Monday, December 27, 2010

Logic 101-Logical Absolutes

"Logic 101" is a new series that will attempt to illustrate some of the logical fallacies that many arguments, especially those regarding religion, fall prey to during a debate. 

I feel that it is important when having a debate to have a solid grasp of logical principles. While some arguments may seem iuntuitively convincing, we need to understand the fallacies that are leading you from the path of reasonable claims to the field of irrational conclusions.

So many discussions get mired in stagnancy because people unknowingly violate logical principles. Those conversations can, therefore, never bear rational fruit because of that fundemental misunderstanding.  Further, I felt it was unfair to deride those claims as irrational unless I made an effort to demonstrate how to avoid those pitfalls beforehand.

Before I get into the discussion myriad of fallacies and how to avoid them, it is important to set the tone by mentioning the oft referenced but rarely understood "logical absolutes".

The first thing that we need to get out of the way is that these rules (especially the third one) applies only to formal logic where definitions in question have been clearly defined.

I can not emphasise this enough. 
Without clearly defined terms it becomes impossible to make any logical debate work within the cloud of logical uncertainty that misunderstood terminology will create.
Once these definitions are established, then these are the three tenets by which every argument MUST abide or else they will suffer from being self evidently wrong.

ALL claims must adhere to these three rules called the "Logical Absolutes":

1.  The Law of Identity -  Something is what it is, and is not what it is not.  Aside from the equivocation fallacy (which would be covered by clear definitions at the start) this is absolute.  Things simply are what they are, and are not what they are not.  They have a clear set of properties and a very specific nature.  Something can't defy its own nature.  That is a logical absolute.

i.e.- A rock is a rock, and not a fish.  Pretty easy to accept.

2.  The Law of Non Contradiction - Something can't be both true, and not true. 

 i.e.- A chair can't be entirely made out of wood, and yet made out of entirely NOT wood.  Again, this is pretty easy.

3.  The Law of Excluded Middle -  A statement is either true, or false with no middle ground.  It is often cited that paradoxical statements need to be excluded from this rule, but that is false.  Statements like "This statement is false" violate logical (LED) principles and are, therefore, NOT valid and logical statements.  Any proposition which asserts its own negation is not logically consistent.  This kind of statement is called the Liars Paradox.  We will exclude these arguments for the informal reader.

Very dry stuff but very necessary for any logical discussion.

So to summarize, every claim must:

  1. Clearly define terms;
  2. Ensure that we don't posit claims which violate the pre-defined nature or assert properties which are contrary to previously asserted properties of that claim;
  3. Don't make contradictory statements; and
  4. Don't ride a middle ground between true and not true.  Any statement that is a logical statement is either true or false. 
There is our argument box.  Clearly (and easily) defined.

Let's try to stay within it.

Next in Logic 101:  The Strawman!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Rational Response- "Freedom From Religion"

In my last article I wrote that referred to a public freedom from religion, in order to enable a true freedom OF religion with respect to the term "Merry Christmas".

I received a lot of critical and sometimes hateful comments about how I was trying to deny people their beliefs, and how it was intolerant to take people's religion away from them or how it was the "PC movement taken too far". 

This is a clear misunderstanding of the term "Freedom From Religion"

So this month's "Rational Response" will deal with this term, what it means for everyone, and how it is the only way to allow the most freedom for everyone to practice their own religion without interference.

In its most simple terms, no one has a true freedom OF religion if they are required to adhere to the dictates, terms, and/or practices of another religion or even if they are required to "respect" them.

In removing all religious influences from official public discourse we allow people to practice their religious beliefs unfettered (except sometimes where those practices break pre-existing laws) and to follow the demands of our own conscience, whether they take a religious form or not. 

Let me give you a couple of examples:

Let's say that you want prayer in schools.  If the government allows this for one religion, then it must allow it for all religions.

You might be OK with the Jewish child (I will forget, for the moment, about the immorality of labelling a child with the religion of its parents) praying beside your child.  That is most likely because it is the same God, very similar beliefs and a related religion to your own, but what happens when the child is from satanic parents?

Are you still OK with that child praying out loud beside your own? 

Likely not, because it violates the precepts of your own beliefs. 

What about handing out religious pamphlets to children at Hallowe'en?

It's ok, as long as they are from religions that agree or are congruous with your own, but what happens when a Wiccan starts handing out pamphlets detailing moon rituals?

Still OK?

Likely not, because that goes against your Christian morality.

How about the Muslim who wants to bless the town hall meeting for everyone with a prayer facing Mecca?

Still OK?

Likely not, because you would feel your religious freedom was infringed upon by being made to pray in a manner that is diametrically opposed to your beliefs.

What about public funding of Muslim, Jewish, Wiccan, Druidic, and Satanic school boards?

That OK?

Most people would say no because some of those religions stand in direct opposition to their own.

What if a law was passed allowing nudity in public on solstice days?

Starting to see the big picture?

This is the issue.  The only way to truly have freedom OF religion is to have a public freedom FROM religion. 

Remove it from public policy altogether and make it a private issue.

It is only this separation of church and state that can allow the unopposed practice of an individual's religion without encountering the influence of other opposing religions.  In order to be free to act as our concience urges us to, we must be free of laws sanctioning and condoning the adherence to ANY religious dogma.

We like to file this thinking under "Political Correctness" but that is because the majority likes to think that it has the monopoly on the "one true religion" and respecting other religions is merely a matter of an uneasy tolerance of their existence as long as it doesn't interfere with their own.

People of one religion voluntarily accept the doctrines or standards of their own religion and they don’t expect to experience conflicts with government edicts or endorsement.

This is a failure of moral imagination:

These people are unable to imagine themselves in the shoes of those in religious minorities who DON'T voluntarily accept these doctrines or standards and, hence, experience an infringement on their religious liberties through governmental endorsement of religious concepts.

The fact of the matter is that even the majority can't be free to practice as they choose as long as religion is a matter of public concern.  It will always run into conflict with the beliefs of others through the problem of government sponsorship.

If you want to have full freedom to practice your religion, then keep it at home. 

Others will do the same, and then the chances of having your religious "rights" infringed upon by another religion are minimized.

No one is pushing for a total removal of religion within the confines of "Freedom From Religion", only for a removal of it in public discourse, lawmaking, and governmental policy.

No one is calling for churches to be torn down, nor for well wishes (like "Merry Christmas") to be eliminated, or even for bumper stickers to be outlawed, just a public separation from the official endorsement of, and adherence to religious dictates.

This way everyone can believe whatever foolishness they want, and not have to complain about how someone else's foolishness got in the way of your own.

Religion is like genitalia:

It's OK to have it,
Its even OK to be proud of it,
Just keep it to yourself, and out of the faces of our children.

No one says you can't HAVE genitals, just that you can't expect public approval when you pop it out and ask others to "respect" it.

You have to remember, that other people may not share your views on genitals and they wouldn't appreciate any law that would allow you to let it hang wherever you please!

Make sense?

It's the same with religion.

Separation is the only way to stand for the rights of everyone and to get the freedom that we all want, and that we all deserve.

I will leave you with this thought about standing up for EVERYONE'S religious rights.

They came first for the communists
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me (a Christian pastor)
                         and by that time no one was left to speak up.

- Martin Niemoller

*Picture is of Bono and it is called "Coexist"

Monday, December 13, 2010

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays??

It is once again the time of year for those who are used to feeling entitled and accommodated in their religious beliefs to come out in vitriolic response to the "Happy Holiday" sentiment.

They cry;

"It's Merry CHRISTMAS, not Happy Holidays" and that calling it anything different is simply going too far with the PC movement.";

"That X-Mas is forgetting that Christ is the reason for the season.";

"Its tradition that we call it Christmas";

And what I will mostly talk about in this post;

that "Office Christmas parties are going against tradition to be called anything but "Christmas Parties"."  (Like Holiday Parties, or Festive Functions)

My response to this might be unexpected to some.

I am about to speak out in defense of the Muslims, the Jews, the Pagans, the Scientologists (ugh) and the atheists all in the same breath.

It is NOT the Office Christmas Party, unless you are working at a Christian institution.

It just ISN'T.

To say that it is, is to disrespect every person of alternate faith that works there.  It is to force them to once again accommodate the Christian majority as the only religion with merit in the company's eyes.

At my wife's work there are even people who refuse to attend this "Festive Function" because it is not being called "Christmas".


Those are not the sort of people you want at an office function anyway.

They are the bigots who are used to having their beliefs accomodated in public forum and are not amenable to now having to accomodate the feelings and beliefs of others in return. They are those with the sense of entitlement that brings difficulty to any issue. They have had their beliefs pandered to for too long, and it is time that we respect each person from each religion with the same level of effort.

Imagine your work was holding an election night "liberal party" function to which everyone was invited and then having them say it was simply being too PC to call it anything else just to accomodate the conservatives and non political people in the company (unless you are working for a soley liberal institution of course).  Each conservative would feel less like he belonged to that company because the official political view was liberal. 

Or if to celebrate Fathers Day your workplace held a "Bring your Children to Work Day" and called it "Birth Fathers Day".

Imagine how out of place all of the adoptive fathers would feel.  They would feel like their perspective just wasn't as valued at the company and by his peers.

It is the same thing.

Freedom OF religion also means Freedom FROM religion. 
And in any society it must be so.

We can't give deference to one religion by excluding all others and then make them the outsiders in doing so, while at once complaining about the PC movement for its disingenuous safety from offense.  In asking that your religion be respected to the exclusion of all others, you fall prey to the same problem.  You ask that YOUR offense be guarded against at all cost.  This is the very definition of disingenuous "respect" for religion and belief. 

Why would we do this to our co-workers, our friends, and our relatives?

There is no reason for it.  And asking for your religion to be given special exception is simply asking your company or government to place your beliefs on a higher scale than those of other employees or constituents.

There is no "PC" here at all. 

Just respect during a respectful time of year (and yes I know....ALL times of year should be equally respectful, but you get the point).  To give deference to one, gives a lower place in the institution for all others, so by not deferring to any of them, we give them all equal placement. 

If you wish me "Merry Christmas", I will say

 "Thanks! And you too",

 the same as I would for a "Happy Hannukah" or a "Happy Eide", or even a " Joyful Solstice". But for the company for whom I work for to hold a function in the name of one of these occasions over the others is not only a complete lack of effort to represent all those who represent them on a daily basis but it is an active effort to have their beliefs raised above those of their peers thereby exluding all those who don't believe as they do.

It is the difference between observing our individual beliefs, and of the institution inserting one belief system over another as the accepted one to the exclusion of all others.

It just isn't representative of everyone in that company, or constituency.

This is a special time of year for all of us, for one reason or another.

For me it is about celebrating and visiting my family and friends, for others it is about their religion, for still others it is about the bounty of nature.

And although I may disagree with their ideologies, I DO agree that they have a right to celebrate it and not be made to feel as an outsider in their own workplace. 

So lets accept the "Happy Holiday" terminology without complaint in the workplace and in government. 

No one is stopping you from celebrating Christmas, or even wishing us a merry one.

Just don't force others to celebrate your holiday in their own office space, and they won't force you in return.

This time of year contains a lot of celebrations from a lot of different backgrounds.  Let's try to remember that.

Freedom from religion.

It allows us all to live as we see fit without others forcing their views on us.

Fair enough?

I am also going to take this time to tell my wife, that I respect her for the flack that she took for standing up for the religious rights of the people at her company who would be excluded by this.  The people who argued with her had no idea that her aruments protect their religious beliefs too.

They should be thankful for someone like you, who will even stand up for the rights of those whom she doesn't agree.

Well done baby!

To everyone else?

Happy Holidays, Seasons Greetings, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Eide but most of all I wish you...


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Atheist Haiku of the Month- Holiday Edition

Its "War on Christmas"?
No, its war on foolishness
celebrate reason
ps- have a great holiday season everyone (no matter your faith or creed!)