Thursday, May 10, 2007

Two sides

I recently became embroiled in a short debate over Partial Birth Abortion, then through that about Planned Paretnhood.

A piece in the local newspaper written by a PP doctor decried the Supreme Court's recent decision. In her piece, she cited a patient “who was 23 and had an 8--year-old, a 5-year-old, a 2-year-old, and 8-month-old twins. She loved her children, but did not think she could possibly manage to take care of another.”

My response to that piece was that it seemed as if the woman was being used as a tool in the debate to support abortion, and there was no sense that her many other needs were being addressed. I pointed out that there was a values gap.

I did cite the profits PP made through abortion and birth control, suggesting that those might be its priorities. Admittedly controversial. That raised some hackles.

One of the person's responding to me launched into an offensive attack on the Catholic Church - which hadn't even been part of the original article and hadn't been cited previously.

The responder said his main point is “there are two sides to every story.”

In preparing a response, I thought of Chesterton's technique of taking the opponent's argument, and turning it on its head. Ah, that I had his gifts.

I responded:

"You won’t get any argument from me. There are often two sides – sometimes even more.

There is the side of the thief, for example, and the side of the person who was robbed.

There’s the side of the polluter, and the side of the person who gets sick because of the pollution.
There’s the side of the racist, and the side of the person who was harmed by the racist.

You see, while there may often be two sides to a story, that does not make both sides equally valid or right."


DimBulb said...

There are two sides to every story (at least). One deceit common in the death camp is to appeal to the most extreme side, like the story of the woman with the five kids. By appealing to carefully chosen particulars they seek to justify the whole mess. Such a trick is highly effective since it is subjective, by appealing to the emotions it saves people from having to think to hard. This is always a plus when you're trying to win the immoral side of an argument.

Nick Milne said...

The opposite of this might be found in Chesterton's own approach to these sorts of things. Though I don't have the passage on me at present (I believe it can be found in Orthodoxy), the general drift of it was that one of the better ways to "win" an argument (and by better he meant real and justifiable and fair) is to let one's opponent's arguments go further and further until their full absurdity becomes apparent through simple exposition. That is: act as if there really is only one side to the story - that of your opponent. The image he uses primarily is that of a skeptic, who we (that is, non-skeptics) should not enjoin to cease doubting, but rather to doubt more and more until finally all that is left of the man is doubt.

Alan Capasso said...

True he is not a "true" Chestertonian but what Eric Hoffer once said seems to apply to the pro-abortion rhetoric, "We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves."

Chestertonian said...

Nick, I'm not sure where it is in Orthodoxy, but Chesterton takes up that line of thought, very powerfully, I might add -- in his "Introduction to the Book of Job," which I was reading (again) this morning. He was saying that in a lesser story, when God appears in the end he might come up with very clever answers to the questions asked by Job and others throughout the poem.

But in what Chesterton called a "truly inspired touch," God instead appears and instead of answering, poses some questions himself. He basically takes the skepticism of Job and the others and turns it back on them, showing Himself to be a greater skeptic than the skeptics. Chesterton goes on to say that if you introduce a doubter to greater and greater doubts, he just might begin to doubt himself.

"The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man."

Nick Milne said...

I had quite forgotten about that! Thanks for reminding me.

I love how he describes Job as a "man of candid intellect."