It MUST Be True!!!

Today’s Logical Fallacy is called “Appeal to Consequence of a Belief”.  It has the following format:

1) X is true because if people did not accept X as being true then there would be negative consequences.

2) X is false because if people did not accept X as being false, then there would be negative consequences.

3) X is true because accepting that X is true has positive consequences.

4) X is false because accepting that X is false has positive consequences.

Examples of this belief set look something like this:

1) God MUST be real! If God isn’t real then no one would know the difference between right and wrong! The world would be a terrible place!

2) Bad things like I see on the news won’t happen in our neighborhood. If I believed things like that could happen here, I would be too afraid to go anywhere or do anything.

3) I believe that if I am a good person and follow the teachings of the church I will go to Heaven.

4)I agree that I have no science-based proof for the existence of fairies and dragons. However I REALLY want to believe in those things. So it MUST be true!!

This line of “reasoning” is a fallacy because the supposed consequences of the beliefs have no impact on whether the stated belief is true or false. For instance, say I tell you I believe with all my heart that there is an invisible pink Unicorn in my backyard that only eats the purple flowers in my garden. If the Unicorn doesn’t really exist then I would be broken hearted and very depressed. Since I would be SO broken-hearted, the Unicorn MUST exist.

It’s pretty obvious that using feelings and emotions to justify a line of reasoning  isn’t useful in a logical argument. Also, the consequences in question are consequences that stem from belief.

It is important to distinguish between a rational reason to believe (RRB) something (evidence) to be true and a prudential (motivational) reason to believe. A RRB is evidence that objectively and logically supports the claim. A PRB is a reason to accept the belief because of some external factor (such as fear, a threat, or a benefit or harm that may stem from the belief) that is relevant to what a person values but is not relevant to the truth or falsity of the claim.

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Learning To Let Go

One of the most difficult parts of becoming a skeptic was readjusting my thought processes. I was afraid that because I was now a skeptic that I would no longer be able to enjoy some of the things I love most.  For instance, how can a skeptic enjoy the wonder and magic of Disney World and the Magic Kingdom?

Was I allowed to like things like that anymore? Was my life now to be relegated only to the wonders of the world around me and the Universe at large? Not that those are bad things. The Universe and the natural world are full of amazing, complex and wonderful things.

But I still love the fantastic. I still love dragons and fairies, mythology and magic. And I love the magic that is Disney World. It’s a wonderful place where, for a little while, we can be kids again. We can get excited about meeting Mickey Mouse and for a little while we’re seven years old again.

The truth is, I didn’t give ANY of it up. I still love the fantastic. I still get excited about seeing my favorite characters at Disney and I still run to get to the Haunted Mansion. Yet, I proudly wear the label of ‘skeptic”.

Now how does THAT work??  It’s not as hard as it sounds. The concept is called Suspension of Disbelief. It is defined as: The temporary acceptance as believable of events or characters that would ordinarily be seen as incredible. This is usually to allow an audience to appreciate works of literature or drama that are exploring unusual ideas.

In other words, when you go to a movie and you allow yourself to be immersed in that world you are willingly suspending your disbelief for a time. You are making a choice to accept the premise set down by the writers and actors.

While I understand that dragons, fairies and magic probably don’t exist, I allow myself to enjoy the concept  and suspend disbelief for a time. So while I know that there is a person in a costume, I still joyfully hug Winnie the Pooh, embracing the nostalgia of my childhood and allowing myself, for a little while, to be 7 years old again.