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September 12, 2009

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Q: Can you have faith and be rational?

A: A person commits the fallacy of bifurcation when he or she claims that there are only two mutually exclusive possibilities—when, in fact, there is a third option. For this reason the fallacy is also known as the either-or fallacy and the false dilemma.

A facetious example is this:

“Either the traffic light is red, or it is green.”

This is obviously fallacious, since the light could be yellow.

A more realistic example is this:

“Either you have faith or you are rational.”

This commits the fallacy of bifurcation, since there is a third possibility: we can have faith and be rational. In fact, faith is essential in order to have rationality (e.g., to make sense of laws of logic).

“Either the universe operates in a law-like fashion, or God is constantly performing miracles.”

This is also fallacious because a third possibility exists: the universe operates in a law-like fashion most of the time, and God occasionally performs a miracle.

Sometimes the origins debate is framed as “faith vs. reason,” “science or religion,” or the “Bible vs. science.” These are all false dilemmas. Faith and reason are not contrary. They go well together (since all reasoning presupposes a type of faith).


To find out how science and faith are not at odds, despite what many critics claim, read the new article in Dr. Jason Lisle’s Logical Fallacies series: Bifurcation. And for more, read Dr. Lisle’s response in Feedback: The Logic of Belief.

News to Note Quick Look

A skull changes everything: The history of human evolution is clear: we all came from Africa the Middle East Europe. Read more.


Evolution leads to tooth decay: Tooth loss and molecular decay prove Charles Darwin right—or so it has been claimed. Does that mean brushing twice a day keeps evolution away? Read more.


Also:

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