How To Defeat Any Secularist Argument

We found a splendid article at the website of Answers in Genesis (AIG), the creationist ministry of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo) — the ayatollah of Appalachia, the world’s holiest man who knows more about religion and science than everyone else.

The title is Catch Countless Logical Fallacies with One Critical Thinking Hack. It was written by Patricia Engler, one of AIG’s splendid cadre of creationists. Here’s AIG’s bio page for her. They say:

Patricia Engler serves as a speaker, writer and youth outreach coordinator for Answers in Genesis (AiG) Canada. Her passion for biblical apologetics ignited at age 14, when she first heard a seminar by AiG founder Ken Ham. After 12 years of homeschooling, Patricia completed a BSc with distinction at a liberal Canadian university. There, she studied intensely evolutionary courses to learn firsthand how Christian students can navigate secular education without compromising their biblical worldview.

Impressive, huh? Here are some excerpts from Patty’s article, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

First Peter 3:15 urges us as believers to defend our hope with gentleness and respect. By gently bringing a matter back to the question of what truth is — and Who truth comes from, we can communicate a biblical, logical response, expressing the truth in love.

Then she lists several claims that are always being made by secularists:

• “No real scientist questions evolutionary human origins.”
• “Teaching children that the Scriptures are true is nothing less than child abuse.”
• “There’s too much hypocrisy in the church for Christianity to be worth believing.”
• “Religion is humanity’s most lethal weapon, and the most dangerous people are people of faith.”
• “Intelligent design is a whacked-out tea party movement.”

That’s quite a list of provocative claims! Patty says:

Sound familiar? These are the sorts of messages we encounter regularly in today’s secular classrooms and culture, which have largely come to view the Bible as something akin to expired milk — outdated, distasteful, and potentially dangerous. [Yuk!] Yet besides being distinctly unbiblical [which is bad enough], these messages (and many others) share one thing in common: they all make arguments based on something irrelevant to truth.

Aha! All those horrible claims are irrelevant to The Truth. This should be a very informative article. Patty tells us exactly what’s wrong with those claims:

Instead, they persuade through channels including emotion, eloquence, positive or negative associations, name-calling, and powerful psychological phenomena, like humans’ need for acceptance. In other words, they’re all propaganda.

Propaganda? That’s horrible! She continues:

[P]ropaganda includes many forms of communication that persuade by appealing to something besides logic. And arguments that use propaganda often involve a class of flawed logic called fallacies of irrelevant premises. There’s a long, long list of these fallacies, but one critical thinking hack can help you catch any of them and respond to any argument from propaganda. It’s probably the most useful critical thinking hack I can share. And all you have to do is ask one question: “Is this message true or false because . . . .”

Patty gives us a bunch of examples. We’ll edit them to keep the length of this post reasonable. Here we go:

For instance, is a message true because many people seem to think so? No, history and social psychology have shown that large groups of people can be — and often are — wrong together.

Similarly, is a message true because someone smart, famous, or wealthy said so? Or, on the flip side, is a message false simply because someone unsophisticated, immoral, or hypocritical said so? Not necessarily.

Is a message true or false because it evokes strong emotions, like fear, pity, anger, or joy? Again, no: arguments that try to persuade by manipulating people’s feelings rely on different fallacies called Appeals to Emotions.

Is a message true because it’s communicated well? Many of my evolutionary professors, for example, were extremely eloquent, … almost whatever they said sounded true. But I had to remind myself that a message isn’t true just because it’s eloquently expressed.

Okay, one more example: Is a message true because people who disagree are called names? Again, no. Insulting a messenger cannot affect the truth of the message.

Fascinating, huh? Now she sums it all up:

To catch countless fallacies of irrelevant premises, the key is simply to ask, “Is this true or false because . . . ?”

That’s all you need to know, dear reader. And now we come to the end:

So, by gently bringing a matter back to the question of what truth is — and Who truth comes from, we can communicate a biblical, logical response, expressing the truth in love.

Patty is a genius! We look forward to seeing more of her articles.

Copyright © 2020. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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23 responses to “How To Defeat Any Secularist Argument

  1. Is this sentence true or false because someone says that it is in the Bible, when properly interpreted?

  2. Logical fallacies are funny things. Take for instance

    “Kclunckerduncker is an IDiot, hence Amsterdam is the capital of The Netherlands.”
    This argument is as terrible as can be, but the conclusion is still correct.

    Now take this one.

    “What X says about evolution theory is false because X is a creationist.”

    That’s obviously an(other) Ad Hominem. But now consult the site of someone who actually understands fallacies:

    “When the attack on the person is relevant to the argument, it is not a fallacy.”
    I don’t think I have to explain the relevance of “X is a creationist”.

    Conclusion: the question if a message regarding evolution is true or false because the messenger is a creationist highly likely must be answered with false. Patty is a genius indeed.

  3. Richard Andersen

    she shot herself in the foot

  4. Michael Fugate

    She is very young and I am sure all this is new and exciting to her, but everyone else has heard it thousands of times before. She is all hot against “humanism” – not realizing its origins in Christianity. Christianity is an entirely human-centered ideology.

    This much like the DI talking about philosophy of science favoring God as an “explanation”.

  5. So. Own goal then.

  6. Michael Fugate

    She has a blog
    In a post “ The Surprising Truth About Secular Culture’s Top 4 Lies”, her “Lie 1: God’s word isn’t completely true“ is justified with, you guessed it, Bible verses. Nothing circular there….

  7. Ah yes, nice blog. Pattygirl finds absolute morals by pegging them down on a subject she calls God.

    “Imagine that the stakes are ….. like, life-or-death kind of high.”
    “scams that cost ….. millions of eternal souls”
    Eeehhhh, weren’t souls supposed to be immortal? If yes the stakes are not life-or-death kind of high.

    @Lie 1 is a lie indeed – committed by Pattygirl. The secular culture I live in – The Netherlands – remains silent on the truth of divine words.
    @Lie 2 is also a lie, again committed by Pattygirl. The society I’m part of never told me that I could be like Pattygirl’s god, or another one.
    @Lie 3 – it gets boring – is another case of Pattygirl lying. Nope, the truth is not up to me in Dutch secular culture.
    @Lie 4 depends on lie 1 and hence is meaningless.

    Now it could be possible that Pattygirl means unbelief instead of secular culture (see, many Dutch believers are totally secular, because secularism is nothing but a way of all kinds of faiths and unbeliefs coexisting). So let me check again.

    @Lie 1: there is no god, so “God’s word isn’t completely true” is meaningless.
    @Lie 2: there is no god, so only after I die I will be like Pattygirl’s god, meaning that I won’t exist (anymore) either.
    @Lie 3: nope, the closest we can approach truth is by using the scientific method and the resulting conclusions are typically not up to me.
    @Lie 4: Jesus has been dead for almost 2000 years, but when he lived he was actually more than Pattygirl’s god, because he did exist.

    Pattygirl may be passionate about christian apologetics, her cheap excuses thus far are very bad. She may want “to help Christian students think critically about ANY material that challenges their faith”, but it seems to me that she helps them from the bank into a smelly ditch.

    Thanks MichaelF, that was quite entertaining.

  8. chris schilling

    “Her passion for biblical apologetics ignited at age 14, when she first heard a seminar by AiG founder Ken Ham.”

    They asked me how I knew
    My true love was true
    I of course replied
    Something here inside
    Cannot be denied

    They said someday you’ll find
    All who love are blind
    When your heart’s on fire,
    You must realise
    Smoke gets in your eyes

  9. Dave Luckett

    It used to astonish me that the apologetics – that’s what this is – gets worse the more radical the position being defended. You’d think they’d have to get better. But no.

    How do we know what is a justified belief and what is an opinion? It appears that Our Correspondent understands some frequently-seen fallacies. The question is, does she have anything that isn’t a fallacy?

    Look at her question: “Is this true or false because . . . ?” Is there anything that could replace those three dots? What does she replace them with? She doesn’t say. That isn’t playing fair.

    What about “the evidence supports it to the point where denial is unreasonable”?

    And off we go into the thickets of what constitutes “evidence”, and what does “reasonable” mean. Why do I get the feeling that this person has not canvassed those questions? Why do I get the further feeling that she is pretty much unaware that they have been worried at by epistemologists for millennia?

    Can she really believe that she is meeting a need, solving a problem, making a point? She is like a fellwalker reaching almost – not quite – to the summit of Skiddaw, unaware that the Appalachians, then the Andes, then the Himalayas, lie across her path.

  10. Michael Fugate

    That is an apt analogy – a bit like the Grimm tale of the gallant little tailor with his belt inscribed “seven at one blow”.

    I am wondering how many Christians go to secular universities and retain their faith and if it differs much from the number going to Christian colleges and retaining theirs.

  11. Nice stuff, Patricia, but illusive in the pandering gossips that adorn the febrile meanderings of these often but not always noxious pages, but too often self-congratulatory in inquires of questions that too often reveal a lock-step of a poverty of intelligence and imagination.
    Your name embraces a period of ancient inquiry that the Greeks named Zeus, and you the daughter that granted the continuation of the seasons. Your disquisition was brilliant and as meaningful as every argument of our singular beginnings as humans, and that when considering that perfect and absolute spark that preceded god begat the world and the galaxies and the endless universes that are today expanding into a froth of endless being, is as perfect in thought and reality and dream-sent perfections of being that can only be forfeited by ignorance.

  12. Dave Luckett

    Congratulations, Michael Fugate. You went far further back into her blog than I ever would, and you niggled out a real nugget:

    “We’re talking now about scams that cost not millions of dollars, but millions of eternal souls”. This, in the context of what people believe or don’t believe.

    FrankB understands the word “cost” in the sense of “destroyed, used up”, but I think that is probably not meant. What Ms Engler means, I think, is “cost” in the sense of “loss, forfeit”. “A lost soul” is more likely to mean “a damned soul”.

    That is, Ms Engler is asserting her belief that souls are damned to Hell. That is, to infinite and eternal torment in hellfire.

    It was that idea that finished me with Christianity. I really didn’t mind so much the doctrines of the Trinity, or of the nature of Jesus, or even of the Redemption. Rejection of those came later. But hell? And for not professing the right beliefs?

    That cracked it, for me at eighteen years old. Anybody who could accept something that appalling, was worshipping a construct ineffably hideous and infinitely depraved. Anybody who could accommodate such a belief had no business lecturing me, or anyone, on moral behaviour. How dare they?

    And here I am, a half-century later, still spluttering over it.

  13. @DaveL asks an interesting question: “Can she really believe that she is meeting a need, solving a problem, making a point?”
    Given Pattygirl’s blog I think she does believe it. I quote:

    “How can Christian students navigate secular education without compromising their worldview? That’s what I wanted to find out.”
    Being uncharacteristically charitable today I think this is a need, a problem indeed, from her point of view. Just think of young Biblical literalists – homeschooled too – who lose all their faith when confronted with all the new and exciting information.
    What intrigues me is her motivation. Isn’t her future supposed to be marriage with a cozy gang of children and a household to take care of? Why navigating through a secular education anyway? Why bother with apologetics?
    But who knows, perhaps Patthygirl has met the Right One already; her blog doesn’t seem to be a very active one.

    “I think that is probably not meant”
    You’re right; I enjoy deliberately misunderstanding creacrappers now and then. Still “infinite and eternal torment in hellfire” means that the souls enjoying this ultimate SM act are not dead – hence it’s not a matter of life and death, as Pattygirl claims. Of course I’m petty, but hey – “apologetics” that “gets worse the more radical the position being defended” doesn’t deserve any better imo.

  14. Karl Goldsmith

    So she is another of those creationists that never had any plan to use what she had actually learned.

  15. Karl Goldsmith

    People are using the word Christian, you need to remember this is AiG, so she is a young earth creationist.

  16. Michael Fugate

    So the point of this was an experiment with a sample size of 1? A young woman who is homeschooled (presumably for religious reasons) decides to go to a non-religious college to determine if she can remain religious?

    I work at a 20K+ student public research university. Every notice board is filled with fliers for religious clubs and study groups. Doesn’t surprise me that she made it out the other side largely as she went in.

  17. docbill1351

    I went out to Engler’s site and poked around. She has studied and traveled widely but all for nothing. A mind is a terrible thing to waste and after all her efforts she’s as shallow as a monolayer. She writes well if you like sappy teenage angst rhetoric, however her Master Skill is building straw men.

    Ah, only the finest straw harvested from the ancient fields of Christian apologetics. We saw it in full display some years ago when Bill Nye tried to destroy his reputation (I know, what reputation?) debating old Hambo whose only response to any topic was, “I’ve got this book.” Bravo, Hambo, bravo! Convinced me, it did! The very next morning I tossed my copy of Physical Chemistry by Moore into the trash. Carnot recycle!

    I must comment on the coffee-spewing straw man described above that “ID is a whacked-out tea party movement.” I suppose if your frame of reference only goes back to 2010 you might associate any whacked-out thing as part of the tea party. Alas Batty Patty failed to research the Wedge Document during her academic walk-about. Yes, wrap that straw into a giant false statement devoid of Truth ™ then declare it untrue! Onward Christian soldier!

  18. Michael Fugate

    There is a autocentric flavor to this – starting with “Christ died for me”, so that “I might be saved” (me and I are favorites) and then assuming one’s experiences have not been shared by anyone else. There is seemingly nothing before one is conscious. Discovery is important as a human, but it is likely someone else has discovered it before you…

  19. Retired Prof

    Michael F. says: “Discovery is important as a human, but it is likely someone else has discovered it before you…”

    How true. Having grown up in Protestant country, I was fascinated with the idea of original sin as soon as I learned the term, and set about to discover it. What a disappointment! Every time I felt sure I had committed an original sin, I found out someone else thought of it first.

  20. chris schilling

    Do what I do. I claim copyright, so if anyone plagiarises my sins, I sue for breach of copyright. I use Blossom Dearie’s attorney, Bernie.

    Bernie tells me what to do
    Bernie lays it on the line
    Bernie says we sue — we sue
    Bernie says we sign — we sign

  21. “Intelligent design is a whacked-out tea party movement.”
    The other ones are boilerplate, but has anyone heard anything like this before? I certainly don’t associate the Discovery Institute with the Tea Party.

  22. @KeithB
    In the thread with the title “Ken Ham opposes black lives matter” I pointed to some recent opinion which might be relevant

    1. From The Economist, “The Mark of Cain”, referencing the book “White Too Long”, by Robert T. Jones
    “In survey after survey” white Christians are much likelier than non-religious whites to express negative attitudes towards minorities and complacency about the rough treatment of African-Americans, among other indicators of racism. Asked whether police killings of black men were isolated incidents, 71% of white evangelicals said they were, compared with 38% of non-religious whites.”

    2. From TheGuardian
    referencing polling from Vox

    I have not studied this, so my opinion is not worth defending.