Logical Arguments have Neither Gender nor Race

Critical thinking seems to be on the decline. At least, that is how it feels, but I doubt that is the case. It has probably always been this way. As scripture reminds us, there is nothing new under the sun. Poor reasoning is a product of the fall. Sin affects the way we think, and we all struggle with it. In theology, we call this the noetic effects of sin. We are morally compromised, and we will often work to suppress truths that do not align with our fallen biases.

Our propensity to reason poorly is evident today in arguments made for and against controversial topics closely related to gender and race. For example, a man will argue against abortion philosophically, and the opponent will dismiss it because the arguer is male, but arguments do not have genitalia. Plenty of women make the same arguments, so the attempt to dismiss it based on gender is impotent.

Another area where this kind of bias affects reasoning is topics related to race. Many people say that one race cannot speak about the struggles of another race because race A has never experienced what it is like to be race B. Therefore, anytime someone of race A makes a point that contradicts what someone of race B says, it will be dismissed as irrelevant even if it is logical.

There are two significant problems with this. First, these kinds of arguments usually debate the presence of racism and prejudice in our society. Both parties often agree that devaluing someone because of race is morally abhorrent. However, dismissing someone’s argument because of their race does precisely that. One side may say, “You cannot speak to my experience because you do not know what it is like to be judged based on race.” The other side could efficiently respond by saying, “You just devalued my input based on my race, so I have some idea.”

The second major problem with dismissing someone’s argument because they have never lived your experience is it destroys your own ability to speak back to their arguments. Suppose the experience of race A and race B are so far apart that race A cannot make any logical argument that disagrees with race B. In that case, race B can also not speak or counter race A because their two experiences are too far apart. In short, if the experience of one race is so far apart from the other, then that distance cannot be traversed in either direction, and neither can speak meaningfully to each other.

Arguments that use the gender or race of the arguer as a reason to dismiss their opponents are fallacious. They both commit the logical fallacy called ad hominin. This fallacy is when you attack the person making the argument instead of the argument itself. As Christians who pursue the truth wherever we may find it, we should never use this kind of argumentation, and we should never accept arguments that do, even if the conclusion supports our position. 

-D. Eaton

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