Pat Condell’s argument for free speech as his new religion in this video is similar to the simple reductio ad absurdem of Leon Kass’s intuitionist appeal to “repugnance” as grounds for banning human cloning. That reductio says the following:
In his case against cloning, Kass relies heavily on his own moral feelings of repugnance, without any serious attempt to justify them by plausible appeal to facts. Of course, Kass does offer some arguments against cloning, but those arguments are quite laughable. They would imply that we should ban in vitro fertilization, identical twins, and step-parents too.
Unfortunately for Kass, I find his appeal to repugnance itself repugnant. I’m an advocate of solid reasoning based on facts, after all. Heck, I find his pathetic attempts at substantive arguments — rationalization, really — quite repugnant too.
So if repugnance is as wise as Kass himself claims, then his whole method of arguing against cloning can and ought to be rejected on that very basis. Heads I win, tails he loses!
Obviously, that’s not the strongest argument against mystical theocrats of various stripes, not by a long shot. Nonetheless, it highlights the absurdity of ethical and political claims based on a corrupt epistemology. It’s a way of hoisting these folks with their own petard.
Will Wilkinson has more on the question-begging appeal to repugnance. Here’s the short version:
…just do the following: Make a list of all the very morally worthy and life-enhancing procedures Kass finds repugnant. Now, declare that what we need to do is re-engineer people so that we don’t find those things repugnant anymore, because those kinds of unreasoned sentiments prevent us from improving our lot here on Earth. How can a Kassian respond? The only non-fallacious course is to argue for the moral authority of the human moral sense as it is presently constituted, without assuming its authority in the argument. And that’s what I want from Kass, and from all those who argue via “the argument from ‘yuck.’” And that’s what we never get.