The modern world is full of fallacies; some of them are created intentionally, while others are the results of people’s ignorance. Boxing, Doctors – Round Two by Lowell Cohn, an article written in San Francisco Chronicle, serves as a bright example of such fallacies. The article was the reaction of the author to the doctors’ dissatisfaction with his previous writing on the abolishment of boxing by the American Medical Association. The author decided to write one more article in order to prove that his previous arguments were correct and reliable and that the doctors’ letters presenting him as “misinformed and scientifically naive” (Cohn 152) were unjustified. There are a lot of different fallacies in the text that may be considered as both created accidentally because of ignorance and intentionally. The main purpose of the current paper is to analyze the article Boxing, Doctors – Round Two by Lowell Cohn, find different types of fallacies in this article, and illustrate that arguments published by wise and clever professionals are not necessarily free of fallacious reasoning. The article under analysis contains several fallacies, including false analogy, personal attack, appeal to fear, and slippery scope; all these fallacies testify to the fact that people who are trying to prove their right often do not notice that they contradict themselves and express erroneous views.
The first group of fallacies that can be found in the text is the group of false analogies. False analogy as such takes place when a person who describes two things sees one or two similar things and concludes that the compared things are similar. The person is sure that if the things share two characteristics, they are to share the others as well (Cooper and Patton 137). The first case of the false analogy (paragraph 3 in the text) is the author’s statement that “doctors are used to being right” (Cohn 153). He builds his argument based on the doctor’s professional qualities, namely, on their being right when it comes to identifying diseases of the patients. Cohn compares patients with children when they visit them (Cohn 153) because even elderly people believe everything that the doctors say.
The second case of the false analogy may be found in paragraph 4 of the article. This is where the author tries to claim that doctors are rarely worried about the injuries people get and even die from when “skiing or bike riding or swimming every year” (Cohn 153). However, when it comes to boxing, they are outrageous about even the most insignificant injuries. By this, the author makes an erroneous conclusion that doctors have a careless attitude towards the injuries obtained from sports other than boxing. Consequently, the argument he bases on this conclusion is fallacious due to the incorrect analogy that he has used (comparing the attitudes of doctors to different kinds of sport, rather than to different kinds of injuries).
The third false analogy was made in paragraph 5 where Cohn makes the wrong deduction comparing the American Medical Association (AMA) with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). He emphasizes that the only purpose of the AMA is to protect people from boxing, just like SPCA does with animal protection (Cohn 153).
The last false analogy is in paragraph 8 where Cohen states, “lf this doctor were really concerned with medical evidence, as he claims, he would attack all dangerous sports, not just boxing” (153). How can a person make such a conclusion? If the stress is made on boxing, it does not mean that the other kinds of sport are approved. It is improper on his part to support his argument by stating, “We should eliminate boxing, the sport with fewer negative consequences, but allow the real killer sports to survive” (Cohn 153).
The second wide group of the fallacies found in the text is the group of personal attack fallacies. Personal attack is a fallacy that “attacks the person representing the argument rather than the argument itself” (Cooper and Patton 155). In other words, a person tries to attack the addressee personally, rather than attempting to contest the argument he/she has presented. One of the examples of the personal attack can be observed in paragraph 3 of the article under analysis. The author tries to attack the doctors’ profession in general stating that the doctors “expect us to worship them” (Cohen 153). This argument cannot be regarded as truthful because it is just a personal opinion. Furthermore, in paragraph 5, Cohn states that doctors “see people from ethnic minorities punching each other in a ring and they reach the conclusion that these poor, dumb blacks and Latinos must be protected from themselves because they don’t know any better” (Cohn 153). Again, the conclusion is made out of personal opinion and is not supported by any concrete evidence.
Other examples of personal attacks, such as “boxing offend the delicate sensibilities of doctors”, “they don’t like the idea that two men intentionally try to hurt each other” or “they feel more comfortable when injuries are a byproduct of a sport” (Cohn 153) can be observed in paragraph 9. These conclusions are not supported by facts and are aimed at offending the doctors personally. The author also wants to hurt doctors’ pride when stating that the doctors disregard ethical rules. Cohn is sure that doctors avoid ethical norms when making their judgments about dangerous kinds of sport.
One more case of personal attack can be found in paragraph 7 of the article, where the author says that “the AMA causes brain damage in doctors” (Cohn 153). The reasonable question appears whether the author can call doctors’ actions not ethical while his own words may never be called ethical as well.
The third group of fallacies in the article in question is presented by appeal to fear fallacies. This term means that the author wants to frighten the addressee implicitly rather than to try and protect his/her views. The appeal to fear is usually found in cases when a person wants to influence the addressee emotionally. In such cases, no rational arguments are presented and only emotions take the leading positions in the quarrel (Cooper and Patton 154). One case of appeal to fear was found in the text. The concluding sentence of the article is a rhetorical question. Though the author chooses to finish the article with a question, he seems sure in his righteousness. The author writes, “Who will AMA blame then?” (Cohn 154) meaning that there will nobody to blame except for the AMA itself. The author tries to push on the AMA emotionally making this threat his main weapon in criticizing the doctors’ opinion regarding the abolishment of boxing.
Finally, the fourth group is presented by the slippery scope. The term ‘slippery scope’ stands for the fallacy that claims that “an action should be avoided because it will lead to a series of extremely undesirable consequences” (Cooper and Patton 156). The 11th paragraph of the text presents an idea that forbidding boxing will result in its becoming illegal; the author warns that the “men will fight in secret without proper supervision” and “you will see deaths and maiming like you never saw” (Cohn 154). Thus, the author just tries to force the fear on people by telling about terrible consequences that may take place if his opinion is not taken into account.
In conclusion, four groups of fallacies have been found in Lowell Cohn’s article Boxing, Doctors – Round Two. False analogy, personal attack, appeal to fear, and slippery scope is the fallacies that can be easily identified in this piece of writing. The presence of all these fallacies in the article shows that the author was rather emotional during his writing and that he was ardently trying to stand his ground and to prove that the abolishment of boxing does not make any sense. Besides, these fallacies show that the biggest part of the author’s arguments has been based on his personal opinions and his dislike for doctors. This can especially be seen from the personal attacks made on them. Thus, false analogies, personal attacks, appeals to fear, and slippery scope has been used by Cohen in his article, which means that even educated professionals can make fallacious arguments when trying to stand their ground.
Cohn, Lowell. “Boxing, Doctors – Round Two.” Writing logically, thinking critically. Ed. Sheila Cooper and Rosemary Patton. Oxford: Pearson/Longman, 2003. Print.
Cooper, Sheila and Patton, Rosemary. Writing logically, thinking critically. Oxford: Pearson/Longman, 2003. Print.