Friday, November 9, 2012

The Power of a Premise

The video below is a good example of the power of a premise. Whether good or bad, a premise is a powerful thing. The caller into the radio show is complaining about the location of deer crossings. She is asking why the department of transportation would allow deer crossings to be in such high traffic areas. Why would they encourage the deer to cross an interstate highway for example?  Why not have them cross at a lower traffic area like a school crossing? The caller is either a very confused woman (to put it kindly) or an exceptional actress. The premise at work is that the government can control where the deer go. If this were actually true, this would be a very reasonable and important conversation. As it is, the discussion is absurdly hilarious.

Here is one I’ll never forget from G.K Chesterton that I heard on EWTN. Imagine someone suffering from paranoia says to you, “Everyone wants to kill me.” You respond, “I don’t want to kill you."  The person answers, “Of course you would say that to keep your evil plan a secret.” There is logic there, but the premise is…well, insane.

That unmistakable feeling  that everyone is out to get you.
How about this? Suppose I hold that inalienable human rights do not really exist objectively; they are only a concept evolving from subjective human opinion. With this premise it is reasonable to argue many monstrous things.

This won't hurt a bit.

For example, those that are very sick, very old or severely handicapped are a drain on the rest of society and should be terminated. You may use the term “euthanized” if it makes you feel better. Just think how much this could reduce health care costs! It is reasonable based on the premise.  G.K. Chesterton says, “A madman is not someone who has lost his reason, but someone who has lost everything but his reason”.

What does this have to do with faith? Someone once told me that Christianity requires faith because it could not be reasoned by the human mind; it is literally unreasonable. I responded that what is reasonable or unreasonable depends on the premises involved. If we say there actually is an all-powerful God that it is also all-loving, then we can say that this God could become a man if He wanted to, and there would be no limits to His love as God and man, even unto death, even death on a cross.
St. Paul reminds us about the resurrection as a premise for our faith in 1 Corinthians 15:14and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.” To those who claim the resurrection is fairytale; a premise would be that those who claimed to be eye witnesses not only lied, but were willing to be ostracized from their Jewish community and brutally killed for the lie. Now that’s some stubborn liars. If I were lying, I’d be apt to say, “Never mind, we just made it up” long before the killing were to begin.
For the premise that there was not only no resurrection, but no God at all, we’ll need some other basic premises to explain the world around us. The complexity and order of our bodies, our minds, the earth and the entire universe ultimately come from nothing for the purpose of nothing. More specifically, come from nothing intelligent for no intended purpose.
Ø  From nothing comes something by its own power & direction.
Ø  From disorder comes order by its own power & direction.
Ø  From unconsciousness comes consciousness by its own power & direction.
Ø  From unintelligence comes intelligence by its own power & direction.
Now there’s a fairytale if I ever heard one.


  1. There is a followup call that radio station did several weeks later with that lady. She was not acting :)

  2. Well done! I have been trying to explain this concept to my CCD class for years. I hope you done mind if I use this to get the ball rolling.

    1. Hi Jimmy,
      Feel free to share. That's why it's here. God bless.