Example: [Collected on the Internet, 1999]
TWO TOUGH QUESTIONS:
Question 1: If you knew a woman who was pregnant, who had
Read the next question before scrolling down to the answer of this one.
Question 2: It is time to elect a new world leader, and your vote counts. Here are the facts about the three leading candidates:
Candidate A is Franklin D. Roosevelt
Candidate B is Winston Churchill
Candidate C is Adolph Hitler
And by the way: Answer to the abortion question - if you said yes, you just killed Beethoven.
Pretty interesting isn't it? Makes a person think before judging someone.
Origins: Good advice, but unfortunately it's presented with some glurgiously bad examples.
We'll tackle the second half first. It has some good points, namely that by selectively choosing which facts to report, you can make just about anyone look good or bad. It also (perhaps unintentionally) provides an example demonstrating that facts offered out of context can be more misleading than no facts at all: Hitler's diet was primarily vegetarian throughout the latter part of his life; however, he didn't adopt a vegetarian diet for moral reasons, but because he suffered from gastric
Still, some of the semantic trickery used here makes this a rather poor example. Hitler had affairs with several women (some of whom died under mysterious circumstances), but they weren't technically "extramarital" affairs because he wasn't married. Playing games with language might also be part of the lesson here, but we suspect that whoever crafted this piece included some misinformation by mistake, not by design.
The Beethoven example is egregiously misleading. Beethoven was born well over two hundred years ago, in an era when the infant mortality was quite high by modern standards, and even infants who survived were often afflicted with serious health problems. Children didn't die or experience physical problems so frequently back then simply because they were all born to mothers who were themselves in poor health, as is implied here. Offering an
Also, Beethoven was not born to a woman who "had 8 kids already." Although his mother, Maria Magdalena Laym (nee Kewerich) gave birth a total of eight times during her lifetime, Ludwig was only her third child. (Her first two children, one from a previous marriage, both died in infancy.) Only two of Beethoven's five younger siblings survived beyond their first few years of their life.
Even if we take this example at face value, its message is still problematic. If the woman in the example had been advised to abort her pregnancy based on the (mis)information supplied here, the world would never have known the magic of Beethoven's music. But maybe a different woman who did opt to terminate her pregnancy might have spared the world another Stalin or Hitler. This is the sort of speculative "What if?" game that neither side can win, so it's best not to play at all.
Last updated: 11 March 2007