God's Existence, Science and Faith, Suffering and Evil, Jesus' Resurrection, and Book Reviews

When a Strawman Becomes A Red Herring

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post that makes the distinction between the logical implications of a view and what the adherent actually believes. The implications necessarily follow, but the person's beliefs do not necessarily follow. I pointed out that it is important when critiquing a view that if an adherent does not believe the implications, we should make that clear- we are critiquing the logical consistency of the worldview, not what the person believes. I explained that if this distinction is not made clear, the adherent to the worldview will likely see this as a strawman of their view and dismiss the critique as not applying.

When this distinction is not made clear, the adherent may focus on the proposed implications- the accusation of the commission of the strawman fallacy. Ironically, if the person offering the critique of the view makes the distinction clear, then the adherent is actually maintaining the strawman- they are claiming that the person critiquing the view is attributing the implications to the adherent even though they make it clear that they are not.

Solving the Problem of Evil


A couple weeks ago a commenter asked a short series of questions about evil that I think deserve more than just a comment. The questions were posed on my article "Pain, Suffering, and Purpose". I was already in a conversation with another commenter about leaving a legacy from the Christian and the atheistic worldviews, and it seems that these questions tie right into that conversation. Here they are:
  1. Are we (humans-Christians or non-christians) created to solve the problem evil?
  2. Can we make this world a better place?
  3. Can our legacy be to make it better than we found it?
Given the series of questions, this appears to be a question not about the logical problem of evil or even the emotional problem of evil, but the eradication of evil- was man created to remove evil? The logical problem of evil merely poses the challenge of the idea that an all-loving and all-powerful God is incompatible with the existence of evil. It assumes that evil exists. The emotional problem of evil focuses on the psychological effects that we experience from seeing the evil in the world. It is used to fertilize the ground for planting the logical problem of evil. This, too, assumes the existence of evil in the world. But neither of these really appear to be the commenter's concern. Rather "what are we going to do about it?".

Where The Strawman Resides

A couple weeks ago, I addressed an argument that I heard being used as evidence against theism and against my view of the age of the universe (you can read it here). I received a message that I was offering a strawman of the opposing view. While in discussion, I realized that it was probably a good idea to go into some more detail about properly identifying when someone is arguing against a strawman. It applies, not just to that particular conversation, but to all discussions of defenders of any worldview.

I have posted in the past about the importance of avoiding the strawman argument. Unless I take that seriously and address accusations that I have presented a strawman, that post is quite hollow. I will be using parts of that initial message as an example in this post, but the specific challenge is not the focus of this post, so if you wish to challenge the specifics, please post the comments on the other post.

The accusation of a strawman proposed that I was applying a specific heretical view of Christianity to an entire view within the Christian Church (young-earth creationism [YEC]). I've been in conversations with the this person in the past, and I suspected that he knew that I wasn't applying it to all YEC adherents, but he wasn't sure how to express where he sensed a strawman. Of course, my sense could be wrong; but nevertheless, I identified four different areas where a strawman could be offered in a description/critique of a worldview that we all should be familiar with when composing our own arguments/material and consuming others' arguments/material: