Tuesday, July 18, 2017

On Recent Viral Videos [Clinton Wilcox]

I'm going to try to write this and my next article without being too polemical. It will be difficult, but these two article are coming from a place of utter frustration. Frustration at the fact that so many people in our society can't think. This is evidenced by the number of videos by vloggers on YouTube that contain poor arguments (actually, that's too charitable; their arguments are downright pathetic), and further evidence by the number of people sharing these videos so that they go viral because the people sharing these videos can't think and don't realize how poor (read: pathetic) the arguments actually are. So I'm going to write two articles responding to two such videos. This first one will be responding to a video by vlogger jaimekid2 Ben Shapiro's arguments against abortion. Why am I responding to these videos if the thinkers are so unsophisticated? Because people are taking them seriously.

So what is jaimekid2's argument against abortion? He says, "Ben Shapiro is wrong on abortion. The reason why he is wrong is because he doesn't hold his values consistently."

The problem here is that it's a textbook case of the ad hominem fallacy. Who cares if Shapiro holds his views consistently? He can be inconsistent and still be right on abortion. Whether or not he's inconsistent holds no bearing on the validity or soundness of his argument. That's all that needs to be said. But what are his other claims?

He says that one cannot consistently hold to the position that the intentional removal of an unborn human from the womb is murder and to show why he brings an analogy into it: If you believe abortion is murder and it should be outlawed accordinly, you must support all women having miscarriages being investigated for a possible negligent homicide, the same way you would want a person involved in running over someone else with their car investigated for negligent homicide.

This, of course, is really just a false analogy. What should really do away with this argument is the simple fact that before abortion was legalized in the Roe v. Wade decision, post-miscarriage women were not investigated en masse for their miscarriages. This is because there is no reason to suspect that a woman who miscarries did so out of negligence. No police investigation would be warranted unless there was probable cause to suspect that it was because of negligence or foul play. If a homicide detective is investigating a potential crime scene and discovers evidence suggesting it was a suicide, not a homicide, the investigator would not, then, investigate it as a homicide "just in case." He would write it down as a suicide and close the case. By the same token, if a woman shows no signs of foul play or negligence, she would not be investigated, especially if she was making regular appointments with her OB/GYN.

Another claim is that many women are at increased risk for miscarriages, and he trots out a laundry list of women who are at a higher risk for miscarriage (and it's worth pointing out that he doesn't source any of his claims). His point here is asking if we would be comfortable allowing a woman at increased risk for miscarriage get pregnant. The answer, of course, is yes because everybody, every single human being who is conceived, has a 100% chance of dying. Some people just die sooner rather than later. But life is considered a good thing, meaning that even if we conceive someone who has a more limited lifespan than unusual, giving that person life, even for a short time, is seen as a good done to that person. This is all to say nothing of the fact that every human being has a right, a natural right, to procreate and the government would be wrong to take this right away from anyone. If a woman conceived and later miscarries through negligence, only then could the state step in and punish her for doing so (and only if there was probable cause to suspect it).

He poses a further question: would people be comfortable with a woman trying to get pregnant who has a high risk of miscarriage since they would not be comfortable with someone drunk getting behind the wheel of the car. He says that failing to take causation into consideration is intellectually weak, but his position is the one that is intellectually weak because he fails to make a basic distinction: the difference between agent causation and natural causation. A person who gets behind the wheel drunk is obviously doing something wrong and doing something wrong by their own doing. Driving a car is potentially dangerous so anyone who gets behind the wheel drunk is impairing their ability to drive a car. Having an increased risk of miscarriage is not impairing a woman's ability to conceive a child, nor, for the most part, is it of her own doing (especially if it is due to disease, which would obviously be beyond her control). Since all human beings eventually die and life is fundmentally a good thing, there is no harm done in conceiving a child, even knowing there is an increased risk of miscarriage.

One of his claims that he failed to source, just alluding to March of Dimes, is that as many as half of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. I know why he failed to source it: because that's not what they actually claim if you read their statement in context. Here's what March of Dimes really says: "Among women who know they are pregnant, about 10 to 15 out of 100 pregnancies (10 to 15 percent) end in miscarriage. As many as half of all pregnancies may end in miscarriage -- we don't know the exact number because many may happen before a woman knows she's pregnant."

This makes it ironic that he speaks of wanting to be intellectually honest when he can't even be intellectually honest with the facts. He'll probably fall back on saying "but they do say as many as half." Yes, but they clearly say we know 10 to 15 percent do, and then they follow up their claim by saying "we don't know the actual number." So their "as many as half" statistic is pure speculation, and "jaimekid2" used the speculative number rather than the factual number in order to try and bolster his case.

Despite all of his claims to "intellectual honesty" and "intellectual weakness," it is clear that "jaimekid2"'s arguments are just not good at all. They amount to a false analogy. Drunk driving is not a comparable situation to a woman conceiving with a greater chance of miscarriage, and it is also not the case that every woman who miscarries must be investigated for negligent homicide. Only in those cases with probable cause would it need to be investigated. The pro-life position is safe and sound from "jaimekid2."


  1. Their argument also gives no valid reason for the approval of abortion; were his false premise regarding miscarriages true, how much more heinous would abortion be?


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