One of the most frustrating examples of the sad fact that we no longer learn logic in schools is the “debate” that’s been going on for the last few years about homosexuality.
Of course “debate” is used very generously here, as we have seen very few non-fallacious arguments put forth on this subject, on either side. I’ve talked a little bit about how “’cause the Bible said so” is a fallacy called “appeal to authority,” and requires some further premise (such as “the Bible is inerrant”) in order to succeed.
But what has the pro gay marriage camp got to say? Not a whole lot that isn’t strictly fallacious.
Here is an excellent article I stumbledupon earlier today.
The discussion we should be having about homosexuality involves what I’ll call its relatively “moral-ness”, for lack of a better word, that is to say, discussion over whether or not it is moral.
Let’s break down each of the points presented in this article and see if we can uncover any arguments about that question.
Point 1: “Blame yourself.”
There may be other arguments to support the idea of blaming yourself, but the picture presented here presents an obvious fallacy by assuming heterosexual couples are intentionally causing the orientation of their children. Even if that were true, its not much of an argument, and tells us nothing about the issue.
Point 2: “Realize gay marriage is inevitable. Statistics show people’s views rapidly changing on the subject.”
This argument may be phrased as a peer-pressure fallacy: “The majority of people think that A is moral. Therefore A is moral.” This is obviously fallacious.
It could also be phrased as, “Behavior A will inevitably be sanctioned by the government. Therefore behavior A ought to be sanctioned by the government.” This is fallacious because it attempts to jump from how something IS to how something ought to be, a jump that requires additional premises.
Point 3: “Imagine how stupid you’ll look in 40 years.”
This argument is also twofold. First it makes the following argument: “Cause A is morally equivalent to cause B.” Why is this so? They are similar situations, yes, but are the morally interchangeable? This is a different question.
This point also tries to appeal to “looking stupid” as a normative force for action. I think we all know better than that.
Point 4: “Listen to Louise CK.”
Louise CK presents an argument (and a rather convoluted one) stating the usual argument that if things don’t affect you, you shouldn’t have any input on them. But the real argument that he’s making is deeper: he’s essentially asserting that there are no objective moral values and that therefore the only things that matter to people are the things that affect them directly. Well, I would like to see some arguments about why or how he thinks that there are no objective moral values. Indeed, that is the argument that needs to be had first, before we start talking about what is and what is not moral.
Point 5: “Let go of the idea that same-sex marriage is ruining the sanctity of marriage argument.”
This one is the most obviously fallacious. It states that “Because A is ruining the sanctity of marriage, B is not.” It essentially creates a false dichotomy.
Point 6: “Take a closer look at the Bible.”
There are three problems with this point. The first picture makes a very poor argument based on the (Protestant) idea that the entire text of the Bible is authoritative in the same way and with the same weight. Also because there is no citation there, I am able only to guess, but I believe he is referencing the Levitical code, which applied only to Levites. If that is the case, that would be irrelevant on top of being fallacious.
The second imagine makes the opposite mistake of the first. The first was rested under the assumption that the entire Bible was one long rule-book wherein each rule needed to be obeyed to the letter. The second makes the assumption that only the specific words of Jesus are authoritative. Such a reading of the Bible would be quite unhelpful.
Thirdly, both arguments miss the far more relevant passages. 1 Corinthians 6:9 is sort of hard to work around:
“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders…”
Point 7: “Read their story and watch their video. Try not to cry.”
This whole point is an irrelevant and dismissible Appeal to Emotions. Now, dismissing such an appeal does not mean that I, or anyone else, is apathetic to the real sufferings of human beings; what it means is that appeals to emotion are not valid arguments, and amount to anecdotal evidence.
Point 8: “Take a look at the people in your own life. How many couples do you know that have stayed together as long as these couples?”
This too is irrelevant to the discussion at hand: “staying together” and the implication of fidelity and true love, is not an argument! Least of all is it an argument about the moral value of such actions.
Point 9: “Imagine their wedding.”
No argument here is really offered, so I’ll skip it.
Point 10: “Look how happy these people are.”
This too is an appeal to emotion, but its argumentative content might look something like this: “Whatever makes people happy is morally right.” Such an argument is not a priori true, and needs many, many premises to have any sort of intellectual weight.
Point 11: “Ask yourself if you could say no to these kids?”
This too is an appeal to emotion and carries little to no cognitive weight.
Point 12: “As yourself if you could say no to Neil Patrick Harris?”
This is just point 11 redressed in a different and cognitively indistinguishable manner.
Point 13: “Look at the consequences.”
The reason this isn’t fair is its use of hyperbole. Here’s a possible consequence: “A culture endorses a morally reprehensible behavior.” Now, if it turns out that homosexuality is is in fact morally reprehensible, that would be a consequence. But we haven’t had that discussion yet, so this “pie chart” is running on assumed premises.
Point 14: “Imagine the alternatives.”
I’m not really sure what sort of argument this is putting forth. If someone else is, please let me know.
So, did you detect any real arguments in that article? Neither did I!
If you support gay marriage and think you can do better, please feel free to post your arguments in the comments, but please make sure they are real arguments, they are not fallacies, and they are related to the actual question posed above.
Until then, happy logic-ing!