In a previous post, I discussed making biased arguments using logical fallacies. I used this video as a typical example of the kind of arguments that are frequently made on the internet, especially those made by those who simply wish to attack an opinion they do not hold. These arguments are intended to force discussion closed rather than to open debate.
Another way to argue in position of a biased argument is to make the ‘Argument from Spam’. A person making this argument will argue against a position (or positions) by making as many reasonably sounding counter arguments as possible in a short period of time. These arguments might be red-herring arguments, strawmen attacks, or even perfectly reasonable objections. Since the goal is to spam the opponent with objections, the actual objections themselves need not be good, although the better debaters will typically spam with high quality objections.
This technique is commonly employed in timed debate formats where the recipient has limited time to respond or on forums where the proponents of a view vastly outnumber their critics. The goal is to flood the critic with objections in such a way that they cannot possible reply to all of them, making it look to an audience (or any third party) that the critic is inept or that the proponent’s arguments hold more weight than it deserves.
The argument from spam is often used when the proponent would rather convince the audience over engaging his opponent in discussion.
In the video, Nate employs the argument from spam with near reckless abandon. The following is the list of paraphrased objections employed in less than 12 minutes. Remember that much of the video consists of replaying Prager’s original 5 minute video.
- Murder is not always wrong, because self-defense and assisted suicide are not.
- You can’t know murder is wrong, because it is an opinion. What’s true for one person may not be true for another. (For example, psychopath Ted Bundy)
- If morality comes from God, this means you are not thinking for yourself, but God is doing your thinking for you.
- With God, you get a book of opinions, not moral facts. Actually, you get multiple Gods and multiple books, with multiple conflicting opinions.
- If God is real, how can we know which religion is true?
- Because other religions can make exclusive claims and conflict, no set of morals can be considered greater than any other.
- People in the same religion have different opinions on morality. That’s why there are tens of thousands of Christian denominations. And within denominations there are significant differences.
- Committing the black and white fallacy. Reality is not like that.
- “Thou Shalt Not Kill” comes from the same God who stoned a man to death for gathering sticks (Numbers 15:32-36), sent two bears to maul children (2 Kings 2:23-24), killed all the firstborn in Egypt (Exodus 12:29), the flood (Genesis 6-9), and various other atrocities throughout the bible. God is hypocritical and blood-thirsty.
- You could argue that God, being God, does not have to follow his own morals. This is moral relativism. So there are no moral absolutes.
- You admit that whether a person believes in God has no impact on whether or not they are a good person. So why push God on people if it isn’t going to make a difference?
- The argument assumes that the Judeo-Christian God is real. No atheist would accept this claim without proof that such a God exists.
- You can’t use photos or measurements to show that God exists.
- How would you narrow down your God from the list of possible Gods?
- Even if you could prove your particular God, these are just opinions of a supernatural being.
- Morality is not absolute, but only relative to the individual and society, including Judeo-Christian religions because “God’s morals are only relative to people, not God himself”.
- God changes his mind (1 Chronicles 21:15, Ezekiel 4:9-15, Jonah 3:10, 1 Samuel 15:10-11)
- “Murder is Evil” being equivalent to “I Don’t Like Murder” is fine.
- Just because reality doesn’t work the way you want it to, doesn’t mean it is incorrect. A person can’t be a cat because they want to be. Wanting morals to be fact doesn’t mean they are fact.
- People don’t need absolute morals to not murder, because they have empathy.
- You are guilty of Godwin’s Law because you referenced Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. 100 million people were murdered because Hitler, Stalin, and Mao were staunch authoritarians, overly nationalistic, and subscribed to bad ideologies, not because of moral relativism. Judeo-Christian values are responsible for the Inquisition, witch hunting, and terrorist organizations (The Army of God, Phineas Priesthood, NLFT, Lord’s Resistance Army, Eastern Lightning). We should see atrocities in ever non-Judeo-Christian country, but we don’t.
- Committing the black and white fallacy, instead of using nuance.
- The argument is contradictory: “You don’t need to Judeo-Christian values to be a good person” vs. “You need Judeo-Christian values or else it will lead to mass murder”
- You’ve copied your video format from Anita Sarkeesian.
- The Qin and Xin dynasties in China abolished slavery before Judeo-Christian countries did. Don’t take credit unfairly. The Bible promotes slavery and is not anti-slavery.
- Judeo-Christian values are not pro-feminism (1 Corinthians 14:34, Colossians 3:18, Deuteronomy 25:11-12)
- Even if Judeo-Christian countries produced some good outcomes, that doesn’t mean Judeo-Christian values were the cause. Correlation does not imply causation. Nazi Germany was a majority Christian country. Were Judeo-Christian values partly responsible? The emergence of new philosophies are responsible. If Judeo-Christian values were responsible, it took them too long to do it in order to get credit for it.
- People are not suffering from moral confusion, but instead from lack of critical thinking. You are projecting. “Oh no, not everyone thinks the same way I do! How confusing”
- Schools are not teaching that murder isn’t wrong, they are actually teaching fact vs. opinion by telling them that murder being wrong is an opinion.
- The majority of college freshman view moral claims as opinions, you object to that, so you are against people “putting reals before feels.” You are a right-wing version of an SJW.
- The video was awful and full of fearmongering, contradictions, fallacies, and revisionist history.
Many of the above arguments employ the fallacies discussed in the previous post. There are a few others not mentioned. The arguments themselves are riddled with numerous problems. And of course there are some legitimate points mixed in. None of this changes the fact that the primary intention of this video was to create a spamming response. There are so many objections raised without any attempt to formulate thoughtful arguments.
While each and every one of the claims can be refuted, doing so would not be worth anyone’s time. The only reason I spent any time on this video at all was because it was such a fantastic example of the terrible argumentation commonly made on the internet. And some of these arguments are made by people with very large followings. This particular video received more than 20,000 views in merely two days. The goal was obviously to overwhelm any potential objections.
The reason the argument from spam is so terrible is that it is equivalent to shouting down someone who disagrees with you. It leads to vilification, derison, and disrespect. I think the greatest irony of this video is how he claims that abandoning Judeo-Christian values does not lead to any meaningful negative consequences, yet this is exactly the kind of dishonest discourse that Judeo-Christian values would shun.
The correct reaction to an argument from spam is to recognize it for what it is, perhaps point it out, and then move on. Very rarely, if ever, can it be addressed head on. This is by design. Don’t fall for the trap, and don’t get frustrated by it. Truth can stand on its own, even if most people pass it by. Consider more thoughtful responses like this one.