Where Are The Non-Emotional Arguments?

Extreme EmotionNot long ago, I came across someone on Twitter who was supposedly arguing for an anti-abortion position from a non-theistic perspective.  I went to read it and was rather surprised at how utterly emotional it was.  It got me thinking and unfortunately, when I decided to write about it, I couldn’t find the original post to reference so… forget about all of that.

It seems like there are some subjects where people have a real problem talking about without resorting to entirely emotional positions.  Many people don’t seem to be able to debate such things rationally or intellectually, it usually ends up with both sides screaming and crying at each other and nothing really getting accomplished because both sides are completely emotionally tied to their positions.  I’ve identified four places where this seems to be the case and I want to talk a little about each of them.

The first, of course, is abortion.  This is what sparked this little discussion and the first one I want to address.  It seems that people on both sides of the argument are acting primarily out of emotion.  There certainly are some unemotional positions to take, particularly from the pro-choice side, but one reason that I rarely ever get in abortion debates is because both sides are just screaming at each other.  A lot of the anti-abortion side is tied to religion and, as we all know, that’s about as irrational as you can get.

The second is the death penalty.  I’m very pro-death penalty, I don’t think we use it nearly enough and I think that if we used it as we  should, the country would be in a better place.  Yet you have a ton of people on the anti-DP side whose entire argument is emotional.  They have nothing rational to say.  You get the constant whine, “if someone you knew was going to be executed, you’d change your mind!”  No, I would not.  If someone I knew, even a close family member, committed a crime for which execution was the proscribed penalty, I’d still support it because they actually did it!  My personal feelings don’t enter into it.  Crime X is punishable by penalty Y. Don’t like it, don’t commit crime X.  Easy peasy.  My positions don’t change because my emotions get involved.  The death penalty isn’t about revenge, it’s about justice.  Some crimes simply are too heinous to allow the criminal to keep breathing the same air as decent people.  Sometimes it’s just a practical manner, I don’t think anyone who is in prison for the rest of their lives with absolutely no possibility of parole is doing society any  good by continuing to let them live.  Flush ’em with the rest of the trash, free up prison cells.  And the hand-wringing argument that we might make a mistake doesn’t impress me either.  Yes, we might.  We make mistakes all the time in everything that we do.  We’re human.  The possibility of making mistakes doesn’t stop us from putting people in prison, does it?  And no, just because we can release them later and give them a bag of money to salve our emotional distress doesn’t give these people  back the years of their lives that they rotted in a cell.  We’re not perfect, deal with it.

Third, religion.  We all know this one and the emotion almost entirely comes from the religious side.  They cannot look at their beliefs rationally, it’s all about how it makes them feel and what strokes their ego.  This makes debating the religious almost entirely pointless because they cannot be reasoned out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into in the first place.  It only takes looking at the recent Billy Nye/Ken Ham and Sean Carroll/William Lane Craig debates to see that.  That’s why I really support the 30-second debate format, either theists can demonstrate that their gods are real or they lose.

And finally, drug legalization.  It’s all about emotion.  Social liberals, and this includes most libertarians, want to feel good, they want people to do what they want so why not legalize drugs?  I look at it differently.  I think that if we’re going to take something that is currently illegal and make it legal, it ought to  be for a demonstrable purpose.  It ought to do something demonstrably positive for society.  What demonstrable positive does legalizing drugs achieve?  I’ve been asking that question for years and have never gotten a satisfactory answer. What I do get are tons of insults from the drug legalization crowd who just want to stick a needle in their arm or snort things up their nose.  It only takes reading through some of my posts against drug legalization to see that.

I think humanity has a problem and that problem is  an over-reliance on emotion and an under-reliance on rationality.  We have the ability to override these base primitive emotional impulses with our superior rational brain, yet very few people do it.  Why?  Because it’s easier to just react than think.  More than anything, I think this is the issue that causes problems like liberalism and religion.  Even when most people reject the religion, they still cling to their emotions for most other things they believe and the problem just doesn’t go away.  Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of places where emotion is applicable and should be used, but we have to intelligently decide where and when those applications are best served and most people just don’t do that.  Until we, as a species, get better at controlling our emotions and using our rational minds, we’re going to be a mess.

6 thoughts on “Where Are The Non-Emotional Arguments?”

  1. " Until we, as a species, get better at controlling our emotions and using our rational minds, we’re going to be a mess."

    This was an excellent thought provoking article on so many levels.

    Those feeling played upon by the "Powers That Be" which are used to control the general populace.

    1. It's an unfortunate fact that so many people simply never bother to use their reasoning faculties on the things they believe, they want to feel good first and worry about whether they're good ideas a distant second, if at all. Virtually all problems that we have on this planet can be traced to a lack of reason on the part of the participants and usually, both sides are fighting to keep rational thought and critical thinking away from the conflict. It's a big emotional dick-waving contest and that will never actually resolve the problems.

  2. I agree with you about the emotional arguments, except I am a hand-wringer on the death penalty issue. The idea that I/we could take a life by mistake still appalls me far too much to consider the death penalty even remotely a solution.

    However, for me the other and more relevant issue, is that I feel by imposing the death penalty we are lowering ourselves to the same standard. While it makes perfect logical sense to imply the death penalty, in that case it also makes logical sense that we are doing the same thing (or worse) that said person is getting death penalty for. In my mind I cannot bring those two differing reasonings together.
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    1. The only thing we need to worry about is protecting society, if we're not worried about imprisoning someone by mistake, I don't think we should be worried about executing someone by mistake. Everything we do is a learning experience, we ought to learn from our mistakes so we don't make them again in the future. If we never allow ourselves to make mistakes, we can't learn. To reject something that clearly works because it makes you uncomfortable is pure emotion and therefore, problematic.

  3. For me, marijuana legalization isn't about feeling good as much as it is about (1) saving money that is now being spent on failing enforcement efforts and an overcrowded prison system, and (2) being honest about the science in that it really doesn't appear to be nearly as dangerous as some would have us believe. I don't imagine I'd be any more likely to use it if it were legal than I am now or to encourage others to use it.

    The death penalty is even easier in some ways because there is considerable evidence that it does not work as a general deterrent. Combined with even a handful of cases where criminals on death row have been exonerated by DNA evidence, and it becomes even clearer that it accomplishes little.

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    1. 1) Just because the current system is failing doesn't mean that we should throw the whole thing away. I agree that the current "war on drugs" is a failed effort. Let's fix the current system.
      2) I really don't care about danger, I care about the good that it does for society. I see no reason to legalize something because it's not as bad as some think, but because it actually does add something demonstrably positive to society. There are no positives to drug legalization, it doesn't make society stronger or work better or be more successful, if anything, it harms society. All the arguments that can be made about how it isn't as dangerous as other things is only an argument to make those other things illegal as well.

      Nobody says the death penalty is a deterrent, if it was, it would be called the death deterrent. It is a punishment and it works with 100% efficiency every single time. Prison isn't a deterrent either, the overwhelming majority of people who go to prison go back time and time again. Nobody is calling for prisons to be closed because they don't deter crime. It also doesn't matter that people have been found to be wrongfully imprisoned, you simply cannot give people back the years they have spent behind bars, no matter how much money you give them, therefore that's a bad argument as well. Like so many other liberal arguments, this is based entirely on emotion and I reject them out of hand.

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