Sunday School

Sunday School 17th October 2021

This topic contains 71 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  jakelafort 3 weeks, 6 days ago.

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    If you are reasoning reasonably well it is apparent without any formal introduction to the fallacy.

    I’m with Enco on this one. “Reasoning” takes skill, and conscious consideration. Human brains evolved almost entirely long before we had enough language in our thinking processes to even categorize the kinds of our own thinking that were possible, much less the kinds of thinking we’d become increasingly capable of due to using increasingly nuanced language to communicate with each other. I.e., the more advanced forms of reasoning we’re capable of not only takes years of formal training and experience, but took thousands of years to advance culturally, and hundreds of years to formalize in educational settings. IMO, the example you gave only emphasizes what I’m saying… you had to consciously learn, hone, and practice those thought processes, not to mention you had to choose to do those kinds of learning and thinking.

    I have to admit that in my critical thinking class, I got tired of all the nitpicking in terms of the language that explains concepts like “fallacies”, especially when I realized how culturally-specific the textbooks are on this, e.g. how exact definitions in English (or even English specific to USA) mattered. I was disappointed that my  Western-based class in critical thinking never expanded its focus to include a wider range of cultures around the world.

    Still, it seems the percent of humans on this planet who’ve been taught, much less are capable of any form of critical thinking are perilously small. I conclude that critical thinking is rarely, if ever a default ability or practice among us.

    By the way, I think you’re the master of language among our members, alongside Unseen, Reg, and maybe a few others whom I haven’t seen write here as often and recently as I’d like. For some strange reason I’m on a streak of learning new vocabulary, and I must have bookmarked a dozen words in my dictionary in the past couple of weeks, mostly from your posts. After decades I finally looked up the word “specious” because I thought it meant something like “only true in very specific contexts”, but I kept seeing it used not in that way.

    So my next thought was to ask you if there’s a word like that, i.e. a word that describes a writer’s/speaker’s kind of over-generalizing conclusion, when to be more accurate, one should have more clearly limited the context. E.g., just a few minutes ago, I was reading someone claiming that the Moderna vaccine should be banned because it causes dangerous cardiac inflammation. The fact is, the data only shows a very rare occurrence of that side-effect, and the studies on it are still incomplete, so it’s wrong to make any broader claims.

    To make my question shorter but in the above context, do you know of a word that works better than “cherry-picking”, or “anecdotal” when it comes to selecting  sparse evidence to support a claim? (Circumstantial comes to mind too, but it doesn’t seem that would work in my vaccine side-effect example.)



    Hey Pope, maybe i am in right field.

    Lets start with the language Enco used. “since critical thinking and logic operates only by conscious choice.” I am not denying that we can improve our critical thinking consciously-that it can be enhanced over time. I also agree that our schools absolutely suck in failing to teach kids how to think critically.

    On the other hand it is my contention that critical thinking is initiated/activated unconsciously. I should say strong hunch. Sam Harris asked his listeners to think of three movies and observe in oneself how we become aware of the movies. The movies just pop into our heads. It is another refutation of free will. His demonstration reminds me of my experiences in law with arguments in court.

    I was given to deep states of concentration. When fielding an enfilade of arguments and having to respond in kind there were occasions when i KNEW before any conscious examination of counsel’s argument that the argument was flawed. I would jot down a word or two to remind me to revisit the argument. After thinking about the argument i would realize the flaw and be ready to expose it. Once the skill or capability is developed a red flag is generated behind our consciousness.

    Once we can think critically it is oft all we can do. Try to hear or read a pile of religious nonsense and fail to think about it critically. There is zero conscious choice to contemplate and trash the BS. Similarly someone who otherwise is capable of critical thinking yet possesses religion or ideology will be incapable of utilizing their skills. And to a lesser degree there will be a force field protecting cherished notions. They may choose to think critically about those areas without any success.

    As to those fallacies i think we can sometimes identify those without knowing what they are. I would like to see a social science experiment with 10/12/15/18 year olds who have not been exposed to or had any formal training in fallacies. I raised argument from ignorance because i remember being idk 11 or 12 and arguing with kids about god. They often made those arguments. I did not need any formal training to know the arguments were flawed. I doubt i am unique in that regard. My environment probably made that capability manifest as my dad was brilliant and i heard many of his arguments and rants.

    Pope you have indicated how inextricably linked language and reasoning are. Interesting topic. Do you think caveman Da Vinci was never able to reach his potential because of insufficient language? There are many who suck in language and excel in math. I suppose math is its own language. I don’t know the answers but surely language plays a significant role in development of one’s intellect.

    The words that might describe what you want to convey…tendentious, dishonest, unscientific.



    Jake it seems like you are nitpicking. Yes, once you are very familiar with critical thinking and/or have analysed texts critically, you can, to some extent, engage in critical thinking without consciously doing it…and yes, in every day life you may be able to apply scepticism and quick analysis of claims that people (and activity on online forums and the media) make. None the less, to do it well (especially within the academic field where critical thinking emerged) requires focus and a conscious effort. In any case, to get to the point where you can unconsciously apply critical thinking techniques, you have to apply considerable conscious effort to understanding the principles behind critical thinking and frequently engaging in it. Critical thinking rarely emerges without this conscious effort/practice/engagement.


    When I suggested above that we should replace Religious Instruction Indoctrination classes in schools with lessons in Critical Thinking (plus Ethics and Citizenship) I may have given the impression that I see them as opposites. I don’t. I just think Religion should never be taught in schools and indoctrinating children by doing so is child abuse. It does not equip them for adult life. But teaching children Critical Thinking skills not only develops their minds, it allows them to have a greater capacity to spot the faults in their own and other peoples reasoning and to allow them to navigate in the cesspool of Internet disinformation and misinformation.

    Critical Thinking is the opposite of magical thinking of which religion is a subset of. It is like archery. The more you practice it the more bullseyes you hit. The more you actively think critically the more bullshit you shoot down.  Then you can spot it as soon as you hear it almost (as Jake referred to with the volley of bullets) before you are consciously aware of it. But without some formal understanding of what a spurious (or specious) argument is, it may not be flagged by your brain. You might only be aware that something was amiss but not be quite able to place it without some formal lessons.

    Apologists like W.L. Craig are difficult to debate unless you have a good understanding to how to debate and how to structure your rebuttals. Craig is very good at debating and dismissing him would be an error. One thing that he is good at, especially in the “you have 5 minutes each” type of debates is that he will take a blunderbuss approach and make several points very quickly and start and finish the “enfilade” with very reasonable points. When it comes to rebuttal it is difficult to do but it you were listening carefully you would spot the fallacies and pick out the weakest ones (from the middle) and concentrate on those. Without formal training in fallacies and logic you will lose against him.



    Davis, i am going to draw again on experience. So i recently revealed to my dad how in Court i sometimes knew an argument was flawed before giving it any thought. If it was not immediately clear to me I would have to ponder. He laughed and said you inherited that from me.

    Years ago he told me his mind was in some ways a prison. He had no control over analysis. He literally analyzed everything he read and heard. I’ve never seen anyone who is his equal in logic-not any more after three operations for brain tumors and 88 years old.

    So i suppose neuroscience will eventually address this. If Libet demonstrates that simple actions or decisions are decided prior to awareness it seems not a great extension that critical analysis follows suit. Yes i know my experiences are anecdotal. I have had a lifetime of being analytical between reading a lot as a youngster, studying law and playing horses so it is not something i can avoid. I doubt you can avoid it either. Not saying the extreme that my Dad experienced is the norm but having become critical in thinking is not something that can be turned on and off with exceptions for cherished notions, ideology, being in love and perhaps other things.

    This issue of conscious effort to think critically is an aspect of the free will debate. My contention is again that once it is developed it begins at a preconscious or unconscious level. Situationally one has no control over whether to apply critical thinking or lazy thinking. Ultimately it is a question for neuroscience.

    I agree with Reg that Craig is no joke and formal training helps in a debate against him.



    Yeah, If you can say…..”well you have committed the strawman fallacy by distorting my statement and arguing against that distortion” and then go on and point out the details of the fallacy committed; the opponent loses that round for sure.

    When debating a theist, very often their argument must be a fallacy, LOL.



    My contention is again that once it is developed it begins at a preconscious or unconscious level.

    So in your case, what do you mean by “once it is developed”? Did it not take effort to develop the skill of analytical thinking? On another important note, I’ll claim here that the ability to think critically can also vary from person to person, requiring more effort in one than another. It’s great that it seems to come naturally to you, but there is, after all, some variations of different brain functions in the species.

    I can tell you for sure, for myself — albeit anecdotally, if I’m emotionally charged when presented with an issue to argue against, I fumble around to re-interpret in my head how the issue should be resolved with logic. And sometimes I’ll make the wrong “guess” at first, and correct it after some thought… and some of us need more training and practice than others.

    I’m not arguing that you’re not right about how spotting fallacies comes with little effort to you, I’m arguing that we don’t necessarily execute thoughts in the same ways as each other… and some of us need more training and practice than others.



    You cannot conclude from the highly contested results and interpretations of Libet’s experiments that decisions precede awareness. A critical thinker should be able to see past the folklore of the Libet experiment, which is by today’s standards, ancient in neuroscience timescales. Educate yourself on those experiments, there are numerous valid serious criticisms of the experiment itself, the conclusions many have drawn from them and even the very premises of the experiment which Libet himself admitted, in addition to other studies which put the precede awareness conclusion either in doubt or suggests something different.

    A good critical thinker, when browsing the preliminary data of a field of subject in its infancy with conflicting claims and a lack of information…should not hesitate to conclude: “We don’t know…yet”.

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by  Davis.


    Pope, it most certainly took effort. On the other hand it is something that comes with time in an environment conducive to learning. My hypothesis is that identification of flawed arguments are sometimes preconscious. I am quite certain that is how it was with me as described already. Only time will tell. And as Davis points out we don’t know yet about simple answers to simple questions. If i am correct it can only be a phenomena of the brain in people who have that capability.

    As far as spotting fallacies prior to being introduced to logical fallacies i think it is pretty clear that happens to varying degrees. In Bertrand Russell’s autobiography it seems to me he was doing it from a young age. They’re not quantum physics after all.

    Davis, you are absolutely correct.



    Fellow Unbelievers,

    One thing to remember that makes argumentation easier is that all logical fallacies have one common denominator:  The premises do not make the conclusion true.

    All the different forms of fallacies differ only in how the premises don’t make the conclusion true.

    One person merely posturing as an authority does not make their conclusion true.

    An oligarchy merely posturing as an authority doesn’t make their conclusion true.

    A plurality or a majority of people in a poll does not make tbeir conclusion true.

    Saying: ‘Look!  A Red Herring!  A shiny thingie!  A double rainbow!’ does not make a conclusion true.

    Saying: ‘I know you are, but what am I?’ or ‘So’s your Old Man’ does not make a conclusion from or about any of you true.

    Saying; ‘It’s better than nothing’ or ‘there’s no proof it isn’t’ does not make a conclusion true.

    Saying ‘X is true because this source says so and this source is true because it says X’ is really not making a conclusion true.

    Saying: ‘You Pencil-Necked Geek’ or other insult direct does not make a conclusion true.

    And finally, most pressing for the survival of human civilization:

    A threat to use a fist, knife, club, gun, Nuclear, Biological, or Chemical (NBC) weapon, or eternal damnation in Hell or a law backed up by these means does not make a conclusion true, (though all of the above human-made weapons certainly can defend against the one who tries to make the threat.)

    And even when the premises necessarily establish the conclusion as true, you must still always first check your premises.

    (Checking premises is especially crucial when dealing with apologetics such as William Lane Craig’s, since these premises often can be like Babuska Dolls of false statements inside of begged questions inside of formal fallacies.  They have to be dealt with separately and carefully before the whole argument can be addressed and refuted.)

    Once you remember these and put them into practice, it does indeed become like automatic  ‘muscle-memory’ as Jake observed.

    But remembering them and applying them still takes that first step of conscious choice.  Otherwise, all arguments and all schools of thought are acts of futility and we might as well say: “Blame It On Midnight, Shame On The Moon.”

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by  TheEncogitationer. Reason: A Thoreau-esque addendum


    No recollection of any attorney in court citing yellow mullet, red herring, nobody knows what a Scot wears under his kilt. It was brave new territory when i ejaculated, non sequitur bitch!



    One thing to remember that makes argumentation easier is that all logical fallacies have one common denominator:  The premises do not make the conclusion true.

    All the different forms of fallacies differ only in how the premises don’t make the conclusion true.

    Then the Theory of Evolution is a fallacy because all the premises you can muster in its favor don’t “make it true,” but simply support the theory, perhaps making it much more likely to be true than competing theories like creationism.

    Mathematical formulae and valid syllogisms with true premises are necessarily true, but the rest of our knowledge is only contingently true.



    Encos summary of fallacies is a little broad as it is the case that most of the most frequently cited fallacies deal with the relationship between premises and conclusions, not all of them do. In general, fallacies simply point out issues with formal arguments which usually take the form of Premises 1, Premises 2 (possibly more), Conclusion. The simplest example of a fallacious argument that doesn’t deal with the relationship between premises and conclusions, is an argument that doesn’t have a conclusion or an argument that doesn’t have a premises (a fallacious argument that should be obvious to anyone but is sometimes overlooked). One of the most frequent and overlooked fallacy is whether the premises are actually true. That is, the conclusion logically follows from the premises, but if the premises isn’t true then it is a fallacious argument. For example this is a sound argument with true premises:

    P1 All mammals are vertebrates

    P2 Humans are mammals

    C Humans are vertebrates

    Here is an argument with the faulty premises fallacy:

    P1 All mammals have lungs

    P2 Mosquitos are mammals

    C Mosquitos have lungs.

    The conclusion logically follows the premises, but one of these premises is false.

    Other fallacies deal with unreliable form of argument and/or use of premises (ex. some versions of ad hominins or red herrings), patterns of bad faith arguments (ex. proof by intimidation) and meta fallacies (ex. the fallacy fallacy). In fact the fallacy fallacy is a prime example that does not deal with the relationship of the premises with the conclusion but a misunderstanding of how fallacies work (i.e. just because a statement is fallacious does not mean the conclusion is not true).

    This is why a basic familiarity with fallacies (and critical thinking in general) is better than nothing, and one should be happy people do learn these to some extent…but why a fuller study of fallacies and critical thinking would be beneficial for all. It is far more than just identifying and avoiding fallacies.

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by  Davis.
    • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by  Davis.


    Davis writes……but why a fuller study of fallacies and critical thinking would be beneficial for all. It is far more than just identifying and avoiding fallacies.

    I have a FEELING, an INTUITION, that mastering or improving in identifying fallacies can for some thinkers be a negative. It is like a puzzle instead of ratiocination. It can be a way of avoiding the thing in itself.


    If I am debating someone (yes, almost always a theist) and point out a fallacy in their argument, I generally find that they have never been told this before. When they try the regular “The Bible is true because it was written by God and he would not recount an error”, I will point out the fallacies in that statement. Most have never heard the term “circular reasoning” or “appeal to authority”. This compels them to work through a process of explaining where “I am wrong” which is actually getting them to challenge their own arguments.

    “Your claim that Jesus is the son of your God is proven because it is written in the Bible is the same as me claiming that Jesus is real because vampires are afraid of a crucifix because it is so written in the book Dracula”. “Please explain to me where my argument is wrong”.

    If you have some education in logic and debating techniques that include knowing different types of fallacious argument, you are less like to make those error in your own debates which is often more important than spotting them in what others write or say.

    Try this one 🙂

    I think it was Lyndon Johnson that spun the rumor that accused his election opponent of having intimate relations with a pig. His staff asked if he could back this up with some proof. No, he said but I just to hear the sonofabitch deny it in public.


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