Introductory Logic (Example Reasoning)

“There is no such thing as innocence, only degrees of guilt”. No, this is not a quote from the Bible, nor it is from anything relevant to Christianity or Islam (at least not in a historical way), although it is quite close to what they believe. Fans of computer gaming know that this is a quote from Space Marine campaign of Warhammer 40000. Another example of such quotes is: “Hope is the first step on the road to disappointment.”

Wise, right? Not right: I was just wondering how useless these statements are. Of course, in text they seem quite nice, and actually quite wise. But just look at them from a different angle: “Disappointment is the first step on the road to hope.” or “There is no such thing as guilt, only degrees of innocence.”

Well, which one is it? “There is no such thing as innocence” or “there is no such thing as guilt”?

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This brings me to the second part of my post. There was this story (a false one nonetheless) about Einstein and his “atheist” professor circulating the internet, and it contains something similar. It has many different versions, the following is one of them (source):

The professor of a university challenged his students with this question. “Did God create everything that exists?” A student answered bravely, “Yes, he did”.

The professor then asked, “If God created everything, then he created evil. Since evil exists (as noticed by our own actions), so God is evil. The student couldn’t respond to that statement causing the professor to conclude that he had “proved” that “belief in God” was a fairy tale, and therefore worthless.

Another student raised his hand and asked the professor, “May I pose a question? ” “Of course” answered the professor.

The young student stood up and asked : “Professor does Cold exists?”

The professor answered, “What kind of question is that? …Of course the cold exists… haven’t you ever been cold?”

The young student answered, “In fact sir, Cold does not exist. According to the laws of Physics, what we consider cold, in fact is the absence of heat. Anything is able to be studied as long as it transmits energy (heat). Absolute Zero is the total absence of heat, but cold does not exist. What we have done is create a term to describe how we feel if we don’t have body heat or we are not hot.”

“And, does Dark exist?”, he continued. The professor answered “Of course”. This time the student responded, “Again you’re wrong, Sir. Darkness does not exist either. Darkness is in fact simply the absence of light. Light can be studied, darkness can not. Darkness cannot be broken down. A simple ray of light tears the darkness and illuminates the surface where the light beam finishes. Dark is a term that we humans have created to describe what happens when there’s lack of light.”

Finally, the student asked the professor, “Sir, does evil exist?” The professor replied, “Of course it exists, as I mentioned at the beginning, we see violations, crimes and violence anywhere in the world, and those things are evil.”

The student responded, “Sir, Evil does not exist. Just as in the previous cases, Evil is a term which man has created to describe the result of the absence of God’s presence in the hearts of man.”

After this, the professor bowed down his head, and didn’t answer back.

The young man’s name was ALBERT EINSTEIN.

In the source link you can find some things that are wrong with this kind of reasoning, including the fact that “God” is equivocated with “good” which creates a “begging the question” fallacy, but I will not linger on that.

There is a bigger fallacy here, and that’s what we can call “Unhealthy parables”* or “Example reasoning” (the red line). In the text above, Einstein (NOT!) gives examples of the physical world, and then suddenly jumps into the conclusion about God (good) and bad (evil). Why? How is it any relevant to the examples given?

It is not, and you see why as soon as you start thinking about good things and bad (evil) things. Why bad things are bad? Why molesting a child or killing someone in a dark alley to steal his/her wallet is wrong? The “reason” is that it goes against their basic rights as human beings. So, there “is” evil, and there “is” good, separate from each other, and one is not the absence of the other.

Examples are never reasons, one should provide good reasons for what one believes.

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* I think the term “Unhealthy parable” is a more relevant term, especially in this case that the examples are completely irrelevant to the conclusion.

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thetruthfulheretic

Dear fellow Homo sapiens, or if you prefer conscious mammals! And of course, friends nonetheless: I created my blog in order to speak my very weird mind, mostly about three subjects (as I identify myself and my state of mind with them): Atheism, as I was born in the Middle East and saw and felt the affects of Islam; Homosexuality and equal rights, as a gay man who has tasted the Homophobia and also Sexism in that society; and Liberalism and political philosophy, which I think is a good ground for secular values and criticism of fundamentalism. If you wish, visit and join your state of mind to mine. I hope they don't short circuit!

4 thoughts on “Introductory Logic (Example Reasoning)”

  1. You say “There is no such thing as guilt, only degrees of innocence.” Innocence has no degrees because the moment you do something wrong you are no longer considered innocent, I mean you cant be a little bit innocent can you? Guilt on the other hand can have degrees, you can be guilty of a petty crime or you can be guilty of something major. In my opinion there is no different angle on that one.

    1. Thank you for the feedback.

      I’ll make a note of what you said here, though I don’t think I necessarily made a mistake. In essence I was trying to point that things that seemingly are opposite in a language are not always two sides of a coin, sometimes they are two poles of a spectrum.

      True, as you said, that it may sound weird if we call someone “less innocent” as oppose to “more guilty”, but I don’t suppose it’s meaningless to say if one makes sense, the other has to make sense too. In here, we need to ask “guilty of what?” or “Innocent about what?”.

  2. My 2 cents on the internet quoted paragraphs. Cold is not the absence of heat. Warm or cold simply refer to molecular motion. According to our sense perception, we perceive something as being more or less cold than something else (there always needs to be a yardstick). Heat is molecular motion.
    Secondly, the quoted paragraphs combines elements of philosophical semantics with those of scientific terminology. You cannot compare a notion, such as absolute zero, with darkness – or heat with good, or cold with evil. Good and evil are observed by the human being through his powers of reason – but such notions do not exist in nature. They are only relevant for the human mind, they’re not relevant for a tree, for clouds, for rocks, for reptiles or ants. Good and evil are not absolute terms anyway, for their definitions float according to one’s own set of beliefs/values (morality).
    Even radical empiricism admits the possibility of the existence of a trans-empirical reality; but given it’s nature, such a realm cannot be known by us mortals. So radical empiricism is not concerned with it. It’s so easy to claim that preternatural (transempirical) beings or realms exist and then challenge others to disprove it. It can’t be proved nor disproved (because we cannot experiment with or observe transempirical realities/beings). A great thing for religion (institutionalize faith), and its principal money-maker; it doesn’t need to produce facts, it just needs to create ideas and sell them to those willing to believe in them – or force them via fear (fear of the unknown and of the unseen).

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