Back in April, I made a post entitled "Can you recognize a flawed argument when you hear one?", and today, I came across yet another opportunity to ponder another bad argument (again, from the blog Sandwalk).
So here's the example that prompted this post (and another couple of essays to hopefully balance things out - whether you believe in God or not). First, check out Proof that God Exists and see if you can nail down where their argument gets shaky, what additional assumptions are implicitly made, etc.
At the other end of the spectrum, a good many atheists are pretty well convinced that "there is not God." So here's another line of arguments to try and pick apart. See what you come up with from the essays entitled "God Doesn’t Exist, Part II - Arguments against the Existence of Gods" and if you'd like, "God Doesn't Exist, Part I - Proofs of the Existence of a God."
Whatever your beliefs, keeping your B.S. detector sharp is a good idea. If someone comes up to you and says "I can prove that 2+3=4!" you might be inclined to entertain them (and yourself) and hear out their argument. Still, you're pretty sure they're about to utter some particular flavor of bad arithmetic, and no doubt you'll be extra alert just waiting to pounce on their seemingly inevitable mistake(s). As any good elementary school math teacher would agree - it isn't always important whether or not they get the right answer, but often it's whether or not they know how to get the right answer. Which is good enough reason for me to try and exercise my logic muscles a little bit from time to time. ;)
So imagine someone comes up to you and says "I can prove that 2+3=5!"? You might think, "well, yeah - me too!" and not even bother to hear their proof. After all, you're darn well sure that they're right! Even if you do give their argument a listen, are you as eagerly listening for mistakes or are you perhaps a bit tuned out and just going along for what you expect to be a straightforward argument? Maybe arguments for what we already believe to be true don't quite get the proper level of criticism they might deserve? (Gasp!)
This is presumably a pretty well known behavior (I'm almost certain that philosophers and/or psychologists have a name for it?). Still, it's worth remembering if we're going to try and keep from getting duped or from becoming overly certain of our own unfounded beliefs - be they on one side of the fence or the other.