Seldom more wrong

Cedarford writes: “The “slippery slope” argument is largely becoming just a laughable piece of obvious sophistry from overuse.”

Drudge reports: “Three years after the city banned smoking in restaurants, health officials are talking about prohibiting something they say is almost as bad: artificial trans fatty acids.”

From vaccines to health bans, from polygamy to proposed invasions, the “slippery slope” argument has never been more reliable as a predictive model. I remember being laughed at by an orthodontist’s son 17 years ago when I warned him about the effect HMOs would likely have on his father’s practice. Five years later, his father was trying to rally his fellow professionals against them. I remember a friend of mine from New York who loved the new smoking ban and laughed at the absurd notion that they would ever lead to food bans. And it wasn’t all that long ago that the homogamy crowd was insisting that expanding the state’s definition of “marriage” regarding sex was possible without expanding the number of individuals involved.

As I cited in my column on Monday, pro-torture conservatives are already calling for its use against non-terrorist American citizens even prior to its acceptance for use against presumed terrorists. So, the “slippery slope” from the torture of foreign jihadists to the torture of American citizens is all but assured.

In truth, the “slippery slope” argument, when properly made, is merely the application of the logic behind one situation to another, conceptually related situation. For example:

1. Torture is justified if even one American life is saved.
2. Terrorists are a serious threat to American lives.
3. Therefore, torturing terrorists is justified.

One can attack #1 or #2, (I reject both, as a matter of fact), but one cannot successfully attack the logic. And if one accepts both #1 and #2, one is bound to reach the same conclusion with regards to torturing criminals because the logic applies equally well if one substitutes the word “criminals” for “terrorists” in #2 and #3.

In response, the anti-slopist will usually attempt to argue, “well, that’s just not realistic” or “no one is arguing that”. But those aren’t arguments, they are only assertions, and in this case, they would be incorrect as per the previously cited example.