How To Sniff Out Bad Arguments – Part 3

by Josh Fults

Everyone believes something. All people have a worldview that they hold to. Some are thought through well, and others not so much. Daily, people’s worldviews collide as they interact with one another. The beliefs and ideas that people hold to are varied and often contradictory. It should be obvious that all contradictory ideas and belief systems cannot all be correct. They may all be wrong, or one may be correct, but two or more conflicting ideas cannot all reflect reality accurately. That being said, people from varied worldviews often argue, or make a case for, their beliefs. Some offer strong and well seasoned arguments, while others give shallow and putrid arguments. The Christian must be able to sniff out the poor arguments if he is to properly engage the varied beliefs of the world around him.

One problematic manner in which people argue is referred to as “begging the question”, which is also known as circular reasoning. This is where a person assumes their belief to be correct in the first place. This happens all the time. “The Bible is inerrant because everything it says is true.” “Science is the only way to know truth because science can’t be false.” “America is the greatest nation on earth because no other nation is so great.” Look at the evidence.

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There is also the “straw man.” People often try to exaggerate, distort or misrepresent an opponent’s argument. They construct a man of straw that they can easily tear down instead of actually engaging the real argument. “Atheists just hate God.” “Christians don’t believe in science.” “Intelligent design advocates believe the world was created 6,000 years ago.” “If everything needs a cause, then who created God.” “The Bible advocates murdering homosexuals.” All of these are misrepresentations of someone else’s ideas and allow the person stating them to look as though they are destroying the competition. Look to make sure that ideas presented are correct and not exaggerated or misrepresented.

Another, often employed, fallacious attempt to win an argument is where the only evidence provided supports the person’s belief or idea. Here, the arguer assumes the other person’s ignorance. They ignore contrary, and often overwhelming evidence, that opposes their point. One such argument often heard is, “The fact that Christianity has started all the wars shows that it has an averse affect on the world.” Well, what about the wars waged by atheistic regimes? What about the good things Christianity has done for the world? Is it possible that some wars have nothing to do with religion? We must make sure that the person we are having a discussion with is not appealing to selective evidence and leaving the contrary evidence out. True discussions examine all the evidence…

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