Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Yes, There Are Stupid Questions

We have all heard the proverb, "There is no such thing as a stupid question."  Teachers use this to encourage students to ask the questions they must ask if they are to learn.  As long as the question is an honest question, the proverb is probably true.

Not all questions are honest, though, and dishonest questions are indeed stupid questions that should not be answered. 

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou be made like him. 
-- Proverbs 26:4

I was reminded of this some time ago in an exchange of comments on another blog which had posted something about the FDA making "Plan B" available without a prescription to girls of any age -- no matter how young.  I had stated, in response to some thread, that the pro-life consideration is not the only reason for opposing this action by the FDA.  Someone responded by asking, "If the embryo were not a person, would it still be wrong?"  I refused to play that game.

From the context it was clear we were not discussing horse shoe crab embryos; we were discussing embryonic human beings.  The question was not, "Are human embryos persons?" or "How do you know human embryos are persons?"  Those questions would be legitimate from someone who really wanted to know.  That was not what was being asked, though.  Instead, I was asked to pretend that one group of humans, namely those who are still in the embryonic stage, are not persons.

Not only is this offensive -- exactly as it would be offensive to deny the personhood of any other class of humans -- it renders any further discussion pointless.  If you were to grant me that 1=2, I could show that the US debt is zero, because I would be able show that any number is equal to any other number.  By choosing a particularly bad starting point, you would have destroyed any possibility of a meaningful arithmetic.  In the same way, treating human nature as subject to arbitrary redefinition renders ethics meaningless.

1 comment:

  1. Yes you're right. A question honestly asked is fair, no matter what it is. But so often a question is telling you something about the speaker that the speaker wants you to know (he's read up on the lecture, etc) or it is meant to manipulate you or call attention to something else, etc...