Can you recognize a flawed argument when you hear one?

Monday, April 6, 2009 at 5:45 PM Bookmark and Share
Most of us have surprisingly bad "bull-crap" detectors when it comes recognizing flawed arguments supporting our favorite beliefs and ideas. Would you like an example? If you have some time, here's a (long) video of a debate between outspoken atheist and author Christopher Hitchens and christian authors Douglas Wilson, William Lane Craig, Lee Strobel, and Jim Denison at the 2009 Christian Book Expo. I promise you won't have to watch the whole thing to get your fill of logical fallacies, bad reasoning, and plenty of other nonsensical banter!

The topic? "Does the god of Christianity exist, and what difference does it make?"

Christian Book Expo 2009

[Picked up from Sandwalk]

First, give some thought about some of the assertions and "logical" arguments put forth. First to speak, Lee Strobel makes this common blunder - can you see other problems with what he calls evidence (which one can easily distinguish as beliefs)? He and others go on to make numerous similar "bad arguments." For example, can you find cases of folks making an appeal to authority, speaking loosely with equivocation (using a word with multiple meanings in a series of logical steps with more than one meaning used variously along the way), making the fallacy of an appeal to ignorance and so on?

Second consider some of the problems of terminology here. How often are the panelists discussing "apples and oranges" (so to speak) in their different understanding and use of words like moral, immoral, morality (which Hitchen's touches on around 1:13:00), know, knowledge, true, fact, evidence, and so on.

I'll leave you to dwell on the many claims and arguments in the video (yes, christian and atheist panelists alike!) and see how many logical misteps are taken during their little "debate."


I have always thought it unfortunate that "winning the debate" and "making a good point" weren't at all the same thing. In a later debate between W. L. Craig and C. Hitchens days after the panel discussion posted above, Hitchens seems to have lost the debate (according to his opponent's supporters, at least). So how could he have done better? Check out this advice for debating William Lane Craig (part I) from the blog Evaluating Christianity.


Posted by: Robert Hagedorn | 5/18/2017 10:16 PM

How is the exegesis accessible at an example of flawed reasoning?

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