The Failure to Make Distinctions, Illustrated

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Arguments are fascinating things, and often, people who hold untenable positions will illustrate their error even as they smugly proclaim the errors of others.  I’m thinking, in specific, of this recent comment by (ahem) BasicCaruso to my post quoting National Review’s Kevin Williamson:

Ah, the contortions necessary to hold this to be true…

“Telling a black man that he may not work in your bank because he is black is in reality a very different thing from telling a gay couple that you’d be happy to sell them cupcakes or cookies or pecan pies but you do not bake cakes for same-sex weddings.”

So if I understand this correctly, a bank must be happy to offer a black man service such as opening a bank account but could deny him a joint checking account with his same sex partner or with his white wife because of an owner’s objections to same sex marriage or to miscegenation? Slippery slope, indeed.

Having highlighted the smugness in that comment, I’ll bite my lip so as to resist responding in kind.  Assess Basic’s accusation objectively:

  • Williamson’s claim in that sentence is that two circumstances are different.
  • In order to pretend that they are not, Basic must brush away all of these differences:
    • A bank must be just like a small-scale baker.
    • An employee must be just like a customer.
    • Creating a customized product celebrating a particular, personal event must be just like providing a generic long-running financial service for a household.

And all of these are direct and specific failures to distinguish, without getting into the more profound differences, like that between race and sexual orientation and even the difference between men and women.

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One cannot argue with an interlocutor who will not acknowledge, even in theory, the differences between things that are so obviously different.  Largely, that is because the interlocutor has demonstrated that his or her beliefs are not founded in facts or logic.  They’re emotional, mostly fashionable, and fundamentally political.  To acknowledge the relevance of facts, in such a case, would be to acknowledge that the worldview to which such people adhere cannot be substantiated.



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