The Fallacy of Emotional and Anecdotal Appeals: Why a Sad Story Does Not Justify Late-Term Abortions

Though abortion has been a contentious topic in this country for decades, there has usually been widespread support for banning late-term abortions.  Even many on the Left have often been uncomfortable with the image of a fully-formed and viable baby being killed, as that didn’t exactly fit the “clump of cells” rhetoric they often employ.  This, however, has changed in recent years; the “safe, legal, and rare” stance on abortion of Bill Clinton in the 90’s gave way to “shout your abortion” cheers at the DNC and to tacit approval of late-term abortions from Hillary in 2016.  More recently, lawmakers in Virginia introduced legislation which would allow women to abort their babies up to the point of birth for vague “health” reasons, and the bumbling Virginia governor Ralph Northam implied that doctors and mothers should have the option of allowing a baby to die even after birth.  Though polls show that opposition to abortion in general is increasing in this country, supporters of late-term abortions are also becoming bolder.  This is not a complete surprise; given the logic of most abortion arguments, it is only natural that their reasoning is extended to cover late-term abortions as well.

As I’ve covered before, pretty much all popular arguments for abortion completely miss the point, and one of the most pervasive is the contention that pro-lifers are caught in an inconsistency in the case of the mother’s life being in danger, the likelihood of the baby dying quickly due to extreme complications, and/or rape.  I won’t rewrite that entire post, but I will summarize why that argument is misguided:

  1. If the baby is human life, as pro-lifers contend, then of course extreme situations present difficult questions, such as weighing the life of the mother against the life of the baby.  The difficulty of this scenario does not contradict the premise that the baby should be considered human.  It is exceptionally bad logic to not see this.  Being pro-life does not necessarily rule out extraordinary scenarios that might call for the ending of human life, just like valuing human life in general does not rule out justifiable reasons for ending it (such as in cases of self-defense).
  2. The disingenuous nature of this argument shows itself when you present this to an abortion advocate: Would they be okay with banning all abortions unless a doctor concludes that the mother’s life is significantly in danger, that the baby cannot survive anyway, or in the event of rape?  There is not a single abortion advocate who would agree to that because that would eliminate the vast majority of legal abortions in this country, exposing the fact that their concern is not rare and extreme situations but granting abortion for any reason whatsoever.

Thus, the common tactic of presenting a very rare or even completely hypothetical scenario (like aborting a baby with an extinction-level disease) fails to work, regardless of what kind of emotions it brings up.  Being pro-life does not rule out exceptional cases, and exceptional cases usually do not make good general policy.  If that were the case, then one would expect laws against seatbelts because a handful of people die in car accidents precisely because they were wearing one and may have otherwise survived.  Still, identifying this argument as a red herring often brings accusation of lacking empathy or wanting to “control” women’s bodies, which itself is frankly not relevant.  One can be very empathetic but still see a bad argument.

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The Use of Sexual Assault as a Political Weapon: The Brett Kavanaugh Case

I haven’t been writing on this blog for a while (mixture of being busy and using my free time for football), and I actually wanted to write about other things first because politics tends to annoy me.  However, I have observed this Brett Kavanaugh case for a while, and it is shocking how much the lack of objectivity, the drive for political power, and the desire to virtue-signal has caused such a circus of indescribable stupidity.  It certainly doesn’t encourage us that this culture of extreme polarization, weak-minded emotionalism, and mob accusations is getting any better.

If you don’t know what’s going on in the Kavanaugh case, look it up; I won’t rehash it here.  I’ll just move on to some commentary on different facets of the case.

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Immigration and Families: The Complex Issue of Separating Children From Illegal Aliens

Lately, there has been a huge emotional reaction against the Trump administration for separating children of illegal immigrant parents who are undergoing criminal proceedings for crossing the border illegally.  The loudest voice is on the left because they obviously hate Trump for everything (ironic, given their disdain for the family unit in general), but many on the right as well have been vehemently critical of the administration’s handling of this issue because it seems to strike at the family.  Though most children in federal custody came across the border alone, there are still about 2,000 children that have been separated from their parents (or alleged parents) that the federal government has to figure out what to do with.

However, though simplistic takes are legion (as usual), this is a more complicated situation than many think.  Frankly, it is obviously more complicated than what the Trump administration itself thought because it severely underestimated the problem that would be on its hands after adopting this zero tolerance policy against illegal migrants.  Add yet another bungled reference to Romans 13 from AG Jeff Sessions, and you have an administration that isn’t exactly on top of things here.  On a summary note: No, Mr. Sessions, Romans 13 does not mean absolute submission to the government and certainly does not mean we cannot criticize it.

In any case, Christians should be concerned about this because while Sessions’ and Jeffries’ use of Romans 13 in the past have been bad, the text still teaches that we should try to be good citizens who obey and respect laws.  We should also obviously care about the family unit and children, and certainly, the family is far more important to Christians than to progressives who often find it to be an institution of oppression.  Also, Christians should care about those in need.  Even if someone is not a Christian, they should be able to agree that children are important, laws are important, and families are important.  It creates a tricky problem for this reason (and let me make this very clear): If the law is enforced thoroughly and consistently, then this situation is unavoidable if illegal immigrants are caught and especially if they claim asylum.

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“Don’t Let Anyone Look Down On You Because You Are Young”… Unless Your Behavior is Immature and Arguments Are Bad

Over a month ago, there was another school shooting in Parkland, Florida at Stoneman Douglas High School.  The more this happens, the more Americans get tired of it, and we should.  These are terrible, and solutions need to be discussed that are careful, nuanced, and sober.  Unfortunately, that is normally not what happens, as I’ve written about before after mass shootings like this.  Usually, discussions turn into political mudslinging contests full of red herrings, strawmen, emotional appeals, and groundless accusations.  The mainstream media tends to ramp up controversy only to rile up the right wing media to throw hay-makers back.  Politicians do much of the same.  Unsurprisingly, precious little gets done despite there being real research on general gun violence and mass shootings.  It is not an easy problem to diagnose, so instead of thinking carefully, people jump to their preferred slogans and cry and shout.  Even calling for calm is a quick way to become a target of emotional insults because somehow you are not empathetic for trying to tell people to use their reason.

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The Mutant Politician Donald Trump, a Pastor Fanboy, and Rationalized Polarization

I have stayed away from Donald Trump news for a while since it gets so annoying, but some of it is impossible to avoid.  Truth be told, there are some policy decisions that I have liked, such as his Supreme Court choice, the tax plan (mostly), and scaling back on regulations that helped encourage investors.  There are also things that are not so great and even predictably stupid, such as the disaster of a healthcare plan, the annoying Russia thing that won’t go away, trade tariffs, and dumb comments from him.  But Donald Trump is a weird politician, seemingly impervious to scandals that would crush other politicians.  This whole absurd saga with a pornstar that he allegedly had an affair with and paid hush money to is a great example of this.  Many of us already cynically think that at least some politicians get involved in shady stuff anyway, but can you imagine if a “normal” politician got hit with a scandal like this?  It would be politically disastrous, and yet for Trump, people’s reactions are kind of just like, “Oh yeah, well, there’s Trump for ya.”  At the same time, his approval numbers are low despite the economy doing well, which is normally something that correlates with high approval ratings (whether the president actually did anything to truly affect the economy or not).  He is some mutant politician; the things that would normally destroy a career don’t affect him that much, and the things that would normally help a politician don’t really assist him.

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More on Moore: Why It’s Not Wrong to View the Allegations As Credible

As many know, the very controversial Senate race in Alabama is over with the Democrats winning a big victory in an overwhelmingly conservative state.  The big reason for this victory, other than the fact that Roy Moore was already pretty unpopular to begin with, was the sexual assault allegations on Moore and the accusations that he went after under-aged girls when he was a young man.  Many viewed these accusations as credible, including a lot of conservative Alabamans, which is why there were over 22,000 write-in votes (many of which cheekily voted for Nick Saban).  Moore denied these allegations (though he seemed to change his story a couple of times), and his defenders complained that to punish Moore for them was to invert the principle of “innocent until proven guilty.”  Moore was not convicted of anything and likely never will be, so why give an ounce of credibility to the accusations?

I think this line of thinking is mistaken and forgets to evaluate Moore’s situation carefully.  Now, I’m the first person to tell people not to overreact to headlines, and I generally think it is deplorable that people jump to conclusions regarding people’s guilt.  We’ve seen how doing so can destroy the lives of people who are actually innocent, such as Officer Wilson in the Michael Brown case and the Duke lacrosse players.  Still, there is a difference between having enough evidence for a criminal conviction (which should meet a very, very high standard) and enough evidence for rational people to smell that something stinks.  The evidence against Moore doesn’t meet the former right now, but I think there is enough to justify people’s reluctance about him and for him to face some consequences, such as losing an election (which, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t exactly some hefty punishment).

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Political Expediency vs. Principle

‘Tis the season for sexual assault/harassment allegations, apparently, as several prominent celebrities have gotten hit with them and eventually saw their careers bite the dust.  First there was Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, and then others in entertainment and media followed such as Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Charlie Rose, and Matt Lauer.  Politicians were not immune, so figures such as Roy Moore (R), Al Franken (D), Trent Franks (D), Blake Farenthold (R), and John Conyers (D) were accused of sexual assault and/or harassment.

On the one hand, it is undoubtedly good that women are willing to speak out against misconduct and that some of these figures, who had gotten away with this behavior for years if not decades, finally saw some consequences for their actions.  On the other hand, all of this has given us more evidence of how fractured America is along party lines.  Both parties are trying to claim the moral high ground, not because they seem to really care about morals (if they did, they would police themselves a lot better) but because it is politically advantageous to do so while painting the other side as monsters.  Consider how some of this played out regarding Roy Moore:

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How Understanding Logic Can Lead to More Charitable Discussion

Another terrible mass shooting hit America recently, this time in the small town of Sutherland Springs, TX.  Devin Kelley attacked the town’s First Baptist Church on a Sunday morning and shot and killed 26 people, many of them children.  He was shot by a local man after the carnage and then fled in a truck, and he was pursued before he eventually crashed and killed himself.  The scene at the church was described as horrific, with blood everywhere and dead bodies littered on the floor.  The nation once again reacted in anger, sadness, horror, and confusion.

In that anger and confusion, we once again have seen people targeting their political enemies, something that never seems to fail to happen.  Many people have called for stricter gun laws, and if you disagree with them, they’ll react in disgust and basically accuse you of being an accomplice in such mass murder sprees.  We have to do something, they say, and if you don’t agree with their “something,” you’re automatically a bad person.  Others have championed the fact that Kelley was fought off by a citizen with a gun, possibly preventing further shootings elsewhere.  Such people argue that those who want strict gun laws are naive control-freaks who want to take away basic rights of self-defense and resistance against potential tyranny.

Such “discussion” gets tiresome pretty fast, especially when a tragedy like this weighs so heavily.  While it is understandable that people will get emotional over this (people should get emotional over this), emotion often makes for poor solutions and poor policy.  What is needed is sober-minded reason, and in actuality, if people have a firmer grasp on logic, it helps to have more charitable discussion.

Now what I mean by “charitable” does not mean that you can’t dish out firm or harsh criticism.  After all, I eviscerated Shaun King for his utterly stupid response to the Las Vegas shooting.  Still, I clearly argued why King’s article was built on worthless arguments as opposed to simply attributing all sorts of bad motives to him without evidence.  And that’s what’s needed: An evaluation of evidence and argument, not knee-jerk reactions to satisfy anger.  Thus, I mean “charity” to be the avoidance of attributing the worst motivations to your opponent (unless you have good reason to) but instead trying to understand what his argument is and answer it.  Such evaluation needs some basic understanding of logic.

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Note to Shaun King and Others Who Politicize Tragedy: Kindly Shut Up

Most people have read about the tragic shooting that occurred in Las Vegas recently, where a 64 year old man, Steve Paddock, open fired from his hotel room upstairs down at a crowd during a country music concert.  Fifty-nine people are reported dead with over 500 wounded.  It was the worse mass shooting in modern American history, and everyone is reeling and trying to find answers.  It is no doubt an evil event that causes both sadness and anger.

Of course, whenever tragedy like this strikes, it doesn’t take long for people to politicize it in order to further their own preferred narrative in a way that is both transparent and idiotic.  I get that people are angry and grieving and trying to look for ways to make sense of this, but some people are reaching far into the deep crevices of their own rear ends to find whatever they can to shout at their political enemies.  It is both intellectually dishonest and pretty insensitive to the actual tragedy.

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Useless Kneeling: A Pompous President With a Big Mouth and a Reactionary People Full of Feelings

Last weekend, we were treated to a bunch of kneeling by NFL players during the national anthem.  The Steelers didn’t even come out on the field because they could not decide what to do as a team.  Unsurprisingly, this caused a lot of division (what else is new these days?); stadiums across the country booed the players, and social media exploded with people denouncing the players as unpatriotic or defending them as brave people taking a stand (figuratively speaking).  For people who just want to watch sports without having people trying to shove their political ideologies down their throat, the whole thing was only worthy of eye-rolling and annoyance.

As you may remember, the kneeling started with former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who, despite having a few productive years for the 49ers, only became a household name because of his kneeling stunt.  He said he was protesting systemic racism among police against blacks.  While he got a lot of publicity, there really was no movement started, so although the media kept the narrative alive because they claimed he was blacklisted by the NFL due to this, most of the country didn’t care that much.  Why?  Because he’s just a guy playing with a ball (and he’s not even that good anymore), and given his interviews, he’s also not particularly great at forming coherent arguments.

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