Arguments of Fact and Reason

Robert Winston’s The Joy of More Sex

Read article here: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/01/10/1041990089907.html

Winston uses social and biological patterns as reasoning to persuade the audience of his argument – that sex is the instinct of all organisms and humans would benefit by returning to their natural way of life. Winston frequently uses authority as a standard of proof, an overt ethos appeal or testimony to give his argument credibility. These sources include anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon, ethnographic surveys, Laura Betzig, Charles Darwin, anthropologist Marjorie Shostak, genetic studies in Britain, entomologist Geoffrey Parker, Dr A. G. Clark, and global marriage statistics.

Winston formats his case with an expositional opening, devoting the remainder of the article to proving his argument by confirmation. Using the pipefish and the Yanomano tribe as factual definition, readers are informed of the circumstances, the details, and state of the question- the benefits of polygyny. The article opens with analogy, a device used throughout the text, which compares humankind to the animal species. This is one of the weaker fallacies of induction: the first sentence gives the inference that pipefish carry human qualities, the female pipefish is a “patron saint of radical feminism” and “she didn’t phone the next day, either.” The social value of mating is presented as synonymous with the biological process as fish practice human customs. Parker also uses fruit flies to explain females and infidelity; male jealousy is likened to mountain gorillas. This creates a false analogy by using similarities to infer they share all qualities and thus the nature of sex is the unchanged across the animal species.

Anthropological reasoning is used to support his argument of analogy in describing the evolutionary origins of sex in society. Winston identifies the hunter-gatherer tribes, Yanomamo people of the Amazon, and Indian Emperor Udayama of 5BC who “supposedly kept a harem of 16,000 women”, evidence clearly unrepresentative and insufficient. Winston then continues on the polygamous traditions of the Romans, medieval Europeans, and Count Baudoin of the 13th century. While the historical anthropology may not necessarily be accurate, Winston treats the subject as standards of truth. This is an obvious fallacy of matter in dealing with what is accepted as truth in a society. Winston then concludes the historical timeline with modern Western society, where the rise of democracy has ended polygyny, displaying a generalised value-laden opinion on the institution of marriage in Western society, “they got on with the more mundane tasks of polishing silver and serving tea”.

Winston’s reasoning suggests that, both biologically and socially, humankind is not programmed to monogamous sexual lifestyles, confirmed in later sections by offering statistics on divorce rates in contemporary society. Winston uses statistics to prove infidelity of men in Britain, only briefly recognising any opposing facts “to be fair, these studies are based only on blood group evidence and possibly deserve re-evaluation”. The article targets specific cultural values, referencing the Bible’s Proverbs and makes generalizations of contemporary society for their pleasures in illicit sex and gossip where “affairs are an important aspect in communal life”.

One of the weakest examples of inductive reasoning Winston uses is the IVF case of Margaret B with the fallacy of causal conclusion. She is infertile with her husband, she has an affair with her lover, and therefore she becomes fertile. Winston even refutes notions of love, crediting it as a chemical in the brain (phenyl ethylamine), which lasts three years. Winston erroneously connects the chemical ‘infatuation’ to the rate of divorce after four years marriage. Winston presents his argument that humankind will always be sexually polygynous, however after reading “The Joy of More Sex” one can see the fallacies of his argument: using comparison by analogy, fallacy of matter, generalisations, repetitive authority, and the fallacy of causal relationships.

(Persuasive Writing – Exercise – 2012)

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