This is Pastor Tim article that appeared in the Evening Leader on January 18, 2021
When I was a student at Ohio Northern in the mid-1990s, I was a Religion Major. In order to satisfy the requirements of that major, I had to take three classes in the Philosophy department. One of the classes was Logic. That class taught me a lot about how to examine and see through presentations and arguments. It has been a great tool in helping me avoid making emotional decisions. I am not claiming that I have 100% success in this, but I think I can say with relative certainty, that I make most decisions with my head and not my heart.
One of the big parts of the class was what are known as fallacies. Fallacies are when an argument breaks down. There are many fallacies – you just need to Google “Logical Fallacies” and you will see there are hundreds of logical fallacies out there. Any one of them can negate an argument. Here are a few very brief examples.
A Red Herring fallacy is when you draw a parallel that does not exist between two issues. If a child receives her allowance and says to her father, “I want more for my allowance.” Her father responds by saying, “When I was your age, my allowance was a quarter.” These two things have barely anything to do with each other. This is a fallacy of a Red Herring.
Another fallacy is post hoc ergo propter hoc, which is a Latin phrase that means because one thing happened after another thing happened, the first thing caused it. Example: It is Tuesday and it rained, therefore it always rains on Tuesday. The two things have nothing to do with each other. Just because two things happened doesn’t necessarily mean that one caused the other.
The kind of fallacy that I want to present to you today is an ad hominem. This very aggressive fallacy happens often. It is when someone makes a statement and your response is to attack the person, not what they said. If you said, “Zoom meetings are hard to sit through” and I responded, “You only say that because you are ugly,” that is the fallacy of ad hominem. It has nothing to do with what the person said. It is an attack against who they are and obviously not very nice.
If you keep up with anything in the news, you witness approximately 10,000 ad hominem fallacies a day. It is so common that we don’t even see it as a fallacy any more. It’s just business as usual. This approach is not restricted to any political party or mindset. It has become our nature to destroy people who say things we disagree with. This results in absolutely no one listening. All we are doing is waiting for the moment we can jump in the conversation and begin with the character assassination.
If we ever want to experience the healing and oneness that everyone is clamoring on about, the only way it will happen is if we give up the ad hominem fallacies. Why is it so controversial for someone to disagree and thus be demonized? Is that the best we can do, to keep pushing until someone goes off the deep end? Did no one pay attention to race relations in our country until downtown Seattle seceded from the United States to become CHOP? Did no one want to consider that there may be some media bias until a group of psychos stormed the capital?
When all we do is attack each other, the only possible result is escalation. No one feels heard and, no matter what our feelings are on a particular issue, as soon as you move to destroy the person instead of addressing the issue, you are fanning the flame of discord. This needs to stop. It is true that not everyone will get their way all of the time, but the attempt to destroy people we disagree with and classify them as enemies isn’t accomplishing anything.
If we don’t first claim the issues we agree upon and focus on what unites us, what happened at the Capitol will continue to happen until someone in charge stops fanning the flames of division.