Thursday, March 11, 2010

Debating Abortion

This L.A. Times story about two professors who engage in debate about abortion each semester is very interesting. I especially appreciate this except from the debate in which Raymond Dennehy, professor of philosophy, bioethics and epistemology at the University of San Francisco, essentially uses what STR calls the Columbo tactic to shift the burden and clarify an objector's argument so it's easier to see the real issue.

Dennehy was unwavering. A woman can abort a fetus only to save her own life. In all other cases, even rape, abortion is tantamount to murder.

"Have you ever been raped or been pregnant?" a young woman demanded.

You could almost see Dennehy rolling his eyes.

"Suppose I said yes," he said, unable to keep a slight snippiness out of his voice. "What's your next move?"

"I was just curious how your opinion would have changed if you were in that situation."

"What has that got to do with the validity of my argument?"

Her gambit failed; now she was on the defensive: "It's just a question."

"There are only two issues in an argument, miss," Dennehy said. "The facts, and the conclusions you draw from the facts.

"When we teach logic, that common fallacy is one of the first things we teach: shifting the attention of the argument and the evidence to the person arguing. It's absolutely irrelevant."

HT: Stand To Reason Blog