Arguments I detest

There are a few arguments I hear that I just hate. Very simply, it’s because they’re plainly awful. Just awful. So in no particular order:

Once you have kids, your views on spanking will change. I hate this one because when I say parents should not spank their children, I’m making an argument about right and wrong. If I was making an argument where personal experience mattered at all, then sure, throw it in my face that I don’t have kids. But that isn’t what is being discussed. It’s just a condescending point that isn’t even remotely relevant. Coupled with this is usually the argument that spanking is effective. I don’t give a shit. Shooting a baby in its face will make it stop crying, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay.

Atheism leads to moral relativism and has no place for happiness. What really irks me about this one, aside from how common it is, is how ignorant it is. I’m plenty happy, just as millions of other atheists are. Furthermore, atheism does not lead to moral relativism. It removes an ultimate objective basis for morality, sure, but that is definitely not the same as moral relativism. And finally, as if there wasn’t already enough wrong with this wanker of a position, it’s just an Argument from Consequence. ‘Oh, atheism leads to these bad things? Then it must be wrong.’ It’s typical religious logic.

The rules are there for a reason, so follow them. This is rule internalization and it’s stupid as hell. Yeah, the rules usually have some sort of reason. And many times it is best to defer to them. But they will sometimes transgress their very point. Or their very point won’t matter in a given context. When that happens, it isn’t the rule that matters, it’s the reason. For instance, the speed limit is there for a reason, right? It keeps people safe. Unless you were recently shot in the leg. In that case you’re probably less safe if you don’t speed to the hospital. The rule can go to hell; I care about the reason.

Hilter was an evolutionist atheist. Nope. He was a creationist Christian. He declared his Christianity and rejection of evolution in Mein Kampf over and over, long before he came to power. Besides, the point of this dishonest argument is just to say that atheism and evolution lead to bad things; it’s another Argument from Consequence.

Al Gore uses X amount of energy to do Y. The point of this one is to discredit Al Gore in his campaign to get people to use less energy. It’s a dumb attack. First, it isn’t usually based on fact. Second, even when he does use a lot of energy (i.e., private flights), he’s delivering a message that will help to get a large number of people to use less. Third, even if he buys oil and throws it on baby dolphins while he dines on polar bears and pandas, that doesn’t mean global warming isn’t happening (and because of man). It’s a bad argument; it has many different forms – ‘So-and-so is a hypocrite, thus her message is invalid’ – but Gore is one of its the most popular subjects.

I believe everyone has the right to express his or her opinion. This starts out so many points and it’s such a waste of time. Yes, great, you aren’t a fascist. Thanks for letting us know – even though no one was going to assume your argument was premised in the idea that people shouldn’t have free speech rights. But no, no. Thank you so much. I really hated having that 5 seconds of my life.

Your turn.

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5 Responses

  1. You didn’t number your arguments, but I will for the sake of simplicity.

    1. I was against spanking children before I had kids. Now that I have a kid, I’m still against it. Spanking children teaches them that violence is the way to solve problems, and it also shows that the parent is emotionally underdeveloped and can’t manage his anger. If I were to strike an adult, I could be charged with assault. Why is it OK to strike a child?

    2. Don’t worry about this argument. It’s a smoke screen. They attack the person who holds a differing viewpoint when they can’t refute his point.

    3. People want absolute rules so they can absolve themselves of responsibility. For reference, consider the people who you are commenting upon in the previous argument.

    4. Another smoke screen. Even if Hitler had been an atheist, which he clearly wasn’t, his actions were not driven by his religious views anymore than priests molest children for divine reasons.

    5. The same people don’t want to pay taxes but will gladly take unemployment checks, medicare, and welfare if put in the position to need it.

    6. Geez , I hope you aren’t talking about me.

  2. Number 6 refers to things like this: http://forthesakeofscience.com/2010/07/10/we-have-the-right/

  3. Now I understand what you mean.

  4. I guess since ancestor did it, I’ll go through the points in order too.

    #1. Are they serious about this one? It’s like saying, “yeah, you’ve got your ethics about hitting children now, but wait until you get some. They’ll drive you crazy; you’ll probably decide to hit them.” But as much as I dislike children, as much as I may want to hit them, I don’t. In the sake of not violating #3, which I agree with, I’d say that 99.9% of the time I’ll make it a rule not to hit kids. The other 0.1%? I don’t know, but it would have to be a damn good reason.

    #2. I think you’re covering the nice version of this argument. Most of the time that it’s presented to me, the dilemma is between good, Christian, absolute morals, or a atheistic, hellish wasteland where nothing is sacred, and nihilism rules the world. It’s crap, atheists are just as good (if not better) at determining moral outcomes as anyone else.

    #3. This is a good one. Only Sith deal in absolutes.

    #4. I’ll paraphrase Sam Harris for this one: It’s not fundamentalists that are the problem, it’s the fundamentals. Religion often gives clear situations in which it’s okay to kill those who disagree. The lack of belief in a god does not.

    #5. This one is interesting. In most cases, it’s best to practice what you preach, but there are justifiable exceptions to this (#3 yet again). As long as he’s doing more good than harm, I’m okay with it.

    #6. Everyone should have the right to express opinions, but that does not make all opinions equally valid.

    I’ll add one more to your list, though: The Argument from Scientific Strangeness. Just because quantum mechanics, relativity, or astrophysics are often counter-intuitive in their workings, it doesn’t mean that you can try to fill the gaps with nonsense or wishy thinking.

  5. Another parent with children (one off to college and one in high school). Never needed spanking to raise two great kids.

    And you’re right, it’s a silly argument.

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