The framework of spiritual exploration would seem to be an odd place for the study of logic. However, critical thinking skills are essential for our spiritual journey.
Logical thinking is the ability to determine what is correct or legitimate. The following article is a tool to help you improve these skills. It will show you how people use arguments and premises to influence our thinking. Learning how to spot these tactics will help you make better decisions. In this way, you can learn to separate the facts from fictitious arguments, premises, and assumptions.
The arena of spirituality is prime territory for misleading claims and tactics. The study of logical reasoning will help you sort out the “facts from the fiction.” Trust me. You need this if you are serious about investigating spiritual matters.
After reading this article, we recommend two complementary tools, spotting logical fallacies and the truth-seekers axioms. Using these three tools together will enhance your critical thinking ability.
The “Argument” as a Selling Tool
An argument or proposition is a selling tool. It’s a set of statements “premises” persuading you to accept a conclusion. So, this is where our journey of logical reasoning starts.
In a sound proposition, the premises must be true, which results in a valid conclusion. One of the best ways to discover a false argument is to identify problems with its construction. The form is easy to understand; you just need to know the correct format. Let’s look at the two arguments you’ll likely find in the realm of spiritual exploration — deductive and inductive reasoning.
You can create a valid argument with either Inductive or deductive reasoning. You can tell which type someone uses from the way they state the conclusion. A “deductive argument” presents its outcome as absolutes or “proofs certain.” In contrast, the conclusion of an inductive argument shows its answer in terms of probabilities. The accuracy of either type depends on the accuracy of the premises. If you build a proposition on invalid assumptions, it results in a false conclusion.
Inductive reasoning is a way of investigating phenomena using relevant valid data. It helps us reach the most probable conclusions. It contrasts with the closed world assumption of deductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning presupposes the desired answer the provides data to support it. Omitting data that is irrelevant is appropriate as long it truly does not matter to the final decision. The problem arises when you leave out valid data that does impact the outcome.
Deductive reasoning uses the concept of a”Closed World Assumption.” It’s the presumption that what is known is presumed to be true. And, conversely, what is not known is assumed to be false. The correct argument construction for deductive reasoning must always include the answer in its premises. The following is an example of the proper form of deductive logic.
The Broken Window Using Deductive Reasoning
We’ll use the broken window as a starting point.
A window is broke in a house. Phyllis and Fred live in this house. Phyllis was the last person at home. So, we conclude that:
- Either Phyllis or Fred broke the window.
- Fred says he did not break the window.
- Phyllis had the most likely opportunity to break the window.
- Therefore, Phyllis broke the window.
Here, the argument rests on the validity of the above statements. Thus, the answer must be that Phillis broke the window.
The answer must be within the premise statements of the argument. And all other possibilities not in the premises are false. The answer is definitive, precise, and without question as long as ALL the Closed World Assumptions are valid.
When using deductive logic, it is essential to ensure that the premise statements are valid. It includes making sure “what is not unknown to be true is false.” But, the premise statements in the above example raise several questions. Many unknowns could impact our conclusion. Our certainty of Fred not being involved is also suspect. Can we be sure of the facts? Are we sure some unknown cause isn’t responsible for the broken window?
Inductive reasoning uses the premises’ data to provide a degree of certainty. It is the likelihood of something happening. With inductive reasoning, we reach conclusions based on the degree of probability that something is true or false.
The conclusion is in a range of probable outcomes. It could be anywhere from a low, almost negligible probability to a high likelihood approaching near certainty. It’s the level of truth you need in the realm of religion and spirituality.
Inductive reasoning may appear less accurate than deductive reasoning, but this isn’t true. It seems less precise because it provides a range of probabilities, not absolute certainties. Yet, inductive reasoning is the basis for science and most of what we know. The scientific process uses inductive reasoning because it’s the best way to seek the facts. This process is the best way for us to make predictions and conclusions.
For example, we base our knowledge that the sun will rise tomorrow on inductive reasoning. The data used to validate this is historically validated “sunrises.” Inductive reasoning is often required because the answer you seek goes beyond the premises’ scope. The broken window presents an excellent example of how this reasoning is better than deductive reasoning.
The Broken Window Using Inductive Reasoning
The premises of the broken window leaves us with several unanswered questions. How else could the window have been broken? Could the window have been damaged by the weather or a bird flying into the window? When was the window shattered? Did it happen in the last hour or last year? Can we be sure someone else was not involved? Could both Fred and Phillis be responsible? Are there any mitigating circumstances? You can see there are a lot of unanswered questions. It’s why it is prudent to use inductive logic to reach the most probable conclusion.
If we can’t say for sure that either Fred or Phyllis broke the window, then the probability of either of them breaking the window goes down from 50/50. As the number of unknowns increases, our certainty about who or what broke the window decreases.
If we don’t know exactly when the window was damaged, this increases the likelihood other people or things might be involved. To gain a greater certainty, we need more facts, more information.
Let’s assume that Fred or Phyllis are the only two people who could have broken the window. Suppose we know that the window was broke in the last hour. These kinds of facts would increase the probability that either Fred or Phyllis broke the window. But, let’s say this is as far as we could go with the data we have. The probability that Fred or Phillis broke the window goes down if we include other mitigating circumstances. Given all the unknowns, the likelihood that either Fred or Phillis broke the window is still less than 50/50>.
Your goal should be seeking facts to find the most accurate conclusion, not seeking data to support your current opinion. Inductive reasoning is the best process for this type of research.
How Bias and Prejudice Influence Conclusions
Most people aren’t satisfied with the certainty of less than 50/50. They want to be more confident in their conclusion. Unfortunately, this means many people are more apt to accept a decision even when there isn’t data to support it. People use other internal filters to assist in forming their conclusions. Unfortunately, this filter is usually prejudice and bias.
Let’s return to our example of the broken window to see how bias might influence our conclusions. Let’s assume that Phyllis has a history of breaking windows. Fred has no record of breaking windows. We don’t know why Phyllis broke windows, only that she did. Does this information increase the probability that Phyllis broke the window? No. It should not because this is biased historical information. Her previous history has nothing to do with the facts of the current situation.
The fact is, this information about Phyllis doesn’t bring us a “higher degree of probability” of certainty. It is not additional proof additional Phyllis broke the window. If Fred knew about her history, perhaps he damaged it to get Phillis in trouble.
But, unfortunately, historical practice is the basis of many legal systems. Rapists target prostitutes because the victim has a history of promiscuity. The rapist uses the victim’s history as a defense against allegations of rape.
Ad Hominem Argument
An ad hominem argument is an attack against the reputation of the person making an argument.=. (ad hominem is Latin for “to the man, or “to the person”). It’s a strategy to discredit the reputation of the individual. It taints any argument they may have. You can find this in heavy use in politics. Even though this a false argument, it is an effective tactic for influencing essential decisions.
Improper Use of Premises to Form Conclusions
Another common issue is stating a conclusion when the premise statements or facts do not support it. If the results go beyond the data, you should present the answer in terms of probabilities. But, this rarely occurs. People often state the conclusion with absolute certainty, which is a typical error in religion and politics.
The following example outlines how this error relates to the shattered window.
- Someone broke the window.
- Fred and Phyllis were in the area.
- Phyllis broke the window because Fred is considered an upstanding individual. In contrast, Phyllis has a documented incident of breaking windows.
- Therefore, Phillis shattered the window.
As we discussed before, this is another false conclusion. It uses bias and prejudice to reach unprovable assumptions while ignoring other possibilities, and it’s the kind of argument you’ll find in the arena of religion.
Using Circular Logic
Circular logic isn’t logical at all. It’s a shell game. So, our use of logical reasoning will uncover this tactic. And, this is a common tactic with religious arguments. It starts with deriving a valid conclusion from false premises and then using it to substantiate a false proposition. The following example outlines how this process works.
Marilyn Monroe Part One
- No women walked on the moon before 1960.
- Marilyn Monroe was a woman.
- Therefore, Marilyn Monroe, a woman, was not allowed to walk on the moon.
Although the conclusion is correct, Marilyn Monroe was not an astronaut. And, she did not walk on the moon. But, the premise statements of the argument do not prove the conclusion. Checking the facts behind the premise statements will reveal errors in the underlying premises. 1969 is the year the first moon landing.
The premises are correct, but the last statement infers someone prevented Marilyn Monroe from walking on the moon because she was a woman.
Marilyn Monroe Part Two
So, now we take the inference a step further. In this case, Marilyn Monroe becomes a victim of gender discrimination because she is not chosen as an astronaut. Silly as it sounds, this is precisely the type of argument you will encounter in much of Western organized religion. Here’s what this invalid argument looks like:
- No women walked on the moon before 1960.
- Marilyn Monroe was a woman.
- Marilyn Monroe was not an astronaut, and she did not walk on the moon.
- And so, Marilyn Monroe was a victim of discrimination by NASA.
Using Logical Reasoning to Investigate Religion
No matter your position, if you have one, everyone thinks their position is correct. People can come up with some source to back up their thinking. So, one of the best ways to test your beliefs is a process we call comparative analysis. It’s a scientific approach to comparative religious studies. With this process, you see how topics and concepts compare across several worldviews. And it forces people to reconcile inconsistencies and fallacies within their thinking.
So, when we dig into the facts that support their beliefs, this can be quite an emotional challenge exercise. As we unearth and investigate their “sacred ground,” we use the practice of “emotional checks.”
Use Emotional Checks
Anytime you engage in spiritual research, we recommend using emotional checks. It’s a practical process to help you stay as unbiased as possible.
Emotional checks will reduce stress and increase the accuracy of our research. So, think of it as a safety net. It will catch us when we fall into emotional distress. When we face ideas conflicting with our current opinion, it creates a dilemma. We instinctively react to protect our sacred ground. You don’t want to research while in a state of distress.
Where to Seek the Facts
We recommend using the public library where there are volumes of resources that are not available even on the internet. Also, they have materials that aren’t already on your bookshelf. Always, always, always use resources from authors outside the paradigm you are researching. It will help you avoid bias. Remember, people write books to present arguments supporting a conclusion—and they may contain biases, prejudice, and even unreliable sources of data. The arena of spirituality is full of opinions with misleading and erroneous fabrications. Avoid works by celebrities or endorsements of “famous people.” Test the validity of all resources.
Look for reference works and researchers without affiliation to the religion you are researching. The exception is when you are trying to show the contrast between the facts and the fiction. In this case, you’ll find a lot more on the fiction side. Don’t let the sheer volume of data deter you from the facts.
A Little Reasoning Goes a Long Way
Here’s an example of how to spot the improper use of deductive logic and the “false premise.” We’ll use the Supreme Being Odin as our subject.
Prove Odin Doesn’t Exist
Let’s assume we are the public library, and someone asks us what we are researching. We tell them religion, and they use several logical fallacies to prove their Supreme Being exists.
They first ask you to prove their god doesn’t exist, known as an Argument From Ignorance. It asserts something is true because there is no evidence to prove it is false. Don’t fall for this. The burden of proof is always on the person claiming the existence OF something. They need to provide evidence something exists. Then you can determine if their evidence is valid.
It’s a ploy people use to substantiate their claim of the existence of imaginary beings. Proving something doesn’t exist when it has no physical form is impossible. That’s why they attempt to use this to win an argument. The absence of a material substance (the absence of milk in a bowl) to prove milk exists is not a valid comparison. Milk exists apart from the bowl. It is not valid proof of the existence of a Supreme Being. “The absence of evidence is not evidence of existence.”
You can’t prove gods don’t exist, but that doesn’t mean they do. You can’t disprove that Apolo, Zeus, Mythra, Dyonisys, or any other god doesn’t exist. But, because there is no proof that they don’t exist doesn’t mean they do.
We are continuing with our discussion of Odin at the library.
Anecdotal Stories and Sacred Texts as Proof of Odin
When we challenge them to provide evidence for the existence of Odin, we get the following response: First, no ice-giants exist. Odin promised to wipe out the ice-giants. So, since there are no ice-giants, this is proof of Odin’s existence.
Secondly, Odin is prolific in paganism’s early stories dating back through oral traditions in Germanic mythology. Odin (from Old Norse Óðinn). The God Odin is prevalent in early forms of paganism. Odin, in Old English as Wóden, in Old Saxon as Wōden, and Old High German as Wuotan or Wodan.
With so much historical evidence from so many authoritative sources, it is evident that Odin exists. The answer is, no, you’re mistaken. It isn’t evidence of the existence of Odin. Sorry, but the absence of imaginary creatures does not represent evidence they ever existed. Nor is it evidence Odin got rid of them. And, the recounting of stories, no matter the age or supposed authority of origin, does not suffice as proof for the existence of Odin. These points apply to all Gods, all imaginary friends, and enemies, not just Odin.
Our friend at the library is not happy with our discourse’s outcome. But, we want to give them some encouragement. We present them some references on the subject of logic. And, point out it doesn’t matter what you believe. You can still engage in spiritual exploration even if you have an imaginary friend. Logical reasoning is one of the primary tools we use in our blended learning process. You can use spiritual technologies without the need to believe in any religion.
The catalog of ancient methods for exploring consciousness is what we call spiritual technologies. They are a collection of processes to develop the potential of the mind, body, and spirit. They offer us ways to expand awareness and reach higher states of consciousness.
These tools differ significantly from religion. They do not require faith or belief in any religious doctrine. Anyone can use these processes to develop their full potential. All you need to do is follow the process, and it’s just like following the recipe for baking a cake. If you combine the right ingredients in the right way and you get something delicious.
We select the best of these ancient methods for our blended learning method. These processes are time-tested by generations of use, and they stand up to the rigorous tests of science. They are repeatable processes, and several produce measurable effects on our physiology. These changes include increased brainwave coherence, lower heart rate, and increased skin resistance. Changes like this prove these partitions of consciousness differ significantly from waking, dreaming, and sleeping.
We divide these tools into four major categories:
Everyone can use these methods to create their unique spiritual path, and you can start with any of these methods. The more of them you use, the faster your progress.
Logical Reasoning Final Thoughts
We hope this discussion helps you to see the value of using logic. Today, it’s not just religion that is full of false premises. The nightly news is also full of the misuse of arguments. Don’t let them fool you. Refresh yourself with the content of this article regularly.
Are you interested in spiritual exploration? Check out the blended learning process at the core of our teaching process. It reflects what Joseph Campbell called the Hero’s Journey (1). Our learning options include both face-to-face and virtual learning sessions. Please consider donating and supporting our mission.
(1) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia