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Slippery Slope

Slippery slope fallacy, thin end of the wedge, camel's nose

The slippery slope fallacy consists of claiming that one thing will inevitably lead to another when there is no good reason to believe that such a sequence will necessarily occur.

The slippery series can be based upon causal or upon semantic relations. In the causal, non causa pro causa, series event "1" leads to outcome "n" by way of a series of steps, which may be explicit, but are often implicit.

Thus, music may lead to dancing, which may lead to sex, which may lead to unwanted pregnancies, which may lead to unwanted children, which may lead to child abuse, which may lead to criminal activity. All because someone turned on the radio!

In the semantic version, two terms that lie on a continuum are treated as though there is no point of distinct transition. Thus, doctor-assisted suicide at the request of a mentally competent, suffering, terminally ill patient is depicted as transitioning directly to physicians playing God and murdering patients at will.

The slippery slope fallacy is commonly employed in the arguments of religious dogmatists who erroneously claim that "moral relativism" will lead to moral decay, and ultimately to moral mayhem. Equally erroneous, and tied into creationist awareness that Darwin was the first to shed light on the actual mechanisms of biological evolution, religious dogmatists like to link Darwinism to moral laxity. The Wedge Document anonymously decries "the catastrophic legacy of Darwin, Marx, and Freud—the alleged fathers of a “materialistic conception of reality” that eventually “infected virtually every area of our culture.”"

Conversely, civil libertarians might claim that an increase in governmental controls would inevitably lead to a police state. While it might be quite justified to anticipate that extra surveillance powers given to the authorities after 9/11 could be employed to infringe upon the civil liberties of some innocent citizens, it is not necessarily the case that most or all citizens will suffer intrusion.

It is not a slippery slope fallacy, on the other hand, to point out that permitting creationist intelligent [sick] design theory into science classrooms would lead to a further deterioration in the standards of science education.

Quo Vadis?
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. . . launched (sans champagne, alas) 10/22/06