thinking than just reciting back what other people have told you. It is actual thinking for yourself. But it’s just the practice logic I noted in Faux Logic (Part I). It may be an original thought to you, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bona fide original thought.

In the avenues of the internet where I sit at cafes, political issues are major fare.

No, I'm not going to list the Brilliant Ideas that each new troll or Koskid brings over to that list of links on the right-hand side of the page. If you're really uncertain which attacks on Bush (a proxy for so many political and cultural issues) have been pretty thoroughly and repetitively dealt with (sometimes even granted some soundness), then I suggest a simpler strategy. Consider the remote possibility that someone may have heard your argument before.

1 comment:

LiquidLifeHacker said...

I love reading your words AVI...when I come here it's takes me back to a time when I got to hang out with my grandfather, which was a hoot and had a way of saying things in simple terms so that I as a child could understand them and yet he said them with much experience and wisdom.

I think for me, it seems that I learn more from the older crowd and then on the other end of the spectrum the younger crowd these days. Not much flowing through the "middle" it seems. Even this past Sunday at church, I was sitting there watching this young girl get baptized and the preacher asked her if the actual act of baptism was going to give her salvation? The little girl smiled and said no, she said, "it's much simplier than that...I am saved by my faith cause I believe!" I smiled so big, because as much as we try to complicate things...I realised this message was simple enough that this child understood it! It's just amazing how much we learn from the babes of this world and how much wisdom we draw from the older crowd that have already walked so many miles and have so much to share!

Anyway, thanks for taking the time that you do AVI in putting your wise thoughts into words so someone like me can do some deeper thinking! I appreciate it!