Friday, 24 February 2012

Of slippery slopes, homophobia and tolerance

It's very sad to read in the Telegraph that some abortions are being performed because of the gender of the unborn baby. Whilst the supporters of the 1967 Abortion Act would not have had such a situation in mind, there are always those who oppose liberalising of the law, who fear the slippery slope. That is
the tendency for practice to gradually become ever more liberal with subsequent unintended and generally unacceptable consequences.

Those who support liberalising of the law are generally quick to deny that such a slippery slope exists. Here is a typically abrasive put-down from  Amol Rajan in yesterday's i newspaper,

Writing in the Daily Mail earlier this week, Lord Carey sang the praises of the Coalition for Marriage. “Don't play politics with marriage”, this organisation declares on its website. “One man + one woman.”

It advances three main arguments: first, "the evidence shows children do best with a married mother and father"; second, "if marriage is redefined once, what is to stop it being redefined to allow polygamy?"; and third, "it's not discriminatory to support traditional marriage". My dear friend Dave Sampson, a lawyer now relocated to San Francisco and scoring victories for the heroic National Center [sic] for Lesbian Rights, has been in touch to explain the stupidity and abhorrence of all three.
The first is a lie. As Dave writes: "Hours of witness testimony in the Prop 8 trial in California showed that same-sex parenting is just as effective as that provided by straight couples." The second is slippery-slope reasoning – which is to say, sloppy reasoning. (my emphasis).
The use of the slippery slope in an argument my indeed be sloppy reasoning if used thoughtlessly and as a knee-jerk. But wait a minute, doesn't history tell us that liberalising the law with reference to morality often starts a ball rolling down a hill which no-one can stop? Provision for divorce has gradually eased, although remains very stressful for many, and adultery has gradually lost its social stigma, even if the associated  personal  pain persists.  Nicky Campbell begins his autobiography in a way which presumably he thinks clever,
"I was committing adultery in Room 634 of the Holiday Inn in Birmingham when my wife rang to say they'd found my mother."
 Like Lord Carey I think that marriage should be between one man and one woman. I am not homophobic and have treated many patients over the years with a same sex orientation. As a doctor I am called to treat all patients equally irrespective of their morality, ethnicity, religion or political affiliation. I hope I have done that throughout my career and that my patients would back me up. I fear that anyone who supports the traditional view of marriage is very easily written off as homophobic. That I would argue is true sloppy reasoning.

It seems that modern day tolerance only extends in one direction Thus if I support abortion on demand, same-sex marriage or the legalising of euthanasia, I am tolerant. But the same person who holds those views regards me and my views with intolerance. I think that is sloppy reasoning.

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