Previous Page An Argument 27.
The following appeared in a newspaper editorial.
As violence in movies increases, so do crime rates in our cities. To combat this problem we must establish a board to censor certain movies or we must limit admission to persons over 21 years of age. Apparently our legislators are not concerned about this issue since a bill calling for such actions recently failed to receive a majority vote. Question
Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underline the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate in conclusion. Analysis
Based upon a correlation between increases in movie violence and crime rates in cities, the author argues that to combat crime in cities we must either censor moves that contain violence or prohibit people who are under 21 years of age from viewing them. The author further argues that because legislators failed to pass a bill calling for these alternatives, they are not concerned with the problem of crime in our cities.
The author's reasoning is unconvincing, since it suffers from two critical problems.
To begin with, the author's solution to the problem rests on the claim that portrayals of violence in movies are the cause of crime in the cities. However, the evidence offered is insufficient to support this claim. A mere positive correlation between movie violence and city crime rates does not necessarily prove a causal relationship. In addition, all other prospective causes of city crime such as poverty or unemployment must be ruled out. As it stands, the author's solution to the problem is based upon an oversimplified analysis of the issue.
Another problem with the argument is that the author's solution assumes that only persons under 21 years of age are adversely affected by movie violence. Ultimately, this means that the author is committed to the view that, for the most part, the perpetrators of crime in cities are juveniles under 21. Lacking evidence to support this view, the author's solution cannot be taken seriously.
In conclusion, the best explanation of the failure of the bill calling for the actions proposed in this argument is that most legislators were capable of recognizing the simplistic analysis of the problem upon which these actions are based. Rather than providing a demonstration of a lack of concern about this issue, the legislators' votes reveal an understanding of the complexities of this problem and an unwillingness to accept simple solutions.