Monday, September 22, 2014

Catholic Stand: Eugenics and the "Hitler Card"

The Fallacy Files website, which is devoted to exploring and exploding errors in reasoning, gives the following forms for “the Hitler card” fallacy (also called the “ad Hitlerum” or “ad Naziarum”):
Adolf Hitler accepted idea I.Therefore, I must be wrong. The Nazis accepted idea I.Therefore, I must be wrong.
Hitler was in favor of euthanasia.Therefore, euthanasia is wrong. The Nazis favored eugenics.Therefore, eugenics is wrong.
Hitler was a vegetarian.Therefore, vegetarianism is wrong. The Nazis were conservationists.Therefore, conservationism is wrong.
The author of the blog puts the fallacy as a sub-category of the “guilt by association” fallacy, and explains, “Some instances of the Hitler card are factually incorrect, or even ludicrous, in ascribing ideas to Hitler or other Nazis that they did not hold. However, from a logical point of view, even if Hitler or other Nazis did accept an idea, this historical fact alone is insufficient to discredit it.”

Certainly, comparisons to Adolf Hitler and the crimes of the Third Reich get over-played. For example, I recently saw a meme in Facebook which compared side-by-side quotes from Hitler and Hillary Clinton on the need for an authoritative government. However, you can pull similar quotes from many people whose goodness was unquestionable, or who were at least no better or worse than the rest of us. If you doubt me, check out Romans 13:1-7 — if that isn’t giving a full-throated approval of a strong governor, nothing is.

If all contentions, which invoked Hitler/the Nazis, argued to the wrongness of a specific position from the support of Hitler/the Nazis for that position, I would have no qualms with this taxonomy. The “broken clock” maxim applies as much to psychopathic dictators as it does to anyone else. However, in the case of eugenics and euthanasia, our logician is committing a fallacy — specifically, a straw man.

Read the rest at Catholic Stand!