My post on organ sales in China, starting from a post over at AJOB’s blog, has created a bit of a furor. I think these sorts of debate are important to have in the public sphere, and thankfully, when you send email to someone, you do implicitly give them permission to do what they want with it, including posting it online. So, for those of you who don’t see my inbox, here’s the letter I was sent tonight… and my reply. Please take notes on proper arguing styles, as argumentative fallacies really irritate me. If you’re going to argue, do it right and well, or don’t do it at all.
From: Charles Liu
Date: Sun, 15 Oct 2006 21:44:48 -0700
Subject: RE: [Academia as an Extreme Sport] Comment: “Organ Sales in China”
Kelly, here’s an article from Stanford Asia Pacific Center:
It covers the subject of growing media freedom in China.
I’m curious – have you been to China? If you haven’t I suggest you go take a
look for yourself, perhaps then you’ll know what is propaganda and what is
(If you can’t read Chinese try not to blame 1.3 billion people; it ain’t
The Chinese search engine result contains many points of view, including
those consistent with yours. Ar they too propaganda?
The fact there has been a wide range of opinions this subject in China for
years, shows the eventual legal reform by the Chinese government this year –
is a result of their own national dialogue, not because BBC did a story or
people like you bitched about ethics (as if the Chinese are unable to decide
And you claim to understand buddism?
And for completion sake, my reply:
Yes, I’m one of those “irritating” Westerners who claims to understand Buddhism. I have the fun of scholastic backing as well as personal, and have studied with leaders in both the academic and spiritual side – so, I know my Buddhism. I even took the time to run it by Rinpoche, to make certain my understanding was firm. I realize it must be a shock to find out a Westerner does know what she’s talking about – but hey, China imported Buddhism, too, so why not? India’s the country with claims to the religion.
Not only do I have the background to make claims about Buddhism, I have the background to make claims about bioethics, too – it’s not just “bitching”, it’s years of academia leading me to being able to make informed statements – and you? You want to challenge my authority to talk about Buddhism and ethics and China, what about you? You obviously feel you can speak more authoritatively than me on all three, so lay it out. Show me your credentials for all of the above, so I don’t just write you off as some internet irritant.
Have I been to China? No, I haven’t. However, I’ve the fun of being raised by an international businessman who was one of the first Westerners to be invited to do business in China, and has run several successful multinationals there. In addition to my father’s years of experience with the culture, I have several Asian relatives, including my Chinese niece – one of the many abandoned girls adopted by those Westerners you’re so quick to denigrate.
Your mistake is that you’re making a straw man argument – you’re attacking something that is not at issue, in an effort to distract from the real issue. The issue at hand is organ sales from prisoners apparently killed on the basis of need for their organs. Attempting to take the critical eye off of that issue is nothing more than a straw man attack attempting to distract from the uncomfortable truths of the situation. America’s organ donation issues are not at issue, and the only thing relevant about China in the debate, is that which relates to the problem – nothing else. It is, sadly, a common fallacy among people who either don’t want to debate the issue, or don’t want to admit that something distasteful is occuring.
Sometimes, I miss the lack of mood icons on Word Press – it’s so much easier to indicate exasperation and irritation that way.