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  • Writer's pictureLance Blackstone

Chris Jeub – Master of Debate or Logical Fallacy?

Amy has already done a most excellent, and kindly, job of eviscerating the particulars of hexadecadad™ Chris Jeub’s recent blog post deriding the “Child Free Ideology” as he puts it. So why am I writing more on this you ask?

Well, I just couldn’t let go of something I read when I was digging into Jeub’s bio. You see, he teaches, writes, and (self) publishes books on debate. However, if you read Jeub’s post you would be forgiven for thinking that debate is nowhere near his wheelhouse.

Logic or Debate… Pick One

Let me clearly state that I am not formally trained in debate. I am trained in biology and the scientific method so I feel I have some handle on the notions and use of logic. Prior to reading Jeub’s post I believed that debaters attempted to incorporate factual information in support of their proposition; that arguments should avoid the use of fallacies.

Of course, this assumes some level of intellectual honesty on the part of the debater. But this is clearly not the case. As Wikipedia states “Though logical consistency, factual accuracy and some degree of emotional appeal to the audience are important elements of the art of persuasion, in debating, one side often prevails over the other side by presenting a superior ‘context’ and/or framework of the issue, which is far more subtle and strategic” (emphasis added).

So winning a debate is often not about facts and logic. Rather “winning” is about how well you can construct a framework that your audience identifies with. Fallacious arguments are a great way to accomplish this. When well done, they distract your audience, obviate the facts, and maybe most importantly, cater to the audience’s existing biases.

So maybe Jeub really is a master of the form. For fun let’s take a look at some of the fallacies Jeub racks up. I warn you in advance – this will take a while.

Logical Fallacies

Strawman

Jeub loves, loves, loves(!) strawman arguments. So, why not start right away with the title and claim that being childfree is an ideology? I like definitions. Here’s one:

Being childfree is a binary decision, not an ideology. The childfree decision is certainly informed by a person’s (actual) ideology but so is choosing what you eat, the clothes you wear, and the car you drive. Let’s put it this way…if childfree is an ideology so is ordering sushi, wearing cut-off overalls, and driving a Vespa.

It’s important to note that this notion of a “childfree ideology” is the foundation of his entire argument. With the foundation gone, not much is left. But this doesn’t prevent Jeub from stacking up additional fallacies, including more strawmen. Here are some additional examples:

Very few people actually believe this. Making it a trait of the childfree generally is disingenuous. I could as easily assert that all parent authors are pedophiles. I’m not though.

I can only assume Jeub is ignorant of the definition of “childfree.” This not excusable when you choose to call out people that identify that way. To be clear “childfree” indicates a person that has actively chosen to not have children as opposed to someone who is childless by circumstance. This is a useful distinction for many reasons and folks like Jeub don’t get to redefine it for their purposes. Regarding the notion that the childfree encourage others to be childfree, this is generally untrue. If childfree people encourage anything, it is that people should make an active, thoughtful choice to become a parent as opposed to doing so simply because you were socialized that way.

Jeub’s attempt to paint all childfree authors with the same brush is the problem here. Some childfree authors assert some of these things. Some assert none.

 Ad Hominem

Since, according to Jeub childfree is an ideology that all subscribe to, and since we all think the same way, apparently personal attacks are now on the table.

Calling people names…now who’s childish?

Appeal to Fear

Scaring people into having children is another tactic used by Jeub.

Giddiness aside, why will the childfree life end with depressing consequences, at least anymore depressing than that of parents? What could be more depressing than having children that put you in a nursing home and never visit, as so many do? In fact, we know through empirical research – see point 6 in the linked article – that the childfree fare very well in later life. This research is real, not Fox (Non-)News anecdotes.

There is hard truth here: you will grow old.Your days of travel will become burdensome, your days of work will retire, your friends and family will die, and your life will sunset. Perhaps you will have your mate — as our new friends at Applebees had each other — but that union, too, will end.

To paraphrase, the childfree will die miserable and alone (You’ll be alone! All alone! The existential angst!) while parents will have a gaggle of loving children and grandchildren around to support them as they pass on. As mentioned before, this rosy view of supportive children gathered around their aged parent is clearly not always true, or have you never actually been inside a nursing home?

Regarding the childfree, it has been shown that we have (and therefore can rely more heavily on) bonds of friendship, not familial obligation. This makes logical sense; we’re not pumping all of our time into raising kids yet we are still (GASP!) social creatures. In addition, not having children in no way means the childfree do not have family. We have partners, brothers and sisters, cousins, and nephews and nieces.

Slippery Slope


Lances Rants - Penguin - Slipery Slope

This type of fallacious thinking forms a significant basis of Jeub’s third point, i.e. that “Culturally, Child Free Is Catastrophic”.

Yes, the world will go on, especially while we have Jeub and company handily maintaining population growth here in the US. The last part is a double fallacy “But if everyone decided to not have children (strawman), all hell would break loose (slippery slope). Way to go Jeub! A logic breakdown two-fer!

Whoa! This looks bad! If the childfree “ideology” persists world devastation will ensue! Wait… I thought the world would go on. Gah!

If you are experiencing cognitive dissonance, don’t worry. It will make it easier for you to swallow the tortured analogy used to support this point. See next…

False Analogy

I have to lift Jeub’s analogy wholesale, it’s so bad…

Putting aside not knowing what “…rot out the lake” means I fail to see how choosing not to produce offspring is in any way similar to choosing to litter. If anything, this analogy makes more sense when I turn it around:

The “Have 16 Children” ideology encourages a cultural shift that would result in world devastation.

Let me put it to you this way. Having 16 children isn’t going to result in world devastation. However, we choose not to have 16 children because if everyone had 16 children it would result in world devastation. The drain on the environment would put us out of whack.

Look! It’s not a tortured analogy anymore. It’s a statement of empirical fact. Nifty!

Non Sequitur

Jeub runs completely of the rails here, not even making an attempt to support his claims that the childfree “ideology” leads to welfare abuse. Admittedly this is towards the end of his post and I’m sure trying to weave the threads of illogic together is taking its toll by now.

The previous assertions(?) are additional “proof” of what happens when the childfree “ideology” causes a cultural shift (resulting in world devastation). It is a leap worthy of Superman to go from a) choosing not to have children to b) being on the dole or a welfare fraud. Let’s put aside the link to Fox (NOT) News and talk about real facts here. childtrends.org reports the following:

See that bit about not an entitlement and adults having to work? Note also that programs like TANF and WIC are explicitly for children and their parents (and we support these programs). I challenge Jeub to find a welfare program at any level that is explicitly for the childfree. Of course the reality is that the childfree do not have the committed cost burden of having children, estimated in the US at $241,080 over the course of 18 years. Want college? That’ll cost you an additional $22,261 a year for public college.

Here’s some more knowledge. The organization National Center for Children in Poverty has an interesting tool called the Young Child Risk Calculator.

The risk factors used in this tool are known to increase the chance of poor health, school, and developmental outcomes for young children. Economic hardship paired with any of the listed risk factors may indicate a greater chance of poor outcomes.

Interestingly enough “Large Family”, defined as a “Children in a family of 4 with more children…”, is a risk factor for “…poor health, school, and developmental outcomes…”. Huh. Imagine that. Large families put children at risk.

For example, in Colorado, where  Jeub appears to live, 41% (250,639) of children live in low income families. Of that number, a minimum of 42% (105,268)  are both poor and living in large families. Could it be that having children leads to and perpetuates poverty? Of course. And who is more likely to avail themselves of social safety nets? Those in poverty.

So Tired…

I’ve got to stop even though I can see more fallacies every time I reread Jeub’s post. My eyes and brain hurt. If you managed to get this far, 2 points and thanks for reading.

I do hope that calling out some of these fallacies is useful. I also hope that reasonable people, both parents and childfree, can continue to engage meaningfully without need to resort to the types of fallacious tactics exhibited by Mr. Jeub.

P.S. On Amy Glass…

In case you didn’t read what got Mr. Jeub’s tidy whities all knotted up, it was a post by Amy Glass. Personally, I found the tone and some of the content of her post to be nearly as annoying as Mr. Jeub’s. Ms. Glass certainly does not speak for us here at w{n}hab!

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