develop and utilize two different skills

Subject: Ethics


Within this class, I am expecting you to develop and utilize two different skills: one is to be able to recognize and analyze the arguments made by others; the second is to make well constructed arguments yourself. This assignment will have you working on that first skill. I want you to start by reading all three of the recent editorials below; you will then choose one of the editorials to use for this assignment.
When you get any piece of writing in this class, the first task is to understand the argument that the author is making by picking out the structure of the argument, as described in part 1 below . Then you should go on to analyze the quality of the argument by making and supporting a claim that the argument presented is good or bad (I ask you to do the tasks in this order since you obviously can’t say whether the argument is good or bad until you are clear about what the argument is). Therefore, this assignment has two parts. Start by re-reading the editorial you have chosen, and then do the following:
Part 1. Argument Summary. Tell me which specific sentence you think is the main conclusion of the editorial. Then tell me what reasons (premises) the author gives to support that conclusion. This summary of the structure of the argument should only be about a paragraph long, and I want you to quote directly from the article when you list the statements that you think are serving as the conclusion and the premises of the argument. So, you should write something like the following: I think that the main conclusion of this piece is ” . . . “. The author supports this with ” . . . “, “. . . ” and ” . . . “. (This is just an example; you may find more or fewer premises).
Part 2. Argument Analysis. For this section, I want you to write a paragraph telling me whether you think the argument you outlined in part one is a good one or not and why you think that it is or is not good. You should address the following questions: is the argument valid (does the conclusion follow from the premises?). If it is valid, are the premises true (thus it would be a sound argument)? If it is invalid, why doesn’t the conclusion follow from the premises? If it is valid, but not sound, which premise might be false? Does it fit any of the special argument forms that you studied in Handout #1?


The total assignment should only be about two good paragraphs long. It is worth 10 points and will be graded as follows: Argument Summary – 5 points, Argument Analysis – 5 points.
Here are the editorials; they are all from The New York Times:

1. Putting Politics Ahead of Science, May 2, 2013


The New York Times



Appearing before Planned Parenthood’s annual convention last Friday, President Obama pledged his continuing support for women’s reproductive rights. In a speech before the National Academy of Sciences on Monday, Mr. Obama promised to keep science a sphere “not subject to politics” or “skewed by an agenda.”

On Wednesday, his administration betrayed both reproductive rights and science. The Justice Department announced that it would appeal a federal court ruling that would make morning-after pills available without a prescription for girls and women of all ages.

In 2011, the secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius, overruled the Food and Drug Administration, which had decided, based on scientific evidence, that the pills would be safe and appropriate “for all females of child-bearing potential.” Ms. Sebelius arbitrarily determined that only women 17 and older should have access to the drug.

Then, last month, citing the political nature of Ms. Sebelius’s intervention and finding no “coherent justification” for it, Judge Edward Korman of United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York ordered the F.D.A. to make emergency contraceptives available over the counter to all women, with no age restrictions.

The move to appeal the court ruling came just a day after the F.D.A. staked out a new position, setting the age restriction on nonprescription access to the most well-known brand of emergency contraception — Plan B One-Step — at 15 years old and telling pharmacies to stock the product on display shelves rather than behind the counter. It also said purchasers would have to prove their age by showing a driver’s license, birth certificate, passport or other official form of identification.

The compromise guidelines are a step in the right direction but still inadequate. There is no good reason to limit the product to those 15 and older. And the ID requirement represents a significant barrier for a time-sensitive drug. Many teenagers don’t have any kind of ID.

The administration’s continued stubbornness may please some conservative groups critical of the president. But it will hurt girls and women and is bound to undermine Mr. Obama’s credibility when he calls for principled, evidence-based policy-making on other issues, like global warming.

The Justice Department’s legal argument, moreover, is incoherent. In court documents, it claims that Judge Korman’s order improperly interferes with the F.D.A.’s “scientific judgments” pertaining to the drug approval process. But it was Ms. Sebelius’s interference with science that sparked Judge Korman’s ruling in the first place.

Lack of access to safe contraception will not stop adolescents from having sex. Girls who have sex should not be punished with unintended pregnancies.

2. The Importance of testing for HIV, May 3, 2013

An expert advisory group has recommended that Americans ages 15 to 65 be voluntarily screened for H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, and that many of those found infected receive antiviral drugs even before symptoms develop. This authoritative advice reinforces similar recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a reminder that doctors and clinics need to test and treat patients as early as possible.

The recommendations by the United States Preventive Services Task Force, a group of independent experts who advise the federal government on screening tests, was published on Tuesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine. In its last advice on the subject, in 2005, the task force recommended screening only adolescents and adults at increased risk of infection, like men who have sex with men, but eschewed wider testing.

The panel now expresses “high certainty” that the net benefit of screening adolescents, adults and pregnant women is “substantial.” It is estimated that more than 200,000 Americans are infected but don’t know it. If their infections could be detected and treated with antiviral drugs, they would be less likely to suffer severe illness and premature death and less able to spread the virus to others through sexual intercourse or needle-sharing.
The advice comes on the heels of reports that strong antiviral drugs administered shortly after infection virtually eliminated active virus from a Mississippi baby and several patients in France, an achievement that underscores the crucial importance of early detection. These reports, which need to be confirmed by further studies, were not considered by the task force, but they add to hopes that the world could, by committing sufficient resources to detection and treatment, finally bring the AIDS epidemic under control.


3. Room For Debate: Should Teenagers Get High Instead of Drunk? December 19, 2011
Twenty years ago, when my son was a teenager, his favorite recreational drug was ecstasy, or MDMA. He claimed that ecstasy was “as safe as alcohol,” and that there was nothing to worry about. Of course, I did worry.

My worry eventually led to a decade-long research project that compared the relative risk of 20 different recreational substances. Here’s the way scientists usually make comparisons of the risk (acute lethality) of various drugs:

First, determine the “effective” dose of the drug. In the case of alcohol, for example, two 12-ounce beers or two 1.5-ounce shots of 80-proof vodka will give a normally healthy teenager a substantial buzz. The beer or the vodka each contain about 33 grams of ethyl alcohol.

Second, determine the “lethal” dose of the drug. Again, in the case of alcohol, hospital records show that people who die from an alcohol overdose have usually ingested about 330 grams of alcohol — equivalent to 20 shots of vodka.

Third, divide the lethal dose by the effective dose. This gives the “safety margin” of the drug. For alcohol, the safety margin is 10 (330 divided by 33 equals 10). In other words, it takes 10 times as much alcohol to kill you as it does to give you a buzz. Note: All such calculations are very rough estimates, and severe toxic reactions can occur at much lower doses depending on the health of the individual.

Based on my research, the safety margin of recreational substances as normally used is: 6 for heroin; 10 for alcohol; 15 for cocaine; 16 for MDMA; 20 for codeine; and 1,000 for LSD or marijuana. Cigarettes have little immediate risk of death because most of the very lethal nicotine is destroyed in the smoke. The long-term risk of addiction and cancer from cigarettes is well known.

No drug is good for teenagers. But when it comes to the chances of immediate death by chemical toxicity, marijuana is about a hundred times safer than alcohol or cocaine.


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