Critical Thinking To Go: Dodging The Pepperoni Pizza Fallacy

Today we commonly hear in the news journalistic items about religion and politics, or faith and something else, where the suggested "duo du jour" usually sit in opposition to one another. One could do this, of course, just as easily with other areas of human thought, as with sociology vs. history, or economics vs. psychology. But most people do not seem nearly as interested in this exercise as they seem anxious to set "religion" over against whatever other area they might find interesting.

But this represents quite an odd way to view things (at the very best), and one might rightly call it propaganda (at the worst) in many instances. You see, life does not come at us in slices, as though it were one very large pepperoni pizza to go. When humans experience an event, we do not encounter it in a parade of neatly snipped segments, as though the civil war first showed us its psychological effects, then came its economic aspects, only after which we then got a look at its technological innovations.

Just as with the runningback who grasps a fumbled football in the midst of many linesmen, life happens to us "all at once." Only after taking in an historically important event, and reflecting on it a bit, can we slice it up to study some of parts or aspects in isolation from the others -- as pundits might do, say, in an economics textbook. This, of course, makes students especially prone to confuse the way things happen on paper with how they occur on a battlefield, or in the midst of a revolution.

Now this fallacy -- the error of confusing real life with its written counterpart, does not show up in informal logic texts. But it should, since it clearly misleads many these days.

So, what to call it? I at first tried the "fallacy of compartmentalized reality." But the students in my head just blurted out, "WhatEVER." Then I mused, "fallacy of reflective segmenting." But I didn't understand that one myself. Finally, I landed on the more user-friendly label, the "Pepperoni Pizza" fallacy. Surely students could grab and digest this supreme combination of words (or was that "combination supreme"?).

By way of illustration, I recently engaged a lively proponent of Mr. Darwin's views. In the course of our discussion, he suggested that evolutionary notions merely comprised "biological theories," and that I had mistakenly inquired about the ethics of it all. Here, the pepperoni began to fly.

He didn't seem to realize (as Mr. Darwin clearly did) that theories we might properly call "biological," (or scientific) can -- and often do -- have obvious ethical implications. Ideas have logical effects not restricted to one academic field. You cannot win a debate by simply putting an arbitrary fence around an idea and yelling at its offspring, "Now stay!" Like illegal aliens, they tend to jump the borders when you aren't looking.

This means that Darwinism, neo-Darwinism and "Punctuationism," like all other ideas, have logical consequences (implications) that affect every area of human thought and life. This is why you can find evolutionary ideas discussed in psychology textbooks, history books, and even pop magazines.

In any case, evading or ignoring certain aspects of an idea's logical consequences to gain the upper hand in a debate -- or else to keep one's ship from sinking altogether -- now has a name. Armed with this knowlegde, you can clearly and distinctly show others when the need arises, that life tranpires only as a set of integrated circumstances, and that ideas have logical effects not properly limited to any one academic field.

Reality and logic do not come made-to-order with extra cheese, so you don't get a discount on them with a coupon. To make a good case, then, we must follow the rules of valid and sound reasoning.

Carson Day has written approximately 1.3 gazillion articles and essays, many with very insightful, if alternative, viewpoints. He presently writes for Ophir Gold Corporation, and specialized in the history of ideas in college. He has been quoted in the past as saying "What box?" and remains at large despite the best efforts of the civil authorities.

You can visit the Ophir Gold Corporation blogsites at http://scriberight.blogspot.com (Writing With Power), http://ophirgoldcorp.blogspot.com (OGC's Free Web Traffic), or http://ophirgold.blogspot.com (Church and State 101)

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