Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. – Marie Von Ebner-Eschenbach
A couple of months ago, a person I know online became very upset with me for disagreeing with her contention that it was possible to judge an idea by one’s attitude toward some person who supports it. In other words, she insisted that because a person she thoroughly dislikes agrees with some position, that it was valid for her to discard the idea through a process of guilt by association. This is, of course, one of the classic logical fallacies; human beings are complex creatures, and it’s inevitable that any given person will agree with any other person on something. Just because Charles Manson enjoyed Beatles music does not make it bad, and I’m sure many abusive cops enjoy a nice dish of ice cream as much as I do. Nor is this congruence limited to aesthetic judgments; people often arrive at the same position via completely different cognitive paths, or recognize a fact while drawing a completely divergent conclusion from it. For example, Sheila Jeffreys correctly recognizes traditional marriage as a form of prostitution, yet bizarrely insists that this means marriage should be abolished!
It’s impossible to draw an equals sign between any person’s likability or moral character and the quality of his ideas, or between the value of an idea and the likability or moral character of any given person who espouses it; yet, people insist on doing this all the time. Up until 70 years ago eugenics was a major tenet of the “progressive” philosophy, and it logically follows that if wise “authorities” can be trusted to dictate what people consume, say, see, hear, think and do in bed, they should certainly be allowed to control reproduction. But once eugenics became associated with the Nazis, it was rejected from the “progressive” canon despite the fact that its place there is undeniable. People also base their appraisal of someone’s character on the fact that he holds some or many of the same views as they do; again, that makes no sense. While politics does make strange bedfellows, I refuse to grant someone my blanket approval merely because he and I have some common cause.
Even the most predictably ignorant, habitually wrong and thoroughly confused individual gets it right once in a while, and when that does happen it deserves recognition. Pat Robertson deserves credit for statements opposing marijuana criminalization and young-earth creationism, Barack Obama for recognizing that the penny (like much of the government) is an obsolete waste of money, and Jezebel for actually publishing something funny and on-target for a change:
Colorado pastor…Kevin Swanson…[claims] “certain doctors and scientists…have…compared the wombs of women who were on birth control pill versus those who were not…and they have found that with women who were on the…pill there are these little tiny fetuses—these little babies—embedded into the womb…these wombs of women who have been on the…pill effectively have become graveyards for lots and lots of little babies.”
ALARMING INDEED. Intrigued by Swanson’s research, I consulted a respected doctor-scientist from my local university, and uncovered a whole bunch of other substances that have been found in the birth-controlled wombs of scarlet women:
other, smaller wombs
a grizzled undertaker
tiny living babies
a bar of soap with a hair on it
Desmond from Lost
pieces of curb
a DVD of Scrubs, season 4
a portal to John Malkovich’s brain
I laughed especially hard at “other, smaller wombs”. Unfortunately, the comments are just as off-cue and humorless as usual, but one can’t have everything. I’m sure even Jezebel commenters are right sometimes, but of course the odds against more than a few of them being right at the same time are astronomical…which is exactly why ideas must be judged on their own merits rather than which or how many people espouse them.