Thursday, April 16, 2009

Appeal to Authority and Affirming the Consequent

logic, fallacies, fallacies, logical, religion, jesus, christian, bible, resurrection, evangelism,
gotquestions?org's (the bible has answers!) Why should I believe in Christ's resurrection? contains a number of logical fallacies of the type commonly seen in apologetics, but not often discussed. We often see discussions of the Ad Hominem (attacking the speaker, not the idea) and the Appeal to Consequences (if you don't believe, you'll burn forever in hell!) and the Appeal to Popularity (most people believe, so should you!), but I thought I'd highlight a couple of underdiscussed fallacies.

Appeal to Authority:

As for His resurrection, there are several lines of evidence which make for a compelling case. The late jurisprudential prodigy and international statesman Sir Lionel Luckhoo (of The Guinness Book of World Records fame for his unprecedented 245 consecutive defense murder trial acquittals) epitomized Christian enthusiasm and confidence in the strength of the case for the resurrection when he wrote, “I have spent more than 42 years as a defense trial lawyer appearing in many parts of the world and am still in active practice. I have been fortunate to secure a number of successes in jury trials and I say unequivocally the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt.”

Neat, Sir Luckhoo is in the Guiness Book of World Records as the winningest defense attorney in history. Wtf does that have to do with proof of Jesus' supposed resurrection?

Nothing. Nothing at all.

Affirming the Consequent

To begin with, we have demonstrably sincere eyewitness testimony. Early Christian apologists cited hundreds of eyewitnesses, some of whom documented their own alleged experiences. Many of these eyewitnesses willfully and resolutely endured prolonged torture and death rather than repudiate their testimony. This fact attests to their sincerity, ruling out deception on their part.

It doesn't really matter how sincere a believer is. Members of the Heaven's Gate Cult (hat tip to BeamStalk) were extremely sincere in their belief, so sincere they removed their testicles and eventually killed themselves. Can't really get more sincere than that, now can you?

My advice to atheists, and everyone else, is to study logic. These arguments can seem convincing if you don't have any kind of background in logic, and then you're left with no way to describe why an appeal to authority or affirming the consequent is wrong.


  1. Good little exposé, but I just have to say that I really abhor the word 'winningest', mostly because I'm pretty sure it's not actually a word.

  2. this is known as the "Humpty-Dumpty" law - you py the qords, they do what you want :)


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