Sometimes some of my best thinking happens in the wee hours of the morning, while I am preparing for my day job. But on this one particular morning I was pondering on the subject of informal fallacies. This posting is going to explain what a fallacy is, then move into explaining the genetic fallacy, and finally share a couple examples of cultural committals of the genetic fallacy. Just a fair word of warning. This posting is probably going to get some hits from both sides of the issue. But it comes with the territory.
What is the genetic fallacy?
Those who are familiar with the study of logic have heard this term "fallacy." A fallacy is an error in reasoning which violates fundamental laws of logic. If you were to pick up a textbook on logic, one like Irving Copi's text on An Introduction to Logic, or Norman Geisler's Come Let Us Reason Together you would find a whole section on fallacies. Some authors differ on the names of those fallacies, but their definitions are...quite logical or reasonable.
The genetic fallacy is an informal fallacy presenting an illogical argument for or against an idea based upon the origin of the idea. An example of this in the philosophical/religious debate between "pop atheists" and Christians is, "The reason you are a Christian is because you were raised in a Christian home by Christian parents." This is a favorite of the likes of the atheist Richard Dawkins, as well as others.
In case you don't see this let me give you a few clearer examples.
Example #1: "The Nazi regime developed the Volkswagen Beetle. Therefore, you should not by a VW Beetle because the Nazis started it."
Example #2: "Roger just got out of jail last year; since it was his idea to start the hardware store, you and I cannot trust him."
Example #3: "It will rain on Friday because my father said so."
As you can see each of these examples either attempt to endorse or disqualify a claim because of the origin or the irrelevant history of the claim. The problem with the genetic fallacy is that the truth of a statement is in no way based on the origin of the concept. This brings me to the volatile part of this posting, the subject of those decrying "Black Lives Matter" relates to the genetic fallacy.
Why the Claim of "Black Lives Matter" is Fallacious
Before I get to my response, let me say that my position on all of this is that all life matters, because I believe that truth and life matters. More importantly, it is because every person, no matter their ethnicity (not race) is created in the image and likeness of God, their Creator (Genesis 1:26). So this racially charged war cry is something that grieves and offends the God who created every life, no matter the ethnicity.
Let me also say that the violence that has occurred due to the events we have seen are an American tragedy. I remember growing up and hearing, as a kid, about segregated busing in the sixties, and the threats of bomb scares in the public high schools.
But ultimately this mantra of "Black Lives Matter" is racially charged, originating in response to the belief that all or most of the police action is "racist in nature." There are many facts that we could look at that open holes in this fallacy, including that much if not most of the violence is done by blacks on other blacks. Also many of the police are not all white, but are black, Hispanic, Asian, or a member of other ethnicities. This is why I say all lives matter and all life matters!
But this "charge" has its deeper implications in that blacks are by definition of the movement victims, merely by the fact of their race (ethnicity); while whites are by definition, the victimizers, merely by the definition of their race (ethnicity).
So the origin of this whole movement is a matter of pushing forward the cry of racism. Where have we heard this before? The last few decades of racism were started even how far back? Can we agree that we have refused to acknowledge the "ghosts" of slavery during the Civil War period?
I think there is something to this.
Putting this in perspective, if I am correct here, we have one ethnicity (the blacks) making an accusation, as faulty as it is, upon another ethnicity (the whites) for the mistakes of the last century. You and I, today, were not there. We were not the slave owners, and nor would we have been the owners of another human being, in spite of the pigment of one's skin.
It does not matter whether it is a philosophical, theological, or even in the case of this posting, a sociological claim is true or it is not; it does not matter how a person came to believe the concept or ideology or who, in the past, held that concept to be true.
At the same time, arguments regarding origins of ideas bear consideration because people should not blindly follow a religion or an idea merely because it is the religion or ideology of their parents. Each individual is responsible for his/her own beliefs and relationship with God. Although a faith learned in childhood is not necessarily false, it is also not necessarily true. Although an ideology of the past is not right, the progeny of the past should not be held accountable for the sins of the past by their predecessors.
As believers we should always study the Scriptures so that we, as Christ's ambassadors, can be able to give an account as to why we believe (1 Peter 3:15-17), apart from familial traditions and ancestral ethnicities.