Monthly Archives: March 2009

Fallacial Logic

One doesn’t have to spend much time discussing (i.e. debating) anything online before bad logic enters the fray.  It seems to be just too easy to craft a fallacious argument, that no one can resist.   Just what is “bad logic”, you might ask?  To put it simply “bad logic” is making an argument that really doesn’t mean what you think it means (or shouldn’t be used to support  a claim, because it is weak.)  Bad arguments are used by critics, apologists, anti-Mormons, TBM’s.  No one can resist.  I seem to be most sensitive to fallacious arguments that are used to argue for the Church, because it is my belief that something like the Gospel Of Jesus Christ shoule be defended with something better.

So, with that in mind, here are the names and examples of some fallacious arguments, as seen in the wild:

Straw Man – Very common.  Whenever someone is rewording or summarizing a view they don’t agree with, there is strawman danger.

Begging the Question – “If you want to know if there is a God, pray to Him and He will reveal himself to you”, “A testimony can be found in the bearing of it”.  If the only way to believe in God is to first believe in God, then that might be a little problematic in discussions with atheists.

False Dilemma – “Either the Church is true, or it isn’t”, “Either Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, or he was the biggest liar and fraud in all of history”, “Either the Book of Mormon is a true history, or it is a book of lies.”  Any time someone phrases something complex and layered as an “either/or”, there is danger of throwing out important details and subtleties in an effort to force a decision.

Attacking the Person – Anytime an argument turns to the personal characteristics or history of  someone, there is danger of getting off track and “Attacking the Person” instead of their argument.  While a certain amount of context is nice, and certainly a person’s trustworthiness is a consideration if their argument involves us taking their word for something, generally speaking, you know someone is losing an argument when they shift the focus to the “person”.

See: FARMS Review of Books, Volumes 1 – 17,

Also

QUOTE
“When I was preaching in Philadelphia, a Quaker called out for a sign. I told him to be still. After the sermon, he again asked for a sign. I told the congregation the man was an adulterer; that a wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and that the Lord had said to me in a revelation, that any man who wanted a sign was an adulterous person. “It is true,” cried one, “for I caught him in the very act,” which the man afterwards confessed, when he was baptized.” Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 5, p.268

Post Hoc – It’s easy to look at two events, and assume the later event was somehow caused or related to the earlier one.  This is commonly seen in Church with statements such as “I was sick and had a blessing. Soon after, I felt better. The priesthood healed me.” “I payed my tithing, and the next day, a check for $300 arrived in the mail. The Lord blesses those who pay tithing.”

Unless we have some way of knowing what would have happened if the preceding events hadn’t transpired (and since people get better and get unexpected checks in the mail all the time), a little more discretion may be in order.

Affirming the Consequent – “If the Book of Mormon is “true”, I will get a warm, spiritual feeling when I read it. I get a warm, spiritual feeling when I read it, so therefore the Book of Mormon is “true”.”  Alternate explanations need to be considered.

Subverted Support – The phenomenon being “explained” isn’t even true in the first place.  For example, “The reason the Church is the fastest growing in the world is because it is true”, “[insert any of a bazillion faith-promoting-rumors here], therefore the Church is true.”

Circular Definition – “A prophet is a prophet only when he is acting as a prophet”.   Obviously he isn’t acting as a prophet when he isn’t acting as a prophet.  Who would argue otherwise? (could also be Equivocation)

Popularity – anytime a claim is made regarding Church growth rates, “Every Church leader I’ve known has said not to watch rated R movies, therefore Mormons shouldn’t watch them.”

There are many others, and of course critics, anti-Mormons and others make these mistakes much more often than those who argue to defend traditional Church positions.  Further discussion (and a few responses and rubuttals) from this thread at the MA&D board:

Providing Linkage to Opposing Views

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Wow…the Church grew a whopping 0% in the US from ’90-’08!

USA Today has an interesting article on religious growth (or lack thereof) in the US over the last few decades.   We awesomely beat the mainline Protestants and Catholics, but lost out to the Wiccans, Muslims and Pentacostals :(.

And they peg US Church membership at 3.2 million members.  I wonder if the Church will revise their figure of 5.9 million to more closely reflect reality….?

The survey is pretty simple: they ask a bunch of people (113k in 1990, 54k in 2008) “What is your religious identity?”

I suspect we’ll hear a letter from the FP in the next few months that simply says: “Attention fellow Church members: If someone calls or stops you on the street and asks you what your religious identity is, please answer “LDS/Mormon”

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“Big Love” goes to the Temple

Recent reports (apparently TV Guide) indicate the the HBO television show “Big Love” is doing what every good Mormon desires themselves to do and is going to the Temple.  This has raised the ire of the LDS online community, with claims that any dramatization of what goes on in the LDS Temple is off-limits, and categorically qualifies as mockery or persecution.

For me, the critical consideration for the Temple’s use in “Big Love” is that it isn’t done for mockery, or “voyeurism”. The writers have created characters, and they must be true to the characters. If Barb is/was LDS, and going to the Temple means something to her in such a way that it’s important to her story, than the writers would be irresponsible to not show it, especially if it is something most viewers won’t be familiar with.

Based on past episodes of “Big Love”, we have every indication that the Temple ceremony will be treated seriously and with respect because Barb will be treating it seriously, and with great respect.

There are many situations where viewers can put 2+2 together, and we just need to be told what happened without being shown (like Sarah’s miscarriage). That is part of the human experience. But for uniquely Mormon things, if they are to play a part in the character’s lives, then they must be shown so we can understand why (like the baptism-for-the-dead in the hot tub). My biggest annoyance is when they get the details wrong, not when they get them right.

I think LDS frequently get their emotions about the temples a little mixed up, and mistake “I’m so embarrassed” for “I’m righteously indignant”. Technically, there are only a few, specific things that Temple participants promise not to divulge. As far as I remember, the clothing and interior design of the Temple aren’t included in these. The LDS Church itself publishes pictures of sacred ordinances getting performed all the time, without diminishing the “sacredness” of these ordinances in the slightest. So the very act of dramatizing or publicizing an ordinance can’t be considered de facto sacrelige.

Of course, “Big Love” could prove me wrong, and play the Temple for humor or mockery, but based on past episodes, I’ll wait and see.

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The Curious Case of LDS Porn Addiction

A recent study showed that when subscription data to online porn websites is analyzed, Utah shows a higher incidence of usage than any other state.  This statistic would probably not be surprising to any LDS who had been listening to General Conference (and local) talks over the last few years, where the problem of pornography addiction among LDS has been repeatedly addressed.  My stake recently had a Saturday evening session of Stake Conference where our SP spent almost an hour on the subject. Every Bishop or SP that I am friends with seems to have, at one time or another, told me “You have no idea how bad it is.”

Apparently the LDS Church (and christianity in general) is suffering from an epidemic of pornography use among its members.   And I’m guessing that, as of March 2009, the Church is losing the war on pornography.

As with all losing wars,  there comes a time when the leaders have to re-evaluate their strategy and survey the battlefield.  Sometimes, radical new tactics must be adopted.  Certainly, no competent General would assume that doing the same losing battle plan over and over would eventually result in victory, right?  And sometimes, surrender and retreat is the only logical option.

With that in mind, I suggest one option LDS Church leaders may have to eventually consider:  accept pornography.  But I say “accept pornography” not as a means to admit defeat, but instead as a tactic to kill the beast at its very heart.

After all, what if the only way the Church could “win” the war on pornography was to just let it go? What if the harder they fight against it, the more LDS men want to look at it, and the only way to reduce their interest is to tell them it’s OK to view it with wisdom and moderation?

As with anything, there will always be those people who can’t view it “with wisdom and moderation”, and then it becomes a problem. But just as the Church is able to deal with individuals with eating disorders while at the same time understanding that most people can enjoy the occasional dish of ice cream without going overboard, could the Church move towards a similar attitude for pornography? And does it have any other choice?

Because with our current, porn saturated world, I’m not sure the current no-tolerance policy is going to help. Or maybe the Church leaders just need to talk about it a little more, and things will get better.

Maintaining the Status Quo

But suppose the Church continues to take a hard-line stance and commits itself to a “no tolerance” policy.  What, exactly, would the logical result be?

Ideally, the inspired leadership of the Church on the matter would turn the hearts of the fathers (and young men, and single men) away from their computer screens.  That’s the hope.

But what happens if current trends continue, and two things happen:

– Pornography use and/or addiction continues to increase among Church members, with few actually confessing the problem to their Bishops.
– The Church maintains a zero-tolerance policy on the issue.

Assuming the problem (in areas with broadband internet access) reaches 25% of current priesthood holders, what will happen to the Church 25 years from now if porn use reaches 75% of priesthood holders?  Or 85%?  How will the Church be different than it is today?  Will there be any noticeable difference?

Will the divorce rate or rate of infidelity be greater?  Will priesthood blessings generally be less effective?  Will home teaching numbers be lower?  Will tithing receipts be lower?  Will Temple attendance fall off?

And those kinds of numbers would indicate that it probably isn’t just the rank-and-file who have a problem; there would be leaders with problems as well.  Would their pornography addiction have any noticeable affect on their leadership abilities?  Would their callings be less inspired?  Would they be less discerning in interviews?

What does a pornography epidemic mean to the Church in general?

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