Tuesday, June 30, 2009
[a typical JP critic?]
In the Talmud, R. Chanina remarked, "I have learned much from my teachers, more from my colleagues, and the most from my students" (Taanis 7a)
On this blog, I find that I do learn a great deal from the comments left by readers, although frankly I am often very disappointed - so many of the comments are simply irrational and illogical.
I have started to notice a pattern.
The bulk of the comments seem to fall into several categories:
Wishful thinking. This means forming beliefs and making decisions according to what might be pleasing to imagine instead of by appealing to evidence or rationality. This is really the rock bottom basis of all false religions, including atheism. For example: A transcendent, intelligent and eternal being cannot exist. Therefore Judaism is false.
Argument from authority. For example: Most scientists believe in evolution, so it must be true.
Appeal to the people. This is a fallacious argument that concludes a proposition to be true because many or all people believe it; it alleges, "If many believe so, it is so." For example: 99.99% of educated intelligent people of the world are not Orthodox Jews, therefore Orthodox Judaism must be false.
Ad hominem argument. This means assuming an argument is false because there is something wrong with the person making it. For example: You are close minded and fanatic therefore you’re wrong.
Argument from personal incredulity. This means "Without having any rational reason, I don't believe this is possible, so it can't be true." For example: I can't believe that a God exists who is telling me what to do therefore it cannot be true.
Straw man argument. A fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position. To "attack a straw man" is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by substituting a superficially similar proposition (the "straw man"), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position. For example: I will say that Orthodox Jewish communities are more peaceful than secular communities. Someone will argue "Islamic terrorists prove that religion doesn't make people better."
Begging the question. This refers to arguing for a conclusion that has already been assumed in the premise. For example: The Deluge could not have happened, because it involves miracles. Miracles cannot happen because there is no God. We know there is no God because the Bible is wrong. We know the Bible is wrong because it mentions the Deluge and we know the Deluge didn’t happen.
Appeal to Ridicule. This is a fallacy in which ridicule or mockery is substituted for evidence in an "argument." For example "You think God cares if you eat pork! LOL!"
Tautology. This an unnecessary or unessential (and usually unintentional) repetition of meaning, using different and dissimilar words that effectively say the same thing twice. For example: Supernatural events never happen because anything which does happen is by definition natural, although we may not yet understand it.
Burden of Proof. An atheist may argue that the burden of proof rests on the Jew to prove that the Biblical God exists. In other words, until there is convincing evidence presented, there is no reason to believe in the Biblical God. This is true. However by the same token the burden of proof rests on the atheist to demonstrate that evolution exists and could have created us. Until there is convincing evidence presented, there is no reason to believe in evolution.
The truth is that irrational thinking is universal in addiction disorders. It is known as "stinking thinking". Addiction is the only disease which tells the sufferer that they do not have a disease. Any thoughts that promote this lie constitute stinking thinking.
Based upon this experience, my impression is that most people resolve some of the most important questions in their lives by making irrational, emotional decisions rather than by careful research and logical analysis. I guess that’s an important lesson in itself.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 12:10 PM