Learning logic is important if you want to find out truth about the world. Logic helps us discern truth from falsehoods, fact from fiction, wheat from chaff, sense from nonsense. Indeed, logic can prevent a person from being lead astray. I have a high regard for logic and reason. That’s why my blog is called “Cerebral Faith” with the tagline “Using The Brains That God Gave Us”. God created us with rational minds for a good reason. And those reasons are the ones I listed above.
However, human beings aren’t perfect. Just as a person can stumble and fall occasionally while walking, a person can stumble and fall while thinking too. When this happens it’s known as a “logical fallacy”. Put simply, a logical fallacy is a mistake in someone’s thinking. Knowing the names of fallacies and the reasons why they’re considered fallacies can help you to avoid stumbling in your thought life. It can help you avoid using bad arguments in debates with people who disagree with you. It can also help you avoid being fooled by bad arguments people try to throw at you for their position. If you’re going to be a Christian Apologist, knowing your logical fallacies is a must.
In this blog post, I’m going to name 5 logical fallacies that non-Christians have used on me when I’ve debated them. If you’re a non-Christian reading this, this should help you know where you’ve gone wrong if you said one of these things to a Christian before. If you’re a Christian reading this, I hope it helps you out in future conversations with your non-Christian friends or colleagues.
1: “You can’t believe anything he says. He’s a Christian. He’s one of those hateful bigots who goes around bashing gays.”
This argument commits a logical fallacy known as “Poisoning The Well” which is a variation of the ad hominem fallacy.
Why is this argument a fallacy? It’s a fallacy because it commits a preemptive ad hominem attack against an opponent. That is, to prime the audience with adverse information about the opponent from the start, in an attempt to make your claim more acceptable, or discount the credibility of your opponent’s claim. In this case, the non-Christian is trying to demonize the Christian so that people will willfully shut out any arguments he makes for his position. He’s trying to paint the Christian as a horrible person so that people will ignore what he says.
Moreover, this is simply false. Christians do not hate gays. Just because Christians believe that homosexual acts (notice that I said acts rather than attraction) are sinful does not mean they hate homosexuals. After all, we believe premarital sex is a sin (see Hebrews 13:4), we think that lying is a sin (see Exodus 20:6). Does that mean Christians hate unmarried heterosexuals who have sex with their girlfriend/boyfriend? Does it mean we hate people who distort the truth?
You can the hate the sin while loving the sinner. In fact, we’re called to hate sin (see Psalm 97:10, Proverbs 8:13), but we’re also called to love our neighbors (see Matthew 22:37-39, Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:27) and even our enemies (Matthew 5:38-44), all of whom are sinners (Romans 3:23). That’s what God does as well. God hates sin (see Proverbs 15:9), but God loves sinners. That’s why He died for them (John 3:16, Romans 5:8).
Hate the sin, love the sinner. Can a parent love his child even when he does things he doesn’t like? If the child consistently disobeys the parent, throws temper tantrums, and the like, does the parent hate his child just because he hates his behavior? Most of you who are parents would answer with a strong resounding “NO”! You love your child even though you hate his behavior. You love the person, but hate his actions, right? It is humanly possible to disapprove of a certain of action and bare no hatred towards the one taking that course of action. Moreover, if merely considering a certain action to be sinful meant you hated the one committing the action, then that would mean that 100% of all Christians who have ever lived have self-loathing issues. Why? Because we recognize our own sinfulness. We hate it when we sin. If hating the sin meant you hate the sinnER, then that must mean that all Christians have self-loathing issues. This is ridiculous.
2: “You’re only a Christian because you were raised in a Christian home. If you were raised by Hindus, you’d be a Hindu. If you were raised by Muslims, you’d be a Muslim. Therefore, your belief is unjustified.”
This argument commits the Genetic Fallacy. The Genetic Fallacy is when you try to refute a belief by showing how one came to hold that belief. This is fallacious because it doesn’t matter how you came to hold your belief. Your belief can be either true or false regardless of how you came to hold it. Moreover, if I’m offering arguments and evidence for my position, it doesn’t matter diddly squat if I was raised by Christians, Muslims, or even a tribe of wolves! The soundness of my arguments and my upbringing have zero correlation. An argument stands or falls on its own merits.
The fact of the matter is, if I’m giving an argument for the existence of God, such as the Kalam Cosmological Argument or the Fine Tuning Argument, maybe we’re having a discussion on the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ, my upbringing is totally irrelevant to whether my arguments are good or not. You can’t refute a belief by showing how a person came to hold that belief. My argument for God’s existence stands or falls on its own merit. What relevancy does my upbringing have to the truth of say, premise 1 of the Kalam Cosmological Argument (“Whatever begins to exist has a cause)? What relevancy does my upbringing have to the arguments for Christ’s empty tomb or my arguments that His followers saw Him alive after His death?
If you really think about it, the answer is plain to see; none. It has no relevancy whatsoever. The evidence is the evidence. The arguments are the arguments. These are either good arguments or bad arguments. If they’re good arguments, they’d be good arguments no matter who gave them. If they’re bad arguments, they’d be bad no matter who gave them.
3: “I don’t see how one man’s death (i.e Jesus’) could possibly atone for the sins of the whole world. He’s only one person.”
Fallacy: Personal Incredulity
Reason: Just because you don’t understand something, doesn’t mean it’s not true. To show something false, you must give positive reasons to show WHY it’s false. You can’t just say “I find that hard to believe”. While you’re free to be skeptical of X, Y, or Z, if you want to show the one who believes X, Y, or Z why he must also be skeptical of X, Y, or Z, you must provide adequate reasons for thinking X, Y, or Z is false.
4: “Intelligent Design is mostly propagated by Christians. This is religious propaganda disguised as science”
This argument commits the ad-hominem fallacy. It’s an Ad Hominem argument because it attempts to dismiss the scientific theory of Intelligent Design based on something the one giving the argument has (namely belief in Christianity). An Ad Hominem argument is when you point out something about the one propounding the argument rather than something about the argument itself. It matters not what the personal beliefs of those in the Intelligent Design movement are. What matters is the evidence. Does the scientific evidence warrant the conclusion that life was brought into being intentionally or not? The arguments stand or fall on their own weight. Either the scientific data and the inferences based on that data are valid or they are not.
Moreover, if the sword cut at all, it would cut both ways. Most evolutionists are atheists. Should we dismiss Darwinism because of that? The Christian could argue “Darwinian Evolution is mostly propagated by atheists. This is atheistic propaganda disguised as science”.
5: “Most scientists believe in Darwinian Evolution. The reason they believe it is because it’s a scientific fact.” Or the variation of this argument “Most scientists don’t believe in God, therefore belief in God is unscientific and irrational”.
Fallacy: Ad Populum/Appeal To Authority
Reason: This argument commits the ad populum fallacy because it appeals to the belief of the majority to prove that that belief is true or probable. It also simultaneously commits the appeal to authority argument because it appeals to professionals studying in that particular area to argue that “Since they believe it, it must be true”. Both of these are fallacies because the amount of people who believe something does no automatically prove that that belief is correct. For example, before Copernicus and Galileo demonstrated that the Earth revolves around the Sun rather than the other way around, most scientists held the view called “Geocentrism” (i.e belief that the Sun revolves around the Earth). Since the majority believed Geocentrism, does that mean Geocentrism was true back then, but it’s not true now because the consensus changed?
Sometimes the popular view is false. Sometimes the unpopular view is true. We need to look at the specific evidence and arguments in favor of a position in order to discern whether or not the view is true. Who cares what the scientists believe? Do their arguments and evidence support Darwinian Evolution? If so, then it’s reasonable to accept that view. If not, then don’t accept the view. A consensus may be good reason to look into a belief/view/theory/argument, but that is not enough to demonstrate it’s truth.
Is the point true though? Do most scientists not believe God exists? If so, why is this? Is this really because the scientific evidence points away from God rather than toward God?
Even if it were true that most scientists did not believe in God, that wouldn’t really be all that surprising given what Jesus said:
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and MANY enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a FEW find it.” – Matthew 7:13-14
Jesus said that more people would find their way into Hell than people who would find their way into Heaven, and Jesus was talking about people in general. If that’s true of people in general, certainly we would expect it to be true of scientists. We would expect for more people to reject Jesus Christ than to accept Him if we believe that whatever Jesus says is true.
But it’s not true that most scientists disbelieve in God anyway. There was a poll taken a while back in which of all the scientists interviewed 33% were theists. So yeah, it’s a majority, but it’s not a very large majority.
Hugh Ross has a PHD in Astrophysics and a major in physics. He’s a Christian Apologist who is the president of Reasons To Believe ministries and has written several books arguing, from science, that God exists, that The Bible is divinely inspired, and that the doctrine of creation is true (he takes an old earth approach). Fasale Rana is a Christian and he’s a biochemist. He’s the vice president of Reasons To Believe. Francis Collins is a Christian and he’s a geneticist.
There are many others such as Michael Behe (Microbiologist), Jeff Zweerink (astrophysicist), Neil Mammen (engineer), Charles Thaxton (PHD in Chemistry), Gary Parker has an M.S. in Biology/Physiology, Ed.D. in Biology. And Mayim Bialik, though not a Christian, nevertheless believes in Monotheism and has a PHD in Neurobiology. I’m friends on Facebook with two sisters who are microbiologists and work at a lab together who are Christians, and I’m Facebook friends with an Astrophysicist who’s also a Christian.
As you can see, there are several scientists who are theists. But even if there were no scientists at all who believed in God, that would not prove that God does not exist. If you think that it would, than you’re committing the ad populum and the appeal to authority fallacies.
Well, there you have it; 5 logical fallacies that non-Christians have used in debates with me. I hope this post was helpful to you.