Analysis of the Argument Underlying “Heavens Gate Suicide Statement”

 

Conclusion: We are against the practice of suicide.

 

Premise 1: Killing yourself is not necessarily suicide. The true meaning of “suicide” is to turn against the Next Level when it is being offered.

 

Premise 2: We inhabit our bodies as physical vehicles for the purpose of allowing us to offer the Kingdom of Heaven (i.e., the Next level)  to this civilization on e last time.

Evidence: None offered.

 

Premise 3: A spacecraft will come one day to carry us away to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Evidence: None offered.

 

Premise 4: We must evacuate our bodies in order to take the trip to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Evidence: None offered.

 

Premise 5: It is suicide to not prepare for the trip to the Next Level.

Evidence: None offered.

 

Argument Evaluation:

 

Purpose: The purpose of this argument is to articulate Heaven’s Gate’s position concerning suicide.

 

Question at Issue: The question at issue is whether or not their members committed suicide or not.

 

InformationThe Empirical Dimension of Reasoning: There is no empirical evidence offered to support this argument.

 

Inferences: This is a question of logic. IF it is true that a spaceship will come down and transport true believers to the Next Level, then there may be a logic underlying this argument. However, there are a number of unspoken assumptions that underlie this argument that a reader must accept for this argument to contain logic.

 

The Conceptual Dimension of Reasoning: Here we identify the concepts in play in the argument. Such concepts might include “God,” “Next Level,” the appropriate version of the ”bible,”  and “mental preparation.” However, the key concept in this case involves the term “suicide.” These need to de formally defined from the perspective of the writer (NOT you) in your analyses.

 

Assumptions: This argument is replete with assumptions, including

  1. God exists.
  2. They understand his/her purpose.
  3. A spaceship CAN transport people to heaven.
  4. You CANNOT be transported to heaven in your current physical form.

 

Implications and Consequences: There are probably a couple of implications of their practice of taking one’s own life. One would be to justify taking one’s own life when asked to by this group. Second, another purpose may involve explaining their position to potential converts to overcome potential cristicisms.

 

Point of View of Frame of Reference: The audiences for this argument include their own followers, potential converts, and people in society at large curious and/or critical of their practices.

 

Summary

 

So, is this a good argument? The answer is NO from a critical thinking perspective. Again, at the root of this argument is a religious argument. Again, this is why religious arguments often cannot be critically evaluated. They rely on faith, which by definition is the absence of empirical evidence. It is important to recognize that we are not challenging individual’s faith in this exercise. It is simply true that religious arguments are one of a very few domains that cannot be addressed through critical thinking. Therefore, in this class, religious arguments based on the absence of empirical evidence cannot be used as components of argument construction or evaluation (i.e., “It’s in the bible – look it up!”). The value of critical thinking lies in your own personal ability to recognize and construct convincing arguments in business settings. That is where we will focus our activities this semester.