I decided to post this here but also in the Apologetics forum.
My friends and I just finished a heated debate and needless to say they probably aren’t happy with me.
I was originally discussing an interesting point I learned from my psychology professor about alcoholism across cultures: in Western culture alcoholism is seen as a bad addiction that some people have and which needs to be promptly addressed. But Asian cultures, who strongly associate alcohol with celebration, do not see alcoholism as a problem; if they encounter it it is perceived as being a good thing (“if so-and-so is drinking so much he must be celebrating, so his life must be wonderful!”). The point I argued is that there exist objective criteria (alcoholism is a bad thing) but that certain societies will always blind themselves to this objective criteria either purposely or, in the case my professor mentioned, unintentionally.
My friends disagreed, saying that what constitutes an addiction will vary across countries and the thresholds for what is considered an “addiction” might be lower in one country over another. I disagreed with this saying that despite perceived differences in what constitutes an addiction in, say, the US versus China, there nonetheless exist objective criteria that clearly define what the thresholds are for alcohol addiction, even if ultimately one country places it’s own thresholds higher than what has been medically determined.
To further make my point I offered up the issue of pedophilia. I showed how some cultures either traditionally (or even still to this day) view it as perfectly normal and acceptable despite the fact that (I wouldn’t be surprised) psychology, etc. has shown pedophilia to be very damaging to the psychological and emotional development of children. They once again disagreed saying that while one culture may view it as harmful another may view it as perfectly acceptable and thus it will be perfectly fine for that culture to engage in pedophilia, since one cannot apply foreign understandings of what is bad or good to another culture because of the differences in understanding of right and wrong. We wrangled with this issue over and over until my friend, clearly fed-up with me, left the room to brush his teeth, etc.; it was clear that I was mostly being ignored from that point on. I continued to argue my point, though, even though I knew I was being ignored.
I finally finished with a third example: that of child marriage and child-rearing. I argued that science has shown that it is not medically safe for girls who have just hit puberty to be bearing children since their bodies are not yet developed enough to handle childbirth. But, as I noted, some cultures still practice child marriage and still see it as socially acceptable for young girls to bear children. I argued that there exist objective criteria that proves that it is bad for very young girls to bear children and that this criteria remains true and completely correct even if a specific culture decides to ignore it and continue to allow young girls to have children. I finished here and left the room.
Now this ordeal actually has me shaking even though I have had these types of heated debates before with these same friends; I think (and hope) that my logic was sound and that I made my points correctly. I basically want to know: were my points logically sound, and did I do anything wrong by continuing to argue my point despite my friend’s objections and ultimate refusal to hear me out? Was I perhaps too arrogant?
It is important to note that I am a practicing Catholic and my two friends are non-religious, so that certainly affected how the discussion went.