By Ramon Margallo,
Not surprisingly, a home at the entrance of our subdivision got some early Halloween decorations up. Hmmm, that actually reminded me of the Straw Man Fallacy; a type of argument that fails due to a misrepresentation of the facts that make the opponents positions seem weaker than it actually is. My goal in this article, is to show that it is possible to teach kids logical principles and fallacies through story.
Two months ago, I was tasked to teach a group of kiddos, 6 to 9 years of age, how to defend the faith (i.e., Christian apologetics). Using some simple illustrations on Day 1, they grasped two main arguments for God’s Existence known as the horizontal cosmological argument (argument from the beginning of the universe) and the hierarchical cosmological argument (argument from the fact of a currently existing universe).
The challenge was Day 2 — logic!
My approach was different than most. Typically, when discussing Straw Man arguments, the go to examples are atheists that describe belief in God like the following:
1) Santa Claus Analogy — That is, belief in a god is the same as belief in Santa Claus.
2) Atheism Minus One — That is, except for YHWH, theists also do not believe that other gods exist.
3) God of the Gaps — That is, attributing to a Fine-Tuner to explain the fine-tuning of a life-permitting universe is nothing but God of the Gaps fallacy.
Now it is beyond the scope of this writing to explain why the above objections commit the Straw Man fallacy. For that, you will have to attend my session, “Simplified: Apologetics Made Easy” at the 2016 National Conference on Christian Apologetics. So for now, my mission is to simplify, in a fun way, the Straw Man fallacy.
The Dark Knight, Superman, and the Straw Man
Once upon a time, in a far away Kingdom, the people lived peacefully behind the castle walls. They sing songs, they dance with joy, they were given into marriage, they celebrate new births . . . they were simply happy.
Yet, behind the treeless mountain ranges that stretch across the horizon, a Dark Knight dwells. This knight has been conquering many small kingdoms around him. In his wake, castles burn and thrones lie in ruins. But his ultimate dream is to defeat and conquer the last kingdom standing— the Kingdom behind the walls.
Still, no matter how much he tries, the Dark Knight is unable to enter the Kingdom’s solitary castle gate. This is so because a mighty warrior stands guard before it. His name is Superman! This warrior is so powerful that even the green Kryptonite stone cannot harm him.The Dark Knight knows that whatever he does, he cannot beat Superman.
Then one day he thought to himself, “I’m very smart.” So he devised a very, very bad plan. Interestingly, his plan is rather weird. Instead of confronting Superman face to face, the Dark Knight went to a barley field, purchased some straws, and made a Straw Man.
After that, he carried the Straw Man, went to the castle gate, and placed it in front of Superman. The Dark Knight said, “Aha, I can now enter the gate. All I have to do is beat the Straw Man!” So he did. The Straw Man was torn into pieces.
ME: With the Straw Man defeated, can the Dark Knight now enter the castle gate?
KIDS: Because Superman is still there!!!
ME: Very good! Unmoved and unfazed, Superman remained standing — guarding the gate. The Kingdom was never conquered. Humiliated, the Dark Knight went home really, really sad.
Like the Straw Man, the arguments against God that present belief in God like that of Santa Claus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, are rather easy to beat. Not so with the arguments for God’s existence. I hope that after reading my short story, you can see that we should not think that kids are incapable of learning logic, or arguments for God’s existence. As long as we are willing to get creative and bring these amazing truths to their level, we will be able to train them from an early age to not only think reasonably, but also to stand strong in the truth that God exists.