Today we’re going to look at how to identify and use inconsistencies when you’re in a conversation.
Last summer my wife and I spent some time in California: driving up the coast, going to Yosemite, it was a great time. One of our stops towards the end was near the Monterrey Bay Aquarium. The day before we went there we were hiking the coastal area by the water with the awesome redwood trees.
The people that were on our trip were interesting; we had people from all over the country. One lady was talking about how excited she was to actually move to the area and volunteer at the aquarium and help rehabilitate sea lions. At this time at least, I don’t know if it’s changed, but they actually were having trouble surviving. There was a deficit of food, and it was pretty cut-throat for which sea lions could survive.
At that point, it seemed like there was a sea lion who’d actually given birth to twins. As I understand that, this is extremely rare. The mother only had enough milk to nurse one of them. The aquarium was taking care of the other. This woman was very concerned, extremely concerned about this sea lion — the twin that the mother hadn’t had enough milk for.
She was excited to go see it the next day, to hopefully volunteer and rehabilitate it. In the time of talking with her, and listening to her talk with other people on our little hike, it became apparent to me that she was pretty liberal on social issues. She was very concerned about this sea lion. Now I’m guessing with this next point, but I think it’s a pretty fair guess that this woman is probably pro-choice. In fact, having listened to her she’s probably pro-abortion.
Now, that is a guess about her position, she didn’t explicitly state that. There are certainly people who have a very high view of animals, a very high view of endangered animals where we should spend lots of money, lots of time in to protect them. But they don’t have nearly as high of a view of the unborn. They don’t think a woman needs to give a reason for why she should be able to kill her unborn child. This is an inconsistency, because what it’s saying is, you can kill human life without any justification, without any reason needed to be given. You can’t kill this other type of life, this animal, and indeed you should even do all that you can to protect it. That’s inconsistent.
This week when I saw the story about the child who had gotten into a gorilla’s cage, and the gorilla had been holding this child, and handling him, and there was great concern that the gorilla could actually tear the child apart, or kill, or gravely harm the child. So, the gorilla was killed.
In my own Facebook feed I have seen comments, where people objected to this, strongly objected saying that the gorilla was just as important, just as valuable as that child. Why didn’t we try to do more to save the gorilla? I want us to think through this together, a lot has been said about it, but there are two points I want to kind of bring out in this story. My goal is going to be to find inconsistency in the persons position. In a logical argument, inconsistency is a sign of a failed argument. I would say in a worldview, inconsistent positions are an indicator of a bad worldview, of holding an incorrect view of reality.
I’ve had conversations with people in the past and they’ve actually admitted that they hold many points that don’t fit together. My question to them is, then why do you believe them? Why would you fight to hold onto these contradictory points? Some or all of them are assuredly false because they contradict each other. The reason we should identify inconsistency in someone’s worldview, in someone’s position, is because it gives us an avenue to have a conversation. To ask a question on how they reason through this, and to ultimately show them that the Christian worldview is consistent. It is internally consistent, it doesn’t contradict itself. It as a result, it’s more likely to be true. Their worldview, with it’s contradictions, does not explain reality as well as the Christian worldview.
Liberal views on animals and the unborn are inconsistent
Let’s use the gorilla as an example, and for the person who is pro-abortion, and who thinks the gorilla is just as valuable as the unborn human being, here’s my question. “You know I’ve listened to everything you said and I’m curious, why do we need to give a reason for why we can kill the gorilla?” “Well because it’s such a valuable animal, and it’s endangered, and it shouldn’t have been locked up to start with”. Here’s my question, “if it’s just as valuable as the unborn human being, and you don’t believe we need to give a reason for why we can kill it, then why do we need to give a reason for why we can kill the gorilla, if they’re just as valuable? I’m just trying to understand where you’re coming from here.” It’s going to be interesting to see how this person tries to reason through this.
Now, they might say that they’re not in favor of killing born children, and the gorilla is born. I would ask them, “Since the gorilla is endangered, would it be okay if we killed pre-born gorillas? Would that be okay?” Is it just as wrong to kill a pregnant born gorilla as it is a non pregnant unborn gorilla? I’m going to want to see how they reason through this. What they’re going to end up doing is making the gorilla seem more important than the unborn child. They’re going to say they’re just as important, but they don’t treat them the same. They’re going to say that, “Yes you need reasons for why you can kill it, and good reasons, but we don’t need reasons for the unborn.” Or, “The unborn gorilla is really important, but the unborn human is not.” My question is going to be what’s different? What they can’t try to do is what sometimes pro-abortion people do and say, “Well when the child is born it becomes a person.”
We haven’t talked about personhood on this podcast before, but it’s largely a red herring, it’s a distraction. It doesn’t really mean anything because it’s subjectively defined to the pro-abortion type person, it definitely has a meaning in the Christian world view, but they don’t use it that way.
My point is going to be is, “what actually changes from the pre-born gorilla to the post-born gorilla? Does anything change?” I don’t think it does. This is an inconsistency, and I’m going to ask them, “Why are you treating this animal as more valuable than your child was before he or she was born? Or as more valuable than your born child. Are you really telling me that this gorilla is just as valuable as your son sitting in the other room? How did you come to that conclusion?”
I’m going to want them to explain that, and what we’re seeing here in this issue with the gorilla is what happens when a Christian worldview is not the foundation for how you view reality. You can’t ultimately make sense of the difference in man and animal, you can’t make sense of the value and innate worth that man has, and what you’re going to be left with is inconsistency.
The first inconsistency that we just looked at is that if the gorilla is just as valuable as the unborn human being, and you’re a pro-abortion advocate then we shouldn’t need to give reasons for why we can kill the gorilla.
Humans are more evolved and valuable than gorillas
Here’s the second point I want to make, a lot of these people who are getting upset about the gorilla, who may be hold the first view we looked at, probably also have an evolutionary view of our origins — that man is actually evolved from something in the gorilla family, or ape family, and that often times such a person would also believe that morality comes through evolution. That just as we have evolved, morality has evolved.
Here’s going to be my question for that type of person. “Well, the gorilla was threatening a more advanced life form, right? Objectively, on a scientific view of things, humans are more advanced, right? We are more evolved. If that’s true, then how is it wrong for the more evolved animal to kill the less evolved animal on your view?” It’s going to be interesting to hear them try and reason through that.
Whatever they say I’m going to ask them to support it. “How did you come to that conclusion, why should I believe that?” We’re going to use our Colombo questions here.
What’s interesting is on an evolutionary view where the more fit survive, there’s no such thing as actual good or bad, right or wrong. It’s just fit and unfit, more fit and less fit. What happened with the gorilla and the child is a more fit being killed a less fit being, and on an evolutionary view how could that possibly be wrong? Another way to look at it is a less fit being was threatening a more fit being. If more fit is better, then wouldn’t it still be okay to kill the less fit being that’s threatening the more fit being?
Yeah that sounds a little bit convoluted, but they’re not being consistent. If you have an evolutionary view of the world, then gorilla is not just as important as man. Even if you deny the fact that man is created in God’s image, man is still more evolved than the gorilla, he’s still more advanced. How could the gorilla be just as valuable? He can’t.
This type of thinking comes with time. I didn’t always see these types of parallels, and inconsistencies in worldviews, I had to start thinking about them, I had to start paying attention when people talked. It’s important because it gives you the opportunity to ask a question on how someone comes to that conclusion, “How do you support the idea that the unborn is just as valuable as a gorilla? Or that the actual born child is just as valuable as the gorilla”. Okay, so after you hear their answer, “do you believe in evolution?” “Well I do.” “If evolution is based on the natural selection, survival of the fittest, then how would be it be wrong for the more fit human to kill the less fit gorilla?” There’s not an answer to that actually consistently fits in a non-Christian worldview.
That’s what we want to actually show: that the Christian world view is internally consistent. That its pieces fit together, that they don’t contradict each other.
Now, internal consistency alone does not mean something is true. There are some great fiction novels that are incredibly internally consistent and they’re fictional worlds, but obviously they’re fictional. However, lack of internal consistency rules something out. If it’s not internally consistent, if it contradicts itself or another part of the view, then some or all of it is false.
We shouldn’t hold false views, we shouldn’t just hold a view because we like it; we should hold it because it’s true. What I want to show someone when I talk with them is that my view of reality – my worldview supported by scripture – founded on the idea that God exists and created us, makes more sense of why I’m here, how I know what I know, how I know right and wrong, and how I should live than there’s does. Wouldn’t they want to have a view of reality that’s true and not false? One that’s true, and not internally contradictory?
That’s the argument I’m going to make in that type of situation, but I’m going to do it through questions. I’m going to use questions to show the inconsistency in their view, and to show the consistency in mine. All because I want to have a conversation that ultimately at some point, maybe a day later, maybe a year later, ends with the fact that it’s consistent to believe that God exists. It’s consistent to believe that since God exists he could raise Jesus from the dead. It’s consistent to believe that for a God who could raise Jesus from the dead, he can surely forgive our sins. Consistency is paramount, it’s how we should evaluate all of claims that we hear. Consistency alone doesn’t make them true, but it does tell us when they’re false.
I have a great list of topics lined up for podcasts this summer, I’m excited to share them with you. We’re going to talk about God and suffering. We’re going to talk about our desires, can even our desires be sinful? Are we sinful innately, or how does that work? We’ll talk about, “does Jesus save us from God,” or is he a savior from something else? We’ll talk about doubt, we’ll talk about taking the bible literally.
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I look forward to talking with you next week on Unapologetic.