The laundries housed “fallen” girls and women »« One thought too many

Why should I?

One of the reasons skepticism can’t get you there is the fact that it’s always possible to ask questions like, “Why should I care?”

There are answers to questions like that, but skepticism isn’t the source of the answers. Skepticism will just keep asking why we should care. Skepticism won’t necessarily accept the answers. There are no skepticism-defeating answers to questions like that. There’s no “proof” that humans should look after each other.

That’s why some of us are getting so fed up with skepticism. There are people who think it’s the universal tool, that it’s the right way to approach all questions, that if it’s still asking questions then somebody is pulling a fast one.

Comments

  1. Scote says

    “There are no skepticism-defeating answers to questions like that. There’s no “proof” that humans should look after each other.”

    I’d add the same goes for atheism. It is an inherent lacking in both. Neither skepticism nor atheism are moral philosophies in themsleves. That doesn’t mean that skepticism or atheism are good or bad, rather that they just don’t answer what morality should be, even as they can be part of how we inform ourselves about morality.

  2. says

    I became fed up with skepticism maybe 20 years ago. The usenet group “sci.skeptic” became tiring very quickly.

    I’m still a skeptic.

    The trouble is that skepticism is hollow. It’s fine as an attitude to guide inquiry, but it isn’t an end in itself.

  3. thephilosophicalprimate says

    There comes a point — fairly early on in most conversations — when variations on “Why should I care?” are really just another form of JAQing off. It’s not an intellectually honest question; it’s a sort of trolling that the privilege-blind engage in when discussing oppression to which they are not subject.

  4. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    It’s fascinating how, for some people, ‘things I choose to be skeptical about’ almost always excludes ‘things that a thorough investigation of might reveal uncomfortable truths about myself and the society/community of which I am part’.

    This, of course, has been so well illustated in recent times by those who try to use skepticism as a bludgeon to force others to change without ever being prepared to make changes themselves.

  5. Al Dente says

    Skepticism is a means to an end. Some people, unwilling to consider certain ends, limit their skepticism to certain well-worn topics. Hence the reluctance or even refusal of organized skepticism to consider certain matters like religion or politics.

  6. Scr... Archivist says

    Sometimes one must hear “Why should I care?” not as an inquiry seeking knowledge or wisdom, but as a statement of defiant selfishness.

  7. Jason Dick says

    Technically that’s very true. I think in practice it’s a mute point, because nearly everybody does care about a number of rather basic moral ideas (such as fairness). This tends to manifest itself in the bigoted defending themselves with decidedly illogical and un-skeptical arguments.

    It is certainly possible to launch a logically-sound defense of bigotry or other actions the rest of us generally deem immoral. But I have yet to see it done in anything approaching a serious manner.

    So while it’s certainly true that the answers to, “Why should I care?” do not come from skepticism, in practice people don’t seem to disagree on those points and skeptical thinking is actually where the disagreement lies.

  8. atheist says

    @Neil Rickert – October 14, 2013 at 5:54 pm (UTC -7)

    I became fed up with skepticism maybe 20 years ago. The usenet group “sci.skeptic” became tiring very quickly.

    I’m still a skeptic.

    Interesting how your thoughts echo mine. I became fed up with atheism a while ago, but I’m still an atheist.

  9. dgrasett says

    Skepticism is a tool, not a way of life. There is a joy in living humanistically. Try that. You must make your own meaning in life.

  10. says

    The problem is that a lot of skeptics aren’t truly skeptical. No self-examination involved, for starters. Constantly “skeptical” (actively in denial) of things for which there is plenty of evidence, but run contrary to their personal beliefs in matters of personal desire and convenience, accumulated behaviors, and aligned cultural norms. IOW, conservatives (regardless of political label).

    Sure, people tend to be conservative in lots of ways, but someone who is truly skeptical will examine their behaviors and motivations, rather than projecting onto others their own behavioral patterns and labeling them as ideologues (group-think, politically correct, whatever the handy and favored word is). Of course, it can be a fair assessment even if they are also projecting (stopped clocks wut), people also being prone to band-wagoning and such, but if they think critically about the conversation with, say, the sorts of feminists which are represented here, they cannot come to such a conclusion in good faith. #skepticzbelyin’

  11. hjhornbeck says

    Whaaat? No love for the scientific pursuit of morality? C’maaan, people. Look, I’ll give it a shot:

    First off, when I say “skepticism,” I mean it as the pursuit of truth via scientific means. I don’t mean it as in “people who label as skeptics” or “people who are employed to be skeptics.” Defined in my narrow little way, yes, it can answer the “why should I” question, that humans should look after one another, and so it.

    In fact, there isn’t really any choice in the matter: the scientific method is an epistemology. It generates truth, in the capital T sense, and thus anything you could consider knowledge must earn the stamp of approval of the scientific method. You may not have worn a white lab coat or been staring at a set of beakers while earning your capital-T truth, but that doesn’t change the underlying mechanism.

    Quite frankly, I have yet to see anyone deploy an epistemology that doesn’t boil down to the scientific method (and to head an objection off at the pass, Bayesian epistemology is identical to the scientific method). And since everything capital-T true passes through your epistemology, that means every question, no matter how fuzzy, can be answered through the scientific method.

    To prove me wrong, you have to demonstrate an epistemology in use that doesn’t boil down to the scientific method.

  12. Bjarte Foshaug says

    @hjhornbeck #11

    And since everything capital-T true passes through your epistemology, that means every question, no matter how fuzzy, can be answered through the scientific method.

    The unstated premise seems to be that some value-judgments are truths “in the capital T sense”.
    How do you get from a purely descriptive account of “the way things are” to the idea that “something is worth something”?

  13. Axxyaan says

    When people ask me why they should care (about some kind of justice subject), I promptly answer that they don’t. But that if they don’t I’m glad they don’t live in my neighbourhood.

    Usualy they are not happy with that answer because they don’t like the implicit judgement and complain about that, at which point I ask them why I should care about their complaint.

    You can’t force people to care and you can’t argue people into caring (You may be able to find a situation that is similar enough and hits home forcebly enough to make them recognise they should care). You can just try finding out to what extend they do or don’t and act accordingly.

  14. khms says

    Science (or skepticism) can’t answer value questions. However, they’re just fine for answering fact questions, and value questions tend to involve lots of facts.

    So, science can (and should) help with value questions (showing if it is or is not consistent with known facts) – but the final decision to accept a certain value system is one they cannot answer for you.

    To make a simple example, science can tell you (within limits) what will happen when you run or do not run the red light – but it cannot tell you if you should.

  15. latsot says

    The question “why should I care?” seems usually to be asked in bad faith. It’s often followed by the observation that “well, there’s no law against it” regardless of whether there is.

  16. atheist says

    @Jason Dick – October 14, 2013 at 7:59 pm (UTC -7)

    nearly everybody does care about a number of rather basic moral ideas (such as fairness)

    Educated skeptics can underestimate how divergent humans are in terms of their values and headspaces. Skeptics tend to focus on ideas, which sometimes means that they fail to appreciate everything that underlies ideas in the human mentality. The question of whether Skepticism can or should be considered a viable life philosophy is too big for me; I think it is sufficient to point out the limits of “Skepticism” as we generally define it.

    Especially since I am a political junkie, the observation of very divergent headspaces among the public is a constant theme to me. In my opinion it is the only good way to explain US politics, and world politics. For this reason, skeptics who claim that the practice of skepticism will lead people to agree on the right course of action, sound naive to me. We may agree we all want fairness, but our definitions of fairness can be light years apart, in practice.

    Human politics and culture are weird, emotional, and value driven. Skepticism can not always pull us out of the muck of our biological natures. Sometimes the only way out of a dirty struggle is to fight it and win. The only way out is through.

  17. Jason Dick says

    @atheist – October 15, 2013 at 6:35 am (UTC -7)

    Especially since I am a political junkie, the observation of very divergent headspaces among the public is a constant theme to me. In my opinion it is the only good way to explain US politics, and world politics. For this reason, skeptics who claim that the practice of skepticism will lead people to agree on the right course of action, sound naive to me.

    It would be nice if this were the case, if it were simply a matter of divergent values. But in practice I find that there is consistently a lack of skepticism on one side of political and social debates. Consider abortion, for example. This is a very heated and contentious issue, and it is certainly conceivable to come up with valid arguments for and against abortion. The problem is, the arguments against abortion that are actually valid come across so badly that they’re almost never made. Instead we get lots of lies and distortions coming from the anti-abortion crowd, coupled with a distinct unwillingness to consider the broader implications of limiting access to abortion for women.

    It is very true that people in these different situations do tend to value different things, but skepticism almost invariably tends to support only one side of the argument.

    I would love, love, love if we could live in a world where this wasn’t the case, where people on all sides of every issue were strongly skeptical and open to evidence. But that just doesn’t seem to be the case in practice.

    Also, this is pretty cool (though the potential bias of the researchers is self-evident…):
    http://www.nature.com/news/just-thinking-about-science-triggers-moral-behavior-1.13616

  18. atheist says

    There’s a very interesting blogger I sometimes read, “Fabius Maximus“. This blogger is somewhat conservative but is way smarter than most conservatives. Fabius is convinced that “the left” has invented or distorted the reality of Climate Change, and is using it as a political scare tactic.

    In conversations with Fabius he has made clear that he believes that environmentalism is a religion which is taking over the civilized world. He apparently wishes to be a bulwark against this religion, and uses tactics that seem identical to “Skepticism” to attack this threatening religion with its claims about impending disaster.

    I think his assessment of “Green Religion” is really a sophisticated form of projection on his part — he is rather religious and he understands this threatening movement called “The Greens” as being another religion. And I think the “Skeptical” techniques he uses to attack those who warn about a climate crisis are best described as “JAQ-ing off”. But he comes up with very clever arguments to explain away Climate Change.

  19. atheist says

    @Jason Dick – October 15, 2013 at 6:51 am (UTC -7)

    But in practice I find that there is consistently a lack of skepticism on one side of political and social debates. Consider abortion, for example. This is a very heated and contentious issue, and it is certainly conceivable to come up with valid arguments for and against abortion. The problem is, the arguments against abortion that are actually valid come across so badly that they’re almost never made.

    This is a good point. In a nutshell, the antichoicers don’t use their good arguments because they don’t care about them. Their real argument is, “If female sexuality is not controlled, patriarchy will be undermined, and this would be a calamity.” Bu they know this argument does not work with the majority of the public.

  20. quixote says

    There are no skepticism-defeating answers to questions like that. There’s no “proof” that humans should look after each other.

    It’s that type of infinite loop nonsense that turned off my embryonic interest in philosophy years ago. It makes me want to kick people and say, “Right. If you need proof humans should look after each other, take all your clothes off, wander into the wilderness, and survive. Oh, and good luck.”

    Honestly. Who are these idiots? If they can’t understand the simplest things (e.g. skepticism = tool of inquiry, tool =/= goal, purpose, answer, etc., etc., etc.) why are they so stupid they can’t even understand that they don’t understand? Why? Talk about an infinite loop.

  21. says

    It is certainly possible to launch a logically-sound defense of bigotry or other actions the rest of us generally deem immoral. But I have yet to see it done in anything approaching a serious manner.

    That’s not really the issue though, or at least not the only issue. The core issue is indifference, or self-interest, or the two together amounting to the same thing.

    As for serious manner – try the Melian dialogue in Thucydides.

  22. says

    Quixote – no, I don’t think that’s right. I think it is worth maintaining interest in philosophy, in order to think about/discuss questions like that.

    And your proposed reply is no use in answering “why should I care?” because that question is about caring for others, not caring for self. Telling people they would die if they were abandoned in the wilderness doesn’t get them to give a shit about collapsing factories in Bangladesh.

  23. says

    I’ve this I think still too-poorly-thought-through notion I’ve been baking over the last little while that the socially toxic skeptic/atheist/nontheist folk we’re seeing online are in part a symptom of severely shaken and stirred social context. That the world is changing very quickly–much of this having to do with technological advance–and the whole of our species is really having a hard time adapting, keeping up, adjusting the social rules and community structures to cope. The observation that people are jerks on the internet, probably for reasons in part having to do with the nature of the medium, is only the tip of this iceberg. There’s so much that’s new about how we can interact, so much it messes badly with people’s socialization. You learn, essentially, don’t be a jerk is a general rule to follow presumably sometime in your childhood. And then it breaks down badly in this new era, in some of the new environments it presents, especially.

    The caveats I’d add, though, are that we should probably keep in mind in previous eras even apparently socially well-adjusted (in terms of their own communities and groups, anyway) people weren’t necessarily all of that, in terms of the behaviour we might want to see from people in this era, either. You could make the simple assertion that listen, the traditional institutions getting so badly shaken off their pedestals used to lay down this moral code; it’s their breaking down that’s the problem… But then you need to keep in mind just what was actually in those moral codes. The reality is, certains kinds of being a jerk, were, in fact, actively encouraged; they just weren’t called that. And almost any sort of miserable behaviour was acceptable if you were protecting the institutions themselves, however you felt you needed to do it. The point being, we probably don’t want people following those, entirely, now, either. So the fact that people are saying to hell with the old rules isn’t at all entirely a bad thing. As atheists/nontheists are likely to avow; the very authoritarian nature of the social systems being only a part of the problem they posed.

    The other thing that’s well… umm… interesting–and here I use the term ‘interesting’ in the sense of that not-actually-a-Chinese-curse–is how much of the nastiness that’s arising is nastiness and inequity previously sheltered and made essentially ‘legitimate’ by those older moral codes. So, yeah, again, the fact that people are questioning, challenging, trying to change things, it’s not all bad. But it sure as hell is messy.

    This all being the 10,000 foot view. It’s easy to be philosophical and general about it when you’re not the one getting the reams of hate mail, a woman being hounded off the net by death threats, and so on.

    I do think all of it does lead to the conclusion that we have to work our asses off on this, now, though. The reality is, it’s always been about humans working out how they can live together, how they can make a world, a social context we can actually stand. And with things changing so quickly, the way the are, maybe it feels a bit like working out how to fly a plane with it being already in the air, and possibly already headed for the side of a cliff. But welcome to the 21st century, I guess.

    As to the notion that skepticism and atheism are so ‘hollow’, I suppose perhaps they are, in the sense given. But though I don’t so much expect anyone’s saying otherwise, they do still have their utility. The trouble is: they only take you part way. And then again, the place they take you, you probably need to go.

    And this, maybe, really, is me just restating the same thing, but anyway, what seems to me here is those socially toxic unbelievers are something of a textbook example of how to go halfway and wind up in more or less the same mess you started from: here we are breaking down the old systems, recognizing they’re illegitimate for any number of reasons. But in doing so, much of what they revert to as actual behaviour winds up being the same old stupid thing anyway. Lo and behold, they come from cultures that were hierarchical and authoritarian and in which sexism and racism were pretty much formal creeds… They recognize the traditional justifications of those creeds are bunk. And wind up behaving pretty much the same anyway–if not even worse, on occasion, since some seem to presume absent these justifications, some kind of ethical anarchy is perfectly workable…

    Which, of course, it’s unlikely to be. So, in capsule, that’s the conclusion: you can’t go just part way. Because where you wind up is pretty much entirely unliveable. Use your skepticism, break down the old institutions and rules, recognize where they were illegitimate, fine. But don’t assume that’s the whole job. The next step is to look around, see what that gets you, ask if it will do on its own. And, I think incredibly unsurprisingly, I don’t really think it does. What you have to do next is ask, okay, how do we make our societies and communities work, how do we get along? And that’s considerably harder work, I think. And it’s an ongoing thing, a building thing, a thing in which you have to keep talking and negotiating. And I think, seriously, failing to recognize how deeply you’ve been imprinted by the old order is just dooming the effort from the beginning. Oh, and yes, just doing that, recognizing the degree to which your own very perceptions are coloured by what the old institutions taught, that’s going to be hard… Oh, and guess what, that’s only the second step; we’re not finished… Then getting around that, trying to find ethical frameworks that work anyway, working around that…

    Well, again, welcome to the 21st century. And look on the bright side. You’re living in interesting times.

  24. Kevin Henderson says

    I feel extraordinarily distant from being a sceptic. I am far too apathetic to feel connected to most of the sceptic community. It is strange to see so much of the atheism I am drawn to be tied to other ‘sceptical’ movements. Scepticism makes it sound bad….when it is just rational thought. Someday there will be no sceptics, just human beings who think rationally (obviously without religion).

  25. atheist says

    @Jason Dick – October 15, 2013 at 6:51 am (UTC -7)

    @atheist – October 15, 2013 at 6:35 am (UTC -7)

    Especially since I am a political junkie, the observation of very divergent headspaces among the public is a constant theme to me. In my opinion it is the only good way to explain US politics, and world politics. For this reason, skeptics who claim that the practice of skepticism will lead people to agree on the right course of action, sound naive to me.

    It would be nice if this were the case, if it were simply a matter of divergent values. But in practice I find that there is consistently a lack of skepticism on one side of political and social debates. Consider abortion, for example. This is a very heated and contentious issue, and it is certainly conceivable to come up with valid arguments for and against abortion. The problem is, the arguments against abortion that are actually valid come across so badly that they’re almost never made. Instead we get lots of lies and distortions coming from the anti-abortion crowd, coupled with a distinct unwillingness to consider the broader implications of limiting access to abortion for women.

    So to continue, the antichoicers don’t use what you would consider to be “valid arguments against abortion” because their idea of valid is orthogonal to your idea of valid. This is because their values are totally different from yours.

  26. rnilsson says

    Telling people they would die if they were abandoned in the wilderness doesn’t get them to give a shit about collapsing factories in Bangladesh.

    It might make them think twice about shedding their clothes, made in those collapsing factories, though. Theoretically.

    BTW, it just struck me: Why is there a “Theo” in “theory”? Hmm. Maybe I’m just so slow.
    But wait, there is “hypo” in “hypothesis” also.
    Must my head spin like a Heliocopter and elevate me into the Sun now?
    So many loose threads in this wilderness.

  27. atheist says

    @Ophelia Benson – October 15, 2013 at 8:05 am (UTC -7)

    And your proposed reply is no use in answering “why should I care?” because that question is about caring for others, not caring for self. Telling people they would die if they were abandoned in the wilderness doesn’t get them to give a shit about collapsing factories in Bangladesh.

    To my mind, the best way forward is to argue logically that our self-interest and our empathy are not opposed to each other, but are in fact mutually supportive tendencies. We need both of them.

  28. says

    But logic can get you only so far. If people don’t care, then logic isn’t going to make them care.

    And it just isn’t true that caring for self is never opposed to caring for others. (Note that that’s what I said, not empathy. I really mean “caring” here, for reasons similar to the reasons Rebecca Goldstein focuses on mattering.) Suppose there’s not enough food to go around. In that case self-interest is indeed opposed to caring for others. There’s often not enough food to go around, micro and macro.

  29. atheist says

    @Ophelia Benson – October 15, 2013 at 10:54 am (UTC -7)

    But logic can get you only so far. If people don’t care, then logic isn’t going to make them care.

    Very true. There are definitely limits.

  30. quixote says

    I guess I expect too much? It seems to me that if it penetrates that you would die without all the people who keep you alive, it stands to, um, reason that you have a reciprocal obligation. Anyway, that’s what I was trying to say.

    If skepticism is skeptical of reciprocal obligations then in my book they’ve fallen off the logical applecart and aren’t worth talking to.

  31. says

    @28: Yes.

    On meta-ethics, I lean toward Error Theory (this week, anyway), and regard skepticism as a primarily epistemic stance. My usual approach to justifying moral behaviour is to note that it is in my rational self-interest to live in a society where I will receive cooperation from others, fair treatment, and some assistance when I stumble.

    But as you note, this only gets us so far. My self-interest is conditioned by my middle-class status in society. For example: since I believe my chances of winding up as a mentally ill, drug-addicted street person are small, I might, if I’m being strictly rational, be reluctant to contribute (whether through private charity or the public purse) to rescue and rehab services for such people. It’s a net negative to my personal utility. It’s only an a-rational compassion that makes me want those services to be available.

    Similarly, if some very powerful person decides to screw me over to their own advantage (even if it’s just for sadistic jollies), I can’t really appeal to their self-interest — I have nothing they need. The best I can do is to band together with other less-powerful people and say: Try that shit on any of us, and we collectively will kick your ass (when institutionalized, this is know as Human Rights and the Rule Of Law). But that’s really only modifying the powerful person’s self-interest-calculus by introducing a threat. It doesn’t fall out logically from the premises.

  32. hjhornbeck says

    Bjarte Foshaug @12:

    How do you get from a purely descriptive account of “the way things are” to the idea that “something is worth something”?

    You don’t. And you do.

    Technically, the scientific method doesn’t come to any firm conclusions, it only ranks things as increasingly likely. At some point, it draws a line and says “once things have THIS much certainty, we’re justified in treating that as if it was absolutely certain.” This is a consequence of your probable finiteness (as in finite lifespan, finite attention, finite brainpower, and so on).

    The same line can be used to bridge the is-ought gap. If you have X certainty that action Y will benefit everyone, and X is past that line of certainty, then you can “conclude” Y will benefit everyone.

    Benson @33:

    Noooo nonono. I’m out of time to explain why, at the moment. Hopefully I can free up some time tonight. In the meantime…

  33. Jason Dick says

    @Ophelia,

    Well, certainly there’s the question, “Why should I care about logic and evidence?” which cannot, in and of itself, be answered with logic and evidence (i.e., skepticism). But my argument is that for those that do care, skepticism takes you remarkably far in deciding between various proposed moral rules.

    @atheist,

    So to continue, the antichoicers don’t use what you would consider to be “valid arguments against abortion” because their idea of valid is orthogonal to your idea of valid. This is because their values are totally different from yours.

    I did intend “valid” to mean, “logically valid.” That generally isn’t open to interpretation based upon values. And while it may appear, on the surface, that their values are totally different, one then wonders why they have to resort to so many invalid arguments or outright lies when presenting their arguments.

    My argument, in essence, is that their fundamental values really aren’t that different (except, perhaps, for a lack of regard for skepticism), and as a result they are forced, by cognitive dissonance, to divorce themselves from reality in an attempt to hold onto specific moral beliefs.

  34. Bjarte Foshaug says

    The same line can be used to bridge the is-ought gap. If you have X certainty that action Y will benefit everyone, and X is past that line of certainty, then you can “conclude” Y will benefit everyone.

    I beg to differ. Of course science has a lot to say about the probability that your actions will lead to a certain outcome, but science (and hence skepticism) has nothing to say about the value of such an outcome. Once you have decided (by non-scientific means) what your goals are (for example minimizing suffering), then science can inform your decisions about how to reach them, but it cannot help you arrive at those goals are in the first place (except by reference to other goals). Unless the initial value-judgment is part of your premises to begin with no amount of scientific knowledge is ever going to get you there, hence the is-ought gap is as unbridgeable as ever.

  35. atheist says

    @Jason Dick – October 15, 2013 at 2:21 pm (UTC -7)

    I did intend “valid” to mean, “logically valid.” That generally isn’t open to interpretation based upon values. And while it may appear, on the surface, that their values are totally different, one then wonders why they have to resort to so many invalid arguments or outright lies when presenting their arguments.

    You want logically valid reasons to be anti-choice?
    “Patriarchy is supported when sexual activity by women leads to pregnancy. A pregnant woman is both weakened and soon to be in need of money. She will tend to want help and in our society she will likely look for help from a man. If she does so, she will put herself into a relationship where she will be controlled. If she does not find a man, she will be a single mother, which is a tough position and this will serve as a form of punishment. Thus, forcing women to bear any child they may conceive, and placing barriers to conception, acts to support the patriarchal system by limiting women’s freedom in numerous ways.”

    There you go. Perfectly logical if you accept their values. They resort to distortions and lies because on some level they know most people don’t like their real reasons.

  36. says

    Hornbeck @34

    The same line can be used to bridge the is-ought gap. If you have X certainty that action Y will benefit everyone, and X is past that line of certainty, then you can “conclude” Y will benefit everyone.

    That’s not bridging the is-ought gap. The izzes can’t tell you you ought to benefit everyone.

  37. says

    Jason @35 – yes but asking “Why should I care about logic and evidence?” isn’t the issue in this particular question. I agree that reason and slow thinking (more than skepticism) can do a lot to decide between rules, but that too isn’t the issue.

  38. Jason Dick says

    atheist @37 – Well, right. That’s more or less what I said. There are logically-defensible arguments on these things. But they aren’t made. There are other logically-defensible reasons that go more along the lines of, “Human life is sacred, a fetus is a human life, and a woman therefore has a sacred duty to bring a pregnancy to term.” That argument is made, but because the practical implications of that stance are so unpalatable, it also comes along with lots of illogical and demonstrably-wrong cruft. For example, you have anti-abortion activists frequently lying about things like when a fetus can feel pain, or deliberately conflating late-term abortions with the much more common first trimester abortions.

    Ophelia @39 – I guess it might be helpful there to present a specific example. I think the closest to what you’re talking about might be something along the lines of pay and promotion rates for women: why should men care? But I think there too we have peoples’ cognitive dissonance demonstrating the absurdity of their position. It is possible to defend the position of not allowing women to have equal pay or promotion rates logically, but just as with abortion, I think this is pretty rarely done. Instead we see specious arguments about how men are inherently better at their jobs, or attempts at changing the topic by claiming that women really are paid better by looking at some specific subset of the population where this is the case.

    Of course, these defenses don’t come up if the person in question simply says, “I don’t care.” But I think most people tend to become rather defensive when they are called immoral, so that that really isn’t an issue.

  39. atheist says

    @Jason Dick – October 15, 2013 at 6:48 pm (UTC -7)

    atheist @37 – Well, right. That’s more or less what I said. There are logically-defensible arguments on these things. But they aren’t made. There are other logically-defensible reasons that go more along the lines of, “Human life is sacred, a fetus is a human life, and a woman therefore has a sacred duty to bring a pregnancy to term.” That argument is made, but because the practical implications of that stance are so unpalatable, it also comes along with lots of illogical and demonstrably-wrong cruft. For example, you have anti-abortion activists frequently lying about things like when a fetus can feel pain, or deliberately conflating late-term abortions with the much more common first trimester abortions.

    I guess I see that in one of two ways, I see the craziness you describe as either being the beliefs of useful idiots, or distortions & lies used by immoral political actors. I admit, though, that in a society that valued skepticism more than ours, such craziness would be harder to pull off.

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