Friday, January 4, 2013

Lawyer Logic

As a Christian Injury Lawyer, I look at issues quite differently than most people do. There are many examples of logical-sounding statements that are actually “fallacies.” 

Argument: “Guns only kill people, killing people is wrong, so guns should be banned.” Sound familiar?  This is the “Fallacy of Generalization.” It sounds logical, but is it inaccurate and flatly untrue. (If you shot a gun, and did not kill a human, then you know the truth. Further, killing some people is regretfully necessary.)

Argument: “You are against gun control, so your statistics cannot be trusted.” This is an attack on the person, not the argument itself. In Latin, its called “Argumentum Ad Hominem.” If you think of a cartoon strip, when the comment attacks the speaker and not the idea in the white balloon above him showing what he is saying, you have it. (The statistics are accurate or not no matter who states them.) Another example is: “Fred argues that gun control works, but he is a communist, so he cannot be right. (His political affiliation doesn't pertain to the truth of his claim).

Advertisers love “Argumentum Ad Populum” or “Appeal to the Majority.”  Argument: “More sports fans choose Direct TV.” A related one, “Appeal to Authority,” includes: “More doctors smoke Camels: you should too!" (The doctors could still be wrong to do so, and were).

Another fallacy is “Circular Reasoning,” wherein two conclusions are used as premises to support each other. (For instance, some geologists date a layer of sediment by using certain fossils, but then also date those fossils by using that layer in which it is found.)

Then there is the famous “Non Sequitur.” This has given its name to a popular comic strip. It means, “It does not follow.” For example, “All men are humans. Martha is human. Therefore, Martha is a man.”

Another one that kids love to use on their parents is called a “Red Herring." Dog trainers would drag a fish across the path of the animal the dog was to be tracking and throw him off the path. It sounds like this: “Son, you can’t go, till your homework is done.” “But Dad, you did not let me have a friend over last week, and I had done all my homework then. You never let me do anything” (This is trail that leads to last week, and not the current homework, which still remains undone.)

Others create a "False Dilemma" also called the "Either-or Fallacy" in which the situation is oversimplified. Examples you might hear include, “I don’t believe in divorce and I cannot change him, so I guess I am just stuck.”  (It assumes that there are only two choices: divorce or no change. Common efforts like counseling, separation and mediation are all falsely excluded).

Logic has been called the Language of God.  Jesus Himself said, "Come let us reason together."

It should be used more by believers, as we are to be, "innocent as doves, but wise as serpents."