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

By exaggerating, misrepresenting, or just completely fabricating someone’s argument, it’s much easier to present your own position as being reasonable, but this kind of dishonesty serves to undermine honest rational debate.

Chris Jeub   Master of Debate or Logical Fallacy?  childfree by choice childless by choice childfree life childfree living no kids life without kids life without children no children DINKS GINKS

Wearing your ideology on your scooter – a VespaVolkswagenist.

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:

An ideology is a set of conscious and unconscious ideas that constitute one’s goals, expectations, and actions. An ideology is a comprehensive vision, a way of looking at things (compare worldview) as in several philosophical tendencies (see political ideologies), or a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to all members of this society (a “received consciousness” or product of socialization).

Ideologies are systems of abstract thought applied to public matters and thus make this concept central to politics. Implicitly every political or economic tendency entails an ideology whether or not it is propounded as an explicit system of thought.

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:

They’re (childfree authors) making the case that a world without children might just be a good idea.

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.

But “Child Free” is a (sic) ideological movement that encourages the opposite: don’t have children. “Be free of them”: Child Free.

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.

These Child Free authors insist that they do not like children in general, that they wouldn’t enjoy children, that they wouldn’t be good parents, and so on and so forth. They give reason after reason insisting that children would add no value to their lives.

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

You attacked your opponent’s character or personal traits in an attempt to undermine their argument.

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.

When you consider (the childfree “ideology”) fully , it’s insane.

 Do you think “insane” or “crazy” goes a bit too far?

Forgive me for name-calling, but is it fair to say this view is childish?

Chris Jeub   Master of Debate or Logical Fallacy?  childfree by choice childless by choice childfree life childfree living no kids life without kids life without children no children DINKS GINKS

One man lives with the consequences of his childfree ideology

Calling people names…now who’s childish?

Appeal to Fear

An appeal to fear (also called argumentum ad metum or argumentum in terrorem) is a fallacy in which a person attempts to create support for an idea by using deception and propaganda in attempts to increase fear and prejudice toward a competitor. The appeal to fear is common in marketing and politics.

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

If you go the giddy Child Free way (i.e. I will never, ever have children), you may get your wish, and your life will end with depressing consequence.

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

You said that if we allow A to happen, then Z will eventually happen too, therefore A should not happen.

Chris Jeub   Master of Debate or Logical Fallacy?  childfree by choice childless by choice childfree life childfree living no kids life without kids life without children no children DINKS GINKS

Meme courtesy of http://www.quickmeme.com/

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

The world will go on if you decide not to have children. But if everyone decided to not have children, all hell would break loose.

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!

 The Child Free ideology encourages a cultural shift that would result in world devastation.

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

The process of analogical inference involves noting the shared properties of two or more things, and from this basis inferring that they also share some further property.

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

The Child Free ideology encourages a cultural shift that would result in world devastation.

Let me put it to you this way. Throwing a water bottle into a lake isn’t going to rot out the lake. However, we choose not to litter because if everyone littered, it would rot out the lake. The drain on the environment would put us out of whack.

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

(Latin for “it does not follow”), in formal logic, is an argument in which its conclusion does not follow from its premises.

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.

Or welfare. You can stand in a line and fill out forms for state assistance. You can even cheat a little and no one will notice. The United States economy will survive, and you will get your welfare check without any visible consequence.

But what if everyone soaked the system like this guy? Party up, dude, surf the waves, pick up your welfare card along with the chicks on the beach. If anyone is a sign of a failing society and a crumbling economy, it is this guy living it up in Hotel California.

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:

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program succeeded the Aid to Families with Dependent Children Program (AFDC) program in 1996, as part of federal welfare reform.  Among other changes, welfare is no longer an entitlement, and adult recipients in most cases are required to work at least part time to continue receiving benefits

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!

2 Responses to Chris Jeub – Master of Debate or Logical Fallacy?

  1. Chris Jeub June 3, 2014 at 3:19 pm #

    I’m glad you added the PS. I was responding to Amy Glass with the same sarcasm she exemplified (and received 100x the attention). I am hardly ever so hyperbolic. I have childfree friends, and though we disagree on some basic life choices and views of childbearing, we live in peace and harmony.

  2. Jessica February 5, 2014 at 6:39 pm #

    Excellent post, and I’m glad to read it. I read another post of his own that Mr. Jeub points to in the post mentioned here, and he mentioned there that he was a debate coach. I immediately turned to my husband (who teachers writing and discusses bias and the logical fallacies that result) and said, “I see multiple logical fallacies in this argument, but the most offensive is that we’re akin to littering and will destroy the world. Several hundreds of years ago, let’s say that 10% of the population littered. Yes, that’s high, but let’s go with it. That percentage has probably stayed the same, so in this day and age 10% of people still litter, okay? Well, by creating a world that is overpopulated, now we have an even bigger issue with littering. Even if the percentage remains the same, there will be more people doing this act just by the fact that there are now many more people. I find a distinct link between how many people are in the world and the pollution issues that we are now facing.” I’m glad you saw that and turned it around as well.

    In his comments below, however, Mr. Jeub reports (without sources) that the myth of overpopulation was proven a long time ago. I’m not sure what source he’d link to, but I’m positive that it wouldn’t be a fact (which he and his supporters in his comments tend to confuse with opinion anyway) and that the source wouldn’t have research to prove any such thing.

Leave a Reply

UA-42521838-1
%d bloggers like this: