Monday, March 4, 2013

Attempting Aristotlean Logic With The Utah State Legislature

Many sane Utah citizens fear the days each winter when the Utah State Legislature meets.  We eagerly check the news each morning to see what idiocy has unfolded and what our unvenerated lawmakers are going to make us deal with next.  Today's little newslette item is a fine sample of why things are so messed up in Utah.
So today, someone wanted to pass a bill to make cock fighting a felony.  And, before the vote, Rep. Allen Stephenson (Republican -- of course -- from North Ogden) was asked to explain why he opposed the bill.  He had this to say:

"In a state where we can still allow people to kill their babies, we want to make it a felony to let chickens fight — the purpose for which they were raised," Christensen said. "It’s not beautiful, it’s not wonderful or any such thing."

What the heck?!
Even by Utah standards, this makes no sense, whether you are for or against abortion rights and/or for or against cockfighting.

Now, I teach my students how to make a logical argument in their writing (Stephenson would utterly fail my class with this kind of garbage), and the most advanced kids study classic Aristotlean syllogisms.
A syllogism is a pattern for a logical argument.  For a valid, true, deductive syllogism, the pattern goes thusly:
A= B
B = C
Therefore, A = C.

Using words, it looks like this very familiar set up:

Socrates is a man.  (A = B)
All men are mortal.  (B = C)
Therefore, Socrates is mortal.  (A = C)

A more modern example might look like this:

Alexis is a swimmer.
Swimmers are athletes.
Therefore, Alexis is an athlete.

Simple, right?
Let's attempt to place Rep. Stephenson's "logic" into the pattern and see how well it stacks up.

Infanticide is bad.  (A = B)
In Utah, abortion is sometimes legal.  (C sometimes = D.)
Therefore, cockfighting is OK.  (Therefore, E = F.)

Um..... no.

Wait.  Let's assume that Stephenson simply confused his terms.  When he said, "killing babies," which is infanticide, perhaps he actually meant, "terminating a pregnancy by killing a fetus," which is abortion.  Let's try his "logic" with those terms:

(In his opinion) Abortion is bad. (A= B.)
Abortion is sometimes legal in Utah.  (A sometimes = C.)
Therefore, cockfighting is OK.  (Therefore, D = E.)


Watson, the only possible deduction here is that this man is clearly incapable of making a logical argument.  From this we may infer that he is unlikely to be fit to serve as a lawmaker.

Stephenson is illogical.
Illogical people are unfit to make good laws.
Therefore, Stephenson is unfit to make good laws.

And, logically, you, my dear reader, will now understand why the sane fear the days of the legislature.  Idiots + power = bad news.

Logically. :D


  1. One commenter on the original article in the Salt Lake Tribune said, "Serious money could be raised if our legislature worked nights and sold tickets billed as
    "Comedy night at the Capital" - Add booze and we're in the black."

  2. Logic and the Utah State Legislature rarely coincide. But I loved the "Comedy night at the Capital". Beautiful!

  3. That's very funny. I only wish you were writing fiction and not painful fact.

  4. It's the same with politicians the world over. None of think logically. Their only thought is how to get re-elected to the gravy train.