Part 3: Got Arguments? Avoid Making Bad Ones

I wasn't personally acquainted with the people arguing on the Facebook thread; I was friends with the writer of the Facebook post. As mentioned in my previous blog post, I've learned to pretty much stay out of others' online arguments. This one, however, felt different. Everyone was bullying a young white man. Apparently, he failed (in their view) to show the "proper" amount of "kindness, compassion, and sensitivity" about a particular racial issue. One white young woman called him "sub-human." Another claimed he was "evil." Others relied on the standard insults of "ignorant," "uneducated," and "lacking in humanity." Why? Because this man had dared question opinions that, in many social circles, have become a sort of sacrosanct orthodoxy. He was a heretic. And because these bullies viewed their opinions as "sacred," they justified their bullying as a form of righteousness.




Those who condemned this young man reminded me of the New Testament versus in Luke: 18: 9-14:


He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others ... The Pharisee prayed with himself, 'God, I thank thee that I am not like other men--extortioners, unjust, adulterers ... I give tithes ... I fast ...'

As we know, Christ rebuked these self-righteous and self-congratulatory people by saying:

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted... 


With those verses in mind, I stepped into the Facebook fray and questioned the bullies: 
  • Why did they give themselves permission to bully someone in the name of anti-bullying?
  • Why did they give themselves permission to insult someone just because he didn't align himself to their exact world view? 
  • Why did they consider their views unquestionable (sacred)?
  • Why did they give themselves permission to dehumanize anyone or any ethnicity or race?
  • Why did they give themselves permission to engage in hypocrisy when their definitions of "love" and "kindness" were nothing other than permissible forms of bigotry and hate? 
  • Why did they give themselves permission to de-humanize another human being or one ethnic group in order to humanize another?
  • Why would they think their insults are arguments? 

I doubt my questions had much impact. Because these types of people don't see themselves as bullies. They don't see their faulty logic. Or, perhaps they do. But their sense of "righteous indignation" in shaming and guilting others makes them feel strong and "acceptable"--and in some twisted way, "loving." Regardless, I pose these questions with increasing frequency because to stand by and saying nothing is akin to bullying.




Where am I going with all of this? The time is now, dear readers, when we must hone our skills in constructive argumentation and dialogue in order to discern between just and unjust laws, moral and immoral philosophies, ethical and unethical methods of argument, and principles that promote the value of individual liberties and freedoms. I have seen many in academia (and obviously in government) promote injustice in the name of justice, moral values using immoral methods, and unethically adopting the idea that "the ends justify the means." 

In this post I will take up where I left off from my previous one regarding the common fallacies (or faulty logic) we all use (intentionally or not) in argumentation and persuasion. When we can easily detect and identify fallacies, we can encourage ethical dialogue to promote sound judgments and prevent destructive, tyrannical public policies. 

11. Appeal to Loyalty Fallacy

This fallacy has become very common due to the rise of identity politics and its accompanying group think. It demands that individual identity and individual liberties are subordinate to one's loyalty to the group. Action should be taken based only on the need to be loyal to the group. My above Facebook experience illustrates the dangers of the loyalty fallacy; it can lead to the verbal pitchforks and torches that create a hostile mob mentality.  

Great courage is required to stand up against popular and acceptable opinions. (Or, perhaps the opinions are morally correct, but the persuasive methods are morally incorrect.) In previous posts, I've given examples of my students who constantly self-censor and confide their fear in voicing opinions that might be labeled "offensive." I also talk to students who feel pressured to think and act a certain way because of their ethnicity, religion, family, etc. I used to think majority opinions where basically moral because "majority rules." However, after 20 years of teaching college and experiencing for myself the pressure to teach and speak only "acceptable" opinions, I now believe that majority rule is often a result of fear. 




12. Reductio ad Absurdum Fallacy:

This happens when a person extends an argument to absurd lengths. This type of exaggeration and hyperbole is dishonest and undermines the arguer's credibility. In formulaic terms it looks like this:
If X is false, then the situation would be absurd. So X is true.

















13. Post Hoc Fallacy:

Post Hoc is short for post hoc ergo propter hoc ("after this, therefore because of this"). In other words, after the event, or therefore because of the event, the consequent happened; when people mistake something for the cause or consequence just because it happened first. Remember, just because X came before Y doesn't mean that X necessarily caused Y.
Another causal fallacy occurs when people mistakenly interpret two things found together as being causally related. Two things can correlate but that doesn't prove that one thing caused the other.







14. Tu Quoque Fallacy or Whataboutism

This term is Latin for "you too," and is also considered an appeal to hypocrisy because it's a diversionary tactic by pointing to the hypocrisy of one's opponent. Dr. Ferrer, in his article "Fifteen Logical Fallacies You Should Know Before Getting Into a Debate," says:

This tactic doesn't solve the problem, or prove one's point, because even hypocrites can tell the truth. Focusing on the other person's hypocrisy is a diversionary tactic. In this way, the tu quoque typically deflects criticism away from one's self by accusing the other person of the same problem or something comparable. It is an attempt to divert blame, but it really only distracts from the initial problem. To be clear, however, it isn't a fallacy to simply point out hypocrisy where it occurs. For example, Jack may say, 'Yes, I committed adultery. Jill committed adultery. Lots of us did, but I'm still responsible for my mistakes.' In this example, Jack isn't defending himself or excusing his behavior. He's admitting his part within a larger problem. The hypocrisy claim becomes a fallacy only when the arguer uses some (apparent) hypocrisy to neutralize criticism and distract from the issue (The Quad.com).






or





or






15. Circular Reasoning (petitio principii) Fallacy

The logical form looks like this:
Claim X assumes X is true. Therefore, claim X is true.
In other words an arguer assumes as one of its premises the very conclusion it sets out to establish. The person simply repeats the claim as an argument. Dr. Ferrer further explains:

When a person's argument is just repeating what they already assumed behorehand, it's not arriving at any new conclusion. We call this a circular argument or circular reasoning. If someone says, "The Bible is true because the Bible says it's true" - that's a circular argument. One is assuming that the Bible only speaks truth, and so they trust it to truthfully report that it speaks the truth. Circular arguments..a kind of presumptuous argument where it only appears to be an argument. It's really just restating one's assumptions in a way that looks like an argument. Another way to explain circular arguments is that they start where they finish, and finish where they started.




and

16. Non Sequitur Fallacy

This is Latin for "it does not necessarily follow." If your opponent is trying to connect claims or premises to his or her conclusion when there is no connective tissue, then it's a fallacy. A strong argument requires a definite linking of the grounds (evidence) to the conclusion drawn from the claim.







It's easy to get sidetracked by fallacies that involve a lot of emotion--especially topics such as open borders, immigration, abortion, etc. Remember, no matter how passionately you feel about a topic, using fallacies to persuade or dominate your opponents is not a good idea.

17. Bandwagon Fallacy

This fallacy assumes something is true (or right, or good) because other people agree with it. A couple different fallacies can be included under this label, since they are often indistinguishable in practice. The ad populum fallacy (Latin for 'to the populous/popularity' is when something is accepted because it's popular. The consensus gentium (Latin for 'consensus of the people') is when something is accepted because the relevant authorities or people all agree on it. And the status appeal fallacy is when something is considered true, right, or good because it has the reputation of lending status, making you look 'popular,' 'important,' or 'successful.'






A lot of bandwagon posts on social media are used as a form of social acceptance. And, like Dr. Ferrer said, people also board the bandwagon in attempts to shame and guilt others (mob mentality) in order to make themselves looks socially acceptable. Another name for this type of activity is "virtue signaling" where people post claims and arguments to appear virtuous and socially acceptable to others.








This tactic is common among advertisers. 'Drink Gatorade because that's what all the professional athletes do to stay hydrated.' One problem with this kind of reasoning is that the broad acceptance of some claim or action is not always a good indication that the acceptance is justified. People can be mistaken, confused, deceived, or even willfully irrational. And when people act together, sometimes they become even more foolish--i.e., 'mob mentality.' People can be quite gullible, and this fact doesn't suddenly change when applied to large groups. 








18. Misplaced Authority Fallacy

I confess. I admire Oprah. In 2008, Barack Obama was an obscure senator from Illinois. When Oprah campaigned for his presidential run, I took Obama more seriously as a candidate. I'm not saying Oprah necessarily persuaded me to vote for President Obama. Nonetheless, and right or wrong, I felt her influence.

This type of fallacy says that because a certain celebrity or expert believes X, we should believe X too.








The above underscores our need to use caution in assuming we're experts or have a monopoly on the marketplace of ideas. We also need to be careful not to mistake our opinions as facts. Just because we think we're right doesn't necessarily mean we are right. 

19. Appeal to Ignorance Fallacy

This involves claiming an argument to be ignorant by shifting the burden of proof. In other words, instead of providing grounds/evidence, the arguer makes a claim asking the opponent to prove his or her claim is wrong. Thus, you argue that your conclusion must be true, because there is no evidence against it. A classic example is this: "No one can actually prove that God exists. Therefore, God does not exist." 




20. Poisoning the Well Fallacy

I see increasing usage of this fallacy. Here, the arguer commits a preemptive ad hominem attack or insult against his or her opponent. In other words, the arguer tries to prime the audience with damaging information about the opponent from the start. Consequently, the arguer's claims become more acceptable by discounting the credibility of the opponent. The form looks like this:
Adverse information (be it true or false) about person X is presented.
Therefore, the claim(s) of person X will be false.






Copies of the above flyers were posted throughout a Canadian neighborhood and on a college campus. This illustrates how a very unethical group of people attempt to demonize a professor who was scheduled to speak at the local university. They also tried to discredit his supporters by labeling them "alt-right." 

As I've stated previously, many more fallacies exist other than those listed here and in my previous post. However, these are the most useful in helping to prevent fallacies in argumentation and reasoning.

Final Thoughts About Fallacies

I'm beginning to understand how the Civil War divided family loyalties and destroyed friendships; sooner or later, people were forced to choose one side or the other. As we know, the eventual necessity of a violent civil war overshadowed any hope for peaceful resolution. Today, I see the same type of anger and division happening among families and friends--and it's depressing. (I'm fortunate that my husband, kids, their spouses, and I share the same political and moral page.)

I recently read an insightful article, "Seeking Refuge in the Embattled Center," by Genevieve Weynerowski. She aptly describes present-day America's dwindling, bedraggled political center as it marshals new political allies in attempts to define America. Even though she's too dismissive of populist uprisings here, abroad, and of supporters of President Trump, she sees the increasing value of the political center: 

All of this weirdness---the relentless pecking away at reason and common sense, the indulgence of fantasy, the attempts at shaming, and the assaults on the sensibilities of common folk and educated people alike--is sending sensible people scrambling for the exits. The center is growing, becoming populated with refugees from the places that used to contain certainties. A heartening alternative to the trenches, no-man's land is making bedfellows of strangers who find themselves turning to their former antagonists for comfort in the night. It's a place where a person can breathe, look around, and make new friends. 





She offers a somber warning: 

This isn't the first time in history that the world has produced intolerable political and moral options, or that ideological camps have retrenched and become hateful to one another. But the mood, the aesthetics, the weapons, the players and the sheer scale of today's ideological and culture wars are particular to the times. The Internet hasn't brought enlightenment to quite everyone yet, but it's certainty helped spread the gospel of the mad, the marginalized, and the malevolent. Let's hope that the center holds. (Quillette.com, May 2018).


Here's to powerful and ethical arguments,

Julie

Part 2: Got Arguments? Avoid These Common Fallacies

I couldn't believe what I was reading. I re-read the Facebook comment trying to determine if the writer was joking. A friend of mine (I'll call him Fred) had written (what I thought to be) a harmless Facebook post about taxes. Unfortunately, one of Fred's Facebook friends became "personally enraged" and lectured Fred about learning "when to keep silent" about certain topics. Furthermore, if possible, he would challenge Fred "to a duel" by "slapping" him. To his credit, Fred responded calmly and respectfully, but his friend continued to sling insults. Still, Fred remained calm--and I respected him for that.





Oh, the joys of social media! It's so easy to get sucked into these modern-day bar room brawls. We all know the futility of engaging in online or face-to-face arguments that lead down the rabbit hole to insults and useless power struggles. Still, I love the Internet's endless possibilities for learning and engaging in global conversations. Constructive argumentation is essential for a free and open society. Destructive power struggles or attempts at domination are often disguised as argumentation. In our increasingly divisive society, we must learn the difference.




In this post, I will continue my discussion of argumentation and how to avoid combative pitfalls and entrapments of faulty logic or reasoning. Because argumentation is my profession, I'm drawn to arguments like a moth to a flame. I'm paid to teach college students how to argue, so it's especially challenging for me to resist arbitrating even innocuous arguments. Using the lyrics from the old Kenny Rogers song "The Gambler," I remind myself and also caution my students:


You've got to know when to hold them. Know when to fold them. Know when to walk away. Know when to run. You never count your money while you're sitting at the table. There's time enough for counting... when the dealing's done.




I don't claim to be perfect in my social interactions. That's impossible for anyone. Still, I'm pretty good at the "know when to hold them, fold them, and when to run" part. Even more, I've learned when to decline a seat at the debate table whether online or in person.

Aside from social media, we will always be engaged in some form of persuasion or argumentation--nearly every day of our lives and with nearly every person we encounter. Jesus Christ was the ultimate in constructing meaningful and powerful arguments against the sophists of His day: the Sadducees and Pharisees. He recognized their manipulative arguments and discerned their attempts to entrap Him. I've studied Christ's methods of argument and refutation and have tried to utilize them in my own communication--for the purpose of truth seeking, not domination.

So, do you want to protect yourself from others' negative persuasive tactics? Do you want to recognize bad arguments when you hear or read them? Do you want to effectively defend your beliefs and values with dignity while avoiding foolish pitfalls? Then read on...




Let's begin with the definition: Fallacies are flaws in the way reasoning and evidence are used in an argument. Sometimes, people are intentionally fallacious in order to dominate, but sometimes they are unaware of their own fallacies. Weak arguments contain formal fallacies (used in deductive reasoning) and informal fallacies. Arguments using informal fallacies are flawed because of the arguer's mistaken assumptions in the premises or claims, errors in language, misuse of evidence, or violation of argument principles. This post will focus on informal fallacies used in inductive, causal, and analogical reasoning. Remember, knowing how to recognize fallacies is a priceless skill that will save you, dear readers, a lot of needless anxiety!




The list below is taken from one of my class lectures. There are many types of fallacies, but my list contains the most common. (Some are Latin terms.) I will also include links of examples and videos to help illustrate while including quotes from author Dr. David Ferrer from his article, "Fifteen Logical Fallacies You Should Know Before Getting Into a Debate," from The Quad website. (To access the entire article see this link: https://thebestschools.org/magazine/15-logical-fallacies-know/ )

My list is too large for one post, so I will include additional fallacies in my next post.

1. Ad Hominem Fallacy: 

This is Latin for "against the man." It relies on personal character attacks rather than actual argument--and it's the most common and destructive fallacy. People with weak arguments rely on insults and name calling to put their opponents on the defensive. Thus, the argument is no longer about the topic; instead it's all about the attacked person attempting to defend his or her character. Dr. Ferrer states:

Personal attacks run contrary to rational arguments...where someone rejects or criticizes another person's view on the basis of personal characteristics, background, physical appearance, race [and that includes attacking any ethnicity--including white people] or other features irrelevant to the argument at issue. An ad hominem is more than just an insult. It's an insult used as if it were evidence in support of the conclusion. In politics...instead of addressing the candidate's stance on the issues, or his or her effectiveness, ad hominems focus on personality issues, speech patterns, wardrobe, style, and other things that affect popularity but have no bearing on their competence. Ad hominems signal the point at which a civil disagreement has descended into a "fight." Whether it's siblings, friends, or lovers, most everyone has had a verbal disagreement crumble into a disjointed shouting match of angry insult aim at discrediting the other person ("Fifteen Logical Fallacies You Should Know Before Getting Into a Debate," The Quad).


So, how do you know when you've "won" an argument? When your opponent has nothing left but to insult your intelligence, your looks, your family, etc. Rather than defend yourself, put your opponent on the defensive by pointing out her reliance on personal insults and that her method of argument is weak. Politicians--and even the media--often rely on ad hominem. Below is an example:






2. Straw Man (or Straw Figure) Fallacy:

Remember the Three Little Pigs and their straw house? The wolf came along and easily blew it down. This concept applies to argumentation: When your opponent attempts to reframe your argument as weak and straw like, you are easily defeated. In other words, instead of attacking the actual argument, your opponent creates a "scarecrow," as an irrelevant and distracting issue which she easily knocks down to make herself look good while making you look stupid. Dr. Ferrer says,

This fallacy can be unethical if it's done on purpose, deliberately mischaracterizing the opponent's position for the sake of deceiving others. But often the straw man fallacy is accidental, because one doesn't realize he or she is oversimplifying a nuanced position, or misrepresenting a narrow, cautious claim as if it were broad and foolhardy.


Below is an example of an interviewer consistently using a straw man fallacy. Last January, BBC's Kathy Newman interviewed Canadian professor, Dr. Jordan B. Peterson. Ms. Newman repeatedly creates a straw man by attempting to make Dr. Peterson's opinions look outrageous and foolish. Every time she says, "So what you're saying...," Ms. Newman creates a straw man. She's completely out of her league in her attempts to argue with Dr. Peterson rather than interviewing him. The video went viral and shot Dr. Peterson into super-stardom. His book, "Twelve Rules for Life" is currently a bestseller.





3. Red Herring Fallacy:

This is a diversionary tactic because it transfers relevancy to another topic. Your opponent deliberately diverts the attention from one topic to another. Married couples are especially prone to this type of fallacy. If you ask your spouse to take out the garbage and end up arguing over something that happened 10 years ago, then your argument has gone down the red herring rabbit hole. Dr. Ferrer observes.


Typically, the distraction sounds relevant but isn't quite on-topic. This tact is common when someone doesn't like the current topic and wants to detour into something else instead, something easier or safer to address. Red herrings are typically related to the issue in question but aren't quite relevant enough to be helpful. Instead of clarifying and focusing they confuse and distract.


Remember, next time you're in an argument and you think, "What does this have to do with the subject at hand?" that's the red herring signal. Below is an example: 





4. False Dichotomy (also goes by the name of Either/Or Proposition and Horns of Dilemma):

When your opponent offers you only two alternatives and demands that you choose. Conveniently, your opponent gets to decide the alternatives and frame the argument. The most effective response is this: "You're only giving me two alternatives when there are many other alternatives I can choose from. Furthermore, I don't have to choose." This type of response disarms your opponent while revealing the weakness of her reasoning. Politicians and political activists purposely push false dichotomies in the quest for power. I refer to Dr. Ferrer:

This line of reasoning fails by limiting the options to two when there are, in fact, more option to chose from. Sometimes the choices are between one thing, the other thing, or both things together (they don't exclude each other). Sometimes there are a whole range of options, three, four, five, or a hundred. However it may happen, the false dichotomy fallacy errs by oversimplifying the range of options.  The false dilemma is often a manipulative tool designed to polarize the audience, heroicizing one side and demonizing the other. 





5. Hasty Generalization:

This happens when the arguer draws a conclusion about an entire group based on an inadequate sample number of the group. Dr. Ferrer observes:


Hasty generalization may be the most common fallacy because there's no single agreed-upon measure for 'sufficient' evidence. Is one example enough to prove the claim that "Apple computers are the most expensive computer brand?' What about 12 examples? There's no set rule for what constitutes 'enough' evidence. The means of measuring evidence can change according to the kind of claim you are making... Avoid treating general statements like they are anything more than generalizations. A simple way to avoid this fallacy is to add qualifiers like 'sometimes,' 'maybe,' often,' or 'it seems to be the case...' With the right qualifiers, we can often make a hast generalization into a responsible and credible claim.


In other words, if your opponent says something like, "I don't see a problem, so what's the big deal?," they are using themselves as the only sample and drawing a conclusion based upon their own experience. Additionally, if you hear a claim begin with the phrase, "Me and my friends...," that's a clue that a fallacious conclusion is drawn based on the small sample of "me and my friends."




6. False Analogy and Hyperbole

This faulty logic occurs when comparing individuals, groups, or principles. I see this all the time in political rhetoric. Unfairly comparing one's opponents to Nazis, monsters, and other malevolent beings--simply because of a difference of opinion--is bad form and unethical. Furthermore, outrageous comparisons are harmful because they shut down any ability for constructive dialogue. The lines of this type of reasoning look like this:

Even though two or more things have no similarities, they must have forced similarities put upon them in order to reach the conclusion that Z has property Y.

Or

Because two or more things are similar in a few respects, they must be similar in some further respect. X has property Y. Z is like X. Therefore, Z has property Y.

The photo below exemplifies this hyperbole. Antifa protestors showed up at UC Berkeley because a conservative man was invited to speak on campus. Ironically, the speaker was Jewish, but protestors still compared him to Nazis. Unfortunately, ridiculous hyperbole and intentionally misleading comparisons are now dominating public discourse.




Moreover, increasing numbers of my students breezily compare all white Christian males to domestic terrorists. When George W. Bush was president, students routinely called him "Hitler." Now, Donald Trump is held in the same regard. Regardless of one's opinion of these two presidents, I believe this hyperbole minimizes the Holocaust and does nothing to promote productive arguments.

7. The Opposition Fallacy

Defining your opposition as "the enemy" creates the impression that whatever "the enemy" believes must be wrong or evil--simply because you consider this person or group to be the enemy. The emphasis is not on the idea, but on where or who the idea is coming from. This fallacy also plays on group-think and stereotypes. 

I'm including the controversial headline below because it's from a mainstream news source. The Washington Post also published this headline. Again, regardless of what people think of Trump, demonizing half of the American population who voted for him is, in my opinion, a divisive, counterproductive approach to effective and worthwhile arguments.






8. Slippery Slope

This fallacy consists of making the false assumption that taking the first step in any direction will inevitably lead to dangerous lengths in that direction. Dr. Ferrer details:


This fallacy is not just a long series of causes. Some causal chains are perfectly reasonable. There could be a complicated series of causes which are all related, and we have good reason for expecting the first cause to generate the last outcome. The slippery slope fallacy, however, suggests that unlikely or ridiculous outcomes are likely when there's just not enough evidence to think so. It's hard enough to prove one thing is happening or has happened; it's even harder to prove a whole series of events will happen. That's a claim about the future, and we haven't arrived there yet. We, generally, don't know the future with that kind of certainty. The slippery slope fallacy slides right over the difficulty of assuming that chain of future events without really proving their likelihood.


I show the videos below to my students as examples of the slippery slope:






9. Fallacy of Sunk Costs:

People often fall into this trap. They have invested so much time and emotional energy into their opinions, arguments, relationships, etc., that they have too much pride to admit their mistake. Dr. Ferrer explains:

Sometimes we invest ourselves so thoroughly in a project that we're reluctant to ever abandon it, even when it turns out to be fruitless and futile. It's natural, and usually not a fallacy to want to carry on with something we find important, not least because of all the resources we've put into it. However, this kind of thinking becomes a fallacy when we start to think that we should continue with a task or project because of all that we've put into it, without considering the future costs we're likely to incur by doing so. There may be a sense of accomplishment when finishing, and the project might have other values, but it's not enough to justify the cost invested in it.





'Sunk cost' is an economic term for any past expenses that can no longer be recovered. Psychologically, we are susceptible to this errant behavior when we crave that sense of completion, or we are too comfortable or too familiar with this unwieldy project. Sometimes, we become too emotionally committed to an 'investment.'


There's a huge component of pride attached to this particular fallacy--especially when it comes to challenging our personal belief systems regarding politics, religion, public policy-making, etc. Below is an example of this fallacy in specific relation to speech codes and identity politics in universities:



10. Appeal to Pity (argumentum ad misericordiam)

The Latin term means "argument to compassion." These appeals (even when they're fallacious) are effective because we all want to be considered kind and compassionate people. Still, this makes us vulnerable to manipulation and forms of tyranny. 

My students love to use this fallacy:




Dr. Ferrer states:

Personal attacks, and emotional appeals, aren't strictly relevant to whether something is true or false. In this case, the fallacy appeals to the compassion and emotional sensitivity of others when these factors are not strictly relevant to the argument. Appeals to pity often appear as emotional manipulation. Truth and falsity aren't emotional categories, they are factual categories. They deal in what is and is not, regardless of how one feels about the matter. Another way to say it is that this fallacy happens when we mistake feelings for facts. Our feelings aren't disciplined truth-detectors unless we've trained them that way. So, as a general rule, it's problematic to treat emotions as if they were by themselves infallible proof that something is true or false.


I often remind my students that facts don't care about their feelings.


Identity politics tend to rely upon feelings over facts. Critics of identitarian movements are calling them anti-science because adults' personal feelings about their gender, sexuality, ethnicity, or whatever, override biological scientific facts. For example, Rachel Dolezal was born white but considers herself to be an African-American:




I've decided that I can still be a good person even if a person or group accuses me of not being "compassionate or caring" enough about their political or social causes. I also don't allow others to entrap me with unwarranted accusations of bigotry or any kind of "phobia" because I happen to have a differing opinion. I believe our nation (along with Europe) is descending into civil war. For now, the war is playing out in government, media, and in education. Whether we like it or not, the time is quickly approaching when we will be forced to choose a side. We must be able to discern which side promotes righteous arguments while using ethical reasoning. In my next post, I will list a few more relevant fallacies. 

Don't fall for fallacies,
Julie

Part 1: Got Arguments? Navigating the Wild, Wild West of Social and Political Discourse

We've all been there: Our beliefs are challenged or attacked. We're not sure of what to say or how to say it. Or, we encounter verbal bullies who kick rhetorical sand in our faces, and we're left feeling angry, defeated, or helpless. 




This was an old advertisement for the Charles Atlas body building company. 


As an argumentation and critical thinking instructor, I tell my students on the first day of class that I'm hoping to change their lives. How? By teaching them the tools for constructing sound arguments and dismantling fallacious ones. Constructive argument is the genesis and remains the backbone of Western civilization and democracy. Without arguments, our society has nothing left...except fists, sticks, stones, guns, and bombs--in that order.


Your Mission...Should You Decide to Accept It...

"You spend too much time reading all those textbooks. Why don't you read Harry Potter?" advised my mom.

"You don't read much fiction do you?" observed my sister.

"Those topics would interest YOU," my friend said to me with a hint of condescension. (We had just seated ourselves for a Relief Society meeting when I noticed three words written on the chalkboard, and pointed them out to my friend. The words were: racism, doctrine, and politics.)

My mom, my sister, my friend--they all have a point when it comes to my reading material. Below is a sample of books I've read on my Ipad. (And not a fictitious work among them):


Who Are We? Americans? Global Citizens? Both? Neither?

I've been to America's east coast several times throughout my life. My first visit was in 1973 as a young teen; my last visit was in 2015. Two particular trips--one in 2001 to Washington D.C. and another to the east southern states in 2005--had a particular impact on me; by 2001, I was a mom to four kids and had begun my teaching career. My age and educational experiences had changed my perspective of American history and Western civilization; Edward Said's book, Orientalism, had really opened my eyes concerning the West's historical colonialism and imperialism throughout the world. My feelings toward America have evolved over the years, and I look at America's future with great anticipation--and dread. Yes, we're changing as a nation--and as a world. Like everyone else, I hope to be on the right side of history. But I'm unsure which side of the political and ideological divide is right or wrong. Are they both right? Are they both wrong? Or a mixture of right and wrong? Strident voices in our midst are telling us that we must "pick a side."

In this post, I will discuss the moral and political ideologies that seek to define America along with Western civilization and its principles, and my own thoughts and observations concerning America's genesis and future.


"You Don't Have to Walk the Plains to Be a Pioneer"

In 1996, two of my kids attended the Especially For Youth conference. The theme was called "Living the Legacy," and one of the songs on the featured CD was titled "You Don't Have to Walk the Plains," sung by Brett Raymond. At the time, I was pursuing a Master's Degree and struggling with the workload while being a mother to four children. Additionally, my university newspaper was writing anti-Mormon articles, and one of my professors was outwardly hostile to Mormonism. 





Part 3: Suffering a Crisis of Faith? A Bitter Root Produces Bitter Fruit

I'm not into gardening, but I did marry an Idaho farm boy. My husband can grow almost anything. Over the years, he has taught me some basic principles about planting, sowing, and harvesting. (I've always been familiar with scriptural metaphors of bitter roots producing bitter fruit, but I was clueless regarding the earthly components of this spiritual and temporal principle.) I've come to appreciate more fully the miracle of planting and harvesting. Furthermore, I've learned to respect an insidiously potent foe called "root rot." The scriptures call it a "bitter root."

Podcast Series: "Opposition and Enemies" for the "LDS Single Moms" Group

Dear Readers:

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of doing a three-part podcast series called "Opposition and Enemies" with Amber, the host of the LDS Single Moms group on Facebook. These podcasts focused on my written nine part series on enemies. (To access the posts, type "enemies" in the search engine provided for this website.)

Amber is a recently divorced mom who founded the LDS Single Moms group. She is a wonderfully spiritual woman and an inspiring example. Whether married or single, women will find her group a supportive and soft place to fall.

Part 2: Suffering a Crisis of Faith? Grow Your Own "Sacred Grove"


A short time ago, I walked through the majestic redwoods in California's Big Basin State Park located in the Santa Cruz mountains. Just a short drive north from San Jose (or south from San Francisco), I grew up camping and hiking amongst these stately redwoods.



Redwoods are some of the oldest and tallest trees in the world. They average 80 feet and can be up to 20 feet in diameter. Some grow as tall as 375 feet. These coastal redwoods live an average of 500 - 700 years and some are approximately 2,000 years old. (Sequoia redwoods can live up to 3,500 years.) The rings in the tree trunks tell their history. The photo below shows the remains of a middle-aged redwood. The labels on the trunk represent a time line according to the tree's rings.


Part 1: Suffering a Crisis of Faith? Grow Your Own "Sacred Grove"


The 1980's were challenging years for me. I began 1980 as a newlywed and began the 1990's as a mom to four kids. One of my difficulties involved questions of faith. Born and raised in Mormonism, I had always had a rock solid testimony of the gospel and of the Church. Still, like many young adults, I had questions regarding Church doctrine and LDS culture. My older sister, Janet, was asking similar questions. Janet and I especially struggled with the following issues:

  • The doctrine of plural marriage and its practice in 19th century Mormonism
  • Women and priesthood authority 
  • Church administration and priesthood correlation where women's auxiliaries no longer had autonomy but reported directly to priesthood authorities (Correlation had been instituted 20 years earlier.) 
  • The proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution (ERA) for gender equality (It ultimately failed to pass, but like Propostion 8 regarding same sex marriage in California, the proposed amendment divided Church members.)