Slippery Slope – exaggerating
the possible future consequences of an action.
If a person stands on a slippery slope, then
one small misstep can force him to fall or begin the avalanche that causes
havoc or destruction down the hill. The slippery slope fallacy occurs
when an argument exaggerates the possible future consequences of an action,
usually with the intention of frightening the audience; hence, slippery
slope arguments are forms of the scare tactic. Slippery slope fallacies
differ in that their arguments actually contain valid cause/effect relationships,
but they are linked together loosely in a long chain of possible events.
FOR YOUR INFORMATION
Although one specific sequence of events might occur exactly as the speaker predicts, the odds of a long sequence of events occurring as predicted drop off dramatically when each new link is added to the chain of proposed events. If any one link is disproved or is discovered to be circumstantial, then the entire argument falls.
An anti-drug advocate speaks: “Cigarettes should be banned! Children who start smoking cigarettes will then move on to marijuana, which is a gateway drug to all the others. Once a kid starts smoking dope, he’ll get curious and then try cocaine, then LSD, and then heroin and crack. Cigarettes are the gateway to death.”
often argued that cigarettes are just one example of “gateway drugs” —
harmful, yet weaker, substances that “open the gate” to harder drug use.
They argued that teens who smoke cigarettes are more likely to try marijuana;
likewise, pot smokers are more apt to try cocaine, then heroin, and so
on. Although statistics certainly suggest a correlation between cigarette
smoking and other “at risk” behaviors, a child who tries a cigarette is
not going to become a heroin user (most likely). To suggest otherwise
commits the slippery slope fallacy. Ideas and actions do have consequences,
but they are not always as dire (or as predictable) as the authors of the
slippery slope tactic would have us believe.
A National Rifle Association president might say: “We have to support our Second Amendment rights to bear arms. As soon as guns are made illegal, suddenly you’ll find the government taking more and more of our rights away until we are all slaves to the state. If we lose our Second Amendment rights, the others will follow, one by one. Therefore, support the NRA before the government robs us all!”
Many people fear our
government’s increasing intrusion into our privacy: laws tell us who we
can marry (straight people only), what kinds of sex are allowed in our
with our spouses bedrooms, and who gets to see our credit card information
when we buy something on eBay. True, each new law brings a tighter
restriction on our freedom, but to suggest that government regulation necessarily
leads to more regulation in the future is impossible to prove. Remember,
what can’t be proven cannot be considered valid. Yes, our freedoms
are restricted every day, but does that mean that we will all be slaves
to the state in 10 years’ time? Hardly. People who believe
this are overreacting, based on their fears and perceptions. Nobody
can predict the future with any certainty.
A panicked citizen asserts: “Legalizing assisted suicide will lead to murder of the old and the mentally handicapped.”
This person is suggesting that legalizing the right of a dying individual to control the manner of one’s death will lead to future laws legalizing the murder of the sick and old. However, the links between these two scenarios are weak, if not nonexistent. Most of us would be surprised if such inhumane laws as harming the handicapped ever became seriously considered by lawmakers.
Public acceptance of
assisted suicide in Oregon have made the case for euthanasia stronger,
but any real change in society usually takes two to three generations to
manifest itself. Laws as serious as these are never made arbitrarily.
People always have time to protest any new laws that seriously affect our
lives. We are not going to see sweeping, radical changes in our laws