A while ago, I was looking up the word “tautology” because I heard it somewhere and didn’t know what it was, which is generally a good reason for looking things up, I think. What I discovered was that tautology is a form of logical fallacy; and further, that there are many different classifications of logical fallacy; and even further than that, that we hear many of these logical fallacies every day! Usually from people whose job is to tell us what to think, luck would have it.
One such logical fallacy that I found interesting is the “slippery slope” argument. A classic and recent example of just such an argument has been applied to the concept of gay marriage. “If we allow people of the same sex to get married,” the reasoning goes, “then we are relaxing our moral standards and our definitions of marriage. Before long, our standards will continue to lapse to the point where people will be marrying the duck from the pond down the street, or their shiny new plasma TV, or the abstract concept of whimsy.”
When I first heard this concept, I must say I was rather convinced. I mean, it is only natural that, if everyone knew that gay people were being allowed to marry, they would want to marry their favorite dog or tree or chair. I know I would marry all kinds of stuff if it were legal and would earn me a tax break. Provided of course that there was love.
However, today I am wiser for having read about the holes in this logic. The explanation was pretty technical, but here is the way I understand it.
Say, for the sake of argument, that you allow yourself to be convinced by this “slippery” argument that same-sex marriage is bad for our society, and you go ahead and allow them to ban it. That’s fine; it doesn’t really affect you, whatever. A few months pass. Now they come out with a new, similar argument, for why they should also ban man-woman marriages. This seems a little weird, and it means that you can’t get married, but the logic seems sound, so ok. Let’s ban it. Next they go after sex. And then what? Hugs? Handshakes? Friendship? Pretty soon you can’t talk to people on the street! A little while after that, you’re not allowed to even look at another person! Can you imagine trying to buy groceries without looking at anybody? I sure can’t!
So when you think about it in these terms, slippery slope arguments are a pretty severe problem. In fact, if you’re allowing yourself to be persuaded by this sort of reasoning, you’re actually contributing to the extinction of the American populace. We need sex in order to procreate and sustain our citizenry! Do you want that on your conscience? I know I don’t! And that’s only one example of what you’re contributing to.
Hopefully I’ve impressed upon you the importance of being able to identify these problematic arguments, and that next time you hear such an argument, you’ll be able to identify it and further, understand how it is trying to destroy the fabric of our society by snowballing out of control. Thank you for reading.
Oh yes, and for those who are wondering what tautology means, well, every single statement is tautological, unless it’s not.