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Donald Simanek, physics professor at Lock Haven University, wrote and an excellent article on the dangers of analogies (click here to read). His perspective is from the field of physics, in which there are many concepts that are in the abstract and can’t be visualized. Some of his observations are helpful in understanding the danger of using analogies because many spiritual concepts also cannot be visualized in concrete form. His perspective helps us understand why analogies can be more harmful than helpful in giving people true understanding of a concept. The following are some excerpts from the article with my comments following:
“The notion is widespread among teachers, especially at the introductory levels of physics, that use of analogies to get across concepts is a “good thing.” Actually, I (who have taught both introductory and advanced courses) think that it’s a very risky practice, which usually leads to concepts, ideas and thinking habits that must later be painfully unlearned…”
My observation, too, is that the use of analogies in teaching results in concepts, ideas, and thinking habits that must later be painfully unlearned. For years I did not understand that it was analogies that were causing the problem in my children of not being able to think through things properly, and so I tried to correct the problem by using more analogies. Now to change the thinking process of using analogies is a difficult process.
“… there’s the far more sinister “argument by analogy” in which a comparison is invoked in order to derive a conclusion. It takes the form “Because M has properties A, B and C, then if N has properties A and B, it also has C.” Stated in this stark way, its absurdity as a “method of argument” is obvious, for it can be used to conclude things that are patently false. The dangers of thinking by analogy are noted by nearly every book on logic, argument, and debate…”
“But analogies should never be used as arguments to reach a conclusion, and should never substitute for reason and logic. The examples we will discuss are those that are harmful in physics teaching because they encourage lazy and sloppy habits of thought…”
The use of analogies in logic or teaching can be dangerous because analogies can be used by false teachers, such as Bill Gothard, to deceive us into coming to the wrong conclusions. It is important that we study the facts and understand the facts of a subject rather than trying to compare two dissimilar things to arrive at understanding and conclusions.
“Visualization is also an analogy, which students often use as a crutch. Pictures we draw of atoms, wave functions, etc., are always incomplete and potentially misleading. One of the difficulties students have with advanced physics is that they have become dependent on visual models. When they encounter physics that can’t be visualized, and for which pictures can’t be drawn, they experience severe cognitive dissonance. This is when they consider majoring in something simpler and more concrete. Before we draw any picture we should remember that it is another dangerous analogy!…”
Bill Gothard used a lot of drawings to illustrate what he was teaching and led us to the wrong conclusions, such as his concept of the “umbrella of authority.” It is important that we also identify illustrations as potentially dangerous analogies that can be used to deceive us into having the wrong conclusions and thought processes.
“Do analogies permanently harm our students’ understanding of physics? After all, physics is taught as a series of revelations: successive approximations supposedly getting closer and closer to the ever-elusive “truth.” Better students cope with this quite nicely; they have what it takes to become physics majors. Others may learn just enough physics, mostly incorrect, to be dangerous if they actually tried to apply it. Fortunately they usually never have to apply it in a creative manner. They choose “procedure intensive” jobs where they blindly follow established practice without needing genuine understanding. This, I am convinced, is responsible for many technological mistakes, blunders and even disasters, [and] is one reason for so much professional malpractice litigation, and for the high cost of liability and malpractice insurance.” (emphasis added)
I too have observed that training people to think in analogies often results in them not being able to reason properly. One of the reasons that I wanted to farm was so that I could teach my children how to work, to see what needed to be done, to be able to think through what they were doing, and to be efficient in being able to get much accomplished. I realized that if they knew how to work and how to think through what they were doing they could be successful in whatever career God called them into. But after 14 years of training them on the farm, and daily working side by side with them, I felt like often they were still only able to do “procedure intensive” tasks that they had done repetitively. Jobs that needed understanding and creative thinking usually required my close supervision. I rebuked, disciplined, explained in great detail, all to little avail in helping them to have true understanding and to apply their minds to their task.
When I realized that I had messed up their thinking process by training them in ATI and at home to think in analogies, I had to repent and ask their forgiveness. The mistake of training with analogies has been a great grief to me. Since we have recognized the problem of analogies, I feel like we are finally making real progress. They are applying their minds more to what needs to be done and to creative solutions to projects. This has convinced me even more of the dangers of training using analogies.
In 2005, God directed our family to leave the ATI program. We were seeing some of the failures of the ATI program, that many of the young people who had completed or almost completed the ATI program did not have the wisdom, education, and character that their parents had tried to instill in them. Not only was the program producing the opposite results of what it was supposed to in understanding, there were many other ways in which the program was producing opposite results of what Bill Gothard had stated. Sure, we saw some families where the children appeared to be turning out well, but there were too many families where we saw and are seeing the following results:
God tells us: “Blessed is that man that maketh the LORD his trust, and respects not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.” (Psalms 40:4) Bill Gothard spoke vanity. He talked as if he had THE answers that would give a person success if they followed his steps of action. We are realizing now that much of it was vain talk that did not and could not produce success. The Recovering Grace website has exposed how Bill Gothard has had a pattern of lying for many years. These two things alone, vanity and lying, in a teacher, will produce the opposite results in our children of what we desire. In the Bible we are told: “Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood: That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace:’ (Psalms 144:11-12)
With the designer and head of the ATI program exhibiting both vanity and lying, one should not expect that the ATI curriculum and homeschool program can produce many wise young men and women who are mature in their youth and who are trained to be the leaders in their generation.
The following passage also describes Bill Gothard: “Thy prophets have seen vain and foolish things for thee: and they have not discovered thine iniquity, to turn away thy captivity; but have seen for thee false burdens and causes of banishment.” (Lamentations 2:14)
Unfortunately, “Bill Got-her 2″ (Bill Gothard Jr.) got me and got many others also and taught us the opposite of how to think and how to have wisdom and understanding. We now have to apply more effort to make the necessary corrections, to unlearn the wrong things that we have learned and to learn what we should have learned the first time.
Where do we go from here, knowing that we have trained our children with the false education concept of using analogies, or that you have been trained in ATI to think in analogies? While we may be tempted to curse Bill Gothard and the ATI program and feel in despair over many wasted years, God has given us as human beings a lot of resiliency to be able to make the necessary changes once we have identified our mistake. God also tells us that as Christians, it is not wasted years. He tells us, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Recognizing the error of using analogies is a huge step toward correcting our thinking because now we know what the problem is and what needs to be changed. We as human beings can make changes relatively quickly once we know what needs to be changed. It is important to ask God to show you how He wants you to correct the problem and to correct your thinking or your children’s thinking processes. Each person is a unique individual and some will need more or different help than others. One place to start is to learn to keep your mind focused on the main point and not allow it to be distracted to other subjects, thoughts, or analogies while another person is talking. Learn to ask specific questions to clarify what the other person has said.
Being deceived by Bill Gothard and ATI was not a waste of time. I see it as some very important training and preparation for us and our descendants for the end times. A person who has been deceived by a false teacher and discovers it will be much more wary about being deceived again. There is a saying: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” I would much rather be deceived by Bill Gothard and correct my error than to be deceived by the Antichrist and false prophet of Revelation. Jesus warned us: “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” (Matthew 24:24) We are also told, “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10)
Yes, we were deceived by Bill Gothard, but we are no more! Read just the words in bold first: “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit.” (Hebrews 6:1-3)
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Editor’s note: For more on this subject, read Don Veinot’s thoughts on this article at Midwest Christian Outreach.
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