> Other people want a More Measured Response To Terror, which in practice consists of trying to figure out what kind of things we do that make us a target for terrorism and then not doing them.
Some of them just want us to stop giving a crap about terror, because it kills us at a lower rate than lightning strikes. Bumper sticker version: "Refuse to be terrorized!"
As long as we're perfectly clear that we have abandoned the obvious metaphor, and that we're way down here in the comment box where terrorism just means terrorism, I agree with you.
(except that a conservative friend of mine sometimes makes the strong counter-argument that if we leave the terrorists alone someday they'll get a nuke and then they can cause actual damage)
Edited at 2012-09-17 05:24 am (UTC)
Ignoring children when they misbehave just gets them to escalate the behavior.
Hm. I find myself unconvinced.
The problem with this argument is that this can be easily over-applied, because you've got no criteria for testing its relevance.
I'm fond of Taylor's corollary to Hanlon's Razor. Hanlon's Razor being "Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity". Taylor's corollary being "This is only good advice when there is no malice afoot".
Similarly I think the corollary to the principle of charity is "This is only good advice when all parties are acting in good faith".
I think it is at the very least extremely plausible to believe that most anti-abortion people are not acting in good faith.
Additionally, if you don't believe that abortion is murder, fighting to make it illegal literally has only one direct effect: It makes the lives of women dramatically worse. I don't think it's reasonable to compare something quite so direct to the indirect chain of consequences that leads to the destruction of the marble industry.
By the way, just wanted to say, despite the fact that my first comment on it is to disagree with you, I've really appreciated this series and thanks for writing it.
Your last point assumes that anti-abortion people _know_ that making abortion legal doesn't increase the number of abortions. I was pro-choice for a very long time before I knew that, so I wouldn't expect the average person who's never done any reading around the subject to know about it.
Well, I am not at all a fan of the "abortion is murder" argument, and I did about a month ago call it The Worst Argument In The World
. But the reason it's The Worst Argument In The World is partly because if you don't know how to deconstruct it then it's really really convincing. There seems to be a big thought-processes difference between quasi-consequentialists and quasi-deontologists, and if you're the quasi-deontologist type the abortion-murder equivalency apparently makes perfect sense even though to quasi-consequentialists like me it seems pretty stupid.
And although I don't know how much it proves, women are usually found to be more likely to be pro-life and less likely to be pro-choice than men (see for example here
). I know that it's a truism that just because many women support something doesn't mean it's not patriarchalist, but I do think if many women support something it means that they must at least think
it does something other than keep down women.
So I'm one of those folk who think abortion should be illegal. But that's not the thing I want to argue for right now, so I hope I can make my actual point without derailing the thread into the usual Internet abortion mud-fight.
The point I want to make is that not only do I think most people on my side are acting in good faith, but actually my System 1
thinks it at the very least extremely plausible to believe that most pro-abortion people are not acting in good faith. Why, even in the comments to this posts I have seen arguments so obviously idiotic that I wonder if anyone can hold them in good faith. And that's on a post that isn't even really about abortion but just uses the fight over it as an example. For that reaction you folks must know deep down that there is something wrong with your position!
Angry yet? Of course I know on a System 2 level that it ain't so. But I genuinely do have the pre-rational reflex I explained in the last paragraph. And it's really easy to explain. Thing is, our instincts are tribal and that affects how we are biased. If the people in other tribes are simply evil that's awfully convenient. But in the real world very few people are genuine sadists acting from pure malice.
So now for the real
attack: If you honestly can't see what's wrong with the assumption that seems so extremely plausible, well then I think the rational part of you is either defective or simply not in charge.
Which, b.t.w. supplies most of the missing heuristic. If malice is too conveniently located in some other tribe only, that is extremely suspicious. The suspicion may be rebuttable, but the default should be to assume that it's an illusion.
Assuming it does in fact make women's lives worse. Women die from legal abortions too. Women, indeed, continue to die in coat hanger abortions -- a tiny minority, but then, they were a tiny minority in illegal days, too. The overwhelming decline in abortion mortality predated legalization.
There's also the little matter of whether it increases abortions and so the risk. The only evidence I've heard toward that claim is that the legalization decreased the birth rate only fractionally. But -- and this has been tested in studies -- if you give some women Plan B to keep, and let some get it over the counter, and require others to get a prescription, why you will see major differences in the use of Plan B, but what you will not see is any differences in pregnancies or abortions. What it really gives is permission to be sloppy about your chances of conceiving.
One also notes that all demographers will agree it causes the feminization of poverty. Once you have legalized abortion, men can, with perfect logic, regard giving birth out of wedlock as entirely on the woman's head and no responsibility of theirs, and that is the main driver of the poverty problem. This is probably why Playboy is and always has been a major funder of pro-abortion groups.
Regarding anti-abortion rhetoric: the actual policy proposals of the anti-abortion movement sometimes seem to be more in line with an uncharitable interpretation of their motivations than a charitable one. (http://www.amptoons.com/blog/2011/06/27/do-they-really-believe-abortion-is-murder/)
Edited at 2012-09-17 07:25 am (UTC)
That blog claims it's trying to be charitable, but almost all of their supposed "contradictions" could be resolved if you grant that the same people who are anti-abortion are usually conservative Christians whose religion tells them extramarital sex and contraception are evil. It's like saying "Believing abortion is murder doesn't mean you should be anti-gay, but most pro-lifers are! What's up with that?"
The others seem like pro-life positions that have been toned down to make them politically (and morally?) palatable. It's like how pro-choicers who believe in partial birth abortion are mostly anti-infanticide, even though a consistent application of their principles would say infanticide is okay. They're not failing to consistently apply their principles because they secretly don't care about women and just want to sacrifice the unborn to Satan (or whatever the conspiracy theory on the other side is), they're failing to consistently apply their principles because no one ever consistently applies their principles especially when doing so would be icky.
Loving this series. Just caught up to the latest post tonight.
I like your argument that my enemies shouldn't assume I am stupid, evil and insane. Of course, they only keep doing that because they really are stupid, evil and insane.*
*: This is a completely crazy misreading of your argument, but one I've seen many times in the past.
Edited at 2012-09-17 07:53 am (UTC)
I'm not convinced it's a misreading. Like I said, I'm horrible at this charity thing.
But I do think the Fundamental Attribution Error
and Just World Hypothesis and Enemies Are Innately Evil
bias make it pretty easy to be Anti-Charitable even if you're a nice and intelligent person.
You know, I try to operate by the Principal of Charity myself, if by that you mean operating from the presumption that people are basically well-intentioned and trying to make the world a better place, even if I may disagree with them on what that better place would look like.
But watching - admittedly through the medium of feminist blogs - the way many of these anti-choice policies have been playing out (for example, the difficulty of trying to find somewhere that will perform a Pap smear in Texas
, now that Planned Parenthood has been largely de-funded) makes it very hard to believe that the Republican party gives a damn about any woman once she has emerged from the womb.
Admittedly, the Republican Party doesn't seem to give a damn about most men, either, but they really seem to be going out of their way to try to make life more difficult for women at present. And it does feel very personal, because there always seems to be this underlying feeling that of course a *good* woman would never need these sorts of services (family planning, domestic violence services, help with childcare) anyway, or would be able to pay for it if she did.
Also, while I think you're right that most pro-life types aren't as extreme as Akin, the ones with the loudest voices and the most money seem to be, and I've noticed that friends of mine who are pro-life tend to take the view that yes, it's awful to go that far, but if it saves the babies...
All of this makes me very glad that I don't live in America. Australia has its share of misogyny, but it doesn't seem to be such a large part of the public discourse, possibly because we aren't as into fundamentalism.
2012-09-17 09:12 am (UTC)
If you believe abortion is murder, you want to minimise the number of abortions that happen, yes?
So you should be encouraging women not to get pregnant unless they want to, in other words contraception (because, as a rational being, you have noted that "abstinence-only" sex education is completely ineffective - people screw just as much whether or not you tell them they shouldn't - and anyway what about women who are married?). You should be making sure that women who have got pregnant - and perhaps have been deserted by the father - have enough money to raise a child rather than having to kill it.
And yet the anti-abortionists are against all those things too. One might even think they didn't really care all that much about abortion per se, and were just using it as a talking point (because it is, after all, icky) in service of some other goal.
Not that that goal is necessarily the subjugation of women. Maybe they just want cheap meat.
-- passing Firedrake
Actually we see the most abortions in the groups that use contraception the most.
Principle of anti-charity is a great description. You're right it seems almost universal.
Hold on, I have some nitpicks too.
The *practical* point of charity in argument is not because it makes you a nice person. After all, if I insult Congressmen to my friends, it doesn't hurt the Congressmen and it lifts my friends' spirits, so I'm not actually being mean to anyone directly.
The reason to be *accurate* in argument is because every distortion of the truth corrupts your thinking. If on your off hours you think about politics through a really Blue/Green, epistemically sloppy point of view, you're going to build that habit into your thinking. And if you want to influence politics, you need to have an accurate picture of people's motivations so that you can predict how they'll respond to your actions.
The reason to be *charitable*, to always assume the best of your opponents, is mostly so that you spend your time thinking up arguments against *good* arguments, which is good for your brain, instead of squashing idiots, which is bad for your brain.
But charitableness doesn't have much value in the actual practice of politics. Assuming your opponents are nobler than they are gets you squashed. If I'm sitting at home discussing ideas, then yeah, I want to steel-man all the opposing ideas. If I actually want to influence people -- and while I'll never be in politics myself, I might someday want to persuade a prominent person -- then sometimes the rational thing to do is to say, "Well, actually this guy turns out to be a mean-spirited moron. Now, what does he want, and how can we bargain with him?"
Awesome description, yes.
The Principle of Anti-Charity seems to be a very effective way of winning status contests within your own in-group. Nothing makes you look like the most determined Champion of X like denouncing Anti-Xers as the spawn of Satan/haters of women/Neville Chamberlain wanna-bees/etc. So there's a reward for worsening communications between the different sides of the blue/green divide.
I haven't read this article
yet, but someone summarized it asThis one is interesting, because just today I read another article which pointed out that the number one criticism from the Left that rankles the Grassroots Right isn't the stuff about Medicare, or Tax Returns, or Unemployment, or Corporatism, but the accusation that the Right is waging a War on Women. It drives them crazy, because it exposes a very real and objectively verifiable break between their deeply held belief (they are the true defenders of femininity) and the reality on the ground (Obama up 10-15 pts among women).
They (most of them) don't hate women. They think their policies are actually good for women. And they can't possibly come around to understanding why women don't seem to want "what's good for them".
I am pro-choice so the following is not intended as an anti-abortion point (although some might use it for that). Pregnant rats under stress can reabsorb a litter while it is still in the womb. The Bruce effect, refers to the tendency for female rodents to terminate their pregnancies following exposure to the scent of an unfamiliar male.
As far as I know nobody has ever seen such a effect in humans but we know there are many unexplained miscarriages in the normal domain of human fertility. Is there some law of biology that makes it impossible for a woman's body to be more likely to miscarry after a rape? I am not saying there is solid evidence for this, or that it is relevant to the abortion debate, but it seems at least possible.
From an evolutionary POV it seems plausible that woman have some (probabilistic and unconscious) biological mechanism to abort an unwanted fetus. Obviously this mechanism isn't perfect otherwise woman would never need induced abortions. It could be an arms race thing.
Terminating a pregnancy in rodents due to lack of resources or the presence of a new, infanticidal, and dominant male, is rather different (especially in evolutionary logic) from terminating in pregnancy in a social primate. And there's lots of possible reasons for miscarriage. So no, it's not impossible to be more likely to miscarry after rape, but there's absolutely no reason to postulate it without evidence. And as you say, "more likely" would clearly not mean "never", so Akin's claim would be bullshit even if it had some evidence, which it doesn't.
And in brutal evolutionary logic, which doesn't care about your happiness, a male who could rape you is more likely to sire sons who can also pass on their genes through rape.
The Principle Of Charity appears to explicitly conflict with the principle of stopping other people from building up their rhetorical super-weapons by chipping away at your defenses bit-by-bit. If I always assume the best, and never point out that your actions are hurting me a bit then maybe you will keep on taking actions that hurt me (perhaps without even knowing I hurt).