Instigator / Pro

pedophilia is not immoral


The debate is finished. The distribution of the voting points and the winner are presented below.

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After 1 vote and with 3 points ahead, the winner is...

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Contender / Con

Pedophilia: sexual feelings directed toward children.

Let me show you how it’s done

Round 1
Pro idea is simple. Pedophilia is a mental illness. As WebMD says, "The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has included pedophilia in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders since 1968." Does con believe that other mental illnesses are immoral merely to hold onto unwise beliefs? Dementia, ADHD, Schizophrenia, these are now all at the cutting board if con tries to think that Pedophilia is immoral. As we move on from this, suddenly we think, wouldn't the government censor other unwise beliefs? If even thinking about violating children is immoral, then what else is immoral? You are arrested for thinking about committing a crime. You are arrested for thinking about hitting your boss in the face. The resulting censorships on books, news, etc. becomes absolutely unsustainable. Even to denounce a crime, it is difficult to ground the immorality of crime without first, visualizing and thinking ahead about what would occur if you committed the crime. If even thoughts were to be immoral, then con supports the idea of rashly acting out, and failing to think of consequences. Ironically, by thinking of crime, you may very well fail to commit it. There is so much evidence to get rid of, alibi to create, eye witnesses to get out of the way, motivation necessary for the crime. By thinking carefully, you prevent emotion from making you actually hit your boss, should you be fired in the heat of the moment. We cannot punish mere thought, as it is a solid grounding for which you base your actions on.

I dare con to make his argument without mentioning what pedophilia's consequences are. I dare con to successfully craft an argument without even considering what pedophilia is. Because the imagery of children potentially being violated is already in his mind. He is already being immoral, if he even dares mention pedophilia itself. So he has no way to win this argument, because either he is doing something immoral by thinking of pedophilia and its consequences, or he does not mention tackle my arguments head on, and loses as a result.
Thanks to Pro for the opening,

Pro touched a very good point but unfortunately he might have confused himself as to what debate he is in.

The point he made would work pretty well in a debate called "Pedophilia is not a crime". Well, that's not the case here. When you are talking about a thought or thoughts in general not being immoral, you'll have to carry the burden of proof  with relevant authority- which hasn't been seen.

: not moral
broadly : conflicting with generally or traditionally held moral principles [1]


Now, to make my point, I'll just have to figure if thoughts and emotions and feelings can be billed as immoral in any sense since Pedophilia, by my opponent's own definition is a feeling after all.

Neurobiological Study. In a recent 2011 study published in a peer-reviewed journal called the Evolutionary Neuroscience, it has been experimentally shown that the left hemisphere of our brain is responsible for our immoral thinking- that's how the journal articulated the experiment [2]. The methods involved also relied upon manipulating the subjects into thinking either moral or immoral events. So, scientifically, it's well proven that thinking can be attributed as immoral.

Philosophical Take. The debate is not a news here as it has been a topic of great polarization over the start of 21st century. There is a common consensus among the philosophers that we voluntarily choose to experience our emotions. As William James pointed out-

"The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character, and will. No one is compos sui if he have it not. An education which should improve this faculty would be the education par excellence."
Depending upon the stretch of possible consequences, this voluntary choice of emotions can be regarded either moral or immoral [3]. Because as we can derive from the famous Gandhi quoting-

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.”
it is deemed that the only way to prevent such "bad" thoughts from turning into a violent action is by fixing them all by drawing attention- also according to James. [4]

Psychological Study. The interrelation between morality and emotions has been addressed extensively in numerous psychological studies. There are multiple arguments regarding this and I'll use just the one that appeals to all the skeptics about the matter as well. Emotions are powerful in terms of motivating an agent to act accordingly- either in a moral sense or an immoral one [5]. Such a psychological impact can never go unaddressed and over the years many psychologists have confirmed such effects on human mindset namely JP Tangney, A. Damasio or H. Naar. I would like to continue on other arguments if needed.

So, I believe I have sufficiently proven from a scientific, philosophical and psychological point of view that emotions or feelings can be immoral. Therefore, Pedophilia being a sexual feeling for that matter can also be immoral given the moral standard that we all go by in this regard.


If even thinking about violating children is immoral, then what else is immoral? You are arrested for thinking about committing a crime. You are arrested for thinking about hitting your boss in the face. The resulting censorships on books, news, etc. becomes absolutely unsustainable. Even to denounce a crime, it is difficult to ground the immorality of crime without first, visualizing and thinking ahead about what would occur if you committed the crime. If even thoughts were to be immoral, then con supports the idea of rashly acting out, and failing to think of consequences... We cannot punish mere thought, as it is a solid grounding for which you base your actions on.
My argument drops everything Pro has to say here and nullifies his position as a Pro since he has to start all over again. The debate was never about Pedophilia being a punishable crime but an immoral setup of brain.

Because the imagery of children potentially being violated is already in his mind.
Having a violent image in mind and thinking of committing that violence are two completely different things.

I dare con to make his argument without mentioning what pedophilia's consequences are. I dare con to successfully craft an argument without even considering what pedophilia is.
I just did. Thank you.

Vote For Con!


Round 2
Immoral Thinking in Left hemisphere: The problem is, con's study focuses on affirming what most people think is immoral. As Pedophilia believes what they want to do is correct, this means this would be less applicable to them. And remember that "most people" implies a cultural norm or ideals held, which may be inaccurate depending on the timing and information available to the culture. 

Choice of emotion: Con is not entirely correct. A different-minded blog differentiates, arguing: " Anger, shame, guilt, fear, sadness and other painful emotions play an important role in our lives and even in our survival. And they are a part of life, whether we like it or not.
These emotions are triggered by events that happen in our lives. Physical pain, the loss of a job, feeling that important beliefs are threatened, a traumatic event or losing someone important to you are the types of life events that happen to most people at some point or another in life that can cause painful feelings.
But, that initial experience of emotion that occurs nearly immediately after something happens is more short lived than you might think. An emotion’s life-span is a matter of minutes or even seconds, not hours or days.
So how is it that we can be stuck in painful emotions for long periods of time? Every emotion has a powerful aftereffect. After we experience anger, for example, our attention narrows, typically causing us to overlook aspects of a situation that are fair, just or otherwise not related to feeling anger. Instead, after anger our focus contracts to those parts of our experience that make us angry. We may ruminate about other situations that have made us angry in the past, imagine future situations that will make us angry or get stuck thinking about the current situation, to the exclusion of all else.
The end result is that we continue to feel angry for a long period of time, rather than for the seconds or minutes that it takes to experience an emotion.
So where is the choice?
After we experience an emotion, whether we continue to feel it or whether it passes and we experience other emotions depends on the focus of our attention."

Now, this resonates with what con said, but keep in mind that mental disorders are extremely distracting and problematic. ADHD in particular has the exact problem of not being able to focus strongly on one activity, which is... the exact problem that we are trying to solve. Clearly, ADHD can't be immoral if the problem is the solution (if you get what I mean). I will get to how this relates to pedophilia later.

Psychology study: Careful. An article notes: "The etiology of pedophilia can be attributed to both biological and environmental factors. Case studies indicate that cerebral dysfunction may be a contributing or dominant factor of pedophilia (Scott, 1984), including problems with self-control, extreme urges, and cognitive distortions. Many experts also believe that disorders for sexual preferences emerge from childhood experiences during critical periods in human development (DiChristina, 2009). In many cases, child sex abusers suffer from traumatic experiences during their childhood.
More specifically, pedophiles tend to also have been molested as children. As children, they lacked the ability to control the situation. By sexually assaulting children, pedophiles attempt to re-live the trauma they experienced and they learn how to master it. A complete role reversal gives them the upper hand and prevents them from being victimized. Overall, through the impact of cerebral dysfunction and traumatic development, the sexual urges and desires for children can become ingrained within a person’s nervous system."

As you can see the problem in the brain adds upon the problem in a way similar to ADHD's lack of self-control, and the distortion is similarly preventing the focus on attention to defeat the use of emotion. So pedophiles have much less choice than the average person, which con is arguing about. 

Conclusion: If con was arguing we should not have sexual feelings toward child, with no disorder in mind, then he would win, However, this mental disorder is far more complex than "I choose to like children in a misguided fashion", with past experience stablishing a foundation, leading to loss of control over physical and mental ideas about their life. He has not differentiated this from dementia, schizophrenia, etc. All of which are not immoral to simply have. It would be an absurd insult to say that the man who has dementia was immoral because you think he can choose whether to remember, whether to feel, when his brain itself has had physical problems that lead to mental holes in his mind.
Now, Pro has tried to counter my arguments with some far fetched positioning. Before I move on to an argument of my own, I'll address them first hand.


Immoral Thinking in Left hemisphere
Pro claims that the study in Evolutionary Neuroscience is based on wrong timing and appeals to a maxima, not whole of a population. But apparently, hypothetical statistics works on this very own idea. A sample represents the whole of the population and the conclusion is generalized; so meddling with basic science is not going to make Pro look very strong. However, even if one admits that only a certain majority of people has the same moral sense, that also renders an act legitimized as either moral or immoral according to democratic and utilitarian principles. It seems like handling moral standards is not what Pro does best.

Choice of emotion
Pro basically quoted William James just as I did and nothing in the statement contradicts what I intended to imply and therefore my argument stands still.

Psychology study
Pro decides to justify pedophilia by constantly comparing it with ADHD. But folks, to clarify, pedophilia is hardly any disorder compared to what an ADHD patient goes through and it's not even a news. ADHD has received a wide range of clinical approaches with ways for cure. On the other hand, there has been no advancement in producing any therapeutic for the so called "mental disorder" namely pedophilia. Unless it is proven that pedophilia has remotely anything to do with neurophysiology (not neuroscience), there is no chance of accepting the issue as merely a clinical phenomenon just yet. I will elaborate on this pointer in the following arguments-


Another Proof of Neurobiological Study. This one is a more complex study than the previous one I cited and guess what, with all the data analysis through not only hypothetical statistics but also with MRI involvement, the result is wonderfully obvious.

The lack of associations between brain activation and behavioral responses in pedophiles further suggest a biased response pattern or dissected implicit valuation processes. [1]
Hope Pro doesn't show a "biased response pattern" of his own here.

Psychiatric Fallacy. Pro has long relied on the idea that Pedophilia being nothing but a psychiatric disorder escapes it's liability on moral judgement. But the sector of philosophy has condemned such fallacy on multiple occasions. Especially, Larry Sanger, in his blog, has summarized the issue with large extension. According to Sanger,

The medicalization of a condition clearly does not preclude its moral evaluation, and the broader category is morally relevant, which is why it stays in currency. [2]
Here, the broader category refers to the risk element posed by a pedophile on the entire community. More unorthodox liberals have known to prioritize sexual preference over harm principle or social security. They set up a wall of logical and liberal fallacy and continued to hide behind it when it came to moral evaluation. To coin the relevance to the matter philosophers have introduced the term Criminal Ideation or Homicidal Ideation. It simply surfaces an idea of sexual feelings with desperate mind. Take for instance, a person who wants to commit rape may be called a rapeophile according the Sexual Sadism Disorder- a DSM-5 category. Now, this rapeophile has also jeopardized a certain community of women and they deserve more focus from us than the rapeophile himself. Not disregarding the fact that he needs some medical attention as well but at the same time without proper psychiatric evidence, the person remains a danger and the act of cognitive statement- thinking, remains an evil. The same with any pedophile trying to legitimize his act through a psychiatric disorder window.

Control Fallacy. Just like Pro suggested, many other liberal activists went on to defend the premise that since pedophilia is out of personal control, it can't be deemed morally evaluative. This is yet another fallacy that the defenders resort to. Especially since brain functions are disassociated with the cognition ability of a pedophile as shown above in the study [1] unlike ADHD, relating the two for individual response is nothing but irrational on the part of Pro. As Sanger wrote-

Desires and compulsions are not unalterable facts of nature. This is a profound feature of our lives as moral beings with free will.
He also states-

The desire is horrific, because it might lead to a horrific action. Would we not also be horrified by a big man with poor self-control who confessed that he had recently started thinking, constantly, about raping women?
Anyone can overcome addiction with trial. So, a serial killer knowing it's immoral but staying addicted to it doesn't make him morally justified. Having offensive feelings towards children similarly can't be morally upright either.



Round 3
so now con says, merely because it is good according to utilitarian and democratic principles, that the thing must be moral. Firstly, both of these standards have many problems, especially with regards to objective morality. They ignore the possibility of minority rights, and let the majority oppress a smaller number of people (consider that US, a democratic society, once held slaves, which is now a practice regarded in contempt). Secondly, his source only further supports my idea that pedophilia is difficult to control and very hard to manage, as the pattern response is completely messed up. Consider the infamous Pavlov's conditioning, though seemingly impulsive, it secretly connects to a part of the brain that we took quite some time to understand. But conditioning someone to do something immoral does not mean that they are immoral themselves, as you are arguably manipulating their personal autonomy into their instincts, which are very difficult to control.

Similarly, con fails to differentiate the idea that the man is thinking about something immoral, or merely holding the thought is immoral itself. The first he has fulfilled, but the second he has not. Con asserts that despite knowing something is wrong, believing in it is wrong. But he does not consider other reasons why that man holds onto the idea. Consider a clearly wrong fact, the earth is flat. Many have faced cognitive bias and dissonance and refused to turn in the face of evidence. But this is not immoral. Because they may have friends who all believe the same, and want to fit in. Or they have been stuck on this wrong idea for so long and committed to it, they feel it would have been a waste of resources and time to turn to the truth. Even though it may lead to bad actions, we only call the actions immoral, rather than believing in a lie to be immoral.

If Con is correct in that majority rules, then he contradicts his very premise, as in a democratic society full of pedophiles, they would actually be welcomed and the minority would be wrong, and even the failure to think about assaulting children would be immoral. Con thinks "anyone can overcome addiction", but just look at my Cigarette Addiction stats, 95% of people FAIL to quit without help, clearly overcoming this idea of simply overcoming addiction. 

Finally, Con tries to say that merely due to the risk and problems, that this is immoral, however, what is this immorality pointed at? I would argue that it is pointed at inability to actually solve the problem. He is advocating that we put pedophiles into jails merely due to possibility. But this doesn't solve inherent problems, especially if he is correct that pedophilia can be solved. We would be then immoral to not treat pedophilia, and rehabilitation is in need. The point is, con needs to directly note why the thought is immoral in itself. If absolutely nothing occurs, it does not matter that the risk is greater, the outcome is that no harm done. If something goes wrong, partially due to pedophilia, the action is wrong in itself. If I say out loud angrily "I'm gonna kill Donald Trump", I'll probably get a few eyes and raised eyebrows at my insensitive comment and belief. But you can't say mere words are immoral. In fact, saying out loud these absurd ideas brings clarity and can actually let yourself know that what you said is not the best thing you could've said.

Consider this: Con negates the validity of his experiments because it means his experiments are also immoral. The fact that the experiment encouraged people thinking "immoral thoughts", while normally they likely wouldn't have any, means that this experiment itself is contradictory to Con's premise.

Vote pro.
Con has proved in-

R1- that thoughts, emotions can be immoral
R2- accordingly pedophilia as a feeling can be and is immoral too

all scientifically, philosophically and psychologically.

In this round Con will add a couple of more arguments linking them to reassure his position.


Moral Emotion. If emotions can be reinstated into the moral boundary, then they are to be judged. Psychologist Haidt (2003) remarked regarding moral emotions-

“those emotions that are linked to the interests or welfare either of society as a whole or at least of persons other than the judge or agent.”(p. 853)
Pedophilia being not of this kind at all is definitely so immoral. Obvious isn't it? 

Emotion-Object Moral Evaluation. According to De Sousa (1987), Deonna and Teroni (2012), a certain emotion can bill a corresponding object up for evaluation and moral judgement. Fear may lead for a certain object or event to be dangerous, similarly pedophilia presents children to be endangered and a pedophile to be dangerous. Since this begs for a moral judgement in terms of the situation measured by a society, it can be safely said that pedophilia is indeed immoral in a obvious sense.

Epistemic Consideration. According to Tappolet (2000), emotions can be a way of factually dissecting an act into moral spectrum and thus emotions can be called moral or immoral based on such motivation. Pedophilia being so conspicuous to it's motive doesn't need much elaboration.

Social Consensus. Tangney (2007) pointed out a beautiful aspect behind a certain emotion into becoming a decisive factor for a society to thrive-

“empirical researches suggest that guilt, on balance, is the more moral or adaptive emotion. Guilt appears to motivate reparative action, foster other-oriented empathy, and promote constructive strategies for coping with anger.”(p. 351)
Guilt is an emotion that directly resonates with moral evaluation and so does pedophilia according to the previous discussions. A society dealing with a lot of pedophiles must be pragmatic in taking actions which proves that it's immoral to even consider acting so disgustingly.

Dogmatic Dilemma. Those arguing that not having control over emotions renders such a judgement to be outrageous are inside a paradox themselves. Because they still go on to blame people for certain emotions that they can't accept (e.g: being happy for someone's demise). The article on Moral Emotions elaborates on the matter from an unbiased perspective. Actually, the concept of free will pretty much abolishes such tendency of defense for pedophiles. Even those who believe in determinism can't but look for justice when it comes to moral evaluation.


Let's look at what Pro has accomplished so far with his resolve-

R1- Nullified by Con's R1
R2- Refuted by Con's R2
R3- Imposes his own opinions against well-established evidential studies.

He provides a source of cigarette addicts and claims that getting over addiction is hard relating to pedophilia- which I never disagreed on. But that doesn't negate the moral aspect behind any of this. Wherever I used peer reviewed studies to back up my arguments, Con used his own logical explanation against those studies to prove his point and that too not so significantly.

Pro tries to reverse the argument of utilitarianism principles by providing an analogy of one pedophile-heavy society. First of all, I never advocated for those principles, I just showed one of the examples how that works. Besides, Pro's claim fell right apart from a scientific experimental perspective. This is how statistics works anyway and he tried to rationalize it foolishly.

Pro naively decides to justify such thoughts like pedophilia with reasoning behind them. But it is almost basic philosophy to realize that noble reasons don't justify a crime; or in this case an immoral thought otherwise everything loses its moral foundation.

Pro claims blurriness within the concept of objective morality on couple of occasions but doesn't clear it out as part of his BoP.

The point is, con needs to directly note why the thought is immoral in itself.
I wonder what I had been doing for the last two rounds; however I hope he is satisfied after the R3 arguments that I put up.

He is advocating that we put pedophiles into jails merely due to possibility
Pro goes back to his null position that Con is trying to prove pedophilia is a crime. But I reassure you and it is evident from the arguments I worked out so far that I have always been trying to prove from scientific, philosophical and psychological perspective that pedophilia, by the definition of the debate description, is immoral. My entire point was to prove it's immoral whether one acts it out or not; with sufficient evidence. Pro trying to stretch it out to irrelevant proportion is a desperate measure to push Con to the verge of extremism to take advantage but that didn't fruit up well.

So, based on the evidential support that Con delivered and lack of same in contrast from Pro,