Sunday, October 09, 2005

Examining arguments: Abortion example

It seems to me that a huge portion of the population often expresses forceful, emotional opinions on subjects they have never really analyzed in detail. Often they have done a great deal of thinking about their arguments, but little analysis of the actual issues. They typically ignore the weaknesses of their own arguments and dismiss the strengths of the other side's.

What particularly annoys me about these people -- what annoys me the most about US -- is that we shoot off our mouths all the time. And we can't understand why the other guy is so stupid that he can't get our arguments, when they are so self-evident to us.

Full Metal Attorney:

Then, occassionally, somebody will show up that has truly taken the effort to try to examine the issues in great detail.

I just encountered such a blog. The author, Full Metal Attorney, has gone to a great deal of effort to detail out -- and analyze -- the arguments on both sides of the abortion issue.

The url of his post is:

I greatly admire the effort he put into his analysis.

The Language Guy:

I also was interested in some commentary on the above post by The Language Guy. ("On Reasoning about Abortion" - Posted Sat Oct 8, 2005 -- Sorry, I wasn't able to get the post url)

His real intent was to make a contribution with linguistic analysis.

He pointed out an interesting ambiguity that occurs one the question of foetus being human. One of the key issues, as itemized by Full Metal Attorney, was whether a foetus is human.

The Language Guy pointed out a significant ambiguity in the use of this term. Namely that there is a difference between saying "X is human" and "X is a human". I hope you'll read his post to get his explanation, but it seemed to me that it was not a trivial distinction.

In the end, I would like to confess my admiration of Full Metal Attorney for his effort to map out the issues as impartially as he was able. I thought he did a much better job than many of the people who are most passionate about their point of view on this subject.

This is a great example of how it's done. Spread the word.


Blogger Kelly said...

Stop it, you're making me blush. But seriously, thanks for blogging about my post. I just wish everyone would read the post from now on before arguing about abortion, regardless of whether they read anything else I write ever.

5:57 AM  
Blogger Phil Plasma said...

critical thinking is what you're talking about. I haven't read the link yet but here's how I've been at it. First I hear that adding ethanol as a fuel additive to gasoline is a boon and much better for the environment than regular additives. Next I hear that the ethanol that is added to fuel comes from farming corn which requires heavy industrial farming equipment plus the energy and fuel it takes to take the corn by product to the refinery and so it is a net loser because of how much pollution and energy consumption is produced in adding ethanol to the fuel. So which is right?

For this example it doesn't matter which is right, I'll tell you further down, but the point is that I went to find the opposite point of view. This is exactly what critical thinking is about. With respect to getting overly passionate about a topic for which I may only know one key fact, I am hardly that passionate about any topic.

About ethanol additive fuel - if the corn by product that is being processed to make ethanol is a direct result of corn farming that would take place anyway, there is no extra farming going on to produce that ethanol, so it is a net winner. If the corn that is being processed to make ethanol is being used only for making the ethanol, it is a net loser.

word verification: jkeana
I played a joke on ya.

6:33 AM  
Blogger Mr K said...

thats an awesome link- love the blog, btw.

12:06 PM  

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