Argument’s Too Old

Argument’s Too Old

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B: It’s remarkable to me how often this logical fallacy is used to try to counter arguments supported by eternal truth.  It may depend on the situation, but if such an argument is “old,” or was used before, it generally still applies.  So, for instance, wherever consistent with eternal truth, “15th-century answers” can be used to solve 21st-century problems, or problems from any other century, for that matter.

Suppose you’re in some corner of a great and spacious building, and suddenly you see a fire break out.  Not seeing a way to put it out yourself easily, you naturally run and tell everybody else in the building that there’s a fire.  But they don’t see any flames or smell any smoke, so they laugh you off and just generally ignore you, continuing on about their business as before.  So what do you do?  Do you now start saying that there’s actually no fire?  Wouldn’t you continue to insist that there is one, and that it’s spreading, and that everybody needs to get out of the great and spacious building, or somehow put the fire out?

A: It’s not that the fire is being ignored.  It’s that we’re using new, more efficient methods to put it out.

B: If those methods are so much more efficient, why is the fire still burning as strong as ever?  Besides, what could it hurt to continue to warn people about the fire anyway, in case, say, these supposedly more efficient methods fail?  As long as the fire continues to burn, I’m going to continue to insist that it is, regardless of how many people say otherwise, or that “fires don’t happen anymore,” or that “this building can’t burn down,” or whatever nonsense they cook up, pun intended.

I suppose that there’s a prevailing attitude that since science has made so many rapid advances, and our livelihoods have changed so drastically with it, then there must have been similar advances and changes in our life philosophies and morals.  This is precisely where the fallacy occurs.  Eternal truth is just that – eternal, meaning it never changes; it never has, and it never will.  The science did not necessarily change over all those years discoveries were being made, it was just understood better.  But why should this necessarily imply that there’s been a corresponding increase in understanding of philosophies and morals?  If anything, there’s been a general decrease, if the notion that eternal truths can change has gained any notable traction – which it apparently has, when taking the common use of this fallacy into account.

Let’s consider, for instance, the question of sexual immorality.  It used to be so much more frowned upon than it is today – what happened?  Well, for one thing, there was that silly “Free Love” period of the ‘60s.  Otherwise, I suppose that there continued to be more and more doubt about whether there should, or even could, be a universal standard of morality, leading to more and more people unconscionably indulging in their sexual desires, to the point that today, it seems that either nobody cares anymore about any standard, or nobody is willing to take a stand on it, or both.  Whereas back in the ‘50s, the availability of any sex-themed material was virtually nil, nowadays one sees it plastered all over the Internet.  Back then, you had to go out of your way to obtain pornographic material; now you have to go out of your way to get ad blockers, filters, and special add-ons to keep it from jumping in front of you or your children’s faces.

A: That’s only because it’s so much easier to purvey it these days.

B: If people never chose to indulge in it, nobody would be purveying the stuff at all, regardless of its accessibility.  Anyway, back to my point: if ever sexual immorality was inconsistent with Eternal Truth, so it is even now, and will continue to be forever; if it ever was wrong to have extramarital sexual relations, then it still is, and always will be.  Independent of society’s trends, whether anybody cares, or is willing to take a stand, the truth remains the same.  There’s nothing retrograde, out of touch, or old-fashioned about appealing to eternal truth.  The “Too Old” fallacy is nothing more than a lazy argument, often used when one can’t think of any other reason to justify his viewpoint.  Even if everybody seems to have ignored the fire warning, it’s still appropriate to sound the alarm, despite the decades or centuries that may have elapsed since its popular dismissal.

Details

A: People don’t really think that way anymore.

B: It doesn’t really matter how people think; truth is independent of what people think of it.  That fire is still burning, whether or not anybody thinks it is.

A: Are you saying we shouldn’t question the behaviors, methods, practices, or philosophies of the past?!

B: Oh heavens no.  Of course we should question those.  In fact we really should question everything – as I may have insinuated when I was talking about ad hominem – to be certain whether or not it’s true, making sure to hold to it if it is, and discard it otherwise.  The problem comes in things like assuming that just because a philosophy is old, it must be false, or just because a philosophy is new and/or trendy, it must be true.

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