Monday, February 26, 2007

Reducto ad STFU LOLZum

I got yelled at by someone today for not posting in a while. I apologize, but it's not that I don't have plenty of stuff going on or stuff on the backburner, it's just that as usual I'm having trouble keeping it coherent. You might think this odd given the incoherency of everything else I've ever written on this stupid blog, but meaningless paragraphs randomly strung together is better than meaningless words strung together, which is what you'd get otherwise.

These days I've been thinking a lot about "comparisons". I put "comparisons" in quotes for no particular reason at all, maybe to point out that many of the "comparisons" being made are weak at best, and offensive in that the person making the "comparison" must assume that you, the listener, is retarded enough to accept what they're saying as being a good comparison in the first place.

I love comparisons, analogies, similes, etc, because they make people understand a concept. While it's not my profession, I pride myself on being a good "teacher" in that I can take an idea that's in my head and present it in such a way that it is transferred to another person's head in the manner that I intended, and a good way to do this is using comparisons. Absurd analogies and comparisons are also good for humor, and used correctly they can be used as a powerful tool to ridicule and evoke explosive laughter from large groups of people, which is something I absolutely love doing.

OK, but sometimes comparisons can be bad. For instance, what if I were to say, "Birds are warm blooded praying mantises." You would probably demand an explanation, right?

"Well," I would say, "Both of them fly around, live in trees, and eat bugs. So when it comes down to it, they're pretty much the same thing."

I would say this with a straight face. I would say it with an arrogance that would almost make you want to believe it too. Almost.

"Therefore," I would continue, "If we want to stop bird flu, we should put modified roach motels in trees, because praying mantises are closely related to cockroaches, and as you can see from my previous evidence, they're all pretty much the same thing, so roach motels in trees should do the trick."

If I said that, you would probably think I was intentionally being funny. Or that my chromosome count was off.

The problem with my comparison is that I'm taking two things that are "foundationally" (carbon-based organisms, have the same food sources, occupy the same ecological niche) the same, but I'm completely ignoring the insane amount of factors that make them different, so basing policies on these similarities or showcasing these similarities seems (to me at least) either naive or disingenuous.

Now, if I were to say something like that to you, you would no doubt want to point out the obvious differences to me. Regardless of whether or not you were for or against bird control, wouldn't you, the well-versed citizen, want to point out how ridiculous my statement is? Wouldn't you laugh it off and wonder how I could condescendingly think you would actually agree with what I was saying?

Of course you would. Unless, of course, you agreed with the "end" to my "means". You might a) secretly think I was an idiot but remain suspiciously quiet. You might b) even rally behind me just because you agreed with the ends. Or maybe c), you were so ignorant about birds and mantids that you thought it sounded pretty good, so why think about it?

The thing that got me thinking about all this hooey was when I heard someone on the news say "We've been in Iraq longer than we were involved in WWII."


I reckon was made in the context of "In other words, this has gone on long enough! Look at all we accomplished in 4 short years compared to this horrible quagmire we're in now!"

This is an example of a really bad comparison. Here's why.

Much like in my little example above, the person is taking two things which are "foundationally" the same (the U.S. is involved in a military campaign overseas) while totally ignoring a bajillion (give or take) variables that are completely different.

So here's what I'm going to do, and what I suggest everyone here does. And this isn't a partisan thing. This is you, a responsible citizen, righting the wrongs made by irresponsible people with an impressionable audience.

Using our fancy-schmancy reductio ad absurdum style, take it up another notch. When someone in a debate/argument situation makes a ridiculous comparison, just take the ball and run with it. Their ball. They're giving it to you. If someone wants to open up a forum to comparisons, they forfeit the right to complain when you use their own comparison against them. Here's an example:

"You know, Iraq is a quagmire. We've been there longer than we were in WWII!"

"Dear God. You're not serious... Have you no soul?"

"What do you mean?"

"You advocate 'total war' to make things go faster? You want to firebomb cities? You're a monster."

The number of ridiculous things you could say is limited only by the number of differences between the two things being compared, and I'll wager there are more differences between WWII and the GWOT than there are similarities. Either way, the idea is to get them to say something like, "Well that's different", at which point you'll sit back in your chair, give em a "pistol shot" with one hand while making a clicking sound, and say, "Egg-ZACKED-leeeeee," and then tell them what your next drink will be.

Unfortunately though, that would never happen. The person would probably just tell you that you were "brainwashed," a "sheep", or that you "just accepted what fox news/CNN (depending on what side they were on) feeds you," then change the subject. Still, if you're around friends and you manage one of those rare moments where you're on your feet and can bust something like that out, I can guarantee explosive laughter, at which point you will be dubbed the hero of the night. And there's nothing better than that.

So here's your homework:

Think of some good political "comparisons" that people enjoy throwing out. It might be a little harder to find them from the "conservative" side of the house because they're a little less prone to hyperbole, but see what you can scrape up. OK, once you've found the ridiculous comparison, take their ball and run with it using reductio ad absurdum and make them look like complete morons. The beauty of this is that it's totally non-partisan, because if a comparison is out there for all the world to see, and if it's fucked up, it will either stand up on its own or it won't, regardless of politics. Let's work together to improve our ability to make people look stupid during bar debates.

For the record, here are some other favorites of mine (and by "favorites" I mean "they make me want to scream"):

Bush is a Terrorist !!
Iraq = Vietnam
"When it comes down to it, people are the same wherever you go."
Anything involving Godwin's Law or Reducto ad Hitlerum.
etc etc

Have fun with this one.


Blogger brando said...

I have one. “Gay marriage undermines the sanctity of heterosexual marriage.”

So you’re telling me that what those people’s promises literally invalidate your promises?

Ok. Hmm. Check it out.

OH MY GOD! The Croation military takes an oath of enlistment, and I don’t recognize their military. Therefore the entire United States Armed Forces has been disbanded as nobody is under oath! We literally have no military. AAAAHHHHH! You absolute horror of a human being! Why did you do that?! Whhhhyyyyy!

Oh. Wait. What? Oh, you lied to me? Their promises don't invalidate our promises? *wipes brow* Wheew!

12:20 PM  
Anonymous nedric said...

Of course, logical absurdity is much more damning than apparent absurdity, for the latter is a consequence of the interpretation of terms, but the former is a result of the internal inconsistency of what presents itself as a logical structure.

Brando's example is one of apparent absurdity, but the statement in itself has not yet been demonstrated to be logically absurd. That would require deriving a logical contradiction from direct inferences that do not require finessing the meaning of the statement - such as contraposition or obversion. In fact, the statement as it stands does not lead necessarily to a contradition. This statement might: "Gay marriage undermines the sanctity of marriage." But the problem here is obvious, and isn't as "fun."

The following statement does lead to a contradition:

"Think for yourself."

If I actually think for myself in obedience to this order, then I am doing as I was told rather than thinking for myself. This is a logical contradiction, not an apparently absurd claim to be regected (though it can be that as well, but by that point it really doesn't matter any longer).

Here's another one:

"We all know people are crazy."

1. Insofar as the speaker is obviously a person, we can infer that the speaker is crazy.

2. Isofar as people are crazy, they cannot be trusted to know things.

3. Therefore, if this statement is true, we cannot know it. (And there's the logical contradiction: knowing what we cannot know.)

Logical reductio ad absurdum is better because it is rare. Apparent absurdity need not be logical absurdity.

3:20 PM  
Anonymous nedric said...

Just in case it is necessary, here's the "obvious" problem with the statement: "Gay marriage undermines marriage."

Insofar as gay marriage is a marriage, then it cannot undermine itself and remain what it is. If gay marriage undermines marriage, then there cannot be gay marriage because there cannot be marriage whatsoever.

But this is logically sloppy. It requires interpreting the term "undermining" to mean "negates" or "obliterates." This interpretation of the term is not necessarily warrented by the context - since no context was provided.

3:27 PM  
Anonymous nedric said...


e = a

3:28 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

jesus nedric just do the stupid homework assignment. you've just given me the graduate level version of "my dog ate my homework".

try again.

3:43 PM  
Anonymous nedric said...

I did do it!

But there is one more thing that is absolutely essential to understand:

Apparent absurdity does not necessarily entail logical absurdity. And if the structure of reality is a logical structure, if logic is the pattern by which we (ought to) live out our lives, then the apparent absurdity of a claim does not entail the claim is really or actually absurd. So for all of you who purport to abide by logic, the weak form of the reductio does not provide grounds to claim that another speaker is being "illogical."

Ultimately, there is no logical problem with simply accepting a claim that appears to be absurd.

3:48 PM  
Blogger brando said...

Yeah, I definitely like using the weak form more, because there's a chance the speaker might actually agree, and it's more fun.

Then I'm horrified. I don't reduce it to impossibility, just a really terrible pre-agreed possibility.

4:16 PM  
Anonymous Nathaniel Walton said...

“The Bush administration represents the coming to power of a criminal element in the American ruling class ... in its political methods, social base and foreign policy, the Bush administration is gangsterism personified.”

I can provide discourse if you think needed. It doesn't take much reductio to get to absurdity with statements like this from the crazy kooks at the socialist forums...

6:39 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

"Gangsterism personified". Niiiiiiiice.

The common theme in these things is people making the meaning of words be whatever they want. Like, I'm not real sure what definition of "gangster" those folks are going off of. maybe we they were watching different "Gang" movies than I was. I dunno.

8:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BushCo practices democracy. The proof is in the DIEBOLD machines.

"The Iraq war is taking longer than WWII..."

Ok, you're right, let's deploy the nukes.

Frank W.

8:20 AM  
Anonymous nedric said...

Wait a minute, Brando. Let me get this straight. So you are tacitly consenting to the idea as well as explicitly stating that you are more interested in appearances than logic and reality!?! OH MY GOD!!! So you are saying that just because a person wears a uniform (appearances) they are in reality a meathead incapable of autonomous reasoning! And since this is what liberals say, then...

Well, wait... What you’re saying is "different"...

at which point you'll sit back in your chair, give em a "pistol shot" with one hand while making a clicking sound, and say, "Egg-ZACKED-leeeeee," and then tell them what your next drink will be.

Logic transcends politics (in as much as anything can), appearances can be deceiving... especially hagiography.

9:31 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

im gonna save brando the energy of writing this:

brando has this one covered. u know that doesnt go along with his rules.

you cant attribute the characteristics of a group to a person, but you can attribute the characteristics of a person to a group.

11:03 AM  
Anonymous nedric said...

Despite it's irrlevance to my reductio on Brando with regard to the theme of appearance and reality (which holds regardless of where we go with any extenuating statements), the logic of my hypothetical works just the opposite of your characterization: the consequent is necessary, whereas the antecedent is merely sufficient. If you have Brando's behavior with regard to the theme of appearances and logic, then you have the liberal behavior of "keeping up appearances" rather than rigorous logical investigation. But if you have liberal behavior in some difffuse or general sense, you don't necessarily have Brando. Given the context, my hypothetical ought to be read as an "if and only if."

1:38 PM  
Anonymous nedric said...

Look one more time at the interpretive leap Brando made in order to appear to perform a reductio above:

From the undermining of the sanctity of marriage he logically leaps over to the issue of the invalidation of promises.

"Divorce" would give significant warrant for making inferences about the validation or invalidation of promises, but gay marriage undermining sanctity will not. This inferential path is obstructed because the phrase "undermining sanctity" lacks the precision to make any inferences without first establishing the definition of terms. Vagueness is a convenient exploitative device.

It's really not fun to completely change the subject. In fact changing the subject is a logical fallacy, the "red herring." While this method might be psychologically persuasive (appearances), it is ultimately illogical.

1:58 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

this is why vulcans are not welcome here !!

2:07 PM  
Anonymous Mary said...

“If Congress were now to revise the Iraq authorization, it would be like saying that after Adolf Hitler was overthrown, we needed to change, then, the resolution that allowed the US to do that [overthrow Hitler] so we could deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown.”
1) Invoking Hitler in comparison to Saddam Hussein: Saddam Hussein was not Hitler.
2) If WWII is to WOT (war on terror), then Hilter is to _______. Saddam Hussein? No, sorry, the correct answer is Osama Bin Laden.
3) Resolution to overthrow Hitler: Actually, German diplomats delivered a declaration of war to the US State Department after the US declared war on Japan in response to Pearl Harbor. The US immediately declared war on Germany in response. The resolution to overthrow Saddam Hussein involved Colin Powell waving a vial of fake antrax around at the UN, an outed CIA agent, and a spin-machine in overdrive.
4) Change resolution to overthrow Hitler to focus on creating a stable post-war Europe: What? Like go back to Congress and get a new resolution to rebuild Europe and call it the Marshall Plan? That’s soooo 1947.
5) The only valid comparison in the statement is that the US was an occupying force in Europe after WWII and we are an occupying force after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein now.
The comment above is from Dr. Condi Rice, Ph.D. Madam Secretary, I’m going to need to see that diploma. (Comment from Fox News Sunday, Feb. 25; for more see

3:30 PM  
Blogger Paul said...


AWESOME example -- I'm glad someone provided an example from the right side of the house (just to be fair, nyam sayin?). You nailed it, sister. High 5.

Brando and I were talking about similar things (and others) during our 6 hour skype bonanza last night -- how ridiculous it is to compare Iraqis with post-war Japanese or Germans. Condi earns a +5 Get Real for that one.

3:57 PM  
Blogger cyberninja said...

during our 6 hour skype bonanza last night

I saw that both of you jokers were on all day yesterday and I started to calculate what time it must've been for Brando. You jokers finally packed it in around 11pm my time, which was 10 am Brando's time. That's right. I spy on Skype user online time.

That skype marathon is also probably why Brando hasn't been on to comment for the last eighteen hours.

The comment above is from Dr. Condi Rice, Ph.D. Madam Secretary, I’m going to need to see that diploma.

Now that shit's funny. In this comment thread we have hyper-logical comments from Eric, which makes me question the validity of my PhD every time I read them, versus a world leader PhD who makes absurd comparisons and invokes Hitler in arguments. Thank you Dr. Rice for making me feel better about my degree.

9:45 PM  
Anonymous brando said...

Paul, your comment did save me time.

I like the concept of using crooks and liars as a source. I went there expecting it to be like some sort of directory of crooks and liars, but it was really selective, interperetive and hateful in the content.

The political affiliation is unknown.

I hope they don’t murder the VP.

4:20 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

yeah.. mr brando decided it would be a good idea to "reset" his sleep pattern by not sleeping the whole night and just having a normal next day.

that always seems like a fabulous idea when you're not tired. not such a great idea at 9am the next day.

i think we were on for about 5 hours.

8:13 AM  
Anonymous nathaniel walton said...

"this is why vulcans are not welcome here !! "

hahahahahahahaha. that made me laugh out loud.

9:10 AM  
Blogger Jinxy said...

This would have looked great on Wikipedia.

Oh, wait....

10:45 AM  
Blogger cyberninja said...

I like the concept of using crooks and liars as a source.

Totally. Its not as balanced as something like Michelle Malkin. Now that is a website people should source.

3:17 PM  
Anonymous Mary said...

I like the concept of using crooks and liars as a source...

Here you go Brando. Fox News Sunday.

3:41 PM  
Blogger brando said...

Both of those are much better.

3:49 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

As much as I'd really love to hug the shit out of Michelle Malkin, I'm a little weary of someone who writes the book about the justification of Japanese Internment to use as a parallel for why racial profiling of muslims is A-OK.

Did that make sense?

Anyway, I haven't read the book, so I can't say. Most of the reviews I've read aint so great, and I honestly don't know much about the book, but zoinks. Japanese-Americans got uber-fucked.

Oh and being Asian hardly gives her moral highground -- she's pinay, which isn't really asian anyway.

did i just say that?


4:10 PM  
Anonymous nedric said...

1. Brando has tacitly consented to preferring appearances to logic. Therefore his so-called "rule" of attributing behavior of a group to an individual is not argumentatively binding.

2. Deductive logic is distinct from inductive logic - something also lacking in Brando's so-called "rule."

2:57 PM  
Blogger brando said...

Nedric, despite your repeated attempts to take pot shots at me, I've still, up to this point, forgiven you. You might be a jerk, but your still my jerk.

8:01 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home