Bibliolaters and Poisoning the Well

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  1. Beelzedad profile image58
    Beelzedadposted 7 years ago

    An interesting read about logical fallacies from an article by Farrell Till. Enjoy! smile

    "Logical fallacies of every conceivable kind are much in evidence in apologetic literature written in defense of the Bible inerrancy doctrine, but few are more evident than the fallacy of poisoning the well. This fallacy occurs when a debater figuratively offers an audience the choice of drinking from his "untainted" well or from others that he has unfairly contaminated. "You can believe Jones and the atheistic philosophy he embraces," a preacher strapped for evidence to support his inerrancy belief might proclaim, "or you can believe God and his word." Many in the audience may not even know what "atheistic philosophy" stands for, but they know that it has to be something bad. Haven't they heard it condemned enough by preachers like the one in our example? So they fall for the trick and opt to drink from the "untainted well of God's word." They certainly don't want to be caught sympathizing with atheistic philosophy.

    The poisoned-well fallacy can be a composite of many logical flaws, but it almost always includes at least two: argumentum ad hominem and begging the question. Our hypothetical preacher, for example, has declared, "You can believe Jones and his atheistic philosophy," (argumentum ad hominem, attacking the opposition rather than his argument), "or you can believe God and his word," (begging the question, assuming rather than proving major claims, i.e., God exists and the Bible is his word). As far as actual proof of his claim is concerned, the preacher has proven nothing, but he has probably persuaded a lot of people already predisposed to his position to remain sympathetic to it. Persuasive techniques like this can be effective in the hands of demagogical preachers more interested in obtaining converts than establishing truth.

    For the poisoned-well fallacy to work, it must be applied to a claim for which invincibility is widely assumed. If Jones in our example should say to his audience, "You can believe my opponent and the Bible he embraces or you can believe me and my atheistic philosophy," no appreciable poisoning of the well could result, because there would probably be very little predisposition in the audience to believe that atheistic philosophy is true. In a typical audience, however, there would be considerable predisposition to believe that the Bible is God's inspired word. Inerrancy proponents know this and exploit it for all it's worth.

    If inerrancy defenders encounter evidence that clearly disputes their claim, they will never let a simple thing like facts get in their way. They simply reinterpret the counter-evidence, no matter how overwhelming it may be, to make it appear in some way to support or at least not contradict their inerrancy claim. Their reinterpretations are quite often very imaginative and at times even absurdly far-fetched. But the upshot of it all is still the same. To an audience desperately wanting to drink from the well that says the Bible is God's inspired word, all the others appear contaminated, so they are left with the same choice. They can believe Jones and his atheistic philosophy or they can believe God and his word.

    "If I can show you how it could have been, then you can't really say that there is a contradiction." This has become the theme song of inerrancy defenders who are experts at poisoning the wells when confronted with evidence that clearly disputes their claim. With techniques that they have almost developed into an art, they can reinterpret any discrepant statements and facts to give them at least a semblance of concordance. The only problem is that their reinterpretations are almost always incredibly far-fetched."

    Poisoning the Well
    by Farrell Till

    1993 / May-June
    The Skeptical Review

    1. profile image0
      AKA Winstonposted 7 years agoin reply to this

      I am a big fan of Ferrell Till.  He is extremely precise in his thinking and in his ability to relay his understandings by the written word.

      Thanks for this post.

  2. profile image0
    just_curiousposted 7 years ago

    Interesting forum. Definitely food for thought.

    1. Beelzedad profile image58
      Beelzedadposted 7 years agoin reply to this

      Yes, well I have noticed some who ask why a believer will run down a certain rabbit hole. The use of these fallacies is usually the answer why. smile

      1. profile image0
        just_curiousposted 7 years agoin reply to this

        I know. People tend to get too emotional to think straight when they feel cornered. Been there myself, unfortunately. But I hope we would all have enough honesty to admit it when we've  calmed down.

        1. Beelzedad profile image58
          Beelzedadposted 7 years agoin reply to this

          This could be easily remedied if the above fallacies were well understood and avoided when presenting an argument.

          That is a key factor in many discussions here, where an extraordinary claim is suddenly faced with very ordinary, but very hard evidence to the contrary. In other words, a little knowledge can go a long way. Had the extraordinary claim been researched beforehand, even a little bit, the claimant might have a leg upon which to stand when the extraordinary claim is put to the test.

          Even more knowledge can be really dangerous. For example, it's not difficult at all to formulate an airtight claim using physics and biology to explain how a god could communicate with a human. smile

          1. profile image0
            just_curiousposted 7 years agoin reply to this

            Really? I'd be curious to hear that one, but I know,  I'll have to research that for myself. Can't expect someone in the other camp to give away state secrets. Thanks for the info though. That will be a fun search.

          2. qwark profile image61
            qwarkposted 7 years agoin reply to this

            Hey Beelz:
            I end the conversation succinctly with a "believer" in this "god" thing by saying, (you've seen me post this many times,) "I can't consider any comment you make about this 'god' thing if you can't DEFINE 'it' for me in other than just your opinion.
            That usually ends the "chat."
            Although, they may then say: "oh your an atheist?" To which I reply: "Hell no! What the hell is there for me to deny the existence of?"
            I then get a raise of the eyebrow and a back and forth shake of the head...but, no more questions   smile:



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