Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Steve Landsburg legitimately rapes Todd Akin.

Steve Landsburg's latest post rapes and fathers a parricidal baby upon this controversial remark of Congressman Todd Akin's -  
It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Mr. Akin said of pregnancies from rape. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”
 Landsburg parses Akin’s statement as follows-
Well, somebody told me — I’m not sure if it’s true — that pregnancy from rape is rare for biological reasons, and of course if that is true it would be relevant. But my argument does not depend on that in any case. My position is that we have a duty to preserve the life of any zygote, regardless of how it was conceived.”
and adds
‘I believe that’s the most reasonable guess as to what Akin was trying to say, and I think it’s reasonable for him to have wanted to say it.’

Steve is an economist. So, presumably, by reasonable he means rational. So, he is applying a rational choice hermeneutic to Akin’s statement.
But Steve’s interpretation reads into Akin’s statement an utterly fatal admission which Akin’s certainly wouldn’t make if he is indeed a rational or reasonable being
‘…pregnancy from rape is rare for biological reasons, and of course if that is true it would be relevant’
Why make the gratuitous admission, that something is relevant to the argument, if your own case really is water-tight without it?
Either something is relevant to an argument or it is not.  It is not reasonable to say of the same fact that it is relevant while maintaining that it is irrelevant. Steve thinks that admitting that some piece of evidence is admissable but adding ‘well, I don’t need it to make my case’ has no consequences. But a lawyer who admits something is admissable gives his adversary an opportunity to rely on that evidence. A good lawyer, one with reasoning powers, would not do so.
So, Landsburg is saying that Akin gratuitously admitted the admissibility of a type of evidence, regarding which he had no expert knowledge, which could be used against his own case and, moreover, reasonable people do things like that.
This is not true.
Here is an example of a reasonable man making a reasonable argument.
I say- ‘It is wrong to kill.’
You angrily counter- ‘But some Jordanian Steel Workers have less ear wax than Mongolian Actuaries! What about their plight? Can we really ignore their suffering? Moral imperatives only come into their own after the fundamental right to life, the right to happiness, has been secured for all moral agents.’
‘That is irrelevant.’ I reply sternly. ‘It is wrong to kill.’
Suppose the argument had gone as follows-
Me- ‘It is wrong to kill’

You – ‘Jordanian Steel Workers need more ear wax. Mongolian Actuaries have a super-abundance of ear wax. Haliburton must construct a ear wax pipe-line because it says in the bible- ‘Yea kill not for it is wrong but smite mightily Hallelujah’.’

Me- Well, I admit that if it is really true that Jordanian Steel Workers can profitably trade in ear-wax with Mongolian Actuaries then that fact would be relevant to my argument.

You- Fooled you! Actually Mongolian Actuaries, for genetic reasons, have less ear wax than Jordanian Steel Workers. (Wikipedia). Mongolian Actuaries are poor but proud. By kindling the Jordanian Steel Worker’s avarice for Mongolian ear wax you have sown the seeds of a brutal war.

Me- Be that as it may, the point is my argument does not depend on the earwax situation at all.

You- But you said earwax was relevant.

Me- Yes, well, I was reading Steve Landsburg and thought that saying something is relevant when it isn’t is what reasonable people do. I was just trying to be reasonable is all. What? Is it really so unreasonable to be guided by Landsburg’s reasoning?

You- Yes.

Me- You know, being right isn't a good look for you. I mean, I'd still do you but like reverse cow girl only. 

You- That breaks my heart.

Me- Yes. Well. Them's the breaks honey.

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