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Friday, October 17, 2014

Fun with fallacies: begging the question

I think most people, myself included, use "beg the question" to mean "prompt us to ask the question." 
But in reality, "beg the question" is actually a type of logical fallacy, which is "assuming as true the very point that is under discussion," according to Theodore Bernstein. 
A perfect example of this fallacy is an article from TheWeek.com entitled "Why do so many liberals despise Christianity?" The author, Damon Linker, argues that liberals hate Christianity (like lack of centralized oversight and accountability), but begins with a statement that already assumes that liberals hate Christianity. By "begging the question," the author is able to attribute the beliefs of some liberals to hate for Christianity without having to show evidence that hatred of Christianity motivates these beliefs. 
So when a Slate.com editorial expresses "ambivalence toward missionary medicine," we can ignore writer Brian Palmer's arguments supporting his ambivalence because we know he's really saying what he's saying because he hates Christianity because he is liberal and liberals hate Christianity. Oddly, the article concludes that missionary medicine is a good thing and saves lives, and secular Americans should set aside their reservations and "let God do His work." But obviously, he's being insincere because he hates Christians because he's a liberal and liberals hate religion.

The article talks about a college in Boston that is facing having its accreditation revoked because the college has enforced a policy against being gay. The higher education commission that opposes the policy is made up of liberals (or so Linker implies), and they are threatening to revoke accreditation because they are liberals and liberals hate Christianity. So any arguments about equal rights are just a smoke screen because we know their real motive is hate for Christianity. And the commission couldn't be choosing to focus on the parts of the bible that talk about loving and not judging because liberals would never follow the bible because it is Christian and liberals hate Christianity. 

The fallacy of begging the question here allows the author to attribute liberal beliefs to hatred of Christianity, any argument to the contrary having no merit because we already know that liberals hate Christianity, therefore, when a liberal's beliefs conflict with those of a particular Christian, those beliefs are obviously the result of hatred of Christianity - no other argument is valid.

2 comments:

Geo. said...

Thanks for your cogent comment at "Trainrides..." I couldn't figure out how to follow your site so I added it to my blogroll. Sure like how you write. My compliments and admiration.

psychelyn said...

Hi, thanks for dropping a comment on my blog. Your opinions are very interesting. I'll be reading along...

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