How often have you heard things like this: “Follow your heart”, “do what you want to do”, “follow your dreams”, “trust your feelings”, or “discover your true self”? As a young woman living in our modern world, I’ve heard several generous earfuls of emotionally-based clichés like these, especially in or about college. Many of these concepts are very dangerous because they are all about the emotions and have no sound reasoning to back them up (for example, “following your heart” could get you into a real mess because the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked). Having and expressing emotions is not a bad thing – we are humans, created in the sacred and precious image of God, and emotions are very much a part of our humanity. But in our fallen and deceitful world, it is important that our decisions and beliefs should be directed by truth rather than emotionally driven.
When discussing creation vs. evolution or just about any other controversial issue, we often encounter people using emotionally charged language, personal insults (more about that here), or even threats. Sadly, people sometimes give up on using logic and instead threaten to sue, fire, or otherwise discredit creationists in attempt to silence them about their beliefs, using the “appeal to fear/force” logical fallacy. Another very common fallacy you might hear is the “question-begging epithet” fallacy which is when a person uses biased, emotionally charged language to support their position rather than logical reasons. The Biblical young-earth creation position is frequently referred to as “creationism” and evolution referred to as “science”. This gives the audience the feeling that creation is merely an unscientific religion and evolution is real, provable science.
Another thing you might hear is that the Bible and young earth creation are from the “dark ages” and that we are now far too advanced to accept such “primitive” ideas. This flawed reasoning uses the “appeal to high-tech” concept to make Biblical models seem inferior simply because they have been around for a while (all the excitement over getting the most recent version of the newest iThing is also a good example of this “appeal to high-tech”). On the flip side, we could also fall prey to the “appeal to tradition” by using our warm, comfortable feelings with family traditions or antiquity to support our positions instead of logical reasons.
We need to make sure we prove all things and hold fast to the truth, rather than being constantly swayed by the ups and downs of an emotional rollercoaster. One fallacy I will admit to having caught myself making more than once is the “slippery slope” fallacy of arguing that a particular action will set off an exaggerated chain of events with an undesirable ending, when in reality there are other things that would prevent such an ending. Sadly, I’ve seen many well-meaning Christians that try to bring people to God through emotional appeal rather than giving them the sound answers they need. Overall, we need to be cautious about “appeal to emotion” fallacies, those arguments that attempt to persuade us with emotions rather than sound reasoning (sarcasm frequently makes this fallacy), and make sure that our emotions are put under the Lordship and Truth of Jesus Christ.
Here’s a song that really illustrates this concept:
Discerning Truth, by Dr. Jason Lisle
The Ultimate Proof of Creation, by Dr. Jason Lisle
The Fallacy Detective, by Hans and Nathanial Bluedorn
Copyright Sara J. Bruegel, 2014. Used with permission.