Logical Fallacy Series -- Part 12: Loaded Question
Hi there! This is part 12 of the series I'm writing on logical fallacies. If you've been following this series, then I don't need to tell you what a logical fallacy is. You already know. However, if you just now started this series or are new to Cerebral Faith, or if you've never studied logic before, then you may not know what a logical fallacy is. Therefore, I will briefly explain what a logical fallacy is before I continue. A logical fallacy is a mistake in reasoning. Just as someone can stumble on occasions when walking, so one can stumble on occasions when thinking. Logical fallacies come in two forms; formal and informal. Formal fallacies, as the name suggests, is when a fallacy is made in the form of an argument. A formal fallacy is committed when the syllogism doesn't follow one of the rules of logic (e.g modus ponens, modus tollens, hypothetical syllogism, disjunctive syllogism, etc.) and as a result of not obeying the rules of logic, the conclusion cannot be inferred even if the premises of the syllogism are all true.
In part 1 of this series, I gave an example of what a formally fallacious argument looks like. However, we won't be examining any formal fallacies until later. For the first several posts in this series, I'll be talking about what informal arguments look like. Informal fallacies, as I explained in part 1, is when the content of argument is fallacious. Even if a syllogism is logically valid (i.e it doesn't break any of the rules of logic) and even if all of the premises are true, you still can't infer the conclusion. This is because of something within content of the argument itself.
So far in this series, we've taken a look at several fallacies. We've looked at The Ad Hominem Fallacy, the Fallacy Of Equivocation, The Straw Man Fallacy, The Genetic Fallacy, The Red Herring Fallacy, Poisoning The Well, The Fallacy Of Composition, Argument From Silence, The Anecdotal Fallacy, Begging The Question/Circular Reasoning, and Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc.
That's a lot of fallacies! Today, we'll be looking at another logical fallacy known as...
A loaded question is a question that contains a controversial or unjustified assumption (e.g., a presumption of guilt). When one commits this fallacy, one asks a question that had a presumption built into it so that it couldn't be answered without appearing guilty.
Examples Of Loaded Questions
One example of this that quickly comes to mind is this; "If God told you to kill me, would you do it?" Several atheists on several different occasions have posed this question to me. They have asked me "If God told you to kill me, would you do it?" This is obviously a loaded question as I cannot answer it without looking bad. If I say "yes" then the atheist is apt to retort "*Gasp* You would seriously kill me!? I knew it! Religious people are evil and dangerous! You should be put away!" On the other hand, if I were to respond "no" then the atheist is apt to respond "I knew it! Christians are hypocrites! They claim to follow and obey God but only when it's convenient for them! They don't do things God asks them to do if it's inconvenient for them!" or "So you would disobey God? And here I thought you were pious". So I'm stuck with a dilemma. Regardless of how I answer, I look bad!
I have tried to wiggle out of this before by saying that if I heard a voice telling me to kill someone, I would be more likely to attribute it to Satan or one his underlings than to God, and so even if it were God, I wouldn't believe it and would disobey believing that it was Satan or some other demon telling me to do it. But one atheist responded "But what if you knew without a doubt that it was God? What if God performed some sign so that you would know it was God and not Satan?" and I didn't know how to respond.
Another way I've responded is that God simply doesn't ask people to do things like that. Sure, there were a few cases of God asking one person to kill another in The Old Testament, but these were very few in number and had very good and specific reasons behind them (see here, here, and here). But normally, God doesn't ask one person to kill another. The norm is "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13). Therefore, I need not concern myself with answering such a question because it's more probable that God would never ask me to do that anyway.
I haven't troubled with learning how to counter this little gotcha question from the atheists as it's irrelevant. Often times it comes up out of the clear blue derailing us off topic, whether we're talking about The Kalam Cosmological Argument or The Resurrection of Jesus, or something else. The question is only posed by atheists to make Christians look bad. If an atheist poses a question like this, it becomes clear to me that he's only looking to bicker or troll and is not interested in having an honest debate.
Another Example: "Oh, so you're a Christian now? When did you decide to renounce the use of reason?"
It's impossible to answer this question without looking bad. The atheist is asking his friend, who is now a Christian, when he decided to renounce the use of reason! If he says "Oh, about a week ago. I found this blog called Cerebral Faith several months ago and I spent a good bit of time reading the various different articles on the arguments for God's existence. I eventually became convinced that Christianity is true, so I knelt by my bed and asked Jesus to be my savior."
If he said that, he would be implicitly admitting that he "decided to renounce the use of reason". There is a way to unload the loaded question though. The guy could respond "I didn't renounce the use of reason at all. In fact, it was my reason that lead to believe Christianity is true (with The Holy Spirit's prompting of course). I found this blog called Cerebral Faith several months ago and I spent a good bit of time reading the various different articles on the arguments for God's existence. I eventually became convinced that Christianity is true, so last week I knelt by my bed and asked Jesus to be my savior."
The second response avoids the pitfall!
Another Example: "Why do you believe man's fallable word instead of God's infalliable Word?"
This question always comes from Young Earth Creationists when they go after Old Earth Creationists. This is a loaded question because if you answer it directly, you will be conceding that you believe "man's fallible world" and not "God's infallible Word". Rather, the thing to do is to point out that you believe both a large amount of what scientists say about the age of the universe and the Earth, but you also believe that The Bible is the infallible and inerrant word and that everything in The Bible is true. And point out that you don't disbelieve what The Bible says, but rather you disagree with their interpretation of what The Bible says.
Most Young Earth Creationists (YECS) are unable to discern the difference between affirming that the message of a scriptural passage is false (in this case, Genesis 1) with affirming that a particular interpretation of that scriptural passage is false (in this case, the 24 hour day view of Genesis 1). Old Earth Creationists (OECS) do not believe that Genesis 1 is false. We just don't believe the days in Genesis 1 were 24 hours. We believe the correct definition of the word Yom (which is the word translated as "day" in the original Hebrew) is a long period of time. Yom does have 3 literal definitions after all. The word yom can mean a 24 hour day, the 12 hour period of daylight in a day, or a long period of time.
You can also show them that there are good biblical arguments to accept the day-age view, wholly apart from science, as I do in the blog post "Several Reasons To Think That The Creation Days Are Long Time Periods".
There’s a difference between accepting what The Bible says and accepting a particular interpretation of what The Bible says. For example, if we met a man who had an inability to lie and he said to us “It’s raining cats and dogs”. We could both accept that what this man says is absolutely true. We both accept what he says as true. However, what does this man mean by “It’s raining cats and dogs”? Does he mean that canines and felines are literally dropping out of the sky or merely using that as a metaphor to mean that “it’s raining really, really hard”? If you took the literal view and I took the metaphorical view, it would be illegitimate for you to point the finger at me and accuse me of not taking what the man said seriously. The issue is not whether we believe what the man said, the clue is in figuring out what the man means.
Although this analogy breaks down because the OEC day-age view IS a literal interpretation of Genesis 1! As already stated, Yom has 3 different definitions that are literal, so taking "yom" to mean a long period of time wouldn't be taking a non-literal reading of the word. Moreover, unlike most Theistic Evolutionists, I don't think Genesis 1-11 is allegory, but a recording of historical events. The only thing I think is probably a metaphor is the "evening and morning" phrase. For more information on why I'm an OEC, check out my post, "Several Reasons To Think That The Creation Days Are Long Time Periods".
Well, that does it for today's blog post. Come back to Cerebral Faith tomorrow to learn about another logical fallacy. It's important that we, as Christians, learn how to spot logical fallacies. Believers in Christ all over the world are being talked out of their faith by non-Christians who use bad reasoning. Their arguments, to the untrained mind, sound persuasive when they really shouldn't because they're logically fallacious. Therefore, if we can spot logical fallacies when they're committed, then we can avoid being fooled.