Good Critical Thinking On Logical Fallacies Of Two Essays
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Penn Jillette is a member of the magic and comedy duo, Penn and Teller. According to his bio, he is also a research fellow at the Cato Institute who has lectured at MIT and Oxford. A co-author of three best-selling books, he has also co-produced a documentary film, The Aristocrats. He needs little introduction, as he has become nearly a household name. He is well-known for debunking illusionists and "magicians", and has an impressive curriculum vitae at prestigious universities. Albert Einstein was a world-renowned, Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist who is perhaps best-known for his general theory of relativity, and a very well-known equation, E = mc². Both Penn, in There is No God, and Einstein, in An Ideal of Service to Our Fellow Man, make fallacies of logic in their respective essays which can be compared and contrasted. Jillette's essay contains numerous fallacies of logic, as does the essay written by Einstein. Jillette argues for the belief that in no God (as opposed to not believing in God), whereas Einstein argues that God exists. Furthermore, Einstein asserts that individual education is necessary to thwart social evils. Both Jillette and Einstein's arguments are riddled with logical fallacies, including circular reasoning, and appeals to false authority, but both men's beliefs are very different as well, and their beliefs lead them to different conclusions
For example, both men use an abundance of circular reasoning in their works. At one point, Jillette states that, "So, anyone with a love for truth outside of herself has to start with no belief in God and then look for evidence of God" (Jillette, internet). His logic begins with a claim that one who has a love of truth outside of herself must start with no belief in God, with his reason being that you must not have a love of truth if you do not start with no belief in God. His warrant is that only those who start with no belief in God have a love of truth. This is an assertion that is impossible to question because of its circularity. Einstein also uses circular reasoning when he states that, "The pursuit of recognition for their own sake, an almost fanatical love of justice and the quest for personal independence form the traditional themes of the Jewish people, of which I am a member" (Einstein, internet). Not only does this statement make him appear arrogant, but it implies that Gentiles do not possess these attributes, another form of circular reasoning. Logically speaking, he is stating that no Jew is capable of injustice, and that no Jew is not on a quest for personal independence. It is also a type of over-generalization. While Jillette asserts that he is a believer in no God, Einstein, however, asserts that he believes in God. Einstein's belief in God leads him to the conclusion that "there is only one way to eliminate these evils, namely, the establishment of a planned economy coupled with an education geared towards social goals", whereas Jillette concludes "Believing there is no God gives me more room for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell-O and all the other things I can prove and that make this life the best life I will ever have" (Jillette, internet).
Interestingly, while both men seem at odds in their beliefs, their assertions are similarly muddied appeals to false authority, namely themselves. Their arguments are hollow and unconvincing. Both men come across as very arrogant, infallible, overbearing, and closed-minded -- barely, if at all, acknowledging possible counter-arguments -- a red herring logical fallacy. While both men -- especially Einstein -- boast incredible accomplishments, it is startling that their logical fallacies in argumentation are so abundant, as evidenced by the two essays anyway. While one would expect both men to be polar opposites (based upon their professed beliefs and different backgrounds), their arguments are built around remarkably similar logical fallacies. I do not believe either man makes a good case for his thesis statements. In both men's cases, their appeal to themselves as the ultimate authority corrupts their ethos, or credibility. Both men's arrogance sours their essays, making both of their arguments unappealing and unconvincing -- unappealing because they are logically unconvincing.
Einstein, Albert. (28 May, 2005). "An Ideal of Service to Our Fellow Man". Web. 1 Mar 2015.
Jillette, Penn. (21 May, 2005). "There is No God." Web. 1 Mar 2015.
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