This morning I happened to hear a local radio show (on WTIC 1080) by a guy named Jim Vicevich. He’s Hartford’s local version of Glenn Beck … a sanctimonious windbag full of self-righteous bellicosity. Like Beck, his act is a cross between Howard Beale (of Network fame) and a street preacher. Only he leans a little more in the direction of street preacher, because he has a lot of overtly-religious guests (e.g. folks who work for anti-abortion religious ministries, who as one would expect frequently sprinkle their on-air speeches with “praise Gods”), and he discusses the religious aspects of issues like abortion, more than most other Rightist pundits. He also actively solicits on behalf of religious groups, for instance in one of his blog postings.
At any rate, today he pontificated on how an apparent Planned Parenthood defector somehow “proves” that abortion is bad. Unfortunately, in doing so, Vicevich falls into the old rhetorical trap of an irrelevant appeal to authority (which is a fallacy in every sense of the word). Here’s his blog entry on the matter:
This is why we need this ultrasound so badly here in Connecticut.
Planned Parenthood has been a part of Abby Johnson’s life for the past eight years; that is until last month, when Abby resigned. Johnson said she realized she wanted to leave, after watching an ultrasound of an abortion procedure [emphasis in this quotation by Vicevich, is his own].
For Vicevich, looking at ultrasounds “proves” something. Unfortunately this is an illogical assumption. What looking at ultrasounds does, is not to “prove” anything in an objective way. Rather, it simply confirms — in a merely-emotional way — his own personal preconceptions.
One may wonder why having been a Planned Parenthood worker is “irrelevant” to the matter of abortion … because it certainly would appear that it’s relevant. But that’s all it is — an appearance only. What makes this an “irrelevant” appeal to authority, is that that having worked at Planned Parenthood does not grant Ms Johnson, or any other former Planned Parenthood worker, any real authority on whether abortion is right or wrong. Moral and ethical questions such as that are metaphysical in nature, and there is no such thing as a credential to decide metaphysics, because there is no final authority on the subject; no objective certification in that field; and no way to verify anything metaphysical. One may believe that a person carries such authority — for instance, Roman Catholics believe the Pope has the authority to make theological and doctrinal decisions (which are, by their very nature, all metaphysical) — but in the end, there are no objective credentials to back up these beliefs. (If there were, there would not — for example — be so many Christian denominations that refuse papal authority.)
Really, Ms Johnson’s belief that abortion is “bad,” is no more valid or relevant an authority on the subject than anyone else’s. Her belief, in the end, is nothing more than a subjective value judgement that she has made for herself. That’s all.
I’m sure Mr Vicevich, who once had a stellar career as a local TV business reporter before he turned into a raging Religious Rightist … is educated enough to know his claims are fallacious. That’s what makes him such a sad case, and an example of why (as the United Negro College Fund has often said), “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”Tags: 1080, abby johnson, abortion, anti-abortion, appeal to authority, connecticut, defector, fallacious, fallacy, hartford ct, howard beale, irrelevant appeal to authority, jim vicevich, planned parenthood, preacher, pro-life, radio, ultrasound, vicevich, WTIC, wtic 1080