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The Great Tim Tebow Fallacy - Comments

ozturk's Avatar Comment 1 by ozturk

Almost totally in agreement with you on this RD, except for 'unborn babies don't have a nervous system'. Isn't that a bit like saying they don't have arms or legs? I would agree with 'they can't reason', but 'no nervous system'?

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 20:17:00 UTC | #438209

romeo2009's Avatar Comment 2 by romeo2009

Great piece of clarifying logic, as always expected from RD.

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 20:18:00 UTC | #438210

wetbread's Avatar Comment 3 by wetbread

I noticed the same thing ozturk did. It's not correct to say that "Unborn babies don't have a nervous system." Early-term fetuses don't, but late ones clearly do. Luckily, Richard saves the point with "At least, that is true of early abortions, which means the vast majority," but not before an intervening sentence left me confused by the poor choice of words.

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 20:23:00 UTC | #438211

Narvi's Avatar Comment 4 by Narvi

Fetuses of abortion age DOESN'T have arms, legs or nervous systems. They're not developed enough.

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 20:27:00 UTC | #438212

Eshto's Avatar Comment 5 by Eshto

I am glad he phrased it that way. You might only be confused because the pro-life whackjobs go around showing people pictures of post-abortion fetal tissue that came from a very, very late abortion, as if it represents the majority of abortions. Exactly the opposite is true. Late term abortions are extremely rare.

EDIT: Only thing I disagree with is the end, where it invokes "free speech". This isn't a matter of free speech. CBS would have every right to censor the commercial (as they have done in the past, notably rejecting an ad for a Christian church that promotes tolerance and acceptance of gay people), and we have every right to pressure them to do so. Personally I think it should be their policy to reject all ads with socio-political statements.

Unless someone seriously suggested that the government should intervene? Otherwise "free speech" is not an issue.

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 20:30:00 UTC | #438213

mirandaceleste's Avatar Comment 6 by mirandaceleste

Absolutely excellent!

In addition, CBS's decision to air the advertisement is quite hypocritical, as, prior to this, they have always had a policy of rejecting ads that discuss controversial topics. For example, in the past, they've rejected ads from some gay rights organizations, MoveON, PETA, etc., yet somehow this ad and Focus on the Family (its sponsor) aren't controversial?

I definitely agree that it shouldn't be banned, but I also wish that CBS wouldn't have acted so hypocritically on this. In doing so, they've reinforced, affirmed, and encouraged the completely undeserved sense of entitlement that so many Christians display.

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 20:31:00 UTC | #438214

ozturk's Avatar Comment 7 by ozturk

What does 'abortion age' mean? Obviously a very early foetus doesn't have arms, legs a nervous system. But there is certainly a stage where a foetus does have these things. I'm not trying to start a debate on abortion here, but I think it's important to be accurate. I think I might also quibble with 'doesn't feel pain'; certainly the foetus could not feel wistful, or feel regret, but probably could feel pain I suspect. Again, depending on how late in the term.

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 20:36:00 UTC | #438215

hoffy's Avatar Comment 11 by hoffy

I'm as surprised as Mirandaceleste that CBS has allowed it, but maybe they are calling FOTF's bluff - I had reckoned it was a ruse to get publicity, as so many Superbowl Ads are created just to be banned, it would seem, thus generating more publicity than they could reasonably afford to buy, under normal circumstances. Let's hope everyone has popped into the kitchen for a cold one when the commercial makes it to air.

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 20:39:00 UTC | #438219

Diocletian's Avatar Comment 10 by Diocletian

Comment #457789 by ozturk on February 3, 2010 at 8:17 pm

I believe what Richard means by 'unborn babies' are ones that were never conceived in the first place... as distinct from being a fetus (or embryo) and certainly from being a baby. You have bought into the religious myth that a fetus is in fact an 'unborn baby'. They tend to win the language wars....

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 20:39:00 UTC | #438218

LittleFluffyClouds's Avatar Comment 8 by LittleFluffyClouds

You're wasting your time.

When their arguments are this stupid, the only hope is to address the emotional state and the ulterior motives that make people search for some argument, any argument.

They'll just think of another bullshit argument, like 'Atheists think its ok to kill children because anything is permitted when you don't have Jesus.' Then, when you refute that argument, the audience will have forgotten that you refuted the first argument, so they'll repeat it. ('But there are no intermediate fossils!')

What they are doing is using the convention of communication to create the illusion of content. When you're totally outmatched, you just repeat yourself and hope for the best.

Hope you didn't spend more than 20 minutes writing this.

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 20:39:00 UTC | #438216

Eshto's Avatar Comment 9 by Eshto

@ozturk: It means the stage at which the overwhelming majority of abortions occur = well within the first trimester.

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 20:39:00 UTC | #438217

Kubrick's Avatar Comment 12 by Kubrick

Re: Free speech,

It is worth noting that the Super Bowl rejected a different advertisement, one for a gay dating service.

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 20:45:00 UTC | #438222

ozturk's Avatar Comment 13 by ozturk

@Diocletian -
I think you're right. If RD meant 'never conceived in the first place', then obviously so.

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 20:47:00 UTC | #438223

scoobie's Avatar Comment 14 by scoobie

I'm reminded of a paint I recently saw that boasted that it could *obliterate* any color it was painted over. This is Dawkins in obliterating form. They should name such a paint after him. Impeccable article. An absolute pleasure to read.

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 20:48:00 UTC | #438224

Diocletian's Avatar Comment 15 by Diocletian

Newspapers have a right to decide what op-eds and what stories are printed; publishers determine what books they publish; television stations have the option to pick the commercials they run. They are publicly traded companies.

Free speech is about having the right to articulate views and opinions. You have the right to lie, the right to exaggerate, and the right to be obnoxious. And people have the right not to be around you because of your views, lies, exaggerations and personality flaws. Rejection is also a freedom. CBS rejected the gay dating ad and the PETA sex-with-vegetables ad. They can do that and it is not a violation of our First Amendment.

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 20:51:00 UTC | #438225

jcob82's Avatar Comment 16 by jcob82

If the network is going to air christian nonsense then they should air ads for the gay dating service and any other groups that can pay and wants to advertise.

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 20:56:00 UTC | #438227

alabasterocean's Avatar Comment 17 by alabasterocean

My mother was sitting in a abortion clinic when she had a change of mind and went home again. 8 months later I was born. When she later on, just a few years ago, told me this while crying of shame I told her that she had to get a grip and clever up.

First, I gladly pay my existence for her right to her own body. Gladly!

Second, she was never in a position to kill or abuse me personally in any way, or deprive me of anything that was mine, or belonged to anyone else (Do you here that Mr Pope & Co?). I won't bother her about my kid brothers and sisters she never had and I won't blame her for almost not having me. It's absurd.

And what made her sad and full of guilt for all those years? What traditions and morally faulty ideas made her think she was less of a mother? Who ever you are who dictate morals on this subject for others to feel bad, to be harmed from, shame on you, shame!

And look at the harm, the destruction this goodness free idea spread in the world, look! It's not a question "if" abortion is okay, it's a question of the immorality the opposite holds. So, I won't say your opinion is okay, I say it's harmful, that it is bad and unethical in a thousand ways. What about that?

Strident? Who calls Richard strident? He is as polite you can be on this question.

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 20:59:00 UTC | #438230

The Hogfather's Avatar Comment 18 by The Hogfather

Whilst I agree with the general thrust of Richard's argument on Abortion (which is so elegantly espoused in both The God Delusion and in this article), I can't honestly say that I am that convinced by what he says about "potential".*

It seems to me that it is reasonable to postulate a sliding scale of potential on which the "unborn ghosts" would be at one end and more fully developed foetuses at the other. In other words, the unborn ghosts had the potential to become full human beings with developed nervous systems, yes, but surely the late aborted foetuses came a lot closer to realising that same potential. Another way of saying this is that the closer the foetus gets to being a fully fledged human being, capable of suffering, the more likely it is to actually become that human being. Surely the unborn ghost isn't the exact equivalent of the aborted foetus as far as the "potential" stakes are concerned.

Despite this I must hasten to add that I am still a "pro-choicer" and still think that the "potential" argument is a pretty bad one (even with the sliding scale).

*Although I might have misunderstood his argument in fairness, so please point out if this is the case.

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 21:11:00 UTC | #438233

InYourFaceNewYorker's Avatar Comment 19 by InYourFaceNewYorker

Every time a woman menstruates she is killing her baby. Those poor little scrambled eggs! I actually wrote a satire in '06, in response to the attempted abortion ban in South Dakota, in which Jerry Falwell became president and outlawed menstruation and forced women (and little girls of reproductive age) to fertilize every egg they release until menopause.

To quote Bill Maher, "Being against stem-cell research is very close to declaring that life begins when you're just thinking about fucking somebody." :)


Wed, 03 Feb 2010 21:25:00 UTC | #438238

Rich Wiltshir's Avatar Comment 20 by Rich Wiltshir

This should kill the debate; if a couple are separated b y 23 years, have lost 3 (or more children) are cousins and paid the Vatican (arguably) for a marriage licence (when other authorities had declined) should they be allowed to carry another pregnancy full term... the "prolifers" say "YES"..... Yes to the birth of Adolf Hitler.
An equally trite and abysmal argument, but if they claim the Beethoven Fallacy is valid, then they must address the "Hitler Fallacy" to sustain their integrity....

Petty and empty thinking bites itself in the bum once again.

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 21:45:00 UTC | #438242

prettygoodformonkeys's Avatar Comment 21 by prettygoodformonkeys

Thank you, Richard, for putting this out there.

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 21:46:00 UTC | #438243

Rich Wiltshir's Avatar Comment 22 by Rich Wiltshir

I love the free speech on this site... RD says something and folk question, doubt, criticise it...

Ain't critical thinking wonderful£

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 21:48:00 UTC | #438244

sara g's Avatar Comment 23 by sara g

The ad with Sarah and Bristol Palin holding their babies and saying "We're glad we chose life" bothers me. I'm happy that they are satisfied with their decision and that they love their kids. But by saying they "chose life" they are acknowledging that it was a matter of choice. I'm less certain about Bristol, but I know Sarah thinks a perfect world would offer no other option.

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 21:49:00 UTC | #438245

Rationalist1's Avatar Comment 24 by Rationalist1

The difference with CBS is that they are using public airwaves to broadcase their programming. They are not the equivalent of a newspaper.

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 21:56:00 UTC | #438250

InYourFaceNewYorker's Avatar Comment 25 by InYourFaceNewYorker

Sarah Palin would probably like to outlaw menstruation.

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 21:57:00 UTC | #438251

decius's Avatar Comment 26 by decius

Congratulations for this marvellous, razor-sharp dissection of the argument.

A minor quibble: the advertisement seems to me like a regular instance of 'fallacious enthymeme', or 'unstated major premise'. Although I admit that 'Great Beethoven Fallacy' may sound more appealing to the casual reader, I fail to see the need to amend the existing taxonomy of fallacies for each specific instance thereof.

Enthymemes become fallacious when a dubious or wrong unstated assumption is smuggled into a syllogism. In this case, there are at least two faulty assumptions built into the argument: unborn babies are persons, and Tim/Ludwig are the only possible offspring, as brilliantly pointed out by Richard. I might be wrong, but I see no substantial differences justifying its renaming over the case in point.

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 22:07:00 UTC | #438255

Dr. Strangegod's Avatar Comment 27 by Dr. Strangegod

OH, SNAP! Man, I kind of like Richard in "call them on their bullshit" mode as opposed to "explain science at a kindergarten level" mode. You have a gift, sir. Don't ever shrink from using it.

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 22:07:00 UTC | #438256

Roger Stanyard's Avatar Comment 28 by Roger Stanyard

Well the pro-lifers will argue that abortion is wrong because the soul is put into a person at conception.

Which, of course, is an odd position to take because it makes God the biggest abortionist of the lot.

I dunno what the statistcis are but "natural" abortion (miscarriages, etc..) are frequent and, according to fundamentalist logic, must occur because of Adam's fall - there being no death if he hadn't fallen.

Which, of course, gives the justification to pro-lifers who pump bullets into the heads of abortionists. If God can kill, they are only following God's morality.

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 22:09:00 UTC | #438257

robotaholic's Avatar Comment 29 by robotaholic

I wish we had a superbowl add

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 22:18:00 UTC | #438261

Eshto's Avatar Comment 30 by Eshto

That rejected "gay dating" commercial was most likely a joke. That or just a shitty, poorly produced commercial and completely irrelevant to anything.

Much more important was a (real) ad CBS rejected in 2004 that was submitted by the United Church of Christ, which carried the insidious, subversive and politically incendiary message that (gasp) all people are welcome in their church! Sooo controversial!! Jesus must be rolling over in his... oops nevermind.

Anyway here it is:

Here's another one:

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 22:28:00 UTC | #438265