Evaluating Ezzo's Logic - Part 1

This series was originally presented to the Ezzo Debate Board at iVillage by Pastor Mike Mahurin, or "Metochoi" as he was known by his screenname.  Mahurin pastored a Baptist church in a small town in Texas.  On the Ezzo Debate he put his teaching skills to use to acquaint participants with principles of logic and standard Protestant bible interpretation.  Although he passed away in 2009, his clear and helpful writing is a gift he left behind.

This is the first of four long posts by Metochoi containing eighteen short lessons in evaluation of argument. These are designed to help people more accurately evaluate Ezzo's -- and his critics' -- arguments:


One of the most important skills you can develop, if you really care about truth, is the ability to THINK more critically. Every normal human thinks -- but not everyone thinks "critically." Thinking critically is a skill, just as swimming, calligraphy, and dancing are skills. And -- like any other skill, critical thinking can be taught, it can be learned, and it can be improved with practice.

That last point is crucial. I can tell you everything there is to know about critical thinking and evaluation of arguments, but if you don't work at putting these ideas into practice, you will not learn them. Like so many other things in life -- the skill grows and gets stronger the more it is put to use.

The most effective way to develop your critical thinking skills is to put them to use in REAL DISCUSSIONS. This discussion, for example, has helped me work on my reasoning skills -- and I am sure that is true for many of you.

The first thing we need to establish as we discuss how to evaluate arguments is the meaning of CRITICAL THINKING. It does NOT mean finding fault with something or looking for a fight. Here are a few characteristics of a "critical thinker":

  1.  He is open to learning something new.
  2.  He does not argue about something when he knows nothing about it.
  3.  He knows when he needs more information about something -- and he is willing to work to find that information.
  4.  He knows the difference between a conclusion that MIGHT be true and one that MUST be true.
  5.  He knows that people have different ideas about the meanings of words.
  6.  He tries to avoid common mistakes in his own reasoning.
  7.  He questions everything that does not make sense to him.
  8.  He tries to separate emotional thinking from logical thinking.
  9.  He works to build up his vocabulary so that he can understand what other people are saying and so that he can make his own ideas clear to other people.
  10.  He is willing to do the work involved in evaluating claims, rather than accepting or rejecting them blindly.

There are many more sound ideas we could include, but this gives us a good beginning as we seek to become critical thinkers. Think about the above characteristics in relation to this discussion. No need to apply them to OTHERS. What about YOU? Work through each one and ask yourself what YOU are doing with regard to Ezzo's claims -- AND with regard to the claims of those who disagree with Ezzo.

There are very few people who cannot learn to think more clearly and critically. Like anything worthwhile, it takes hard work. Many people are not accustomed to working HARD at their thinking, and it is uncomfortable at first. However -- the more you work at it, the better you will become. You CAN learn to think BETTER than you do now.

One last thing to ponder: As you practice critical thinking skills, you will find yourself becoming CONFUSED or UNSURE about some things that you had PREVIOUSLY assumed to be true, and also about things you had previously rejected as false. This is a GOOD sign that you are beginning to think for yourself, but it frightens some people who are accustomed to the security of being told what to think.

Now look -- I know that some of you are going to be left cold and bored by all this logical discussion. If that is the case, then by all means -- just ignore this thread. But others have been asking for me to repost these lessons, so -- well -- here dey are!

Next = Some preliminary definitions



Let's lay some groundwork for our discussion. Every good "argument" makes clear all of its foundational definitions. Many people come to discussions with different definitions, and so they waste a lot of time arguing PAST each other because of the confusion caused by this difference. In this post I will provide a few foundational definitions and make a few initial observations.

* DISCUSSION = two or more people talking about something. They may or may not be disagreeing. You and I can discuss some of Ezzo's teachings without disagreeing with each other.

* DISAGREEMENT = a DISCUSSION in which both parties think the other one is wrong about something. They are not necessarily trying to convince each other, but they do disagree. I can believe that you are wrong
about something without bothering to tell you why.

* ARGUMENT = a DISAGREEMENT in which BOTH parties are attempting to CONVINCE each other of their error. Contrary to the belief of many Christians -- there is absolutely nothing wrong or unspiritual with this kind of "argument." Jesus, Paul, Peter, Moses -- virtually EVERYONE in the Bible -- engaged in this kind of argument.

So has virtually every theologian and leader in the history of the church. And so, of course, does Gary Ezzo. For us to ARGUE in here is perfectly appropriate -- and necessary -- if we are to have any hope at arriving at truth.

There is another kind of "argument" that we will discuss later on. This other kind of argument involves a line of reasoning, supported by evidence, in which a person is attempting to CONVINCE others of the truth or falsity of something, and/or PERSUADE them to take a certain course of action. Look back at my statement above that you are reading MY argument right now; in that statement, I was using THIS definition. More on this later on.

* FIGHT = an ARGUMENT in which one or more of the parties have lost some control of their emotions. There have been some posters in here from time to time who have shown that they are incapable of arguing without fighting. Most of them don't last very long before flying out of here in a snit.

Now -- with these definitions, I hope you can see that each category above is actually a subset of the preceding category. IOW -- every FIGHT is a kind of argument, but not every argument is a fight; every ARGUMENT is a kind of disagreement, but not every disagreement is an argument; and every DISAGREEMENT is a kind of discussion, but not every discussion is a disagreement.

It is important for us all to attempt to keep this "discussion" list at the level of discussion, disagreement, and argument -- without fighting. Learning to think more clearly and critically actually enables a person to keep a cooler head -- even in the face of great emotion -- and to do a better job of evaluating arguments. OTOH -- a
person who shows a marked tendency to keep pushing the discussion to the level of a fight is showing his lack of thinking ability AND his lack of concern for fairness, accuracy, and truth.

Next = When is it stupid to argue?



What is an "argument"? It is a disagreement in which both parties are attempting to convince the other that he is wrong. In general, there is no good reason to argue when the thing we are arguing about is a matter of record. If there is a mutually accepted reliable source of information, and if that information is clear and conclusive, then it is "stupid" to argue.

This, of course, hasn't kept people from arguing about myriads of things of this nature. Young people are particularly prone to this kind of argumentation. I have heard teenage boys argue back and forth endlessly concerning sports statistics, when all they had to do was LOOK THEM UP! Yeah, I know -- we older folks do the same thing!

For example -- what is the point of an argument like the following?

* Gary: Wayne Gretsky's last year was really poor, wasn't it? I mean -- compared to his previous years?

* Bill: Are you crazy? Gretsky was the greatest player in the history of hockey!

* Gary: I agree. But after all his great years, his LAST year was very disappointing.

* Bill: No, it wasn't! He was the best scorer and passer in the league.

This argument is senseless. Whether or not Wayne Gretsky's last year was up to the standards of his previous years is a matter of public record. We can LOOK IT UP and FIND OUT the truth. No matter WHO convinces WHOM in this argument -- the facts will not change. To argue about the ESTABLISHED FACTS is stupid.

However -- the public record must be trustworthy. For example -- here is another argument:

Chelsea: Look what this history book says. The constitution was ratified in 1978! Wow! I thought it was much older than that!

Marissa: You Cork-brain! Of course it is older than that! It was ratified in 1787!

Chelsea: No, look here. See? It clearly says 1978.

Marissa: That's a misprint, you simple-headed gherkin! It was 1787.

Chelsea: You can't tell me that a book like this would be wrong, with all the editors and proofreaders it has.

In this case, Chelsea has found a public record that Marissa says is wrong. Notice that Chelsea gives a pretty good reason for believing the book, while Marissa gives no reason at all for her position. Is Chelsea then right and Marissa wrong? Have I confused you now?

Here's how to reconcile the two scenarios above. In the first one, we are assuming that the public record is ACCURATE. In the second one -- the record is FAULTY. In BOTH cases -- if we have any question, we can check the record against many other sources.

How do we apply this to logic and to the question of when it is stupid to argue? If we believe the issue is a matter of public record, then we can look it up rather than argue about it. If we can trust the record, the matter is settled. That is -- if we agree that the answer is recorded somewhere -- AND we believe that that record is accurate -- there is no reason to argue. OTOH -- if we think the record may be in error -- then we can argue about the ACCURACY of the record -- until and unless we can find other records that we DO trust.

What I want you to take from this lesson -- besides the fact that Chelsea is a cork-brain -- is that if something is a matter of record, then it is stupid to argue about it -- UNLESS you can demonstrate that that public record is FAULTY. But -- in BOTH cases above, there are MANY, MANY accurate sources that all agree with each other. NEITHER fact is really in question.

Finally -- in relation to our discussion in here: What would you think of the thinking skills and/or honesty of someone who would stubbornly argue with a RECORDED FACT , simply because that fact negates something that person has chosen to believe?

Think about all of Ezzo's quotes that we have provided in here over the years, only to see many of his defenders deny that Ezzo ever said such things. We have provided the PUBLIC RECORD -- WORD-FOR-WORD -- in his OWN words -- again and again and again -- and yet some of them STILL will not accept that evidence.

Is that an indication of a lack of thinking skills, or is it an indication of a refusal to accept the truth simply because it differs from what one WANTS to believe? Is it STUPID to argue against the written record of what Ezzo said? Of course, it is. Now -- arguing about just what he MEANT by what he said -- that's not necessarily stupid!



In debate or discussion, there are three kinds of disagreement -- apparent, verbal, and real.

1) An APPARENT disagreement occurs when two statements reflect different feelings or opinions, not facts or evidence. For example:

* Kung-fu-tsu says: I think Latin is hard.

* Boniface says: I think it is easy.

So -- is Latin hard or easy? We cannot tell from these two statements, because they are both self-reports -- merely statements of the boys' feelings or opinions, without evidence. There is NOT a true disagreement here, because both statements can be taken as true without contradiction. It is a difference of opinion, but not a logical contradiction. Here is another example:

* Rene says: Brussels sprouts are delicious.

* Theresa says: No, they are awful.

Both of these statements are true -- they only "appear" to disagree. Brussels sprouts are delicious to Rene and awful to Theresa. We have here an *apparent* disagreement, not a real one.

Now -- suppose the following statements have been made:

* Gottfried says: I think the Rams will win the Super Bowl.

* Ludovico says: I don't think so.

These two statements -- without any supporting evidence -- constitute an *apparent* disagreement. They are both self-reports, and as such, unprovable and undisprovable. And many Christians carry on their discussions on this level. It amounts to: What I feel or think about something is what is true.

This is very difficult to overcome when trying to teach or discuss doctrine -- especially when attempting to show that someone's teaching is a false doctrine. Many people are, unfortunately, very hard to convince, because they are not looking at evidence, but at their own opinions and feelings.

2) A VERBAL disagreement occurs when different definitions are used for the same term. This does not necessarily mean that there is a true contradiction. For example:

* Gary says: One-third of high school students are illiterate.

* Anne Marie says: No, only one-fourth of them are.

The key to understanding this disagreement is found in the different definitions of the two terms -- "high school students" and "illiterates". If Gary and Anne Marie are using the same definitions, then there is a real disagreement here. But -- if they are using different definitions, there is only a *verbal* disagreement.

Let's say that the term "high school students" to GARY means "9th through 12th graders" while to Anne Marie it means "10th through 12th graders." This just might make the difference in the statistics the two are using. Or perhaps Gary defines "illiterate" as "unable to read and write AT A PARTICULAR LEVEL OF COMPETENCE," while Anne Marie means "unable to read or write AT ALL."

This points out how important it is to agree upon definitions of terms at the BEGINNING of an argument, so that people are not arguing PAST each other, based on the fact that they are using different definitions of the same terms. Perhaps if they were to both use the same definitions, we would find that they would actually be in agreement. This is not guaranteed, but it would at least assure that any disagreement was *real* and not just *verbal*.

Without a clear understanding of Ezzo's definitions of such terms as "demand feeding," "attachment parenting," "parent-directed-feeding," "routine," "metabolic chaos" , and many others -- -- it is difficult to discuss his teachings in relation to those topics. It is also important to evaluate definitions just as we do other elements in an argument.

Just because someone chooses to define a term a certain way -- that does not make it a valid definition. Ezzo, at times, reminds me of the Cheshire cat in *Alice in Wonderland,* who said to Alice: "When I use a word, it means exactly what I want it to mean, and nothing else."

The solution to a "verbal" disagreement is to define our terms carefully up front, and to adhere strictly to those definitions from then on. If we could do this with respect to many of the terms that Ezzo RE-defines -- the argument would be over in a New York minute!

3) A REAL disagreement is a true contradiction. Both statements cannot be true at the same time. And a REAL disagreement can be over the definition of a term, as well as over anything else based upon that definition. Here is an example of a REAL disagreement:

* Monica says: Bill Clinton is the president.

* Paula says: No, he is not.

As long as we can be certain that both Monica and Paula are defining their terms in the same way, we can also be certain that between these two statements there is a *real* disagreement. They cannot both be true at the same time, and we ought to be able to find the evidence to determine which is really true. As a matter of fact -- if you will recall the previous lesson -- this is an example of a case in which it is stupid to argue, since the fact at issue is a matter of public record.

Now -- in terms of our discussion in here, try this example:

* Gary Ezzo says: Demand feeding and attachment parenting create moral, physical, social, and academic problems for the poor child thus treated.

* Bill Sears says: No, it doesn't.

IF these two men are using the same definitions, we have here a *real* disagreement. Both statements cannot be true at the same time, and one of them must be wrong about this. Now -- not every *real* disagreement can be resolved, and people can still be respectful and friendly while maintaining some very big disagreements -- but not in all cases.

Ezzo's teachings -- many of us claim -- have the strong tendency to divide Christians who would otherwise get along just fine -- and those divisions are over matters that should NOT be at issue. When it becomes clear that some of us reject Ezzo's claims, those who accept those claims are powerfully motivated to judge us for that rejection , personalize it, and withdraw from friendship with us. It has happened to me several times, and many others in here have reported the same thing.

In terms of disagreements -- "apparent" disagreements are not worth arguing over, since they are merely self-reports of personal prefererence. "Verbal" disagreements need to be resolved by agreeing upon correct definitions of terms. "Real" disagreements SHOULD be argued about by those who believe in trying to find the truth.

Next = The problem of differing definitions



Suppose Pearl is driving Deborah to school. Consider the following conversation:

Deb: Pearl! Slow down! You are driving too fast!

Pearl: No, I am only doing 30, you high-strung vixen!

Deb: But that's too fast! The speed limit on this street is only 20.

Pearl: No, 30 is not too fast. It's perfectly safe.

Deb: Anything over the speed limit is too fast, Gonzo!

Pearl: There's no harm in going 30. It's safe, so it is not too fast.

Now -- read that conversation again, and think about the following question as you do: Are Deb and Pearl using the same definition for "too fast"?

It should be obvious that they are not. And because of this, they are not likely to reach agreement until they see that they are arguing about two different things. As I said before -- many people argue PAST each other because they are basing their arguments on different meanings of the same terms.

Suppose, on the other hand, that Deb had begun the conversation with the statement: "Pearl, you are going over the speed limit." In that case, Pearl would have to agree.

It is important to understand the difference between this kind of argument and one that may come from different FEELINGS about a term. For example -- we might agree about the MEANING of a term, but we might
disagree about our personal feelings ABOUT the term. That is, we might agree on what the word "authority" MEANS, but still disagree on how we FEEL about it .

However -- in the driving story above, it is not "feelings" that differ, but DEFINITIONS. Deb and Pearl do not agree on the MEANING of "too fast." They both may very well FEEL that it is unsafe to drive too fast, but they do NOT agree on just what "too fast" is.

In the course of the discussion in here, I have noticed many instances in which two people THINK they are talking about the same thing because they are using the same terminology. But they are, in actuality, talking about two entirely different things. One example is the argument about "demand feeding." Several Ezzo defenders have argued based on a definition of these terms that is clearly out-of-sync with Ezzo's own definition. Others use Ezzo's twisted definition and refuse to accept the more standard one.

We should be especially careful concerning terms that can be easily confused. For example -- the LEGAL definition of a word is often not the same as its DICTIONARY definition, or its COLLOQUIAL definition, or its RELIGIOUS definition, or its MEDICAL definition. When one is using a specialized definition, he is under obligation to use it correctly and consistently, and to show that it is the definition that is most appropriate.

The primary lesson I am trying to convey in this post is that we can often END an argument by agreeing upon our definitions -- OFTEN, but not ALWAYS. But -- even if we cannot END the debate, we can at least avoid arguing PAST each other, and focus on the REAL disagreement.  With a mutual understanding of the correct definitions of terms -- we can at least argue about the real differences between us.

I have found that, because of the adherence of many Ezzo defenders to Ezzo's own "definitions," we have a very hard time discussing the real issues in here. For example -- we have had to repeatedly revisit the question of just what "demand feeding" and "attachment parenting" really are, because so many Ezzo defenders keep repeating HIS definitions and basing their arguments on it.

It is an interesting problem we have in here -- and I have noticed it is more pronounced in this discussion than in any other I have ever been involved with. We have a terrible time agreeing upon basic definitions because Ezzo has "poisoned the well," so to speak, with his own peculiar definitions -- and his defenders prefer THOSE
definitions to more standard ones.

Regardless of the difficulty, we must work to understand the different definitions of terms, and to reconcile the ones we can, so that we may move on to the substance of the discussion. In some cases -- the only
thing that will do is to adamantly insist upon the standard definition of a term, and force the issue upon those who insist upon adhering to definitions that are based on no evidence at all beyond the word of a man they have chosen to believe without investigation.

Next = Meaning vs. Feelings


End of first five lessons.

Evaluating Ezzo's Logic - Part 2


Two people may agree on the MEANING of a word and yet have different FEELINGS about that word. These differing feelings lead the two to make different arguments and reach different conclusions about the same word. For example - suppose someone mentions the word "travel." We could all easily understand the MEANING of the word "travel" -- it means "to go from one place to another."

However -- discussions get much more complicated than this, because we would all have different FEELINGS about the word "travel." For example:

* Maudie grew up in a military family, and had to move often. She wishes she could have stayed in one place.

* Agnes, on the other hand, has never been anywhere outside her own county ever since she was born. She wishes she had the time and the money to do some traveling.

* Stevie likes to impress his friends with his travels. He thinks about where to go next that would be different, a place his friends haven't been.

* Ryan has four children, all in serious need of high-chair training -- hahaha! When he hears travel, he thinks about all the trouble involved in taking all those kids along.

* Bubbagump works for a business that sends him all over the country regularly. He is tired of always sleeping alone in a motel bed, and always eating away from home. He wants to be home with his wife and children.

All five of these people agree on the basic meaning of "travel," but they do NOT all FEEL the same about traveling. When they hear the word "travel," if they are not disciplined thinkers, their minds may be dominated by their FEELINGS about travel, rather than being occupied with the meaning of the word.

Now -- what does all this have to do with critical thinking? When a critical thinker is arguing with someone about something, he looks below the surface of the argument to see if he and the other person have the same FEELINGS about the subject. As a matter of fact, if you will recall the first post and that list of characteristics of a critical thinker -- he seeks to separate EMOTIONAL thinking from LOGICAL thinking.

If he finds that the other person is basing his arguments on his FEELINGS about the word, rather than on the MEANING of the word, then he attempts to discuss the REASONS for the FEELINGS in order to get beyond any misunderstandings that could hinder further discussion. In many cases he will find out that the arguments are based not on logic but on personal feelings.

The problem with this is that personal feelings are not refutable! While one may be able to show another that his understanding of the MEANING of a term is erroneous, the other person's FEELINGS about that term will still tend to affect -- and it some cases, distort -- his arguments. There is no point in arguing with another person's FEELINGS.

And if that person insists on treating his own personal feelings as if they are facts and evidence, then there is no way to help that person become a critical thinker, and it becomes extremely difficult to reach that person with the REAL facts and evidence.

Have we seen this dynamic in here?

Next = Implications vs. Inferences



It is important for the critical thinker to learn to distinguish between IMPLICATIONS and INFERENCES. One who cannot -- or will not -- do this is prone to JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS -- and usually UNWARRANTED ones.

The person who is doing the talking is the one who IMPLIES something when his facial expressions, his tone of voice, his mannerisms, and the words he uses are designed -- deliberately -- to lead others to draw a particular logical conclusion concerning that "something." Assertions that are stated outright are EXPLICIT. Conclusions that the speaker WANTS the listener to come to, but which are NOT stated outright, are IMPLIED.

Any conclusions a LISTENER draws from hearing and observing someone ELSE speak -- THOSE conclusions are known as INFERENCES. The SPEAKER implies -- the LISTENER infers. IOW -- the one who is GIVING the information is the only one who can IMPLY something about that information, and the one who RECEIVES the information is the only one who can INFER something about that information.

However -- and HERE is the most important point in this post -- the implication INTENDED by the speaker and the inference DRAWN by the listener may be two entirely different things! IOW -- the listener may conclude that the speaker MEANT something that the speaker did NOT mean at all!

Since none of us in here can see each other's facial expressions or mannerisms, and since we can't hear each other's tone of voice -- all we have to go on are the words we use. I have noticed that the on-line discussion world does create a problem in this area of implications and inferences. It is difficult enough when we are speaking to each other in person -- but the problem is magnified when we CANNOT see and hear each other.

Since we have no other clues, we are forced to rely solely on word usage . Now -- since we ONLY have the written word to go on, the problem I have already discussed -- different FEELINGS about words -- arises continually! People have a great tendency to READ attitudes and motives into the written words of others -- and those conclusions about others are too often inaccurate.

Thus -- as I mentioned above -- the one who cannot, or will not, distinguish between his own INFERENCES and the other person's IMPLICATIONS is prone to misinterpreting others; he is prone to "jumping to conclusions." Jumping to conclusions is the lazy habit of reaching hasty, ill-thought-out, often irrational, and almost always
erroneous conclusions -- based on far too little evidence .

The critical thinker seeks to avoid jumping to conclusions by learning to accurately distinguish between his own inferences and others' implications. He also has the patience to wait -- or ask -- for more information before reaching his own conclusions.

The best thing to do when you INFER something from someone else's words -- especially if that inference is negative -- is to ASK for clarification. Repeat the argument back to the other person and ask if your restatement is accurate. ASK for more information. Spell it out clearly, and try to get the other person to do the same -- rather than relying on vague "gut reactions" or feelings.

The search for truth requires that we interpret each other's arguments as accurately and clearly as possible, and the ability to separate inferences from implications is one of the strongest tools we can use in that search.

Next = Emotional words and arguments



In logic, there are two definitions for "argument":

1) A line of reasoning, supported by evidence, in which a person is attempting to CONVINCE others of the truth or falsity of something, and/or PERSUADE them to take a certain course of action.

2) A disagreement in which each party is trying to convince the other party that he is wrong about something.

Back in the first post of this series, I stated that one of the characteristics of a "critical thinker" is that he attempts to separate EMOTIONAL thinking from LOGICAL thinking. After five years of observing and taking part in on-line discussions -- most of them "arguments" of both kinds -- I would have to conclude that the inability to distinguish between emotions and logic is the most common fallacy that most "arguers" commit.

I remember a student in one of my logic classes years ago. He was very bright, but he was also very high-strung and emotional; he had a tendency to "fly off the handle" whenever he felt like he was "losing" an argument. Once, when I was making a point forcefully -- with passion -- he blurted out, "AHA! YOU use emotions, too!"

I took that opportunity to clarify my meaning with regard to the use of emotions in a discussion. Of course, we ALL "use" emotions when we discuss -- and ESPECIALLY when we disagree! That is a normal human response. However -- there is a qualitative difference between, on the one hand, arguing with some -- or even a lot of -- emotion in your voice, and, on the other, BASING your argument on nothing MORE than your emotions! There is a difference between making a point with some level of passion in your voice and allowing your emotions to dictate your entire response, or even to hijack your reasoning!

Most RATIONAL arguments will almost inevitably contain some level of emotion; that cannot be avoided, nor need it be avoided completely. But an EMOTIONAL argument is one that is BASED mostly on -- or it APPEALS mostly to -- emotions rather than to logic and facts.

A critical thinker seeks to separate emotional THINKING from logical THINKING. He seeks to base his arguments on logic and facts, NOT on his feelings or emotions. And -- even though he USES emotions in his arguments, he seeks to CONTROL those emotions, so that his MIND, not his FEELINGS, is in control of his thoughts, his words, and -- especially -- his REACTIONS to the arguments of others.

There are many varieties of emotional argument: name-calling; ad-hominem attacks; innuendo; appeals to fear, greed, or a desire to be accepted; appeals to pity; and many more. We will discuss these specific kinds of emotional arguments later on. For now -- it is important to recognize that we need to learn to detect emotional thinking, and to avoid letting it control our own arguments.

Next = How to evaluate an argument



This message introduces a series of posts concerning accurate evaluation of arguments. An "argument" is a line of reasoning by which someone is attempting to CONVINCE others of the truth or falsity of something, and/or PERSUADE them to take a certain course of action. There are three primary elements in every argument -- assertions, evidence, and assumptions.

ASSERTIONS are the positive statements of what a person believes to be true or false. Gary Ezzo, who has been teaching and writing for nearly twenty years, has made hundreds of strong assertions. Everyone in this discussion has made many assertions concerning Ezzo's assertions. That is -- we have made statements concerning what we believe to be true or false about what Ezzo has stated. The next post in this series will explain how to evaluate assertions.

EVIDENCE is what proves, or at the least, supports the assertions as true and valid. Evidence consists primarily of facts, statistics, examples, and expert opinions -- all of which work together to demonstrate the validity of the assertions -- or not. I will write several posts concerning how to evaluate the different kinds of evidence.

Without evidence, assertions are nothing more than bare opinion. Everyone has a right to an opinion, but -- and this is crucial to understand -- no one has a right to have his opinion respected or taken seriously. An opinion EARNS respect when it has been shown by supporting evidence to be WORTHY of respect -- not necessarily proven conclusively, but at least supported as valid.

For example-- I have a RIGHT to believe that the moon is made of green cheese, or that the earth is flat. No one can force me to not believe what I really do believe. But -- I do not have the right to insist that anyone else take my opinion seriously or respect it. I must earn that right by showing the evidence that led me to that opinion.

If I cannot, or will not, support my opinion with evidence, others have the perfect right to refute, dismiss, and yes, even ridicule that opinion. And I have no logical or ethical basis for becoming indignant and offended when someone ridicules or dismisses an opinion of mine that has no evidence to support it. This is the nature of debate; this is the process of arriving, if we can, at the truth.

ASSUMPTIONS are the underlying presuppositions-- the "givens" that the person making the argument assumes in advance -- and is, in essence, asking his listeners to assume -- to be true, without the need for corroborating evidence. Two Bible-believing Christians, for example, would share certain assumptions about the Bible, about God, and about several other issues, that they do not have to argue about, even while they do argue about certain other issues.

A Christian and an atheist, however, while surely sharing some assumptions about some things, would find many more areas of disagreement concerning the Bible, God, Jesus, etc. The last post in this series will help you evaluate Ezzo's assumptions -- and your own.

In terms of Ezzo and his claims -- I want everyone to consider these three elements of an argument as you ask yourself some questions:

What are Ezzo's primary assertions? What are the main claims of his that you have problems with -- or that you agree with? Are they demonstrable, or are they beyond provability? Are they merely opinions without the benefit of evidence, or are they supported by solid evidence?

What is the nature of Ezzo's evidence -- in theology, in scripture, in physiology, in medical science, and in all the other areas he touches on? For example -- what is the nature of his "medical evidence" and his "scriptural evidence" in support of his arguments concerning "deman feeding"? Does his evidence support his assertions, or is it merely a prop to expand the argument -- in essence "begging the question"?

What are Ezzo's assumptions? Do you share those assumptions, or do they need to be supported with evidence before you would agree with them? What really underlies his arguments, and does he expect you to agree with that foundation without demonstrating its validity?

Next = Testing Assertions of Fact



Most statements we hear, read, or make in speaking and writing are ASSERTIONS of fact, opinion, belief, and/or prejudice. In an argument, whether or not an assertion is to be accepted depends partly on which of these categories it falls into. This post is a brief discussion of "facts" and how we can determine the validity and trustworthiness of Ezzo's arguments in relation to the facts.

A *fact* is verifiable -- that is, one can determine its truth by checking legitimate sources of information (sources that are universally accepted among those who themselves are widely acknowledged as authorities in a subject). The truth of a fact will be accepted by all reasonable persons -- as far as it is possible to verify that fact.

If a statement of fact is verified by standard methods of investigation, but is not accepted by a person, then that person is NOT being reasonable -- UNLESS he can provide powerful evidence for his rejection of that fact. In addition, any person who does publicly dispute such facts has a responsibility to support his opposition with evidence, and if he cannot, or will not, provide that evidence, it is perfctly logical to dismiss his opinion as unfounded.

Some easy examples:

* Texas is larger in area than California (verifiable fact).
* A triangle has three sides (true by definition).
* The House of Representatives approved two articles of impeachment against President Clinton in 1998 (verifiable fact).
* Trees are plants (true by definition).

Any person who would not accept the truth of these statements is unreasonable and untrustworthy, and has damaged his credibility to such an extent that any arguments he makes in relation to these topics should be highly suspect. And -- any person who makes a claim that is contradicted by these facts, and who refuses to accept correction concerning such basic truths, proves himself to be untrustworthy.

Next = Evaluating Opinions

Evaluating Ezzo's Logic - Part 3


An "opinion" is a JUDGMENT -- BASED on an examination of the FACTS. It is an honest attempt to draw a reasonable conclusion FROM evidence.

For example, many people look at the state of the health care funding in this country, and conclude that we should implement some sort of national health care system, administered by the government, and funded by taxes. Many others look at all the same facts, and conclude that such a system would be a disaster and should be resisted.

Same facts -- two different opinions. Why? Because the two sides are emphasizing different facts, or they are drawing different conclusions from the same facts -- or, maybe, because one side is actually wrong!

Both of these positions express a specific viewpoint. Both of them are arguable, because the same facts might lead different reasonable persons to different conclusions. And both opinions are potentially changeable. Upon further examination of the available evidence, a person could -- gasp! -- actually change his mind.

There are, of course, thousands of issues such as this. But there is another group to be identified, and unfortunately, it seems to be the largest group in most cases! That group is made up of those who have opinions that are based on nothing more than their erroneous ideas and false notions -- or even on nothing more than their desire for things to be the way they think things should be.

Those in this group are the hardest to reach with arguments based on facts and logic, because they usually have no facts , and often very little logic, so they are resistant to arguments in those areas. You know the old saying -- "My mind's made up; don't confuse me with the facts."

These are the ones who, when confronted with overwhelming evidence that their opinions are completely baseless, will respond with a statement such as, "Well, I have a right to my opinion, and my opinion is just as good as yours" . When their position on some scriptural point is refuted, they fall back on the claim that, after all, every interpretation is just as valid as any other.

The main assertion -- the THESIS -- of an argument is ALWAYS an opinion. If it were really a verifiable FACT that all reasonable persons would accept, there would be no need for an argument. Other opinions -- more specific ones -- usually form the backbone of the argument supporting the main assertion. The person who can marshall actual FACTS to support his opinions has a good chance of persuading a reasonable person to change his mind.

By themselves, however, opinions do NOT make arguments. As a person critically evaluating an argument , you MUST satisfy yourself that the person making the argument HAS specified the evidence, and that the evidence actually does support his opinions.

With these principles in mind -- let us ask some questions about Ezzo's publically expressed opinions:

Does he clearly state his opinions, and back them up with the facts that led him to those conclusions, or does he put forward his opinions AS facts? When he does use purported facts to support his opinions -- such as the facts of history, or medical science, or scripture -- are those facts IN FACT true?

Can his statements of fact be verified or falsified? If they are false, what does that do to his opinions, which are based on them? Are his opinions the result of an honest look at, and a clear examination of, the facts -- or are the facts doctored to support a preconceived opinion?

Think about his use of the Bible. Do the passages he uses, and the way he uses them, support his opinions, or does he impose his opinions on the passages, distorting their real intent in order to make it appear that they support his opinions? When he uses the scriptures to support his arguments, is he careful to follow the standard methods of interpretation that he was taught in seminary, and which he himself CLAIMS to use? Or does he violate that training, and instead, resort to twisting the scriptures and reading his own ideas into them?

How does he respond when others try to show him facts that would contradict his claims? Is he grateful for the new information? Does he admit error and change his opinion? Does he even consider the evidence? What does he do in response to challenges to his opinion?

While Ezzo has SAID that he welcomes criticism -- we should ask several questions about this: Has he EVER acknowledged being wrong about ANY of his claims? Has he EVER retracted ANY of his previous statements? Has he EVER said that he has changed his mind about ANYTHING after being corrected by someone showing him the real facts?

Is Gary Ezzo to be seen as one who has come to a reasonable conclusion from a careful examination of the facts, or has he come to his opinions based on erroneous ideas and false notions -- or even on nothing more than his own desire for things to be the way he wants them to be? If he is wrong about virtually everything that forms the basis for some of his opinions, can his opinions be right, nonetheless? And if he IS wrong, what of the untold harm being done as a result of his error?

Please go to the trouble to evaluate ALL claims -- Ezzo's claims, his critics' claims, his defenders' claims, MY claims -- and your own. The one who is confident that he is in the right has no fear of an examination of the evidence behind his opinions. Knowing this, I am still flabbergasted to see so many of Ezzo's defenders appear to be unwilling to engage in just such an examination.

Next = Definitions one more time



As I explained in previous posts, there are three elements in every argument -- assertions, evidence, and assumptions. Assertions are the claims that need to be supported; evidence is the actual support for the assertions; and assumptions are the beliefs and opinions that tie the evidence to the assertions. Each of these three elements of an argument needs to be analyzed carefully, if one is to accurately evaluate the argument's truth claims.

We have covered assertions. The next several posts will discuss how to examine evidence. To begin with, I need to repeat just a couple of comments I made earlier:


<< EVIDENCE is what proves, or at the least, supports the assertions as true and valid. Evidence consists of definitions, facts, statistics, examples, and expert opinions -- all of which work together to demonstrate the validity of the assertions -- or not. Without evidence, assertions are nothing more than bare opinion.

<< Everyone has a right to an opinion, but-- and this is crucial to understand -- no one has a right to have his opinion respected or taken seriously. An opinion EARNS respect when it has been shown by supporting evidence to be WORTHY of respect -- not necessarily proven conclusively, but at least supported as valid. >>


In arguments concerning Christian teachings, scripture is a very important category of evidence. We have discussed Ezzo's use of scripture in here -- endlessly! In addition, I have already written a series of posts concerning hermeneutics -- the principles of interpretation of scripture. If there is anyone in here who has not
read those posts, and who would like them, I would be happy to send them to you.

In the meantime -- I will concentrate this series of posts on OTHER forms of evidence. Now -- as I said, evidence consists primarily of definitions, facts, statistics, examples, and expert opinions. This post concerns DEFINITIONS.

The first step in evaluating evidence is to carefully examine the definitions -- both stated and assumed definitions -- of important terms. In any valid argument, but especially in arguments about abstract ideas, clear and consistent definitions of terms are essential. If the definitions are not stated clearly, then we often cannot tell what the person making the argument is really asserting -- because we cannot tell what the crucial terms actually MEAN to that person.

More problematic -- if the definitions are not normative -- that is, if they are contrived or distorted definitions, far removed from the ordinary definitions used by those knowledgeable in the area under discussion -- and used merely as prejudicial props to support erroneous assertions, then those very definitions, no matter how carefully and clearly stated, are highly suspect. They, in fact, are evidence AGAINST the very argument they are meant to support.

Before accepting Ezzo's assertions, we have an obligation to hold
him accountable for his definitions. This is the very beginning of judging the truth or validity of his primary assertions. It is important to understand that IF Ezzo DOES redefine terms without evidence and distort the actual meanings of the terms, then his assertions lose their force entirely, for a very simple reason. That reason is that using a false definition of one's own creation is NOT the same as discussing the actual thing one is attempting to discuss.

This is one form of a common logical fallacy known as the "Straw Man" argument. The fallacy consists in redefining or mischaracterizing something, then setting about to refute or attack -- or defend -- one's own redefinition or one's own wrong description of that "something." The person has, in essence, created his own "scarecrow" to beat up or prop up -- and he is calling that scarecrow by the name of the something that he wants to attack or defend.

But if that scarecrow -- that "straw man" -- is NOT really the same as the actual thing under discussion, then all of the refutations, accusations, defenses, and assertions are worthless! He has not really touched the actual "thing" he is claiming to discuss!


In terms of Ezzo's definitions of "demand feeding" and "attachment parenting," for example -- it is clear to those who have examined these definitions from a position of knowledge that he has NOT defined these terms according to the standard understanding, but that he has put his own "spin" on them, badly distorting them in the process.

IOW -- he has created "straw men" that he CALLS "demand feeding" and "attachment parenting." In doing so, he has not really touched on the REAL "demand feeding" or the REAL "attachment parenting" at all! He has only beaten up the straw men of his own creation. In so doing, he has rendered his arguments -- to the extent that he has mischaracterized the very things he is arguing about -- worthless.

Moreover, it really doesn't matter, for the purpose of evaluating Ezzo's arguments, whether he has deliberately distorted the meanings, or has simply misunderstood their meanings. Either way -- if his definitions are false, when so are his assertions based on those definitions.

Next = Facts



Assertions are claims that require support. Evidence consists of the facts, examples, statistics, expert opinions, and other information that support the assertions. The evidence is supposed to demonstrate the validity of the claims. If the evidence is inadequate or questionable , then the assertions are, at best, doubtful.

FACTS are statements whose truth can be verified by observation and/or research. With apologies, I will repeat a little of what I wrote previously:


<< A *fact* is verifiable - that is, one can determine its truth by checking legitimate sources of information (sources that are universally accepted among those who themselves are widely acknowledged as authorities in a subject). The truth of a fact will be accepted by all reasonable persons -- as far as it is possible to verify that fact.

<< If a statement of fact is verified by standard methods of investigation, but is not accepted by a person, then that person is NOT reasonable -- UNLESS he can provide powerful evidence for his rejection of that fact. In addition, any person who does publicly dispute such facts has a responsibility to support his opposition with evidence. >>


In this discussion we have looked at scores of assertions of fact made by Gary Ezzo. Most of them should be able to be confirmed or negated by an evaluation of the evidence. When a person makes a series of "factual" claims, and one after another of those claims proves true upon investigation of the facts, then he shows himself to be RELIABLE as a source of information, even if he occasionally slips up . The question then becomes: Is he amenable to correction in those few areas where he has erred? If so, then he is a TRUSTWORTHY source of information.

OTOH -- when a person makes a series of claims, and one after another of those claims proves FALSE upon investigation of the facts, then he shows himself to be UNRELIABLE, even if he occasionally gets something right! The question then becomes: Is HE amenable to correction in those MANY areas where he has erred? If so, we can trust his sincerity, but we should STILL be wary of his information.

Even if he IS amenable to correction, the one who demonstrates a habit of erroneous claims is STILL unreliable UNTIL he demonstrates that he HAS accepted correction and IS more accurate in his claims. But -- what
if such a person is NOT amenable to correction? What if he, instead, entrenches himself and refuses correction, even in the face of overwhelming evidence? What if his primary method for dealing with correction is simply to vilify the person making the correction -- and even to attack those asking questions -- and EVEN attacking those REPORTING on the controversy? Is this the kind of person who should be trusted to be an accurate and reliable disseminator of the truth?

Sometimes the facts are hard to come by with respect to a controversial issue. But there are always SOME facts to be found, and THOSE facts can be used as a good test of a person's accuracy, reliability, and trustworthiness. As I say repeatedly: TRACK RECORD SPEAKS VOLUMES.

What about Ezzo's track record -- in science, in history, in definitions, in exegesis, in hermeneutics, in FACTS?

Next = Statistics



In my last couple of posts on logic, I have been discussing various kinds of evidence. We have covered DEFINITIONS and FACTS. The third kind of evidence to evaluate is STATISTICS.

Statistics frighten and confuse a lot of people, but we can think of them as nothing more than FACTS employing numbers. The problem here is that so many people do NOT know how to evaluate statistical facts accurately, and that dishonest people deliberately misuse such facts in argument.

We have all seen some pretty extreme twisting of numbers in a lot of arguments, I am sure. OTOH -- a correct understanding of statistical facts, and an accurate and fair use of them, will often make the difference between a sound argument and a worthless one.

Like other facts, statistics are often "facts" that can be checked by conferring with an authoritative source. For example, if two people are arguing about certain sports statistics, it should be easy to find an authoritative source of the statistics in question that would end the argument.

For ex. -- while it may be fun for Stevie and Ryan, while taking turns pushing each other off of swings in the playground, to argue over who was the better slugger, Hank Aaron or Babe Ruth -- it is stupid to argue over how many home runs each actually hit, since those statistics are documented.

Some good questions to ask yourself whenever you are confronted with statistical evidence:

* Are the numbers accurate?
* What do they really mean?
* Are they relevant?
* Do they provide sufficient evidence to support the argument?
* Has the one providing the statistics misreported, misinterpreted such evidence?

What about Ezzo's statistics? Are they accurate? Are they reliable? What is their foundation? WHERE did he get them from? HOW does he report them? What about his medical arguments?

Next = Examples



There are four primary kinds of evidence used to support an argument -- facts, statistics, examples, and expert opinion. The fifth kind of We have discussed facts and statistics. This post concerns EXAMPLES.

EXAMPLES are specific instances of the point being made, and there are three main categories of examples: historical "facts," personal experiences, and hypothetical cases.


Hypothetical examples can be considered good examples if they are "normative" -- that is, if they really do represent the case. But many hypothetical examples violate this logical principle. Here are some things to watch out for in a hypothetical example:

A. Is it painted in extreme terms? Is the contrast or comparison so striking that credulity is strained to the maximum?

B. Is there actual credible evidence given anywhere in the argument to support the intended conclusions of the hypothetical examples?

C. Are the examples so extreme as to amount to scare tactics and sweeping generalizations?

D. Are the examples solid and representative, or are they virtually equivalent to the hyperbole exercised in the most outrageous and illogical of arguments -- more akin to an infomercial than to a reasoned argument?


The second kind of evidence by example is PERSONAL EXPERIENCE . PE's are used constantly in all kinds of arguments -- especially in arguments designed to sell something or to persuade others to take a certain course of action . While PE's can be very persuasive -- and while they are not automatically to be dismissed as evidence, there are certain cautions the critical thinker should exercise as he evaluates them:

A. PE's drawn from "true believers" or "dedicated followers" of a particular system suffer from the problem of bias much more seriously than does the testimony of a disinterested outsider. The one who has "bought into" the system has an enormous personal stake in the outcome, and often has a strong motive -- even unconsciously -- to "select" evidence that appears to support the system while dismissing or ignoring the evidence that would oppose it.

This is not a pejorative comment in the least -- simply a statement of fact that any logician could verify. The same dynamic is at work among Christians, atheists, baseball fans, political junkies, and just about any group of people dedicated to a cause.

B. To be sure -- it is often the case that opponents of the system could be biased in their view of the evidence also. The best source of unbiased information would be a neutral third party. In this case -- there is a LOT of evidence to be found, with the result that there are precious few who remain neutral for long, since a great many of those who begin as neutral third parties quickly "take sides" upon an investigation of the actual evidence.

C. PE's "work" as evidence when they actually support the truth claims they are "testifying" about -- NOT when they merely say things such as "It blessed me" or "It worked for me," or "Ezzo says."

D. PE's that support the claims of Ezzo are only valuable to the extent that they match or exceed the PE's that give witness to the problems caused by those claims, AND to the extent that they REFUTE those negative claims! Along with the many claims that "it blessed me and my family," we have seen just as many, or more, claims that "it caused serious problems for me, my family, my friendships, my church, etc."

E. IF PE's are to be used as evidence, then ALL the PE's are to used. IOW -- it is both illogical and dishonest to accept the claims of "success" and "blessing" while ignoring or dismissing the claims of failure or serious problems. In addition -- we should add in all the PE's concerning the serious divisions among family members, among friends, and in churches over this issue. All of THESE PE's are extremely important in evaluating the "fruit" of Ezzoism.

F. Ezzo himself and many of his defenders have NEVER accepted the PE's concerning the problems and failures encountered by many people who were dedicated to making Ezzoism work for them. They dismiss any and all problems with the claims that they are the result of sin in the life of the person encountering the problem, or satanic opposition against the "higher standards," or "jealousy" of Ezzo's superior way, or being "too lazy or too stupid" to follow Ezzo correctly, or -- if that doesn't work -- of following Ezzo TOO closely. And so on.

G. Logically, most of the negative PE's are very powerful as evidence, for they almost assuredly come from people who originally had a commitment to making the "system" work -- people who were positively predisposed toward Ezzo and his ideas; after all, they were trying to follow what he taught! Many of them are STILL supportive, even while experiencing the problems.


The third kind of example is HISTORICAL PRECEDENT. This kind of example can be a powerful form of evidence if it is accurate, relevant, representative, and adequate - AND if it is interpreted accurately. I won't say much about this form of evidence, because it is actually quite simple to check up on Ezzo's historical claims.


Concerning all three of these kinds of examples -- here are four questions to ask yourself:

1) Are the example accurate? Are they based on direct observation, research, and trustworthy sources? Or are they pure invention, used for the purpose of vilifying one side in an argument, or glorifying the other? For example -- are Ezzo's arguments concerning breastfeeding accurate, or are they an inaccurate picture designed to lead to one, and only one, conclusion?

2) Are they relevant? Do they come from sources with authority and expertise in the field under discussion, and do they relate directly to the point being made?

3) Are they representative? Do they reflect the full range of the samples from which they are supposedly taken? IOW -- do they truly reflect what is generally true about the subject at hand?

4) Are they adequate? Is the "evidence" plentiful enough and specific enough to support Ezzo's claims?

Next = Expert Opinion


End of third post -- one more to go.