Ordered thoughts regarding important stuff like God, Science, and the Universe. The author will endeavor to answer all sincere questions in these matters, including help with math homework, genuine questions about God, etc.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

No, Virginia, There Is No Santa Claus



"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
"Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
"Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

"VIRGINIA O'HANLON.
"115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET."

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrongright. There is no Santa Claus.  But there is truth.  I, on the other hand, shall commit a series of logical fallacies to justify a lie in order to preserve my paper’s advertising revenue that spikes during the Christmas season.  Let me begin with the ever-effective ad hominem fallacy and claim something about your friends for which I have gathered no evidence whatsoever: They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. [Of course, this is simply attacking the source rather than providing a legitimate argument.  But it often works.  Now to commit logical suicide by making use of something known as the self-destructing argument:] All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.  [The reason that such an argument is self-destructing is because I, myself, am a mere man.  If men’s intellects are little and “insect”-like, then I have disqualified myself from making any truth claims whatsoever, including the particular truth claim that Santa Claus lives.]

[Now to repeat the unsupported conjecture (repetition of a false or unsupported claim is an important device in propaganda):] Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. [I now continue with a false logical device known as the non-sequitur:] He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.  [Whether any of the previous statements are true or false is actually immaterial because no argument has been proposed that connects the existence of Santa Claus to the existence of love, or generosity, etc.]

[Here is another non-sequitur:]Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! [And now to introduce the fallacy of the affirming the negative:] You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world. [Lack of observation does not constitute a proof.]

[Now for a string of unsupported conjectures and non-sequiturs:] You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

[And another restatement of the unproved thesis:] No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. [And a final unsupported conjecture:] A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

[The moral of the story?  Don’t believe everything you read in the papers.]

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