Spotting dodgy arguments


In which I present three of the most subtle things I was thrown yesterday

Table of Contents

Arguments are slippery. I spend a lot of time sorting steps in arguments into the clever bits that really show the heart of the idea, the trivialities, and the dodgy steps that hide an unconscious leap, or worst an agenda.

1. Can a Christian support all of the CUSU’s agenda?

The idea runs like this: promoting sexual health is good because it makes people healthier. Doctors patch people up post-hoc, with no judgement; it’s just that an injury happened, no matter how silly its cause, and it now needs to be healed. Similarly, sex is going to happen among students, so why not make it safe?

Here’s a thought to pull away some of what is going on behind the scenes of this argument: Murder happens, so let’s ask the police to make large-caliber handguns available on demand, anonymously, so that when it happens it can be made more humane than the various brutal ways we normally go around killing in England.

The original argument from the CUSU was that promoting sexual health is neutral with regard to the actual sex. In fact, the idea that sex outside of marriage is OK is a hidden key to the argument above for distributing condoms ante-hoc. To ponder.

2. Why is there no teapot orbiting the Earth?

Heard recently: Why is there no teapot orbiting the Earth? There is no evidence to support that assertion, so by Occam’s razor, or by default, or some other vague principle, we say it is not there.

This is really one of the most maddening examples of loose thinking. Pick some point in space. Why is there not a teapot there? There is no evidence to support the assertion that we know something about that location, whether in favour of some object, or against it.

When invoking a super-theorem, it has to be stated. The argument above is entirely insufficient because Occam’s razor had nothing to do with answer. Instead a much more subtle appeal to the regularity of the universe needs to made, and that is much harder. A lot of facts, observations, things we have learned, in fact an incredibly complex composite argument composed of a vast accumulation of things we perceive, lead us to believe in a very subtle understanding of extrapolation and ways of extending our knowledge of the world beyond what we have seen.

When someone claims a simple appeal in this sort of argument, the real idea is being hidden. The Christian worldview, of unfolding revelation by a person, gives the richest context to place and understand the world, and it makes a difference in the way the underpinnings of a good answer to this question would go.

3. Why is the CICCU’s advertising fair?

Our hoodies are so bright blue as to be aggressive. We wear them to grab people on unfair pretences. We look like an army. It reminds people of the corporate might of the behemoth out to crush Cambridge.

I hesitate to call these arguments. Answer a fool according to his folly. Bright blue is cheerful. The choir, who complained about the colour, in the same breath pointed out that at almost exactly matches choir stash. We advertise like anyone else, with hoodies for our event, just like the other cultural and religious societies. We are the only society to encourage people not to wear the hoodies too much in main event week, to prevent an us-and-them effect. Just think: what other society gets so much bad press that they have to do that? We go out of our way to balance our message while still getting publicity out to everyone. Finally, we are not in the least corporate. The president is not supreme as in some societies; we have no buildings, membership sub., or employees, like other big societies. We are a group of guys having tea in each other’s rooms and singing clappy songs together.

We tread on people’s turf in a big way. That’s it. However hard, the ideal for friendship for us is where our lives are entirely open. When I have something to say, there are a couple of friends I have who will ask the questions to find out how I feel looking back or at the moment. So, the sharing of my deepest feelings is slow and not always something I do on my own, but if it doesn’t happen with any non-Christian friends, it’s because they don’t ask. In return though, we claim the right to ask those questions of our friends, and be that person to them who opens out the conversation so they can expose themselves, whether in an existentially deep way or just pulling something they lightly think out into the open. We tread on their turf, so when that’s the issue, let’s brush away the silly junk we hear and get people around us to just say it.