Review of Awake Magazine: Philosophy 101: How to Construct a Logical Syllogism

by Saename 14 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Saename

    This morning my brother and my mother (whom I mentioned in my previous topic when we had a conversation about evolution) visited a Jehovah's Witness, and when they returned, they returned with the Awake! magazine that they received from the Witness. The magazine is entitled, "Is the Bible Really From God?" dated No. 3 2017. I was curious about what arguments the article made, so I told my brother I would read it, too, and I did. It's a very short article, so it took me about 10 minutes only, which is the first point I want to raise.

    If you want to provide evidence for such an extraordinary claim, the evidence must also be extraordinary. If the text that you provide me with to read is of such small word count, it is actually a very good indication of how good the points you make are. Even several-hundred-page books written by scholars cannot substantiate this claim convincingly enough, so to expect a 16-page magazine to do the same is indeed beyond ridiculous.

    Secondly, all the arguments the article provides are actually non-sequiturs. A non-sequitur is an argument which asserts a certain conclusion to be true while this conclusion does not actually follow logically from the previous proposition. The three lines of evidence this magazine provides are the scientific accuracy, the precision of predictions about the future, and the answers the Bible provides for life's profound questions. Even if we were to assume that the premises are correct, which they are not, in reality, they still would not lead to the conclusion that the Bible is inspired by God, and to say otherwise is to acknowledge that one does not know enough about logic.

    To illustrate how this concept works, it is best to first understand how logical syllogisms operate. A syllogism is a logical argument which applies deductive reasoning and leads to a conclusion based on two or more premises (propositions.) Such a syllogism also must be both valid and sound. If an argument is valid, it means that if all the premises are true, they cannot lead to a false conclusion. If an argument is sound, it means that it is valid, and that all its premises are true. The most basic and popular example of a valid and sound syllogism is this:

    1) All men are mortal.

    2) Socrates is a man.

    3) Socrates is mortal.

    In the above syllogism, all (2) premises are unquestionably true. All men are indeed mortal, and we have never seen anything which would indicate the contrary. Socrates was, if he existed, also a man. Inevitably, those two premises lead to the conclusion that Socrates was mortal when he was alive. It is valid because if the two premises are true, which they are, they cannot lead to the false conclusion. If all men are mortal, and if Socrates was a man, you cannot conclude that Socrates was immortal. Moreover, the argument is also sound because it is valid, and its premises are true.

    The problem with the syllogisms which are implied in the Awake! magazine is that they are not valid. This means that even if all the premises are true, they can still lead to a false conclusion. This is the first line of reasoning the article uses:

    1) The Bible contains prophecies about the future.

    2) All of the prophecies about the future contained in the Bible are accurate.

    3) Therefore, the Bible was inspired by God.

    The obvious problem is that the premise #2 is not true, but this is not the most important problem with this syllogism. The most important problem is that it is invalid. If both premises are true, they can still lead to a false conclusion. For example, while we do not know whether it is possible that humans can independently make correct predictions about the future until it is proven that it is possible, we do know that it is perceivably possible. Because of that, another conclusion that these two premises can lead to is that the Bible is not inspired by God but was actually written by humans who could independently make accurate predictions about the future.

    The above applies to every syllogism implied by the article. The second argument is about scientific accuracy, and the third one is about the answers the Bible provides to life's profound questions. The problem with these arguments is that there are other perceivably possible conclusions. The Bible, if scientifically accurate, could be so because the authors of all books were wise enough to know science that we only begin to discover today. Additionally, if the Bible could provide answers to life's profound questions, it could be so because the writers were wise enough to know these answers themselves. While those conclusions are not likely to be true, not only are they more likely to be true than the conclusion that God inspired the Bible, but they also prove that the God conclusion is not the necessary conclusion, which is a huge problem if you want to construct a valid syllogism.

    For this reason, if one cares about truth, and if one uses reason, logic, and evidence to get to true conclusions, this is not a reliable pathway to truth. If premise #2 were proven accurate, which has not happened as of yet, the conclusion which leads us to God would have to be taken on faith. As Matt DIllahunty puts it, "Faith is the excuse people give for believing when they don't have a good reason. If you have good reasons faith is superfluous" (source: The past has proven time and time again that without reason, logic, and evidence, one cannot reliably believe that the conclusions he or she has reached are true.

    For now, the only reasonable position is the skeptical one: the rejection of the proposition that God exists. While it may be perceivably true that God exists, we cannot provide reliable reasoning and evidence for this assumption. Hence, the acceptance of this proposition is unreasonable and can only be taken on faith. According to Hitchens's razor, however, "What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence." So if we don't have evidence that God exists, and if we don't have evidence that God doesn't exist, do we really have to have a position, or can we reject all unsubstantiated statements?

    Matt Dillahunty gives a perfect example in order to explain this concept, and to show how it is possible to reject all unsubstantiated statements that make an assumption of their truth. Imagine that I'm holding a jar of gumballs in my hand. Neither I nor anyone else has any idea of how many gumballs are inside the jar. The jar doesn't have a label which would indicate the correct number. Now, if I were to tell you that inside the jar, there is an even number of gumballs, would you believe me? Most likely you would not, and this would be because of lack of evidence. However, would that mean that you believe the number of gumballs is odd? No, you would not. You would reject both statements until more information were found. You would say, "I don't know." You would be unconvinced as to whether the number is either even or odd.

    Nonetheless, if you actually cared about whether the number is even or odd, you could theoretically open the jar and count the gumballs yourself. By applying this method, you could find out which statement is factually true, and you would do so without making an appeal to faith. However, if you did not open the jar to count the gumballs, either because you do not have the desire to do so, or purely because you do not have the possibility to do so (as is currently the case with the existence of God and his influence upon the universe and life), you would withhold your judgement, would you not? Either way, you would not make an appeal to faith as you could see it is clearly unreasonable.

    If we can apply this to such trivial scenarios, why would we have to make up answers when the questions are more profound and serious? If we want to know how life began, how the universe began, or whether God inspired the Bible, do we have to make appeals to faith in order to have a position? I am completely comfortable with saying that I don't know to either question while being quite convinced, when it comes to the last one, that God has not inspired the Bible. I don't need faith. I only need reason, logic, and evidence, and when there is a lack of either, I don't make claims which are impossible for me to justify. If the tools to research the supernatural realm were finally found, and if we could finally prove the existence of God—this is to say if we could finally open the jar of gumballs—then we could make meaningful statements about truth in regards to the existence of God and his influence upon us.

  • waton

    very well written post. wt logic seems to be designed to appeal only to simpletons, and allow only them in.

    On the odd gumball / god's influence argument, - The existence of all these gumballs argues in favour of a creator, one more or less is just icing on the cake. Schroedinger's gumballs?

  • Saename
    waton - The existence of all these gumballs argues in favour of a creator, one more or less is just icing on the cake.

    This is a misunderstanding of the analogy. The analogy is there to demonstrate why one cannot make appeals to faith. It is not indicative of God's existence.

  • jwleaks

    Bertrand Russell sumed up religious belief with his teapot:

    “If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.”

  • Saethydd

    Eloquently put my friend. I feel much the same way, skeptical agnosticism is the only logical conclusion I've found thus far.

  • waton
    This is a misunderstanding of the analogy. The analogy is there to demonstrate why one cannot make appeals to faith. It is not indicative of God's existence.

    Saename: I understood well, but wanted to bring the important point into the discussion, that in all this we always have to deal a priori with the existence and details of the universe. whether it created itself or not, . I agree with you, the bible can not be inspired, god does not intervene. But: will we have a jarring revelation?

  • doubtfull1799

    The other problem with that Awake issue is it relies solely on Selection Bias. For every point they cherry pick one or two Bible passages which support the point being made, while ignoring all the other Bible passages that falsify it.

  • smiddy

    Constructing a logical syllogism

    1. All men are mortal

    2. Jesus was a man

    3.Jesus is mortal

    And then their is this.

    1.The Bible contains prophecies about the future

    2.All of the prophecies contained in the Bible about the future have proved to be innaccurate .

    3.Therefore the Bible was not inspired by God

    Thank you for the post saename , indeed food for thought

    "Syllogism" I learn something everyday on this board

  • Phizzy

    An excellent Post Saename ! I have added it to my collection of JW related info. that I will use whenever the opportunity arises.

    As a born in JW I realise that JW's are not taught the art of Critical Thinking, or how to spot a Logical Fallacy, so info. as in your Post is invaluable to an awakening JW>

    Thank you, most informative and helpful !

  • stuckinarut2

    Great thread!

    Some of the content reminded me of this great article:

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