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Identify the Passage
The argument presented by the passage is that the conclusion of Angela Smith should be dismissed on the basis of her grandparents being members of the Iroquois nation. While the person or group making the argument is not identified in the passage, they are asserting that there is a level of bias in Smith’s arguments due to her heritage.
Analyze the Argument
The main issue that is being brought up is a question of the credibility on the part of Angela Smith when she is making her argument against the storage of radioactive waste on Native American land. It is being argued that since Ms. Smith has a Native American background, then she is biased on the issue, and her comments should not be given sufficient weight. Admittedly, there is some merit to this line of thought since someone that is directly connected to a particular issue may have some inherent biases and, as such, they are unlikely to make a decision based on facts alone. However, there are several factors that should be taken into consideration before accepting the view that Ms. Smith is biased.
The first factor is the storage of radioactive waste on Native American land. Most Native American land consists of nature preserves with limited rural and urban development. This is to help preserve the natural beauty of these locations as well as ensure that there is healthy land present for future generations. By storing radioactive waste in these places, no matter the assurances of proper security and disposal, there is still a risk of the pollutants seeping into the environment which could have devastating effects Janovics 12; Peters 55).
This is one facet that contributes to the arguments presented by Smith since there is a real danger of environmental pollution if radioactive waste is stored on Native American land. The second factor that should be considered is that it is Smith’s grandparents, and not herself, who were members of the Iroquois Nation. Attributing the status of her grandparents to herself is a very vague argument since even her name “Angela Smith” does not connote any connection to a Native American heritage. The third factor that should be considered is the fact that radioactive waste is not supposed to be disposed of in areas where they could be a considerable environmental impact. Most radioactive waste is stored in isolated areas, such as in the desert, due to the lower chance of environmental damage should the storage mechanisms fail (Bracke and Fischer-Appelt 81).
Detecting Fallacious Reasoning
When examining the argument presented in the passage, the apparent fallacy that is present is a circumstantial ad hominem. This type of fallacy occurs when someone or a group is attacking a claim by stating that the individual or group that is making it is doing so out of self-interest (Van Eemeren, Garssen and Meuffels 350; Johnson 4). In this case, one group is accusing Ms. Smith of arguing against the storage of radioactive waste on Native American land because she is part of the Iroquois Nation through her grandparents.
The problem with utilizing an argument based on circumstantial ad hominem is that an individual’s personal interests and their inherent circumstances have no impact on whether a claim is true or false (Putman 553). For example, just because a person is Chinese does not mean that their advice that the best restaurant in town is an Asian noodle house is false. They could be right, and their ethnicity would have nothing to do with it.
The same can be said about the circumstances surrounding Ms. Smith. Yes, she has Native American heritage, but her claims that storing radioactive waste on Native American land is a bad idea does have some merit due to the potential environmental effects. As such, it can be stated that the arguments directed against Ms. Smith are ad hominem in nature and are completely fallacious since they have no bearing on the facts she is stating.
Bracke, G., and K. Fischer-Appelt. “Methodological Approach To A Safety Analysis Of Radioactive Waste Disposal In Rock Salt: An Example.” Progress In Nuclear Energy 84.(2015): 79-88. Print.
Janovics, Richard. “Radiocarbon Signal Of A Low And Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility In Nearby Trees.” Journal Of Environmental Radioactivity 153.(2016): 10-14. Print.
Johnson, Christopher M. “Reconsidering The Ad Hominem.” Philosophy 84.2 (2009): 4.
Peters, Helen. “Managing Geological Uncertainty For Underground Development Applications: Implications For A Future Geological Disposal Facility For Higher Activity Radioactive Waste.” Environmental Law Review 17.1 (2015): 55. Print.
Putman, Daniel. “Discussion Equivocating The Ad Hominem.” Philosophy 85.4 (2010): 551-555. Print.
Van Eemeren, Frans H., Bart Garssen, and Bert Meuffels. “The Disguised Abusive Ad Hominem Empirically Investigated: Strategic Manoeuvring With Direct Personal Attacks.” Thinking & Reasoning 18.3 (2012): 344-364. Print.