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Posts tagged ‘Arguments’

No one is pro-stabbing

The Arbourist’s latest post covers the issue of sex–selective abortions. Now, unlike over there, I’ve never had any sort of anti–choice misogynist come over and blather on with empty words and talking points. However, I am fully aware of how this is used as an argument against abortion. Such an argument goes something like this:

“You support abortion. Therefore, you support sex–selective abortion.” Put into good form (all premises and sub–arguments explicitly stated) it goes as follows:

  • P1: You support abortion rights
  • p2: If you support the right to do something, you support people exercising that regardless of their reasons for doing so.
  • P3: Some people use the right to an abortion for reasons of sex selection.
  • C: Therefore, you support sex–selective abortions.

Now, this argument is valid, which is a technical term meaning that (1) it is impossible for all of the premises to be simultaneously true; and (2) that it is impossible for the conclusion to also be false. Clearly, however, this argument is unsound, as I would like to think most people clearly see that premise 2 is false. It is obvious that supporting  the right to do something does not require you to support all possible rationales for exercising that. To rational people, that is obvious.

However, because of the way they use the argument this post is about, anti–choicers are required to believe that premise 2 is true (this is the charitable interpretation; the uncharitable [and likely true, IMO] is that they are being dishonest. [If they believed the premise to be false, well then they’d clearly see how their argument is unsound and therefore would never use it if they were honest.

I will now grant for the sake of argument that premise 2 is true, and will show how accepting its truth leads to an absurd conclusion.

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Debunking the “But we don’t show kids how to use drugs” argument

There is an argument against comprehensive sex education that basically argues that since we do not teach young people how to use drugs safely, we should not teach them how to have sex safely/use contraceptives/etc and instead should focus on abstinence alone. This argument fails for several reasons.

Humans are animals, are biological organisms. Humans have a natural, evolutionary tendency desire to have sex; indeed, if we didn’t, we’d be extinct. Do humans have a natural, evolutionary tendency to do drugs? Certainly not tobacco and cocaine, as those are native to the Americas.  Similarly, cannabis is native to central Asia north of the Himalayas. Basically, do not have any biological need to use these drugs. (Medicine does not count; is is possible, although painful, to never use a painkiller, for example.) Alcohol may be a partial exception, as light consumption may have some beneficial effects, but otherwise biology does not make us have to do drugs. Basically, people normally have a sex drive, but do not normally have a “drug drive”.

Similarly, there are different things involved in using drugs versus having sex. How does one go about, say, obtaining marijuana?  One can grow it, or buy it from someone. For heroin, one has to buy it. The same applies for other drugs. This allows multiple means to go about and prevent drug use. Besides telling people not to use it, one can also go after suppliers, dealers, and the like. One cannot do that with sex. All one needs to have sex is someone else willing to do it with you. The only way to the same to sex as is done to drugs would be to prevent people from spending time with others. In short, there are generally more steps involved in doing drugs than in having sex.

Finally, most drugs (caffeine is a notable exception) are illegal, and alcohol and tobacco are age restricted. Although there is an age of consent for sex this is not the same thing. Once one reaches the legal age of consent it is legal for them to have sex with someone else willing to and who is also of the age of consent. Even if there is a blue law banning non-marital sex, such laws are unenforced (the government has better things to do than control people’s sex lives). Hence, even if they are de jure illegal, they are de facto legal. This is not the same as people getting away with drug possession. Even if most people who smoke marijuana are not caught, people are still charged if found to be in possession of it. The same happens for other illegal drugs.

Hence, for these reasons, the “we do not teach young people how to use drugs safely” argument against comprehensive sex education does not work.

The same-sex marriage debate, in graphical form

From Patrick Farley via Gin & Comment comes this handy chart summarizing the arguments about same-sex marriage (click to enlarge):

See how silly the homophobes arguments are?

See how silly the homophobes' arguments are?

I am also reminded of this funny list of  “Ten Reasons Gay Marriage Is Wrong“.

Argumentum ad Sangerum

At CNN, Ruben Navarrette Jr. has a commentary on the stimulus package recently passed by the United States House of Representatives. He makes two arguments, both of which are bad.

One of them is the fact that funding family planning is unnecessary for stimulating the economy. He somehow thinks that advocates of including contraception in the stimulus package think that “babies who would otherwise have been born were destined to become dependent on welfare and other public services”. I wonder what makes him think that every baby born will not end up that way, (that is, the assertion that all children born during a recession will end up dependent on welfare is as baseless as the assertion that none of them will). Also, including contraception in the stimulus package would have saved money, $200 million over five years to be precise. He also says that, in a paragraph of its own, “[t]here is nothing more private — that is, none of the government’s business — than the personal decision that a family makes about how many children to have. Besides, [Nancy] Pelosi’s comments had an ugly ring to them.” Rather ironic considering that contraception allows people to control the when and number of children, and that making access to it more difficult means the government is interfering in the childbearing decisions people have. By denying it to poor people, the government is making it harder for them to do that. The net result is that sex becomes an expensive luxury for the rich and dangerous for the poor.

In addition, he makes a fallacious argument by tying birth control funding to Margaret Sanger and eugenics. Margaret Sanger did indeed advocate eugenics, an evil thing, for which she is rightfully condemned. She also advocated the use of birth control. However, the fact that she advocated one evil thing has no bearing whatsoever on whether the other things she advocated were also evil because of her. To do so is to commit what is called the association fallacy. Since Sanger, her advocacy of eugenics, and the organization she founded, Planned Parenthood, are often involved in the abortion debate, and the fact that she advocated eugenics is often mentioned in an attempted to discredit the others, I feel that this act of playing the Sanger card happens often enough for me to dub it argumentum (or reductioad Sangerum. This faulty reasoning can also go in reverse, by arguing that since Sanger was opposed to something, that something must be good. As according to Wikipedia, Sanger was opposed to (some) abortion (for at least part of her life), this means that since Sanger was “evil”, and she was opposed to some abortions, this means that abortions must be “good”, right social consies? Playing the Sanger card this way can sure turn the abortion debate on its head.

As I explained the argumentum ad Sangerum is a special form of the association fallacy. The following example demonstrates why the association fallacy, and hence the argumentum ad Sangerum is fallacious: Adolf Hitler (I know about Godwin’s Law, but please bear with me) advocated and committed various hellish acts, such as anti-Semitism, genocide, mass murder, war crimes, and so on, and is rightfully considered an evil man. Hitler did not make those things evil; genocide and the others are evil in of themselves. Basically, Hitler is evil because of the things he did and advocated. To assert that something is bad just because Hitler advocated it commits what is known as the argumentum (or reductio) ad Hitlerum, which is a special form of the association fallacy. As explained above, Hitler is evil because of his actions; his actions are not evil because of him. In other words, Hitler did not make genocide and the others evil; genocide and the others were evil before him, and they are still evil now that he is dead. To assert that Hitler made his actions evil leads to ridiculous conclusions; after all, since Hitler was a vegetarian and was evil, based on this line of reasoning, other vegetarians, like Gandhi, were also evil. The absurdity of this conclusion shows that the argumentum ad Hitlerum is fallacious. The same reasoning applies to the argumentum ad Sangerum.

Of course, just because someone is committing the argumentum ad Sangerum fallacy does not mean in of itself that their conclusion is wrong; to do is to commit another fallacy, the fallacy fallacy. What they need instead is a new argument. The same logic applies to everyone else.

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