by Andrew C. Thomas, Opinion Editor for The Tech, the M.I.T. student newspaper
I’m always delighted when two sides that seem mutually opposed come together in harmonious agreement. I’m even more delighted when I’ve taken one of those sides.
In this case, I write of the efforts of Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn, brothers from Iowa who advocate homeschooling and create educational materials from a Christian worldview. The fruit of the latest Bluedorn effort is a short text, The Fallacy Detective, designed to be a primer in logic for older children –specifically, homeschooled Christian children, though the book is intended for anyone who wants to explore the subject. As something of a downside, the book is marketed on the conservative Web site http://www.townhall.com. It shares pages with the extremist works of Ann Coulter, among others, but certainly belongs in better suited company.
Since the focus of the book is the detection of logical fallacies as a first step in the study of logic, judgments made by the authors are at a minimum and, thankfully, backed up well. As good Christians, they have faith in the Bible, but are not afraid to analyze its meanings and questions through logic. At worst, they point out that the question Who made God? is loaded against Christian dogma. That the brothers begin the book by firmly establishing their beliefs is comforting, and do not attempt to fight any further ideological battles over whether their beliefs are correct.
Well, for the most part. There was one thing I didn’t like, buried near the end. The book teaches its reader to recognize propaganda techniques and distinguish them from logical tactics, and at one point they explicitly state that the claim there is no God is a lie. Its only fair to apply the books lessons to itself for consistency, and in this one case, I must disagree. After all, as much as a person can use the Bible as a factual authority, I could claim that an equally valid world viewpoint comes from the Quran, or from secularists. From this complaint alone, I emphasize that an open mind is critical to appreciating this book from a non-Christian standpoint.
The brothers Bluedorn believe that logic is the language of God — an explanation I agree with entirely, as long as it is interpreted with an open mind. They also claim that studies in logic will strengthen the beliefs of Christians. I also agree with this. However, I find it hard to stomach their insinuations that all other religions are illogical, and that logic is to be used as a combative weapon. After all, all beliefs rest mightily on a floor of assumption; it would be unfair to judge Hinduism or Buddhism purely on Christian terms and make use of that as a logical counterargument. (In fairness, these claims were made in an accompanying text, A Christians Guide to Learning Logic at Home.)
I often think back to Monty Pythons Life of Brian,where Graham Chapmans title character, meant to parallel Jesus, tells a large crowd how important independent thought is for the management of their own lives. As they respond in unison, Yes! We will think for ourselves! the audience becomes acutely aware of this kind of sheep mentality. I find it wonderful that the Bluedorns, among others, are actively reinvigorating the religious world with a healthy dose of independent thought, at a time when idolatrous worship of high-profile figures like Justice Roy Moore, and the resulting secular backlash, threatens to destroy whatever fragile relationship remains between these two sides that seek to push each other away.
Teaching people to ask these kinds of questions can only be beneficial, both from my point of view and that of the brothers Bluedorn. This attitude directly confronts both those extremists who believe in blind faith without knowledge, and those who have no appreciation for the root and meaning of logic. There is far more common ground to be found here than many will realize. The Fallacy Detective, and other works like it, can be read and appreciated by people of all beliefs as long as they are all taken in the proper context.
After all, logic’s beauty is, to a point, its self-consistency. I believe in logic because it works within itself and when applied to the world around us. Obviously, the beliefs of no two Christians are exactly alike, but we still share enough common ground to make the debate worthwhile. In the meantime, Ill be looking for secular interpretations and appreciations of faith to hit the bookstands.
(first published 2003)