The slippery slope argument…


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Ice is easy to slip on.  Even people with the best balance and keen sense of traction can do a face-plant on ice.  So the best thing one can do is try to avoid it before one gets on top of it… The same is true of the logic fallacy called the slippery slope argument.  Even people who are trained in logic (lawyers, professors, theologians) get stuck doing this…and once you start, it’s really hard to see how the line of reasoning can be wrong.  The logic fallacy goes like this: “if you agree to A, then you will eventually agree to B and C as well!”  Or: if you agree to A (which we’re debating) it’s the same thing as agreeing to C (which we both agree is wrong).  So if you hear a controversial idea, the slippery slope argument says, “yes but if you agree to that, then what’s to say you won’t agree to all these other controversial ideas too?  We know idea-C is wrong, therefore your idea must be wrong as well…”

So I’ve heard one outspoken atheist intellectual say: ‘if you believe in “God” then what’s to stop you from believing in fairies and gremlins and ghosts?’  He’s saying IF you believe A (in the existence of an invisible being which I think is ridiculous), then what’s to stop you from believing B and C and D (more invisible things that we both agree are ridiculous?)  What he’s implying is that believing in God is the same thing as believing in gremlins.

Of course, just because you believe A doesn’t mean you agree to B or C or anything else – it’s a logic fallacy.  A particularly easy logic fallacy to fall into…  And the real difficulty is that the one who’s making the argument will have trouble seeing what’s wrong with it.  It really seems like a plausible line of reasoning…even though logically it has no basis.

So here’s another: ‘if you allow gay people to marry, then what’s to stop you from allowing people to marry babies or goats or something?’  I’ve actually heard (otherwise) intelligent people argue that accepting homosexuality is the same thing as accepting pedophilia.  On the other end, it’s the same thing as arguing, if you allow people to own guns now, what’s to stop them from owning nukes later?  Do you really want a society in which people have their own private nuclear arsenals?  If you legalize marijuana, what’s to stop you from legalizing heroine?  If you don’t believe in God, then why would you believe in truth or kindness?

So the slippery slope is a slippery one itself – the best we can do is try not to step in it, and repent when we do…

Related posts:

  1. The Bible, evolution, and Gay marriage…
  2. How Kant nearly blew my mind…
  3. The ministry of listening…
  4. Understanding and truth are different…
  5. Nowhere Boy
  6. Why I debate with people about God (and why I sometimes shouldn’t)

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