Being Precise with our Terms

I saw a comment on an organization’s post on Facebook calling them bigots. The commentator went on to define bigotry as “intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself”. Disregard the fact that the comments and arguments were irrelevant to the original post made by the organization. Ignore the identities of the subjects and the substance of the posts and comments as well, because they are irrelevant here. The point I want to make is the necessity of critical thinking, more specifically being precise and consistent with our terms when making arguments, and not whether the commentator was correct or not.

Too often we like to call people names when we disagree with their views and do not provide proper arguments (which includes good evidence) to support our own views. We’ll call them idiots, capitalist pigs, libtards, devil worshipers, bigots and the list of explicatives and pejoratives goes on. We do this for several reasons, but mainly because we feel attacked, don’t have the evidence to sufficiently argue for our deeply held beliefs and views, and are unable to have civil and cogent arguments. To clarify, argument here means to provide evidence in defense of one’s views. It does not mean to fight which is what typically takes place on social media outlets.

Let’s assume this is a proper definition for “bigotry”. A Google search quickly supports that this is at least the basic and common definition that most people agree upon. A more specific and sophisticated definition can be provided, but this was the definition provided. So, let’s play out the argument:

A holds to a certain view.

B disagrees with that view and calls them a bigot.

C questions B’s assessment that A is guilty of bigotry.

B defines bigotry as “intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself” as evidence that A’s view is bigoted.

Hopefully, you’ve caught the irony. Remember, the views and identities of A and B are unimportant here. They can be discussed elsewhere. What is important are B’s definition of bigotry and argument that A fits that definition due to their view. This should bring to light the importance of good critical thinking. Here are at least two reasons to support this:

1. Not being Precise with Terms and Definitions Weakens Your Argument

B’s definition of bigotry is broad and shallow. It encompasses everybody and implicates them as a bigot. They disagree with A’s view to the point they cannot tolerate it (i.e., allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference). They feel the need to voice their view in the hopes that others will ostracize A or that A and others will renounce their view. Therefore, they are a bigot because they have shown intolerance towards those who hold a different opinion.

We all will disagree with others views throughout our lifetime. We can’t all be bigots. Otherwise, bigotry wouldn’t hold the weight and meaningfulness it deserves and was intended in B’s argument. Of course, there are certain views we do need to be intolerant towards (e.g., racism or eugenics). A better definition of B’s argument might have been: showing hate or disdain towards others or their views and opinions due to unfounded reasons. White supremacy is a good example of bigotry. There is no scientific evidence that supports the idea that “whites” (or Caucasians) are superior than “blacks” (and/or other non-Caucasians), and philosophical arguments for racism fail. Therefore, white supremacy and any other form of racism is unfounded and rightfully declared as bigotry. Discrimination and hate towards someone based on the color of their skin is unfounded and terrible and should be rebuked.

2. If it’s an Opinion, then what does it Matter?

I have used the term “view” in our discussion instead of “opinion” for the specific reason to be precise with my terms. Opinions typically don’t deal in facts. Opinions are often how a person feels about something. Views, on the other hand, are conclusions one comes to based on facts and logical arguments. For example, it is my opinion that Dr. Pepper is a superior soda than Coca Cola. It has a better taste and smoother fizz than Coca Cola to me. It is my view that the universe had a beginning based upon scientific, philosophical, and theological evidence. There is no point in arguing with each other about whether Dr. Pepper or Coca Cola is better. We’ll each go on drinking our preferred soda and live in harmony. We can have a legitimate conversation and debate on whether the universe had a beginning, though.

When opinions become issues of serious debate, then we have stooped to a foolishness. While I prefer Dr. Pepper, I would never fathom the idea of incarcerating or committing genocide against Coca Cola drinkers. So what if someone else prefers to drink Coca Cola? It doesn’t change anything about my life as long as they don’t try to shut down Dr. Pepper factories. Then we will have a problem. Now, I wouldn’t argue for incarceration or genocide of those whose views I disagree with either. Only for specific crimes such as murder, which it is my view that murder is wrong, should someone be incarcerated. But many of our views can be debated because we’re dealing in facts and arguments, and some views should not be tolerated.

Conclusion

B’s assessment of A’s view might be correct. I was not trying to argue it was or wasn’t here. Instead, I hoped to have shown the importance of being precise and consistent with our terminology when arguing for our view. B was not and would have made a better argument by providing a more sophisticated and precise definition of bigotry. Scientists and philosophers will define their terms in their writings to help limit any confusion of what they’re discussing and arguing. Words tend to have slightly different meaning and connotations in certain contexts. Therefore, let us endeavor together even if we’re on different sides of the aisle to think more critically by being precise and consistent with our terminology.

 

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Conclusion of Arguments for the Existence of God

This post will conclude the series on arguments for the existence of God. My main purpose in sharing you these videos created by Reasonable Faith is to expose these arguments to those who may not have heard of them before. If you have not viewed them, then feel free to click on the links below to my posts about them:

The Fine-Tuning Argument for the Existence of God

The Moral Argument for the Existence of God

The Ontological Argument for the Existence of God

Leibnizian Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God

The Kalam Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God

None of these are the ultimate argument to end all arguments. It would be great if there was. Alas, there is not one, and we have these arguments at hand. They each have a rich history of being used, argued against, and counter argued. Stand alone, one does not do much but provide a piece of evidence for the existence of God. Together, they provide an even larger piece of evidence to help one see the reasonableness in believing in the existence of God.

I agree with Dr. William Lane Craig when he says whether these arguments stand or fall is not a statement about the existence of God. It’s a statement on my ability to present them and help someone believe, or they simply didn’t work for you for whatever reason. These arguments are tools to help show the reasonableness of belief and truth of Christianity. Our foundation of belief should not be upon these arguments. Instead, it is the work of the Holy Spirit that convicts us to believe and know the truth of Christianity (Reasonable Faith, ch. 1). Whether these arguments work or not, it is the self-revelation of the Holy Spirit that affirms the truth of God’s existence. We should not be ignorant and disregard arguments and logic to help confirm our faith and show the reasonableness to believe to others, though. The Holy Spirit may very well use our witness and presentation of these arguments to convince someone of the truth.

In my opinion, the Moral, Fine-Tuning, and Kalam Cosmological arguments are the strongest ones available to us. The Moral Argument draws upon philosophy and experience to help us see that God exists. More specifically, that if objective moral values exist, then an objective standard, i.e., God, must exist. But in our age, most people want or need science for them to form solid beliefs about the world around us. The Fine-Tuning and Kalam Cosmological arguments draw upon science. We know that if certain constants in our universe were changed, then it would be very unlikely that existence would be possible. But who or what set those constants? There are different theories of how the universe began, but we have to remember that theories are are just that. I don’t say that to dismiss them. Rather, that theories are based upon facts, evidence, and sound reasoning, but they are not necessarily undeniable. One theory may make more sense to you than another. If only evidence could be found to ultimately prove one over the other. Instead, we use our faculties of reason and the evidence at hand to conclude which is more probably correct. It makes more sense to me using the tools of science and philosophy that there was a beginning of the universe and that beginning needs a cause. These arguments provide stronger evidence for the existence of God than the others.

In conclusion, I hope these arguments help believers affirm the truth confirmed by the Holy Spirit with logic and reason as well as faith. Also, I hope these arguments are used to help show the reasonableness to believe in the existence of God and in Christianity. This series was meant to merely expose these arguments to those who may not have heard of them. I encourage you to research them further by reading Reasonable Faith or other resources (which there are plenty in existence). I would also encourage you to read differing views as well and not just those that confirm your views. Craig does well to present counter arguments to these arguments, but it is helpful to read different and opposing views as well. At the very least, it will help to sharpen your own apologetic skills. Do not be discouraged when these arguments to succeed. Craig says, “Success in evangelism is simply communicating Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God. Similarly, effectiveness in apologetics is presenting cogent and persuasive arguments for the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God.” (Reasonable Faith, 60). Have faith and pray for others’ lives to be changed by God.

How to ERASE Logical Fallacies – Reflections

An essential skill to develop—particularly if you intend to discuss the truth of your faith with others—is how to understand, evaluate, and present a logical argument. Though it might seem complex and rather intimidating, an argument in logic is really a very simple thing. To have an argument you must make a claim (called the conclusion, or the central point of the argument) and provide support (called premises, or evidence, facts, and reasons) for believing the claim to be true or correct. To have a good argument (logically sound or cogent), your premises must be (1) true, (2) pertinent to your central claim, and (3) sufficient to justify the conclusion.

https://reflectionsbyken.wordpress.com/2017/02/14/how-to-erase-logical-fallacies/

The Kalam Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God

This week brings us to the final video expressing an argument for the existence of God. This is the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

The Kalam Cosmological Argument is a formulation of the Cosmological Argument that derives from Ilm al-Kalam “science of discourse”. Craig formulated this version of the argument from Arabic philosophers that argued against the existence of actual infinities. The Cosmological Argument, as a whole, goes back to the idea of causality and the First Cause, or prime-mover, introduced by Aristotle (or possibly further). The argument for a First Cause was passed down and developed through the ages leading it medieval Islamic theology, to medieval European philosophy, and on to modern philosophy. Therefore, it has a somewhat rich history encompassing different cultures.

The Cosmological Argument can be formulated as follows:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

2. The universe began to exist.

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause. (Reasonable Faith, 111)

We have good reason from experience to believe that things that begin to exist have a cause. We have factories that create our computers, phones, or tablets that we are using to read this sentence. These were created by engineers and inventors that came up with the ideas. In turn, those people came into existence by the meeting of their parents. This cannot go on ad infinitum, or for infinity, in the past. Therefore, there needs to be a First Cause to begin the string of events to bring us here.

Craig uses Hilbert’s Hotel to show the absurdity of actual infinite number of things were to exist. Hilbert’s Hotel is though experiment created by David Hilbert involving a hotel with an infinite number of rooms. Although, this is a good example, I tend to find it tedious and a bit confusing. Instead, I prefer Zeno’s paradox of Achilles and the tortoise to show that the universe cannot exist ad infinitum in the past. The paradox was recounted by Aristotle as such:

In a race, the quickest runner can never overtake the slowest, since the pursuer must first reach the point whence the pursued started, so that the slower must always hold a lead. (Physics VI:9, 239b15)

In other words, Achilles will always have to reach where the tortoise was to be able to overcome him. Since the tortoise is always moving, Achilles will always have a new point to reach. Let’s simplify this by stating a runner has to cross the finish line from the starting point. Before he can cross the finish line, he must reach the halfway point. Before he reaches the halfway point, he must reach the quarter point ad infinitum. If we continue this line of reasoning, we see that the runner can never cross the finish line.

Now, we know from experience that this is not true. We’ve watched runners finish races before, and we know that no matter the head start a slow runner receives, the faster runner will eventually overtake him. Traversing physical space does not work like this. If we apply this to time, though, then we see that the present could never be reached if the past is infinite. Time is a series of events that we experience one after the other. We are not privy to redo’s or skips. If there is not beginning point in time, then the present cannot be reached. Craig states it as such:

1. The series of events in time is a collection formed by adding one member after another.

2. A collection formed by adding one member after another cannot be actually infinite.

3. Therefore, the series of events in time cannot be actually infinite. (Reasonable Faith, 120)

The second law of thermodynamics helps to show that the universe had a beginning. For us less scientifically minded, Craig succinctly states that the second law of thermodynamics states “processes taking place in a closed system always tend to a state of equilibrium (Reasonable Faith, 140-141). In other words, unless energy is being fed into the system, then it will eventually run out. We see this when we take a bath. The heat evenly spreads throughout the tub and will eventually cool off if no further heat is added. This has grave implications on the universe. If the universe has existed forever, then why has it not reached a state of equilibrium and “heat death” yet?

We know that the universe is expanding due to Hubble’s discovery of the redshift of light from distant galaxies. This is a Doppler effect indicating that these light sources were receding in the line of sight. This implies that galaxies were once closer together before spreading apart. This also implies that there must have been a starting point for the expansion of the universe.

With the expansion of the universe and the second law of thermodynamics, we can conclude there was a beginning to the universe. Otherwise, if the universe existed infinitely, then it should have reached a point of equilibrium and died out by now.

If the universe had a beginning, then what was this first cause that began the expansion of the universe and “wound up” the universe’s energy? The best explanation of this is something that transcends all of space-time matter, i.e., God.

The Kalam Cosmological Argument can be further formulated as:

  1.  The universe has a cause.
  2.  If the universe has a cause, then an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists, who sans the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and enormously powerful.
  3.  Therefore, an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists, who sans the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and enormously powerful.