Maybe I should write that handbook on logical fallacies after all.

Maybe I should write that handbook on logical fallacies after all. February 12, 2019


Another view of the Kinshasa Temple
The Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple is nearly ready for its open house and dedication. It will be a great day for Africa and for the Congolese Saints.   (LDS Media Library)


New, on the website of the Interpreter Foundation:


“The Church in the DR Congo: A Personal Perspective: Part 11, “The Labourers Are Few””




From the astonishing Jeff Lindsay:


“Souls that Expand and Swell: An Intriguing But Not Unique Book of Mormon Concept”




Do not — do not — entrust the fate of your eternal soul to the tender ministrations of John Dehlin.


Here’s a brand new resource for evaluating his latest venture:


Mormon Stories Essays: Reviewing John Dehlin’s “Truth Claims” Essays




And, on rather a different note, here’s a new effort to assess the claims of Jonathan Neville, an aggressively vocal proponent of the “Heartland” model for Book of Mormon geography:


“Neville-Neville Land”


This is also relevant:


“Video: What did prophets think about Book of Mormon geography? Their old books may give clues.”




Years ago, I thought that it might be fun someday to write a guide to what logicians call “practical fallacies” or “informal fallacies.”  Many such guides have already been published, but this one, I thought, would be unique in drawing its specimens entirely from the publications of Evangelical Protestant anti-Mormons.


One particular then-fresh example had inspired me.


A professional anti-Mormon named Robert McKay, writing for the now defunct Utah Evangel (published by Utah Missions, Inc., of Marlow, Oklahoma) made this argument:


Latter-day Saints, he said, claim to be Christians.  But this cannot be true because, if it were, all Christians would necessarily accept the Book of Mormon, regard the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a prophet, believe in Joseph Smith’s First Vision, and so forth.  But they don’t.  Catholics don’t, and Protestants don’t, and the Orthodox don’t.  Thus, he declared, by ironclad logical deduction Latter-day Saints cannot be Christians.




The reasoning seems to be that, if all Latter-day Saints are Christians, it must follow that all Christians are Latter-day Saints.


The obvious problem here was Mr. McKay’s confusion of genus for species, of set for subset.  In our correspondence, I tried to illustrate this for him by giving him precisely analogous arguments that reached obviously false conclusions:


If Democrats are politicians, politicians are Democrats.


If lakes are filled with water, everything filled with water is a lake.


If drowning causes death, all deaths must be caused by drowning.


All men are mortal.

Socrates is a man.

Therefore, all men are Socrates.


Catholics claim to be Christians.  But this cannot be true because, if it were, all Christians would necessarily venerate the Mass, regard the bishop of Rome as the leader of global Christendom, etc.  Which they obviously don’t.


Some people claim that squirrels are mammals.  But this cannot be true because, if it were, all mammals would necessarily gather nuts, scurry up and down trees, etc.  Which, obviously, dolphins and poodles and lions don’t do.


Some claim that General Motors is a manufacturer of automobiles.  But this cannot be true because, if it were, all automobile manufacturers would necessarily be headquartered in Detroit.  But Toyota and Jaguar and Rolls Royce and Mercedes Benz and Nissan and Volkswagen and Ferrari aren’t headquartered in Detroit.


Obviously, it would be easy to multiply such examples all day long (e.g., “poems can’t be literature,” “Princeton can’t be a university,” “Baptists can’t be humans,” and so forth).  But he never grasped the point.  Really.  He never did.


Anyway, I’ve long since lost most of my interest in Evangelical Protestant anti-Mormonism.  But I’ve recently experienced at least a slight flicker of revived interest in doing that handbook of logical fallacies.


Two specimens from just the last twenty four hours have reminded me of it.


In one, a habitual and often rather frenetic misreader of my blog entries mocks my little piece entitled “New light on the question of bees and the Book of Mormon” as arguing that evidence of apiculture among the ancient Maya proves the Book of Mormon true.  Of course, I make no such claim.  Like many of his comments previously, this recent response might well serve as an example of a “straw man” argument.


Another individual, responding to the Interpreter essay that I discuss in my blog entry “On that article about “Mental Distress and Disaffection from the Church,”” insists that, although it plainly doesn’t suggest that loss of faith is proof of mental illness, the actual intent of the essay is to plant precisely that defamatory notion in the minds of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  This specimen could serve to illustrate a fallacious appeal to motive, in which a thesis is challenged by calling into question the motives (or, even worse, as in this case, the hypothetical or merely conceivable though undemonstrated motives) of its advocate. It represents a special case of the ad hominem circumstantial argument.



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