Meme Analysis

Blogmaster Emeritus, Mark Jensen, recently sent me this internet meme asking PFC to do an analysis of its alleged logic. I'm sure many of you have seen it on Facebook but here it is again. When I received this in a message I suddenly got a mental image of VDB muttering into his mustache "So many fallacies" and I knew that something must be done.

*Disclaimer: I or PFC do not necessarily agree or disagree with the above conclusion of this meme, this exercise is merely a look at the use (or lack thereof) of critical thinking.

For starters, the nature of internet memes is such that there is almost inevitably going to be a massive case of the Straw Person fallacy going on. There are in fact many quite nuanced arguments against H, drawing inspiration from the Bible that cannot be so casually dismissed with a sentence, more work should be done.

Now working from left to right.
"Because Jesus Said So" - the objection is true, although a case could be made that inferences could be drawn from what he did say on similar topics.

The first blue box, "Have fun..." unnecessarily insults people who hold to a certain view. This is known as an ad hominem attack and in this case bullies people into agreeing with the author rather than actually engaging in debate.

The next two boxes, "OT and NT" end with false dichotomies. There are other ways to answer the secondary questions than just a simple yes or no (although flow charts get messy when they have to deal with every possibility). 

A theological insert here - to say that the Bible clearly defines anything can often be a stretch, and both boxes in this route fall prey to a rather shallow reading of the text.

The appeal to the "ick factor" in the final route is an interesting one and should not be so quickly dismissed. Yes we should be tolerant, and there should under no circumstances be hateful discrimination. However, there is something to be said for prima facie arguments, appeals to the obvious norm (this is basic anatomy). Much can be said for alternatives, but the simple fact of our anatomy remains and questions can and should be raised about a cavalier approach to sexuality: Are all practices healthy, safe, beneficial? These issues should be examined in and of themselves, not simply dismissed out of hand.

Finally, the only green box, the alleged "right answer". The inference of this comment is that those who disagree are uncivilized barbarians, which is simply not the case. There are civilized, educated people with very real concerns and to paint them as something they are not, is as bad as discriminating against homosexuals. Fighting discrimination with discrimination, while perhaps rhetorically effective, is not logically sound.

In conclusion, this meme is riddled with fallacies and logical shortcuts. Complex questions very rarely have easy sloganesque answers.


Hendrik van der Breggen said...

The following critique of the flow chart (internet meme) is from Brendan Paul Burnett, a University of Sydney undergraduate student (BA, history and philosophy), reprinted here with his permission:

This flow chart is very unfair and imbalanced. I want to therefore briefly talk about these three central things: (1) Christ's claims about sex, (2) Apostle Paul, (3) law-distinctions. These are fundamental to understand if we are to treat Christianity fairly.

(1) First off, remember that Jesus claimed to be the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (a claim for which he was almost stoned several times and for which he was eventually crucified). He therefore gave the Law to Moses. So Jesus did talk about homosexuality because it is condemned in the Law. Perhaps that's why Jesus cited this Law (e.g. Leviticus and Deuteronomy) more than any other biblical books. Heck, Jesus even places lust on the plane of adultery (Matt. 5). And if this is the Law according to which the highest commandment according to Christ is "Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength" then this means we keep fidelity and obedience to the moral law of God such as sexual laws. And, please note, in Matthew 19 Christ gives his own interpretation of what the marriage covenant is by citing Genesis, commenting: "For this reason, a MAN shall leave his FATHER and MOTHER and be united to his WIFE, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one: what God has joined together let man not put asunder." So it's not true that Christ never comments on homosexuality indeed he reaffirms the Mosaic law on this issue.

(2) Secondly, we need to realise is that to be an Apostle one had to receive special commission from Christ himself. Paul received thus. So when Paul speaks, does he speak of his own authority, according to Scripture? The answer is no: Paul spoke on the authority of Christ. Scripturally put, "For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet. 1:21). Remember that Christ sent the Holy Spirit to guide the Apostles "into all-truth".. Any ecclesiastical laws about women and pastor-ship (which is alluded to above) which in my opinion are perfectly reasonable when properly understood are just irrelevant to Christians' convictions on this point about sexuality. We accept the apostolic authority of Paul as a messenger of Jesus Christ under Christ's approval just as we accept Peter, Jude, John, Mark, Matthew and everyone else.


Hendrik van der Breggen said...

(3) Lastly, Christians make a fundamental differentiation between different KINDS of laws. Each has its own function and purpose. Any objection against biblical moral laws about sexuality on the basis of the bizarre-ness of other laws such as dietary laws, national laws, ritual laws, ethnic laws, etc all equivocate on the word "Law". Each of these kinds of Law deal with a completely different context from each other, since each serve a different purpose. Dietary laws for example are NOT universal obligations across all time: they serve a specific purpose. MORAL laws however (like laws about sexuality) ARE for all people across all times. These moral laws are reaffirmed again and again throughout the Old and New testaments, whereas other laws had clearly had a limited time of function, reaching their fulfillment (and thus their end) in Christ (see e.g. Matt. 5:17; Hebrews 10). So it's not balanced to dismiss biblical sexuality laws on the basis of other strange laws, since those laws never claim to have a present day application, whereas sexual laws do. ~ This video explains it well:

So we see (1) Christ did speak on sexuality and marriage, (2) Paul's teaching is legitimate, and (3) universal moral laws like sexuality laws are not equivalent to dietary and other laws. Now, I think it is legitimate to have disagreements with the Law of God and we can talk about that. But what is not legitimate is either to claim that the scriptures do not teach against these things, or to not respect the Christians' rights to believe in and express their religious and moral convictions.

[Many thanks to Brendan Paul Burnett for this thoughtful critique, originally published as a comment on the internet meme on Facebook.]

Hendrik van der Breggen said...

Many thanks to Ryan Turnbull for his thoughtful critique as well. It's good to assess fallacy-promoting internet memes by setting out careful, respectful, non-fallacious criticisms -- for the sake of promoting clarity and truth.

Hendrik van der Breggen said...

Remember the West Wing episode in which President Bartlet tells us about the silliness of the Bible passages on homosexuality? Here is a 15 minute podcast in which philosopher William Lane Craig debunks the president's "biblical" arguments: Reasonable Faith - West Wing Homosexuality Episode.