If you want to see the importance of logic in real life, watch Judge Judy. Here’s a clip of a man losing his case in twenty-six seconds.
A woman claimed that two men stole her purse. When she listed an “earpiece” among the stolen items, one of the accused helpfully interjected, “There was no earpiece in the purse, ma’am.”
Pro tip: when defending yourself, try not to admit you did it!
That’s also an important lesson in basic apologetics. One of the ways of choosing between worldviews is to determine if a worldview is self-defeating, or self-refuting, or self-referentially incoherent.
Basically, if a claim contradicts itself, then it is false.
Here are some self-defeating statements:
“I absolutely refuse to be assertive.”
“I am not contradicting you.”
“I enjoy your company most when I am by myself.”
“I saw him do it when no one was looking.”
Do you see the problem? All those statements contradict themselves.
Well, the same kind of contradiction can happen at the level of a worldview. Worldviews can be self-defeating and showing that can be a powerful tool in defending the Christian faith.
Here are some example of self-defeating worldview claims:
- Absolute skepticism: “You cannot know the truth.” Of course, if you know that, then you know some truth, and absolute skepticism is false.
- Absolute relativism: “There is no such thing as truth.” Well, is that claim true or not? If it’s true, then absolute relativism is false. If it’s false, then so is absolute relativism. If the claim is neither true nor false, then absolute relativism can simply be ignored.
- Materialism. “Only material things exist.” Of course, the proposition “only material things exist” is not a material thing.
- Logical Positivism. “Only those proposition that are either tautologically true (e.g., All bachelors are unmarried, or 1+1=2), or empirically verifiable, have meaning.” On that basis the Logical Positivists rejected all theological claims as meaningless. However, it was soon pointed out that Logical Positivism was neither tautologically true, nor empirically verifiable.
- Evidentialism. W. K. Clifford (1845-79) famously claimed “It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.” On that basis, he and other atheists rejected religious claims as lacking evidence. Unfortunately, Clifford offered no evidence to support his own claim!
- Mysticism. “God is beyond human logic” or “We cannot describe God in human language.” The problem here is the first statement is a logical claim and the second is a description of God’s nature.
Each of those worldviews self-destruct because they make self-defeating claims. If you can recognize that kind of error your next apologetic debate may be settled in twenty-six seconds.