Thursday, October 15, 2009
Lessons in Logic 101
We can derive precious lessons in informal logic by perusing the illogical statements and “arguments” of the venerable Watchman Daniel Chew Huicong.
As the readers would have known, there is a little debate occurring between Chew and Ming Liang at the Credo 500 website.
While the storm brews and darkness befalls the tiny island of Singapore, the titter of a sniggering Chew could be heard resounding through the corridors of a particular residential estate. As Chew sets out to “tear down” poor little Ming Liang, Chew pompously (and superciliously) announced:
Chew: “However, the Bible and its truth stand over and against your reasoning. I will now deconstruct your entire argument.” [thunder and lightning]
Narrator: I never knew Derrida’s method of “deconstruction” is such illogical child’s play. Derrida must be rolling in his grave. Let us enjoy the fun that follows.
In the ongoing debate over at Credo 500, Chew began his attack by making a bare assertion:
Chew asserts: "God however escapes moral culpability because sin and sinful actions are not directly caused by Him, but are caused by secondary agents under His control." [audience gasped in awe]
Narrator: Here, Chew insists that God “escapes moral culpability because sin and sinful actions are not directly caused by Him.” So, as any logical fellow would, Ming Liang asked for an argument for Daniel’s bare assertion. The burden of proof falls upon him who makes the claim.
So Ming Liang asked: “Why is it so that God “escapes moral culpability” just because evil are (allegedly) not directly caused by Him?”
Narrator: It follows that Chew commits a classic logical fallacy - shifting the burden of proof.
Chew snapped: “Why is it that God does not escape moral culpability just because evil is not directly caused by him?” [audience gasped further]
Narrator: It’s like the following (silly) debate between Tom and Jerry:
Tom: God exists.
Jerry: Prove that He does.
Tom: Prove that He doesn’t.
In conjunction with the above bare assertion (a logical fallacy as well) by Chew, Ming Liang asked, “Is evil (all kinds of evil?) not directly caused by God? What is your argument for this?” This is a reasonable question since Chew asserts that evil is not directly caused by God. Instead of arguing for his point, Chew repeats the same fallacy of shifting the burden of proof.
Chew: “What is your argument for the contrary? How do you know either way?” [more lightning and thunder]
Narrator: But Ming Liang does not need to argue for “the contrary,” as Chew is the one arguing for the proposition that P = “God escapes moral culpability because sin and sinful actions [or evil] are not directly caused by Him.”
As an analogy:
Chew: “You are an idiot.”
Jason: “Why is it that I am an idiot?”
Chew: “Why is it that you are not an idiot?”
Narrator: It’s clear here who truly is the idiot – the one who couldn’t even conjure up a single argument for his proposition that P. P is still a bare assertion. There’s no way a sane, logical fellow can argue with dunderheads like Chew. In like manner, he’ll probably claim that a flying omnipotent earthworm Jim exists, and demands that you prove why a flying omnipotent earthworm Jim doesn’t exist (which is called proving the negative and shifting the burden of proof).
Chew claimed: “I was not trying to explain evil, but to give a viable philosophical explanation of how God can be the ultimate cause but not the author of sin.” [in the tune of Massenet’s Meditation from Thais]
Then Ming Liang asks a very simple question to clarify Daniel’s point, “What kind of evil are you referring to in “I was not trying to explain evil …’”?
Chew answered: “Precisely the point that I am not trying to explain why evil exists. I am only trying to explain how it exists given the axioms of Scripture.” [audience gasp in wonder]
Narrator: Chew doesn’t even seem to understand basic English. Poor Ming Liang asked “what kind of evil [was Daniel] referring to.” It’s really a simple question. But Chew ignored the question, and “argued” for something that wasn’t even asked in the first place, thereby committing the fallacy of ignoratio elenchi or an irrelevant conclusion.
It’s like this scenario:
Chew: “I like ice cream.”
Ming Liang: “What kind of ice cream are you referring to?”
Chew: “Precisely the point that I am not trying to explain why ice cream exists. I am only trying to explain how it exists given the axioms of Scripture.”
Narrator: What do you folks call this kind of debater – mentally challenged?
Ming Liang asked, “You referred to moral evil in “sin and sinful actions.” But does God escape moral culpability for metaphysical evil and physical evil? If so, why?”
Chew replied: “First of, upon what basis is evil defined as "evil". Secondly, why must God be culpable for "metaphysical evil and physical evil"?”
Narrator: Chew’s question (in reply to a question) is really amazing. As a Christian who exhorts sinners to do good and to eschew evil, he doesn’t even know what is the “basis” by which evil is defined! I thought he had the Bible, and I thought he would have at least said that the basis for the definition of evil is the Bible. But lo and behold, how can we trust such a “Christian” man to teach good and evil? He would perhaps even confuse good with evil! Chew’s other question, “Why must God be culpable for "metaphysical evil and physical evil," is merely his attempt to push his bare assertion further – without any argument whatsoever – simply by rephrasing that P. This shifts the burden of proof again, and saves his ignorance by rephrasing a question in the negative.
Chew: “God is not culpable for evil (which includes metaphysical evil and physical evil).”
Jason: “Why is God not culpable for evil (which includes metaphysical evil and physical evil)?”
Chew: “Why must God be culpable for "metaphysical evil and physical evil?"
Narrator: That “logic” and “argument” would surely earn him an honors in the BA in philosophy for chowderheads.
Ming Liang asked: “If God is the ultimate cause of all things, and if all things include evil, God is the ultimate cause of evil. Do you agree/disagree with this? If so, why?”
Narrator: It is clear that the arguments are already stated in the above sentence syllogistically:
P1 = God is the ultimate cause of all things.
P2 = All things include evil.
C = So God is the ultimate cause of evil. (Conclusion)
Instead of challenging the major and/or minor premises, and/or the validity of the syllogism, Chew – who is well versed in [the lack of] logic – answered:
Chew: “No, I disagree. Please elucidate the arguments for saying so.”
Narrator: Excuse me, Mr Chew. The arguments are already “elucidated” in the form of a syllogism in Ming Liang’s question. Chew apparently doesn’t even recognize the most basic of all logical arguments – syllogistic reasoning. I think a mutated monkey would disagree with Ming Liang in almost the same manner as Chew.
Monkey: “No, I disagree. But I don’t recognize your arguments or why I even disagree.”
Ming Liang wrote: “I’m sorry, but I believe you’re trying to convince me with circular reasoning i.e. we know that P (e.g. P=God is Good; God is sovereign etc) because the Bible says so; we know that the Bible is true because God inspired it (and God cannot lie); we know that God inspired the Bible (and God cannot lie) because the Bible says so. Hence, a circulus in probando … yeah right. Your direction of reasoning is illogical.”
Chew answered: “Logic, as Jason as said, is the manner of reasoning. It is nonsensical to say that a "direction of reasoning" is illogical.
Narrator: I guess we can all see why Chew’s reasoning is illogical. See all of the above logical fallacies.
Chew continued: “In fact, talking about circular reasoning, yours is also circular. After all, why it is that your axiom of the rightness of your moral sense is to be trusted?”
Narrator: This is truly an amazingly fatuous question from Chew. Ming Liang hasn’t even mentioned a single “axiom” of “the rightness of [his] moral sense,” and Chew somehow purports to know what Ming Liang believes in!
But don’t we all know how Chew utilizes bare assertions all the time to answer questions or to “argue” with those whom he disagrees with?
Chew said: “Since God hold [sic] all responsible for the actions they themselves do, therefore God cannot be the direct author of evil.”
Ming Liang replied: “The Bible claiming that “God [does] hold all responsible for the actions they themselves do” doesn’t mean that this ought to be the case. What if God shouldn’t have held them responsible i.e. **gasp** the Bible is actually incorrect here, or that your interpretation of the Bible is incorrect here, or there’s a mistake in your version, or … etc (e.g. Calvinists even believe that God actually made some humans unto destruction for His glory, depriving reprobates of effectual and particular grace, and these cannot choose otherwise etc)? The Is-Ought distinction must be clearly argued for, not merely asserted (is-ought fallacy plus bare assertion, yeah right).”
Narrator: Ming Liang tried to reason with Chew that he had committed the is-ought fallacy (which is, of course, another logical fallacy). But Chew replied:
Chew: “Sorry, you do not seem to understand what you [sic] talking about. I argue based upon what IS and OUGHT to be based upon the axiom of Scripture. Unlike you, who only argue based upon what IS.”
Narrator: That is again another amazingly fatuous statement! First of all, we haven’t seen a single argument from Chew; at a minimum, “arguments consist of one or more premises and a conclusion.” What premises, conclusions, and valid logical forms had Chew offered thus far? None. We have only seen bare assertions and logical fallacies all throughout Chew’s replies.
Ming Liang had previously tried to explain that, probably as a non-Christian himself, he didn’t accept Scripture to be divine revelation, and Daniel’s replies thus far had been based upon circular reasoning.
Ming Liang explained: “I’m sorry, but I believe you’re trying to convince me with circular reasoning i.e. we know that P (e.g. P=God is Good; God is sovereign etc) because the Bible says so; we know that the Bible is true because God inspired it (and God cannot lie); we know that God inspired the Bible (and God cannot lie) because the Bible says so. Hence, a circulus in probando.”
Narrator: But Chew here persists in his circular reasoning, and it is viciously circular indeed!
Chew: “I argue based upon what IS and OUGHT to be based upon the axiom of Scripture.”
Narrator: And hence, Chew finds circles coherent within his frame of mind and “logic”. [in the tune of Legrand’s Windmills of the Mind]
Lacking a definite argument for his bare assertion that P (where P = “God escapes moral culpability because sin and sinful actions [or evil] are not directly caused by Him”), Chew repeats the same formula of success – shifting the burden of proof.
Chew wrote: “Since God is sovereign, evil must be under His control. The only way IMO that the two can be put together consistently is that evil is indirectly caused by God.”
Ming Liang replied: “Here you acquiesce that “evil is indirectly caused by God.” GIVEN [emphasis here to emphasize that this is given to you, and not that I agree with you] that God is the indirect cause (and indeed, the ultimate cause) of evil, how would you argue from that fact (?fact) that He is not morally culpable?
Narrator: Here, Ming Liang is simply asking for Daniel Chew to argue his case that P. Notice that Ming Liang thus far is examining Chew’s beliefs via questions; Ming Liang never asserted any proposition.
But Chew predictably replied: “How can you argue that God is morally culpable for sin even if he is the ultimate cause of it? Prove your bare assertion.”
Narrator: Once again, he shifts the burden of proof by rephrasing the question in the negative, and asserts that Ming Liang made a bare assertion. Where is this “bare assertion” by Ming Liang, pray tell?
That would certainly earn Chew a Masters in Philosophy for chowderheads.
A hypocrite in the making
Chew: “As stated earlier, your epistemic direction is wrong. We must start off with the axioms of Scripture, then seek to understand how they logically cohere. We are not to start with our own autonomous human reasoning and question the teachings of Scripture.”
Ming Liang replied: “As stated earlier, your epistemic direction is wrong. We mustn’t start off with circular reasoning, and then seek to understand how “circles” logically cohere. We should not be afraid to use reason and logic. Isn’t it hypocritical if we must first use reason and logic to understand or to interpret scripture (how else would you understand scripture or derive these “axioms”?), then turn around and say that we should start from scripture, and not from “autonomous human reasoning”?”
Narrator: Ming Liang here tried to explain that, since Chew had started with “autonomous human reasoning” and logic in order to understand the writings, axioms and propositions of Scripture, it is really hypocritical to alleged that “we are not to start with our own autonomous human reasoning …”.
But apparently, Chew failed to see that fact.
Chew replied: “And of course, your own circular reasoning is off-topic for discussion, I presume. Aren't you doing the same, except instead of Scripture, you substitute your own moral sense?”
Narrator: My point is – what “circular reasoning” had Ming Liang committed thus far? None. But desperate times call for desperate measures. Chew had no choice, but to “save face” by making up allegations against his opponents. Or was he hallucinating or hearing voices in his head?
More importantly, Chew commits a classic tu quoque fallacy. Instead of defending himself from Ming Liang's allegation (of Chew's circular reasoning from Scripture), he accuses Ming Liang of the same. Worse, Ming Liang really did not commit the fallacy of circulus in probando.
Chew closes off the discussion with a classic ad hominem fallacy – poisoning the well.
Chew: “Yea, right. Tell him (or is it you) to make more sense, instead of talking rubbish. And btw, don't expect to go to AT's slanderous and blasphemous site.” [background music: Psycho]
Narrator: Is Antithesis’ blog really slanderous and blasphemous? Please check out the facts for yourselves, dear readers.
The truth hurts, doesn’t it?
When Chew has no arguments for his bare assertions, he commits logical fallacies one after another in order to appear erudite and scholarly.
Well, at least he deserves a Masters in Philosophy.
For chowderheads, that is.