Debate Guide: Logical fallacies and intergenerational sexuality

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Logical fallacies (see also) are arguments whose premises somehow fail to support their conclusions. In debate, these fallacies tend to be based on inference (informal fallacies) rather than explicitly stated in the strict, logically fallacious sense (formal fallacies). They are easy to learn and on the whole, very easy to spot thereafter. Identifying and deconstructing fallacious arguments should be an important part of your debate strategy. Using fallacious arguments - especially those hard to detect ones grounded in rhetoric and vague implications is a discipline in which many seasoned politicians, pundits and public speakers have become grand masters.

This page lists a number of common fallacies of argumentation.

Strawman

The strawman is a common logical fallacy, composed of an exaggerated, caricatured or ludicrous version of someone else's argument. The argument can be made just to look ridiculous:

"The censorers are coming! They're going to stop the free exercise of "luring" little kids into pornography or sex slavery! GAWD HELP US ALLL!1111" (DaninGraniteCity, IIDB, 2006)

Alternatively, a straw man argument may be actively dissected. For example, someone may establish that an opponent advocates the sexual coercion of children, when in fact they support no law that requires children to behave sexually at all. These arguments should not be defended by those who have been misread. It should also be noted that opponents sometimes show extremely irrational thought patterns that can be rationally extended towards an equally absurd conclusion.

Biased sample

Pedophile:

"There is no way of knowing for sure if certain pathological traits are represented in the population of pedophiles, and by that I mean individuals who have a sexual preference for prepubescent children."

Doctor:

"You are incorrect about these child-attracted pedophiles. In fact, pedophiles have been clinically proven to exhibit [Recites a list of Gene Abel and James Cantor studies based on (non representative) clinical and criminal samples]"

Doctor's argument is fallacious as it uses the clinical dogma surrounding what Abel labels a pedophile to impose his prejudices onto the pedophile's chosen sample. Doctor's argument would not be fallacious if his first sentence instead read: "Your description of a pedophile is inadequate".

Ad lapidem (absurdity)

Dismissing a claim as patently absurd is fallacious as an argument:

"Your claim that mothers and nannies have masturbated infants throughout history is so absurd, so obviously false that it requires no proper rebuttal."

Destroying the exception

"Child molesters deserve the death penalty. Whatever you say about Debra Lafave, she is a child molester, period. She must therefore be punished by death."

Rigid rules about "how something should be" often run into trouble when acknowledged exceptions are nevertheless included on technical grounds.

Ad nauseum

"As I have said before, and will continue to say, children under the age of sixteen are psychologically inferior and unable to give their consent for sexual activities. Given the number of times I have repeated this argument, I find it strange that you have not been able to grasp this concept"

From the pen of "Sabine Grant" (actual replies):

"You seem to not have grasped what I actually developed on earlier [...] I thought I had already expanded in this thread as to why most rape victims [...] I will refer you back to the links I have posted earlier as to the most commonly experienced psychological/emotional senses among rape victims [...] If you do take the time to in fact consult my links you will find that the sense of "sexual violation" and "sexual debilitation" is NOT isolated from other factors as being purely a sexually lived experience. Usually when I post links it is for the purpose of documentation and not merely to fill space in a thread."
"No matter how "consenting" the child appears to be, such child 's hormonal, physiological,mental and emotional status are inferior to an adult's. You seem to not recognize those scientifically supported realities even though they were demonstrated to you in other threads. [...] It has been a constant for you to DENY the exploitative aspect of such adult/children rapports. No matter which efforts have been deployed by me to document my counter claim that they are exploitative."

The assertion or implication that an argument's repetition increases its validity or pertinence, or the repetition of such an argument itself, is a fallacious argument. When an opponent such as Grant is claiming to have been ignored despite ad nauseum repetition, the fallaciousness of their argument depends on whether their opponent has addressed the argument in a non-evasive way.

Genetic fallacies

Genetic fallacies are fallacies of irrelevance where conclusions are derived from something or someone's origin rather than its current meaning or context. This overlooks any difference to be found in the present situation, typically transferring the positive or negative esteem from the earlier context.

Ad hominem

A personal attack or ad hominem argument is fallacious as it derives no value from the merits of its opponent's argument. A number of later discussed association fallacies have personal appeal and are therefore ad hominems. A general example follows:

"Some decades ago, Mr Green, you argued for the removal of homosexuality from the DSM. As I'm sure my friends at NARTH would agree, you, Mr Green hardly cut a moral or authoritative figure in the human sciences. Now, tell us why we are to listen to your latest musings on pedophilia and why these arguments should be seen to hold up whatsoever."

Association fallacy

Guilt by association:

Nikki Craft attempts to discredit the late Ralph Underwager by referring to his interview with Paidika, and Paul Okami by suggesting that undesirable groups use his work to their advantage. None of this alters Underwager or Okami's arguments, or their merit.

Honor by association:

"Lisa M. Jones is a student of David Finkelhor who is an exemplary researcher on child sexual abuse. How could you possibly criticise her good work, in light of this!?"

Style over substance

This argument is a fallacious line of reasoning, which may state for example, that "you called me dirty names while saying 2+2=4, therefore 2+2=7" or "I don't like the way you phrased your explanation of how a car engine works, therefore it runs on water."

"Frans Gieles makes some translation errors in the English section of his website. I find that this discredits his work."

An opponent is seen as "wrong" because of his or her style.

"You use the term abusively and liberally and based on your own prejudice that child protective services and their assigned professionals suffer of "hysteria" and are "indoctrinated". Yet you have not provided any evidence to support such derogative and insulting assertions on the account of such professionals and such services."

An opponent "needs to provide evidence" because of his or her style. Both are fallacious arguments.

Appeal to...

...e.g., Sexual Liberation

"Most swingers (who are sexually liberated people) think lowly of sex with minors".

The swingers, with whom the ultimate title of 'sexual liberation' is identified 'think lowly' of our most important arguments, which must therefore be false ideals of liberation. The 'swinger' argument is also faulty because swinging is just one liberated subculture, one thread of the cloth. The argument also puts beliefs into our swingers' heads, when in fact, they may be even more liberal than most regarding child sexuality. If this is so, maybe we are more entitled to this fallacy!

...Motive

An argument is not made any more or less valid because someone likes or dislikes the perceived motive of its proponent. The argument is regularly put forward as a distraction technique by individuals who believe that minor-attracted people "can not be neutral" in debates concerning their own issues. Whether or not this is the case, and whether or not anyone is arguing with an agenda - covert or otherwise, it is totally irrelevant to the actual debate.

...Authority

"The DSM says that pedophilia is a mental disorder, so it must be."

Appeals to authority are often grounded in superficially solid but ever-changing authority consensuses. The DSM for example, once classified homosexuality as a mental disorder. Unquestioning trust of authority often does little more than validate status-quo moral consensus, and is therefore a highly unreliable method of argument, relying on culturally and historically biased information.

...Tradition.

"Human societies have always protected their young. So why should they just suddenly stop now?"

As well as being incorrect and based upon an ethnocentric view of "protection", the argument ultimately collapses because a practise has no inherent value simply because it is the "done thing". Value must be presented and not assumed.

...Emotion

There is an endless list of fallacious appeals to emotion:

Fear:

"Your point about the assumed nativity of sexual trauma in masturbated children is well taken. However, if it is true, we are confronted with the frankly scary situation of having been wrong all along and having to deconstruct a taboo of sexual horror. It is for this reason that I think the "ick factor" really is relevant to this debate."

Pity:

"How dare you rant on about the merits of your adult "lover" when you were only ten years old! I have already presented you with the story of my daughter who was tied up, gagged and gang raped by a satanic cult. DOES THIS NOT REQUIRE SOME SYMPATHY!?!"

Flattery:

"Surely someone as intelligent of you would not support this stupid proposal to disseminate pornography to minors!"

Nature:

"As adult-juvenile sex is not seen in nature/serves no natural purpose, it can never be good or proper."

As Richard Green says: Watch out, homosexuals!

Ridicule:

"As for your lame, bizzarro, crank, naive theory, whatever! Grow up and see it from the perspective of a normal person, then report back."

Novelty:

"The studies used in the Rind meta-analysis are decades out of date and therefore useless."

Besides the need to explain how Rind's lost decades are unique to his study, this fallacious argument does not explain how the findings of a study are non-applicable to today's situation and lacking any alternative use such as measuring a potential lack of harm.

Well poisoning

Sometimes, an opponent may present unfavourable information about an opponent before considering the merits of any of his or her arguments:

"Before you listen to my opponent, may I remind you that he has been in jail."

Differences and comparisons

False dichotomy

The false dichotomy is a fallacy in setting only two possible outcomes to a question. These two possible outcomes are most often in conflict with each other and generally serve to restrict debate and swing it in favour of the person setting the question. Anti pedophile "scientists" and pundits (e.g. Stephanie Dallam) are notorious for dichotomising issues, as are their anti-gay predecessors (e.g. Edmund Bergler).

False compromise

A false compromise argument will typically assume that a position in between two stated extremes is automatically superior by virtue of it being more moderate. It can be used to reclaim lost ground after strong arguments made by opponents. For example:

"I will concede your points concerning the vast industry and vested political interests in recovering memories of childhood sexual abuse. But arguing that these phenomena are nearly always made-up is a stretch too far and invoking Loftus' claim that they can be deliberately implanted is simple overkill. As both extremes seem unlikely, a middle way on this issue will always be more sensible and more likely to bear truth".

Compromise can not be assumed more likely to bear truth when neither extreme has been addressed by the argument.

Darkside fallacy

While we are unable to find reliable sources that document the use of this argument, it is clearly a fallacy of rhetorical implication.

This is in effect the opposite of a false compromise. Here, two opposing extremes are presented, but in this case they are both endorsed. By endorsing a patently valid argument of the opposition in order to imply that there must be a "bad side" to something, the proponent is making a fallacious argument. The darkside argument is regularly used in the anti-child propaganda of paid establishment figureheads such as Tanya Byron. For example, Byron and others often argue that the internet has opened up "new opportunities" for minors. They will then go on to add that "it also poses a considerable threat to their wellbeing". Byron's implication that conceding one point somehow validates or renders equally important the other is a hard one to pin down. As a rule of thumb, when we observe two vastly counteracting points occurring in such close proximity on such a common basis, it is a good sign that an argument has attained "soundbite status" because of its slippery, fallacious appeal.

Other fallacies for consideration

Non sequitur is basic fallacy where the conclusion does not follow from a single premise:

"Underage sex leads to all kind of strife in the family and court system. It is therefore important for it to remain a criminal act."

Wishful thinking is a fallacy of relevance where an opponent bases an argument on what they would like to believe rather than what (if anything) is most likely. Whilst a logically fallacious committal ("I believe in X and therefore Y will happen") to this argument is rare, the cognitive bias is popular in CSA arguments. One interesting point is that for CSA apologists, the natural consequence of wishful thinking is in effect the worst possible scenario for all children who have been sexually involved with or abused by an adult. Bruce Rind points out that his APA-reviewed study was not accepted as the "good news" it should have been. This begs the question, "who are the real child abusers?".

Appeal to consequences is a fallacious and often emotionally-charged argument. It often involves subjective value-judgements for or against the consequences:

"If you keep on espousing these sickly beliefs like kiddy rape is OK, you are the one who is going to end up in jail. So much for your "agenda"".

Or:

"Avoiding sex until you reach the age of consent will lead to a happier, more wholesome life and helps avoid teen pregnancies, which are a social problem. Therefore your argument is false."

As can be seen, both of these arguments are also based on basic non-sequiturs.

See also