The essay “An Argument Against Banning Phthalates by Juan Lucas” espouses caution and logical thinking when it comes to the push for banning phthalates from their use in children’s toys, in particular for babies. While Lucas does not outright point it out, the main logical fallacy in the anti-phthalate campaign is that it utilizes an appeal to emotion to convince people to support their cause. The problem with appeals to emotion is that they are rarely grounded insufficient evidence-based logical reasoning. Lucas points this out several times in his essay by stating that the anti-phthalate campaign does not ground itself in a scientifically proper analysis to support its claims and, instead, focuses on inciting negative emotions in people to accept fallacious thinking as fact. One of the strategies that the campaign utilizes is the imagery of a baby with a poison symbol bib to appeal to the emotions of viewers/readers to get them to agree to support the ban on phthalates. The problem Lucas has with this use of imagery is that it lacks a sufficient connection to actual scientific reasoning since there is no hard evidence to prove that phthalates can cause the various defects and conditions that the anti-phthalate campaign states are occurring. As such, this rhetorical analysis paper will examine the arguments Lucas utilizes against why phthalates should be banned and the techniques behind their usage.
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Focusing on Evidence-backed Logic
The first strategy that Lucas uses is an appeal towards the use of evidence-backed logical thinking when it comes to banning phthalates. Lucas does this by emphasizing that extensive tests and literature reviews conducted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission did not yield sufficient evidence to connect the use of phthalates to the possible poisoning of children. He even stated that phthalates are used in many everyday household items and food containers, and there has been no evidence to show that it has had any negative impact on consumers. Even if traces of phthalates found in these items make their way into the human body, they are so minuscule that they do not have any impact on a person’s health. Emphasizing the use of evidence-backed logic was a good way for the author to counter the negative press of the anti-phthalate movement since it shows that their arguments lack sufficient scientific backing. It helps to both discredit the campaign while at the same time emphasizes why people should know more about a chemical compound before considering it to be harmful.
Appeal to Social Benefit
One main drawback of the essay is that it utilizes the fallacy of division when it comes to elaborating on why phthalates should not be banned. In the latter part of the article, Lucas makes an appeal to the social benefit of phthalates by stating that other widely used substances such as artificial sweeteners, GMO grown foods and radon have been used for years, and they have yet to be proven to be threats to a person’s health. Not only that, in the last paragraph Lucas states that phthalates have a beneficial use in the toy industry and, as such, should not be outright banned. The problem with this strategy is that implies that something that is true for one object or substance must be true for others (i.e. the fallacy of division). Using proper logical reasoning, this statement can be considered false since not everything can be generalized in the same fashion. For example, asbestos was once regarded as one of the safest substances in the world due to its fire retardant qualities. It was even utilized extensively in numerous homes during Christmas as artificial snow for trees. It is only now, after extensive research, that asbestos was connected to the development of cancer and other ailments. Situations like these show that generalizing the properties of a chemical is not only illogical but potentially harmful in the long run.
Focusing on the Inferiority of Emotional Thinking
The last strategy that Lucas utilizes is by emphasizing that people should follow scientific reasoning and logic rather than emotional thinking. The author does this by first implying that emotional decisions are inferior to logical thinking. This is done by showing that the anti-phthalate utilizes emotional responses to get people to agree with it yet lacks sufficient scientific evidence to back its claims. Lucas also employs a subtle appeal to authority via name-dropping the Consumer Product Safety Commission and stating that they did not find any evidence to back the claims made by the anti-phthalate movement. These two factors make the anti-phthalate campaign seem to be making arguments for the sake of making arguments instead of them having a legitimate point.
All in all, Lucas does an excellent job of framing the various arguments needed to emphasize that the anti-phthalate campaign has a lot of holes in its logical thinking. However, along the way, he utilized several fallacious arguments that detract from the academic quality of the essay.