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Logic & Scientific Philosophy, Uncategorized

Is the Good Book Good?


Tim Minchin’s amusing song about The Good Book pokes fun at religion in this song – and without getting into the whole religion debate, it’s worth examining the logic used and its role in providing humour to the song. Without further ado:

I know the Good Book’s good because the Good Book says it’s good

I know the Good Book knows it’s good because a really good book would

You wouldn’t cook without a cookbook and I think it’s understood

You can’t be good without a Good Book ‘cos it’s good and it’s a book

And it is good for cookin’

Extracting the arguments from this takes a bit of work, but a few basic streams of logic can be found:

Premise A: The Good Book says it’s good. (A)

Conclusion: The Good Book is good. (If A, then B)

This basic logic is built upon and elaborated upon in a second stream.

Premise C: A good book would know it is a good book. (C)

Premise D: The Good book is good. (D)

Premise E: The Good Book says it’s good. (E)

Conclusion: The good book is good. (If C, D, and E, then F)

Before even looking at the soundness and truth of the statements, let’s try to understand this logic.

A, therefore B. Makes sense so far.

C, D, and E, therefore F. But wait – I’ve seen some of these before.

“The Good Book is good” = B, D, and F. Let’s rename all of these B.

A, therefore B.

C, B, and E, therefore B.

But A and E are equal as well, so let’s make both of those A.

A, therefore B.

C, B, and A, therefore B.

Where are we now?

Premise A: A good book would know it is good

Premise B: The Good Book is good

Premise C: The Good Book says it’s good.

Conclusion: The Good Book is good.

Is it valid? Sure – accepting all the premises as true, the conclusion is reached. Premise B alone would be enough to prove the conclusion – though it would fail to be an argument, with only a single premise(and an as-yet unproven one at that). But the circular logic is apparent. Why is the Good Book good? Well, because it says it’s good. And it would know – after all, it’s a good book!

Thus the entire stream can be rewritten thusly:

The Good Book must be right about being good, because good books would be right about that.

The Good Book is good.

The Good Book must be right about being good, because good books would be right about that.

The Good Book is good.

…and so we continue the circular logic ad infinitum. It’s all still very valid – the premises do lead to the conclusion – but those premises rely upon the conclusion formed by themselves, begging the question if they are true at all. The lack of that fundamental Truth means this logical is unsound indeed.

This isn’t the place for a discussion about whether or not this is actually the logic of religious people relying upon the Bible, but I do have a question for readers: How exactly does Tim Minchin use our fundamental understanding of logic to poke fun at religion and make the audience laugh?

Follow me on Twitter: @LiamtheSaint



3 thoughts on “Is the Good Book Good?

  1. Nice. It reminds me of another circular argument, the one for the existence of God:

    God exists, because,
    the Bible says God exists
    and anything the Bible says is true

    Anything the Bible says is true, because
    God write the Bible,
    And anything God says is true

    You can see the circularity, right?

    Posted by Stephen Downes | October 4, 2012, 10:45 am
  2. Right. That is not a great argument – clearly, fallacious. Good post.

    I wonder if most appeals to ultimate authority are circular in nature…I believe in reason as the sole conveyor of truth, or certainty (i.e. rationalism of a Cartesian bent) because it is reasonable for me to do so. As soon as I give a reason for my faith in reason I’ve opened my ‘bible’.

    Maybe. Do you know what I mean?


    Posted by Chris Price | October 5, 2012, 6:45 pm

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