Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Right Way to Support an Argument

This post is coming together for two reasons.  Abortion is very much in the news today and Grace in my Heart posted a few days ago, a claim that the HPV vaccine CAUSED one female's sterility.  What I said in a comment on her blog is that "correlation is not causation", a very important scientific principle or maybe just a logic principle.  What I've seen from folks usually apposed to certain activities or human behaviors is that they try to tie some scary health data to whatever they don't like and want to stop.  Thus, the article about one girl's premature ovarian failure because she took Gardasil.  This type of argument is totally unnecessary and doesn't further the person's case.

I've heard in the past that some try to tie having an abortion to getting breast cancer.  This may or may not be true, I don't know.  But isn't there a good enough and morally correct way to argue against abortion other than saying it might give you cancer?  We could say that killing is ethically and morally wrong.  Therefore, as a society we don't condone and our laws don't allow for it.  I don't think that's a stretch.  You might have to go further and say that the rights of an unborn to stay alive supercede the mother's right to kill it if she so desires.  That might make some feminists balk, but it's certainly the right of a government to decide if we allow the willful killing of human life in any form, inside or outside the womb.

The same argument stands for not advocating girls and boys be vaccinated against HPV.  If you think Gardasil is ineffective, dangerous, will make your kid have more sex just because they are now thought to be vaccinated against a proven cancer-causing virus, you don't have to tell a story about how some local doctor came to a flimsy conclusion that because their patient got the HPV vaccine and prior to that, had normal periods, and now testing shows this one person is in premature ovarian failure.  Just simply argue that this is a drug you don't support, don't let your kids get it, and call it a day.  You don't have to do what one commenter did which was call the story "horrifying."  Really, horrifying?  If you think one person's sterility is horrifying, I'd especially appreciate you calling all other infertile's experiences horrifying.  I don't feel my situation is horrifying but feel free to think that on my behalf. 

There are a lot of what I call phony drugs on the market.  Just because the FDA approves a drug for market, does not mean it's a safe or effective drug.  This has been proven many times.  The drug for "restless leg syndrome" was not originally developed for that so-called syndrome.  But, the drug makes spent millions of dollars trying to develop this drug and it's legal to apply your new drug to some other condition not the original one you were doing drug research on.

We can call things unethical, immoral, and illegal but it seems lazy to try and scare others by presenting these "bad" things as causing some very unpleasant or unhealthy condition.  Something can be bad without being unhealthy.


  1. I absolutely agree with you on this. It's sloppy and lazy reasoning, plus I give a hearty thumbs-down to anyone fanning anti-vaccine hysteria.

    I also agree on the reasoning. The whole point of naming something an intrinsic evil means that it's bad regardless of the intention behind it or the consequences. By using pseudo-science to shore up your argument against abortion, you're undermining the claim of intrinsic evil.

    Here's a blog post that lays out some of these issues nicely:

  2. My husband's twenty-two-year-old cousin has cervical cancer. She's having a hysterectomy shortly. The doctors say that if the surgery is successful, she MIGHT live. She was definitely a fallen-away Catholic in college, and I gather she was promiscuous. I was pretty sure that HPV couldn't mature into cancer in just a year or two, but I'm also pretty sure that they presumptively attribute cervical cancer to HPV (because the statistical correlation is overwhelming). And college students are not the most thorough cohort at getting regular pap smears.

    If this girl's parents had been responsible, they would have done more to make sure she was raised in the faith, and more to make her understand the (manifold) dangers of promiscuity. But I imagine Gardasil would have been a good idea, too; her not getting vaccinated certainly didn't make her chaste. And if she sees her 23rd birthday, which is far from certain at this point, she's definitely never having kids.

    But that anecdote isn't a winning argument either, is it? Would be nice to debate the merits of these things rather than leaping to the most emotionally-charged example possible...maybe after November :).

  3. I'm sorry to hear about your cousin, misfit. HPV is highly contagious. Vaccination protects girls and women not only from their own bad choices (ONE sexual encounter can spread HPV), but from the bad choices of their partners. The most chaste person in the world can have a husband who wanders, or who wandered in his youth, or whose deceased wife wandered before she died. In other words, being chaste is not 100% protection against HPV either.