August 08, 2016

Beyond the Abortion Wars (book review)

APOLOGIA
August 8, 2016
By Hendrik van der Breggen

The following review appeared in Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith: Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, Volume 68, Number 2 (June 2016): 133-135. Reprinted here with permission.


BEYOND THE ABORTION WARS: A Way Forward for a New Generation by Charles C. Camosy. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015. 207 pages. Hardcover; $22.00. ISBN: 9780802871282.

In Beyond the Abortion Wars, Catholic ethicist Charles Camosy (Fordham University) looks unflinchingly at the apparent impasse in the U.S. abortion debate between “pro-choicers” and “pro-lifers” and as a solution proposes what he calls the Mother and Prenatal Child Protection Act. Camosy takes the concerns of opposing camps seriously, gleaning insights and skewering falsehoods wherever they occur, and he finds large swathes of common ground that respects both women and their unborn children. In spite of occasional shortcomings in Camosy’s arguments, I agree with reviewers who deem this short six-chapter book a “must read.”

Chapter one discerns common ground between the pro-choice and pro-life camps by examining U.S. abortion rates and public opinion on abortion. It turns out that merely 2% of America’s 1.2 million yearly abortions are due to the hard cases of rape, incest, or when a mother’s life is threatened, whereas the remaining 98% are “qualitatively different,” that is, as Camosy later argues, they are due to the very real inconvenience/ burden of raising a child. (This inconvenience includes the shocking fact that 90% of children diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted.) Significantly, polls reveal that many pro-choicers wish to restrict abortion in large measure, many pro-lifers are inclined to permit abortion in the hard cases, and both camps want to reduce social pressures on women to abort. In sum: “Though some find themselves on the extremes of the debate, more are in the complex middle”—a complex middle protective of women and pre-natal children.

Camosy also shows that important U.S. demographics favor this complex middle. More women than men are against legalized abortion. Hispanics (a majority ethnicity in California and growing in Texas and elsewhere) tend to be more pro-life than pro-choice. And the vast majority of Millennials are “trending” in the pro-life-pro-women direction. Contrary to abortion polarizations presented by popular political and news narratives, the “actual facts on the ground” are amenable to a more restrictive abortion policy protective of mothers and their unborn children. Camosy finds this hopeful. I do too.

Chapter two addresses the moral status of the unborn: what, or who, is the fetus? Camosy makes it clear that contemporary science—embryology, fetology, and biology—informs us that the human fetus is in fact a human being. The fetus is a genetically distinct, self-governing dynamic entity/ individual organism that belongs to the human species. It's not feline or canine; it's human. It's not a cat or a dog; it’s a human being. It's not a kitten or a puppy; it’s a child. In addition, Camosy rightly points out, “it is simply biologically incorrect to say that [human fetuses] are ‘mere tissue’ or ‘part of their mother.’” To pro-lifers, this is well-known. For at least some pro-choicers and for newcomers to the abortion discussion, these facts need to be made clear. (In my native Canada, the Criminal Code mistakenly states that prior to birth the fetus is not a human being.)

Camosy also addresses the important objection that the unborn child, though a human being, isn’t a “person.” That is, the unborn human being lacks some specific developmental feature which confers the right to life. But, as Camosy well argues, this approach to personhood is problematic. The allegedly decisive features fail because they weaken the personhood of many human beings who clearly already have the right to life. For example, if self-awareness and ability to make moral choices are the crucial criteria of personhood, then the right to life of newborn infants as well as sleeping, stunned, or mentally disabled persons is jeopardized. As a result, the equality in equal rights gets ungrounded. Or, if a “low” trait such as the capacity to feel pain is chosen, then, oddly, personhood gets conferred to rats and mice. Camosy’s solution is to ground the equality of equal rights in the capacities to know and love (which fits well with the theological notion of being made in the image of God). Helpfully, Camosy sets out a distinction between the potential to become a human being (a potential that does not yet have these capacities to know and love, i.e., sperm and egg prior to fertilization) and the potential for a human being to become its subsequent developmental stages (a potential that does have the capacities to know and love, i.e., the union of sperm and egg). Camosy acknowledges that fertilization involves a process, so there is some gray area in which Camosy wisely urges caution.

In chapter three Camosy makes a case for permitting abortion in the few-but-difficult cases, for instance, when pregnancy threatens the mother's life or is a result of rape. Here Camosy’s arguments seem weak. He distinguishes between “direct abortion,” wherein the aim is to kill the fetus/ child, and “indirect abortion,” wherein the aim is to refuse aid to the fetus/ child, when one has no duty to aid, and so death is a foreseen but unintended result. He also distinguishes between the fetus’s “formal” innocence and “material” innocence: the fetus may lack responsible agency (and thus have formal innocence) but be a threat causally (and thus not lack material innocence). For Camosy, these distinctions allow him to hold to the moral principle that “it is always wrong to aim at the death of the innocent” yet permit abortion to save the mother's life or, in the case of rape, cease to aid via an indirect abortion (here Camosy permits the abortifacient RU-486). The terms “direct” and “indirect” are a bit confusing (most abortions are pretty direct, it seems to me), but we can let that pass as Camosy's prerogative in setting out stipulative definitions. Nevertheless, serious problems remain. Doesn’t the duty to aid a vulnerable person accrue to us—especially parents—from the very personhood of the unborn? And doesn’t abortion violate this duty, intrinsically? For Camosy’s argument to work, the unborn person's alleged lack of “material innocence” requires an equivocation on the notion of innocence in the moral principle that “it is always wrong to aim at the death of the innocent.” But, surely, the relevant notion of innocence in the moral principle is wholly “formal.” A better way is to recognize the truth that abortion is an evil. Abortion destroys an innocent who is not a responsible agent and clearly is not at all morally (“formally”) responsible for its material/ causal threatening to the mother in the first place. I sympathize with permitting abortion as “self-defense” if the unborn’s continued life materially threatens the mother’s life. Still, even in this hard case the unborn remains a person who is the epitome of innocence and vulnerability and whose deliberate destruction is wrong. So, contra Camosy, I think the above moral principle is violated when an abortion occurs to save a mother’s life, but this abortion may (i.e., perhaps) be justified, if justified at all, as a lesser of two evils. A case-by-case assessment would be needed. Also, in the case of rape, it seems odd and unjust to punish an innocent for his/her violent conception by another party. It may be politically prudent to permit abortion in the hard cases in order to gain restrictions for the 98% of abortions (I understand and favor this), but we should also continue to think carefully about the lives of all innocents—for their sake and for the sake of truth.

Camosy addresses the challenge of public policy on abortion in chapter four. He argues that the criminalization of abortion in general need not lead to increased deaths of women due to illegal “back alley” abortions because abortion has become a relatively safe procedure (due to advanced medical technology) and there is evidence that previous high estimates of such abortions were fabricated (as admitted by ex-abortionist Dr. Bernard Nathanson, co-founder of the National Abortion Right and Action League). Moreover, because law serves as a teacher, public policy restrictions on abortion can encourage a culture (as illustrated in Ireland and Poland) in which pre-natal children are protected, women seeking abortion are not punished as murderers, and illegal abortion providers are, for the sake of political prudence, found “guilty of something less than felony murder.”

In chapter five Camosy argues that “we should consider both prenatal children and their mothers as vulnerable populations,” but, and significantly, current abortion “choice” favors neither. As mentioned, over 1.2 million pre-natal children are killed annually in the U.S. while only 2% are due to the hard cases. But evidence also shows that large numbers of post-abortive mothers face guilt and increased health problems. Moreover, pregnant women face immense social pressures to “choose” abortion without real options to handle the inconvenience/ burden associated with child-rearing. These pressures arise not only from the boyfriend/ husband, parents, family, and friends, but also from larger social structures. Significantly, Camosy argues, workplaces are geared to treating all employees as men. Here all of us should take note: “Our social structures force women to choose between (1) honoring their roles as the procreators and sustainers of the earliest stages of human life and (2) having social and economic equality with men.” To protect prenatal children and their mothers, Camosy rightly argues, we should protect them from this dilemma.

In the last chapter and conclusion, Camosy proposes as a way forward his Mother and Prenatal Child Protection Act. This act protects the vast majority of pre-natal children, allowing abortion in the small percentage of hard cases, plus outlines support for women to enable them to keep and raise their babies. Readers from all political stripes, and whether “pro-choice” or “pro-life,” should consider Camosy’s proposal. If the proposal doesn’t end the abortion wars, it may at least reduce the number of casualties.


Reviewed by Hendrik van der Breggen, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Providence University College, Otterburne, Manitoba R0A 1G0.

August 04, 2016

Hiatus

Photo by my son Tom, who (on FB) added the caption:
 "Today, my father laid to rest."
APOLOGIA
By Hendrik van der Breggen
August 4, 2016

Hiatus

For reasons having to do with rest and relaxation, Apologia will cease publication for a few weeks. Have a great summer!

Best regards,
Hendrik van der Breggen



(Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, teaches philosophy at Providence University College, Otterburne, Manitoba, Canada. The views expressed in this column do not always reflect the views of Providence.)

July 20, 2016

Love versus platitudes

APOLOGIA
By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, July21, 2106

Love versus platitudes

Love is important. Jesus clearly tells us that the greatest command is to love God and that the second greatest command is to love our neighbours—and that these commands sum up the law and prophets.

Scripture as well as popular culture also tell us that love is a verb: love involves action. I've even heard it said that beliefs don't make you a better or loving person, it's doing that matters.

An internet meme goes so far as to sum up the popular view of love this way: “It matters not who you love, where you love, why you love, when you love, or how you love, it matters only that you love. After all, according to gay pride placards, “love is love is love.

But wait. Are we being misled by platitudes? [A platitude is a commonplace, shallow, trite remark that verges on being meaningless; sometimes described as a thought-terminating cliché.]

Love is important, and so is action. I don't deny this. But moral content is important, too.

Pause with me, and think.

First, what about the claim that it’s not what you believe but what you do that makes you a better/loving person? Answer: On its own, it lacks sense.

Making sense of this claim depends on what one believes a better or loving person is. Making sense of this claim depends on what one believes is behaviour a better or loving person ought to do. It depends on what one believes matters.

If you're not convinced, consider this: Ted Bundy (rapist and murderer of more than 20 women) believed what matters is to be daring and willing to rape and murder. Or think about the beliefs of ISIS.

Ideas have consequences, in other words. What's believed is crucial.

Still not convinced?

Consider this: “I love you, said the married businessman to his secretary, as the businessman abandons his young children along with his wife who is dying of cancer.

“I love you,said the pedophile to the child.

“I love you,said the zoophile to his dog.

“I love you, said the sadist to his torture victims.

“I love you,” said the masochist to encourage her abuser.

Clearly, we must define “love.” Love has a moral structure. A belief content. A truth content.

Philosopher David Horner: “what we believe will determine how we behave, and ultimately who we become.

This means that if we seek to love truly, we should discern—and believe—what is truly right and good and excellent and praiseworthy.

Of course, beliefs not acted upon don't amount to much. To paraphrase the Apostle James: belief without behaviour is dead. But we should also add the whole counsel of Scripture (and reason): behaviour without belief is blind.

Jesus, whom Christians believe is God come to Earth as a human being, teaches that love is of utmost importance. He also teaches us what real love means: to believe and follow Him.

It turns out that following Jesus involves respecting moral law.

Really? Yes.

Jesus fulfilled the law, but He didn't abolish it. Jesus set aside the ceremonial and ritual law, but not the moral law.

Jesus even says things like, “you’ve heard you shouldn't commit adultery, but I’m telling you that you shouldn't even think about committing adultery.” Jesus intensifies the moral law.

(Yes, Jesus forgives the woman caught in adultery, but He also tells her to stop sinning.)

Clearly, for Jesus, love involves holiness—which involves obeying moral truth.

Now, in view of Steinbach's recent gay pride parade, consider this: Jesus taught that among the things that defile is porneia, i.e., sexual immorality (Matthew 15:19, Mark 7:21). Porneia is a Greek catch-all term (from which the English “pornography comes) which, in Jesus' Jewish context, includes any sexual activity outside marriage between one man and one woman.

Yes, love is love is love. But this is like saying X=X=X, which is a mere principle of logic (the principle of identity). So what is X? What is love?

Is love whatever makes me feel good? Or is there moral truth to love, by which I must judge my feelings?

(Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, teaches philosophy at Providence University College. The views expressed in this column do not always reflect the views of Providence.)


Other Apologia columns on related matters for further reading (please read these first, along with my critics' comments plus my replies to critics, before offering a criticism):


Bible and homosexuality 

Non-religious philosophical criticisms 

Same-sex marriage

Politics

 Replies to my critics


July 15, 2016

Politically Incorrect Thoughts: HSD and LGBTQ ... continued

Politically Incorrect Thoughts: HSD and LGBTQ … continued
A reply to my critic—a reply that may be of interest to HSD trustees and the general public

By Hendrik van der Breggen
July 15, 2016

(Background: I sent a version of this document [see below] to the Hanover School Division trustees and superintendents on July 14, 2016.  The HSD is in engaged in some very serious discussions concerning how and to what extent LGBTQ matters should be handled in my region's public school curriculum.  The HSD is courageously taking some time to examine the issue carefully in the face of pressure and criticism and even a human rights complaint from so-called "progressives."  The document below is my contribution to the discussions.  Because I am merely replying to a critic of one of my columns, my contribution, relative to the larger discussion, is small.  Nevertheless, I hope my contribution will be helpful in ensuring that whatever decisions are made by the HSD, the HSD's decisions will be properly informed decisions, not decisions reached via faulty reasoning driven by ideology rather than good reasoning based on truth.)

Dr. Barbara Paterson, a person with considerable expertise in the medical field, recently wrote a letter to the editor of The Carillon to criticize an APOLOGIA column in which I set out some LGBTQ-related health concerns and in which I quote Hanover School Division trustee Lynn Barkman (who raised some of those concerns).   From the point of view of reason and truth, the letter writer's critique is a failure.  It misuses argument (it presents three straw man fallacies) plus engages in sophistry, all buttressed with manipulative rhetoric (I present arguments for this below). I am concerned that Dr. Paterson's misuse of argument will not be noticed by the public at large and may cloud matters relevant to HSD's discussions relating to persons who identify themselves as LGBTQ.  For the sake of informed decision-making, it seems to me that Dr. Paterson's letter deserves careful consideration by HSD trustees and the public.  Perhaps this document may be helpful.  Below I do the following: (1) I set out my original column (please focus on the second half, subtitled "Politically Incorrect Thoughts: HSD and LGBTQ"); (2) I set out Dr. Paterson's letter to the editor; (3) I set out the letter with my critical responses within its text (in red print).

I hope that my work is helpful.  Although emotionally and politically charged, the discussion of LGBTQ matters requires careful, truth-seeking thought—for the well being of all.


1. APOLOGA column

Politically Incorrect Thoughts: Orlando massacre, HSD and LGBTQ
By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, June 23, 2016

Politically Incorrect Thoughts: Orlando massacre

Robert P. George, Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University:

“All human life is sacred. All murder is murder. All murder is to be condemned. All victims are to be mourned. It doesn't affect the gravity of the evil—at all—that the murderer killed homosexuals in a gay nightclub.”

“Murder is to be condemned and victims are to be mourned, whether the victims are nuns in a convent, prostitutes in a bordello, children in a school, or fishermen in a boat.”

Professor George, again: “All human life is sacred. All murder is murder. All murder is to be condemned. All victims are to be mourned.”

George continues: “Mateen [the Orlando shooter] was a Muslim and a Democrat. That doesn't make Muslims and Democrats guilty. Christians aren't guilty either. Mateen & IS are guilty.”

Stan Guthrie, editor at Christianity Today (on blaming Christians for Orlando): “Didn't Nero blame the Christians for the fire?”

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, human rights activist, former Muslim, fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School:

“Following the horrific attack in Orlando, people as usual have been rushing to judgment. President Obama blames lax gun laws. Donald Trump blames immigration. Neither is right. There has been comparable carnage in countries with strict gun laws. The perpetrator in this case was born in the United States. This is not primarily about guns or immigration. It is about a deeply dangerous ideology that is infiltrating American society in the guise of religion. Homophobia comes in many forms. But none is more dangerous in our time than the Islamic version.”

Contemporary Sharia Law: Engaging in homosexual sex is punishable by death.

Politically Incorrect Thoughts: HSD and LGBTQ

Hanover School District trustee (and nurse) Lynn Barkman: “HSD teachers, students and their parents know that our culture is changing, that does not suggest that we should abandon truth."

Barkman on young students “being taught anal sex and oral sex”: “I just feel that there is enough cancer around and the increase in cancer is phenomenal.”

Gens Hellquist, executive director of pro-gay Canadian Rainbow Health Coalition: “There are all kinds of health issues that are endemic to our [gay] community…. We have higher rates of anal cancer in the gay male community….”

Mayo Clinic: “All men have certain health risks. Gay men and men who have sex with men face an increased risk of specific health concerns, however.” E.g., HIV, gonorrhea, Chlamydia, syphilis. Cancer, too, if anal sex is often practiced.

Robert Cushman, senior medical advisor at Health Canada: “HIV is much more common in the MSM [men who have sex with men] population than in the general population.”

Cushman adds: “MSM is a risky behaviour. There's anatomical reasons.”

Researcher Thomas Coy, “The risk of HIV from sexual contact for MSM (men who have sex with men) was approximately 150 times greater than the heterosexual male population in 2010.”

Coy adds, for perspective: “According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) the risk of lung cancer for men who smoke is 23 times greater than for men who do not smoke.”

From Miriam Grossman's You're Teaching My Child WHAT? A Physician Exposes the Lies of Sex Education and How They Harm Your Child (this book is recommended by Nicholas Cummings, a former president of the American Psychological Association):

Compared to the general heterosexual population, persons who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual report “more high risk sexual behaviors, higher rates of infection with HIV, syphilis, and gonorrhea, and more mental health problems [anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts].”

These disparities also occur in accepting, gay-friendly societies such as The Netherlands (and elsewhere).

“Clearly, societal bias is not to blame for the disproportionately higher numbers in the homosexual populations in the Netherlands.”

Dr. Grossman concludes: “While I'm sure that for some people, societal bias contributes to their distress, the entire onus for these difficulties—emotional and physical—cannot be placed at the feet of a 'heterosexist' society. It's just not intellectually honest.”

If HSD schools discuss LGBTQ matters, I hope it's done truthfully.

---

[Note to critics: Before commenting, please read my (relevant) previous work, the criticisms from my previous critics, plus my replies to my critics.  Look here, for starters: Is promoting same-sex sex wise?]

(Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Providence University College. The views expressed in this column do not always reflect the views of Providence.)


2. LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Columnist's assessment incomplete
By Barbara Paterson
The Carillon, July 7, 2016

I was dismayed to read "Apologia" in the June 23 edition of The Carillon. Columnist Hendrik van der Breggen attempted to fuel his argument against teaching children that there are various types of families by referring to the health risks of people who are LGBTTQ*. He cites various sources, including Health Canada and the Centre for Disease Control as evidence that LGBTTQ* people's sexual practices increase their risk for disease.

I worked as a university professor, a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair and as an internationally renowned researcher in the field of chronic illness, including HIV. I have no quarrel with Mr. van der Breggen's assertion that men who have sex with men are at risk for HIV, but to make such a statement without acknowledging its complexities is a bit like putting your toe in the ocean and saying that now you know all about the fish there.

Men who have sex with men are at risk for HIV if they have unprotected sex with a partner who is HIV positive or have shared needles with someone who is HIV positive; heterosexual people are at risk for the same reasons. However, there are biological factors why men who have sex with men are at greater risk for HIV than other groups. One critical factor must be considered in light of Mr. van der Breggen's column.

The column uses a selective culling of online and other sources to suggest that we must be afraid of members of the LGBTQQ* community, particularly gay men, because they are likely to be infected with communicable diseases. Recent research has indicated that if a person at risk for HIV fears judgment and discrimination, he or she will likely avoid being tested for HIV. Consequently, the person may be HIV positive, and transmit HIV to another. This phenomenon is most evident where conservative religion teaches that heterosexuality is "normal" and any other sexual orientation is deviant. This factor is widely acknowledged to be significant in the transmission of HIV in rural areas and small cities of Canada. Given such findings, combating the exclusion of LGBTTQ* people is not, as Mr. van der Breggen suggests, a political correctitude but a necessity.

I fear Mr. van der Breggen's column with its incomplete and judgmental portrayal of health risks has contributed to the stigmatization of LGBTTQ* people in this region. It promotes a culture where members of the LGBTQQ*community may risk their health and their lives to avoid being discriminated against or stigmatized. I hope that Mr. van der Breggen will educate himself more fully about this topic.


3. LETTER TO THE EDITOR plus critical response

Columnist's assessment incomplete – plus Hendrik van der Breggen's critique (in red)
By Barbara Paterson
The Carillon, July 7, 2016

I was dismayed to read "Apologia" in the June 23 edition of The Carillon. Columnist Hendrik van der Breggen attempted to fuel his argument against teaching children that there are various types of families by referring to the health risks of people who are LGBTTQ*. No, my argument is an attempt to support the conclusion which I clearly stated. I repeat: "If HSD schools discuss LGBTQ matters, I hope it's done truthfully." To say otherwise, as Barbara Paterson does, is to commit the straw man fallacy (the mistake of misrepresenting an opponent's position, and arguing against that position as if it were the actual position).  He cites various sources, including Health Canada and the Centre for Disease Control as evidence that LGBTTQ* people's sexual practices increase their risk for disease.ü Yes, I do.

I worked as a university professor, a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair and as an internationally renowned researcher in the field of chronic illness, including HIV.  ü These are impressive and relevant credentials. I notice from a quick search of the internet that Barbara Paterson has a bachelor's degree in nursing, a master's degree in education, and an interdisciplinary PhD in nursing, psychology, and education (she isn't a medical doctor). I have no quarrel with Mr. van der Breggen's assertion that men who have sex with men are at risk for HIV, ü but to make such a statement without acknowledging its complexities is a bit like putting your toe in the ocean and saying that now you know all about the fish there. Hmmm. I'm glad that Dr. Paterson has "no quarrel with [my] assertion that men who have sex with men are at risk for HIV." That's an important agreement. It's of great concern, too. As I point out in my column, men who have sex with men have a 150 times greater risk of HIV than men who don't have sex with men. That is significant. Significant, too, is that my argument isn't merely about HIV. The health risks I present include HIV, yes, but they also include cancer, gonorrhea, Chlamydia, syphilis, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts. Men who have sex with men have a higher risk for all these. So is it true (accurate) that my not acknowledging the complexities is "a bit like putting your toe in the ocean and saying that now you know all about the fish there"? I don't think so. Yes, one should acknowledge complexities and admit to not knowing all there is to know, i.e., admit to not knowing all about the fish in the ocean. Sure. Nevertheless, one can still visit the beach and reasonably notice a growing consensus among lifeguards that there have been shark sightings nearby. (More on the "lifeguards"/ my sources below.)

Men who have sex with men are at risk for HIV if they have unprotected sex with a partner who is HIV positive or have shared needles with someone who is HIV positive; heterosexual people are at risk for the same reasons. However, there are biological factors why men who have sex with men are at greater risk for HIV than other groups. Right, I agree. It turns out (as I point out) that these factors make the risk of HIV about 150 times more likely for men who have sex with men (MSM) than for men who don't have sex with men. Surely, complexity or not, this is significant, especially in view of the fact that (as I also point out) the risk of lung cancer for men who smoke is 23 times greater than for men who do not smoke. Yes, I haven't set out all the complexities that are involved in the HIV situation (nor have I set out the complexities for the smoking situation). But, surely, it's reasonable to take notice of this particular feature because it's so salient: the risk of HIV for MSM is six times—six times!—greater than the risk of lung cancer for smokers. Yes, there are complexities concerning HIV. Yet the much higher risk continues, even though our society has for decades been trying to educate the public about safe/ safer sex. The higher risk of cancer, gonorrhea, Chlamydia, syphilis, anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts needs to be considered, too. Surely this needs to be acknowledged for the sake of truth and good health, especially if we are going to educate young people on the topic. One critical factor must be considered in light of Mr. van der Breggen's column.

The column uses a selective culling of online and other sources to suggest that we must be afraid of members of the LGBTTQ* community, particularly gay men, because they are likely to be infected with communicable diseases. I have two points here. (1) My "selective culling" includes the following credible sources: Health Canada (its senior medical advisor), the pro-gay Canadian Rainbow Health Coalition (its executive director), the Mayo Clinic (one of the world's most prestigious medical clinics), a researcher (whose master's thesis is titled "The Professional Division Over the Treatment of Homosexuality and How It Has Been Influenced by the Gay Political Movement"), plus a physician-psychiatrist (whose specialty is sex education and reproductive health, and whose work is recommended by a former president of the American Psychological Association). This is a reasonably good set of sources by any standard. All these sources tell us that men who have sex with men have a much greater risk of diseases than do men who don't have sex with men. The sources are in fact credible and what they say is important. They shouldn't be dismissed as "selective culling."  (2) No, contrary to what Dr. Paterson asserts, I do NOT suggest—I repeat: I do NOT suggest—that "we must be afraid of members of the LGBTQQ* community, particularly gay men, because they are likely to be infected with communicable diseases." Not at all! How utterly bizarre for Dr. Paterson to say this! Please re-read my column. My conclusion (again) is this: "If HSD schools discuss LGBTQ matters, I hope it's done truthfully."  I am pointing to serious health concerns presented by credible sources. By making her assertion, Dr. Paterson misrepresents me yet again (yes, another straw man fallacy). Moreover, which is serious morally, this misrepresentation serves as an accusation against me—a false accusation. If effect, Dr. Paterson appeals to the popular prejudice (apparently also held by Paterson) that mere questioning or critical engagement with LGBTQ issues is fear mongering, so I am allegedly encouraging fear (being afraid) of members of the LGBTQ community, especially gay men. But the truth is this: it's not fear mongering. Here is what I am doing in my column, apparently missed by Dr. Paterson: I am giving reasons for this conclusion: If schools discuss LGBTQ matters, then it should be done truthfully. That is to say, such discussion should include the truth that there are significantly higher health concerns in the LGBTQ community. Surely, that's important if LGBTQ matters are to be discussed in public schools. Surely, parents and teachers and students should know this. (Note: If pointing to health concerns related to smoking isn't fear-mongering, i.e., isn't inciting us to be afraid of smokers, which it in fact isn't, then pointing to LGBTQ health concerns isn't fear mongering, either.)  Recent research has indicated that if a person at risk for HIV fears judgment and discrimination, he or she will likely avoid being tested for HIV. Consequently, the person may be HIV positive, and transmit HIV to another.  Okay, but there is also research (as I point out in my column) that in gay-friendly societies (such as The Netherlands) the health concerns remain. That is, in societies in which persons at risk for HIV don't fear judgment and discrimination, the rates remain high. This is significant. Let's create a society, then, that welcomes those at risk for HIV, but without pretending the risks don't exist. Truth-telling and love are not mutually exclusive. This phenomenon is most evident where conservative religion teaches that heterosexuality is "normal" and any other sexual orientation is deviant. This factor is widely acknowledged to be significant in the transmission of HIV in rural areas and small cities of Canada. Okay, I'll take Dr. Paterson's word on this. If true, this is important. Again, though, let's keep in mind that there is also research (as I point out in my column) that in gay-friendly societies (such as The Netherlands) the health concerns remain. That is, in societies in which persons at risk for HIV don't fear judgment and discrimination (i.e., aren't under the influence of "conservative religion") the rates remain high. Again, let's create a society that welcomes those at risk for HIV, but without pretending the risks don't exist. Again, truth-telling and love are not mutually exclusive. Given such findings, combating the exclusion of LGBTTQ* people is not, as Mr. van der Breggen suggests, a political correctitude but a necessity. Huh? Please notice: I am neither attempting to exclude LGBTQ people, nor stating or suggesting that "combating" such exclusion is a "political correctitude." Rather, I am trying to bring truth to the discussion. I am trying to bring truth to the discussion so parents and teachers and students can be better informed about LGBTQ matters. This is yet another misrepresentation/ straw man by Dr. Paterson. (That's three straw man fallacies by my count.)

I fear Mr. van der Breggen's column with its incomplete and judgmental portrayal of health risks has contributed to the stigmatization of LGBTTQ* people in this region. I have two responses here. (1) Is my column incomplete? Yes, space seriously limits the extent of my portrayal (it is a newspaper column, after all, not an academic/ scientific journal). Nevertheless, my sources provide a reasonable and credible overview of the risks—risks that are truly significant. (2) Is it true that my column is "judgmental" in its portrayal of health risks? Answer: No. My column discerns and sets out some of the salient and significant health risks to introduce them into the HSD-LGBTQ discussion. Notice this: It very much seems that Dr. Paterson's use of the word "judgmental" is an attempt to use loaded language (i.e., language laden with negative emotional baggage) to influence readers to hold a negative attitude towards me and my view. The word "judgmental" is ambiguous: it can mean (a) dismissing X as morally inferior/ to be damned, which carries negative emotional connotations in popular usage, or (b) the cognitive activity of making an accurate discernment about X, a usage many today have forgotten. I am making some judgments in sense b. However, Dr. Paterson is obviously accusing me of being "judgmental" in sense a, i.e., the negative sense of being dismissive morally or damning. In other words, by exploiting the ambiguity of "judgmental" Dr. Paterson is employing some sophistry—not logic—to "criticize" my view and influence readers' attitudes. (In my logic/ critical thinking courses, such sophistry is a "sin" against reason.)  It promotes a culture where members of the LGBTQQ*community may risk their health and their lives to avoid being discriminated against or stigmatized.  No it doesn't. My column promotes a culture that realizes the LGBTQ community has health risks and it promotes a culture of transparency concerning truth—a culture that allows parents and teachers and students to make informed decisions. (Again: truth and love are not mutually exclusive.) I hope that Mr. van der Breggen will educate himself more fully about this topic. I hope that Dr. Paterson does the same—and reads my work more carefully.

I conclude that Dr. Paterson's argument commits the straw man fallacy (i.e., the misrepresentation of my column) three times. Her argument also engages in some sophistry in alleging that I am "judgmental" and "contribut[ing] to the stigmatization" of persons who identify as LGBTQ.

One last point: I notice that in four of the five times Dr. Paterson refers to me she writes "Mr. van der Breggen" rather than "Dr. van der Breggen." As Dr. Paterson points out, she is an academic and a researcher. It's reasonable to think, then, that she is very probably aware that my academic credentials include the BA, MA, and PhD—all in philosophy, all from respectable Canadian universities. I do not take personal offence at her not calling me "Dr." However, I am concerned that her multiple references to me as "Mr." instead of "Dr." are an attempt to downplay my academic credentials relative to hers and thus constitute an attempt to manipulate readers who are weak in the use of argument and prone to the influence of rhetoric. This is unfortunate for, and unfair to, such readers. As a philosopher, my area of expertise is in the proper use of argument and discerning where and how argument is misused. In reviewing Dr. Paterson's critique of my column, it is my professional opinion that Dr. Paterson has not only misused argument by committing three straw man fallacies and some sophistry, but also has attempted to buttress her faulty arguments with manipulative rhetoric.


4. Main conclusion

Although Dr. Barbara Paterson has considerable expertise in the medical field, her critique of my column is a failure. Her critique misuses argument (it presents three straw man fallacies) plus engages in sophistry, buttressed with manipulative rhetoric.

As I mentioned in my introductory comments, I am concerned that Dr. Paterson's misuse of argument will not be noticed by the public at large and may cloud the discussion of matters relevant to the decisions facing the Hanover School Division. I hope that my assessment of Dr. Paterson's letter will help HSD trustees in making informed decisions relating to matters LGBTQ. As I also mentioned, although LGBTQ matters are emotionally and politically charged, they require careful, truth-seeking thought—for the well being of all.

Sincerely,


Hendrik van der Breggen

---

[Note to critics: Before commenting, please read my (relevant) previous work, the criticisms from my previous critics, plus my replies to my critics.  Look here, for starters: Is promoting same-sex sex wise?]