Friday, July 11, 2008


A little advice: when accusing someone of dogmatism, it is not sufficient for the purposes of your argument to simply state that that person is being dogmatic when they assert "x" "y" and "z". Why? Because, in the absence of an explanation of how assertions "x" "y" and "z" are dogmatic, a judgement of dogmatism becomes, itself, dogmatic. That is, the judgement is "based on a priori assumptions rather than empirical evidence."


Well, not if you believe that dogma is an exclusively Catholic/Christian commodity, apparently:
As for the Catholic Church, it soldiers on against the right to abortion, contraception and sex education. It asked the governor-general to deny Morgentaler his award. In the National Post, Father Raymond J. De Souza, whose views mirror those of the Vatican, went after Raymond Gravel, a Catholic priest and federal Bloc MP [here]. In Le Devoir, Gravel had expressed a more balanced and empathetic view [here] of the issue compared with that of the Vatican.

De Souza's reply displayed the kind of dogmatic and nasty attitude against women's equality rights, including the right to abortion, which has turned so many Catholics into non-practising ones. Bemoaning how complicated it would be to have Gravel expelled from the priesthood or the church itself, De Souza called Gravel a "crackpot," a "thoroughly disingenuous man," a "reliable source of anti-Catholic dissent," a "poseur," a man of "scandalous behaviour" who "betrays both his faith and his office."

So the Morgentaler controversy serves as one more reminder of how impervious most major organized religions remain to women's rights ,within their own organizations and the larger society.
Wow! Talk about dogma! There is but one line of the above that doesn't betray either (a) the author's complete ignorance of the abortion issue (not to mention Catholicism), or (b) her glaringly unreasonable unwillingness to acknowledge the rational--that is to say, the non-religious--substance of the anti-abortion argument. So convinced is she of her belief that a human being is not a human being until it has left the womb, that no other opinion deserves even the dignity of accurate representation, let alone fair hearing.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm all for Ms. Legault's right to believe this, and to make known her belief--even if she goes so far as to misrepresent those of others. What bothers me, I say, is the intellectual dishonesty of her using one form of infallible dogma to dismiss another. (What bothers me even more is the uncanny feeling I have that hers isn't so much intellectual dishonesty as it is intellectual deficiency, i.e. that even she doesn't recognize the glaring double-standard at work in her piece. But this is just a conjecture--a belief for which I have no solid proof--so I won't press it.)

I mean, yes, Josée, we get it: as far as you're concerned, the issue isn't so much about abortion as it is about "women's rights". But you do recognize that abortion's opponents have addressed this? That they quite accept the idea of equality rights, just not to the extent that those rights be allowed to infringe upon those of others (in this case, the unborn). This because they can no longer be called equality rights when they necessitate that some human beings be treated unequally.

So what say you to that? That the unborn aren't human beings? OK. Interesting. And on whose authority are we meant to accept that assertion? Some people's? Erm ... Oh: the people who aren't religious nuts, you mean. OK. And what's your criteria for a religious nut, again? Somebody who is against abortion? Gotcha.

In short, Ms. Legault has commited the mistake of assuming that where the religious have no demonstrable claim on truth, it then follows that the non-religious do. This, I believe, is called affirming the consequent--an argument no less flawed, unfortunately, than is the appeal to (divine) authority.

But what is perhaps most remarkable about Ms. Legault's piece is how she seems to infer from a 65% nationwide approval of Dr. Morgentaler's nomination to the Order of Canada, a 65% rate of approval of Canada's current non-existent abortion law. (Which, needless to say, is to simplify things on a very grand scale.) Indeed, she goes even further and suggests that the 35% of Canadians who oppose Morgentaler's nomination to the Order--whom she describes as "religiously fervent and ultra-conservative "--constitutes an insignificant number.