Just Stop! Enough of the Genetic Fallacy
We really need to learn how to think straight:
Fallacious thinking is ever with us, and logical fallacies are a dime a dozen. Christians can be just as guilty of this as anyone else. This is inexcusable however since Christians are commanded to love God with their minds as well as every other part of their being. Reckless and lazy thinking is just not acceptable.
‘Let my people think’ is one of the needs of the hour. There is far too much sloppy and careless thinking by believers, and this shows in so many ways. The fact that nonbelievers routinely engage in this is one thing, but God’s people should seek to do better.
Let me briefly deal with one such case of this sloppy thinking in general as I look at one logical fallacy in particular: the genetic fallacy. I have discussed this before. In one piece I said this:
Genetic fallacy. Confusing the origins of an idea with reasons for believing in an idea. An argument is rejected or regarded as mistaken or false because it comes from a bad or questionable source. Examples: “You were born in Christian America, and that is why you are a Christian.” But this is irrelevant to the argument. The issue is, are there good grounds for believing in Christianity? “You are against abortion because you are a Catholic.” Whether or not one is a Catholic is beside the point. Are there good reasons for holding that abortion is wrong? https://billmuehlenberg.com/2012/08/23/critical-thinking-and-logical-fallacies/
As I have said often before, if someone is speaking truth, we can accept that particular truth, even if we do not like the one who is saying it. Most of us (I hope) do not like Hitler. But if he had said that ‘two plus two equals four,’ he was telling us something that happens to be true. So we should not reject that statement just because we abhor who he was and what he did.
This happens in terms of theological pronouncements as well. Someone we may not like for various reasons (he may be quite wrong on certain biblical teachings) may say some quite good stuff, which we can endorse and not be squeamish about.
Too often however I see Christians dismissing anything a certain Christian says because they are unhappy with some of his views on things. They tend to throw the baby out with the bathwater: ‘Oh, HE said that, Well I want nothing to do with HIM.’
Thus some Christians have problems with some of the things someone like Tim Keller has said. I sometimes do too. But that does not mean I will take all his books and toss them into a bonfire. I happen to have six of his books, and some are very good indeed.
Take for example two of his books on apologetics: The Reason for God and Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering. Both are quite useful indeed. See my review of the first title here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2008/03/26/a-review-of-the-reason-for-god-by-timothy-keller/
But as noted, some have problems with other things he has said, so they tend to want to dismiss him altogether. I will not. BTW, the comments under that book review do offer a case in point of one believer complaining about certain things Keller has said.
And often Christians have problems with various things Rick Warren has said. Again, I do too. But that does not mean everything he has said or written must be attacked and jettisoned. The opening words of his bestseller The Purpose-Driven Life I still like to quote:
“It’s not about you. The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose.”
That is a terrific quote, although there are things he says elsewhere that I may not fully agree with. But of course we can go too far in the opposite direction. The reason why dangerous cults have so much deceptive and damaging power is because they mix truth with error. Thus I will NOT quote from, say, a book or magazine put out by the Jehovah’s Witnesses for example.
Tied in with this is the unfortunate (and just plain carnal) tendency to be heresy hunters, where some believers go on search and destroy missions. They accuse certain Christians of being heretics simply because they believe some things (often secondary matters) that they happen to disagree with. But I have often spoken about this, as in this piece: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2018/03/12/on-heresy-hunters-again/
But let me wrap things up with the thing that triggered this piece in the first place. And it has to do with how often those demonising Zelenskyy of Ukraine and idolising Putin of Russia have resorted to the genetic fallacy. I saw a headline a short while ago that said this: “‘Criminal, Inhumane and Unethical’: EU Passes Resolution Condemning Chinese Regime’s Forced Organ Harvesting.” https://www.theepochtimes.com/criminal-inhumane-and-unethical-eu-passes-resolution-condemning-chinese-regimes-forced-organ-harvesting_4449014.html
As soon as I saw that I thought, ‘Well some of the Putinphiles will be in a dilemma here: They have been roundly condemning NATO and the EU as fully evil while singing the praises of Putin and his invasion of Ukraine. But surely the EU condemning what China is doing here is a good thing, right?
But some of these folks are so fully into foolish political ideology that make Putin sweetness and light and Zelenskyy the root of all evil, that if the EU is supporting Zelenskyy, then the EU must be utterly opposed – even when it does something good like this.
I have seen this idiocy almost daily on the social media. For example, recently there was a picture of Zelenskyy shaking the hands of Democrat big wig Nancy Pelosi. With the pic there were stupid words to the effect: ‘See, this proves it: anyone shaking HER hand must be evil!’
Um, I am clearly no fan of Pelosi – she is evil. But millions of folks would have shaken her hand, including folks like Trump, Cruz and other top conservatives. Does that mean Trump and Co are all members of the Antichrist team or the NWO? Good grief, put your thinking caps on for a change!
Thus we see guilt by association as another logical fallacy that so many unthinking believers are resorting to. How many times have we heard that Zelenskyy was at a Klaus Schwab WEF event? Um, sure he was, as were just about every other major world leader – including Putin! But that inconvenient truth is something the Putin worshippers do not want to bring up.
As I said in an earlier article on this idiotic thinking:
I have seen plenty of folks pushing RT articles and memes both saying that Schwab and the WEF support Ukraine. To this we always see the words: “Tells us all we need to know”. Um, can anyone actually think straight anymore? That tells us nothing!
By this idiotic ‘reasoning,’ ANY group we happen to dislike, whatever they say, we must run with the opposite. Thus if the KKK had said during WWII that they support Poland after Hitler invaded it, we could say “Tells us all we need to know”. Obviously if the odious KKK support Poland, then Hitler and the Nazis must be the good guys. Terrific logic there. Not!
Um, guess what? Sometimes leaders, politicians and media outlets can get things right now and then. Perhaps much of the world and its media are condemning Putin because he IS at fault here, because this is a horrific moral evil, and because democratic nations (with all their faults) should not be invaded by power hungry and increasingly deranged autocrats. https://billmuehlenberg.com/2022/03/02/on-discernment-gullibility-and-healthy-scepticism/
So I for one am sick and tired of seeing rather mindless Christians joining the ‘Putin is Messiah and Zelenskyy is the devil’ bandwagon. And their constant use of fallacies such as the genetic fallacy, guilt by association, and so on, is so appalling to have to behold. Good grief folks, please learn to think instead of just emoting and pushing ideology.
Let my people think.
8 Replies to “Just Stop! Enough of the Genetic Fallacy”
Thanks, Bill, for another succinct article. Since you have several books already published, would you ever contemplate compiling and publishing something on Logic & Critical Thanking for Christians?
I will not soon forget the ABC essentially writing off and minimising the million or so people who took to the streets in France to demonstrate against the redefinition of marriage on the grounds that France is largely a Catholic country. That must be the most extreme “genetic fallacy” I have ever witnessed but is also obvious and clear bigotry.
Of course the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) regularly shows contempt for anyone who does not share their promotion of lax sexual morality. The shame is that people are forced to pay for their immorality, bigotry and contempt for fairness, democracy and the law of the land.
I have watched this discussion for some time and very little of the good versus evil has made any sense.
If it was good versus evil then the whole world should be at war because none are righteous, not one.
People are suffering and we argue over who is good and who is evil. We say that the evil deserve what is happening to them. I doubt that Christ would be so dismissive of the suffering of the Ukrainian people.
The only commentator that has spoken on this that made sense that I have read is Rick Joyner. He mentioned the Cuban missile crisis and how the west was willing to risk nuclear war over this. Ukraine was considering joining nato which would put a nuclear armed army less than half the distance from Moscow that Cuba was from Washington.
This war is about geopolitical issues more than good versus evil.
We as a people of God should be more concerned about our own state. Do we pray often. Do we know God’s word. Do we seek to do what is right in God’s eyes or do we do whatever we like. Do we walk in fear or do we walk in faith. Most of all, do we walk in love.
If we are not concerned about the suffering of the Ukrainian people then we are not walking in love and we do not know God.
We should be weeping and crying out to God today because the default behaviour of all nations of the earth is evil. If, as many have commented, that the war is about good versus evil then destruction awaits the whole earth.
Work out your faith with fear and trembling as we all deserve destruction but it is only by faith in Jesus Christ that we are saved.
Thanks Stuart. Many have used the Cuba analogy, but it does not hold up. Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal in 1994 as per the Budapest Memorandum. In it Russia agreed to a security arrangement for Ukraine which it of course has since flagrantly violated. See more on this here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2022/02/27/on-russia-ukraine-and-the-west/
As I keep saying, while no nation is pure here, we have an evil Putin invading Ukraine and committing war crimes. So I see no moral equivalence. See more on this here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2022/03/29/on-moral-equivalence/
But yes we need to pray and care and weep for what is happening.
Mr Putin is slowly transmogrifying into a latter-day fusion of Ivan the Terrible, Stalin and Hitler before the mesmerised eyes of a world watching his “special military operation” in Ukraine…
Mr Zelensky’s May 8th Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation speech is a poignant reminder that the cruel lessons of past “wars to end all wars” tend to be all too easily forgotten and “Never again.” can all too easily turn into a chilling “Again!..” [English translation available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2022/may/08/russia-ukraine-war-evacuation-of-women-and-children-from-mariupol-steelworks-complete-kyiv-claims-sinking-of-second-russian-ship-live?filterKeyEvents=false&page=with:block-62777a298f08a446b0361e78#block-62777a298f08a446b0361e78 ].
Russia may not be exclusively to blame for the present mess. However, to the beleaguered peoples of Ukraine, Mr Putin is certainly not the liberator – the angel of light that he apparently believes he is…
I believe there is a war on truth today so I tend to latch on to nuggets of it wherever I find them. If I ditched a particular author for saying things I didn’t like or things I disagreed with, I would be left with next to nothing on my bookshelves. And if I followed that principle through to be consistent, and took it to its logical outworking, I should also apply it to my friends who might sometimes say things I don’t like or disagreed with. In that instance I would not have any friends left – and nor would I be a friend of anyone.
It is seriously worrying that such shallow and rushed ‘thinking’ can occur in Christian circles. I wonder how much of it is a result of the dumbing down that is a result of the push for ‘equality.’ Certainly we are all equal in God’s sight, but that doesn’t mean we all possess the same gifts and abilities, roles and responsibilities.
As another example of silly thinking, there are Christians who condemn CS Lewis and his Nania Chronicles because these people say Aslan as a figure of Jesus is an idolatrous concept.
Thank you for another excellent article.