Monday, June 1, 2015

Sense and Nonsense

Analogy Much?

One of the first logical forms we learn as children is the analogy. Adults use this method quite a bit to help their children understand the world. Comparing something we're familiar with to something we're unfamiliar with does, in fact, help broaden our understanding. To a large degree, we use this reasoning method the rest of our lives to help us make sense of the world.

Unfortunately, too many people never really grasp the limitations of this method and, as a result, spend an inordinate amount of time trying to make their points in a dispute by offering one inappropriate analogy after another.

We've known about the requirements for solid analogical reasoning since at least as far back as Aristotle. He explains in his Rhetoric the proper way both to construct and evaluate such arguments, but except for guys like me who studied rhetoric, logical forms, and argumentation in college, not many people are familiar with these principles.

"Go figure."
I'll delve into those principles some other time, perhaps. What is on my mind today is the sheer number of silly analogies I have come across just in the last couple of days. Here are a few of my favorites:

"No, I haven't gotten any smarter since the last time you saw me."
CNN talking head Chris Cuomo recently compared declining to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding with an EMT refusing medical treatment to someone who is gay. There are so many things wrong with this particular analogy that there isn't space here to detail them all, but let's just leave it with this:

Bakers (and florists, for that matter) don't take the Hippocratic Oath (or any of its modern substitutes), Chris.

"No, there is no minimum IQ requirement to serve in Congress."
Congresswoman Caroline Maloney of New York recently compared her proposal to require gun owners to carry liability insurance with laws requiring car owners to carry insurance. That's asinine, as there is no Constitutional right to own a car, but beyond that she missed the REAL analogy to her proposal: Poll taxes.

The Supreme Court held nearly half a century ago that you can't charge someone a fee to exercise a Constitutional right. Not that logic or historical precedent seems to bother Democrats when they want to make us less free...

"If only they gave Nobel Prizes for being wrong..."

Some people don't even make a pretense of putting forth a reasonable argument, they just throw silly analogies around because they want the attention. Consider Paul Ehrlich, who might hold the record for being more wrong more often than any person in human history. He recently analogized the freedom to have as many children as one wishes with throwing one's garbage in a neighbor's yard.

If you want to consider yourself an educated person, you should know how to recognize a faulty analogy when you hear or read one, and respond accordingly. And it should go without saying, of course, that no advocate should attempt to establish her/his position using such sorry excuses for arguments. Doing so is, at the very least, a sign of the weakness of your position...

"So, comparing myself to Batman would be...?"
...a candidate for the lame analogy Hall of Fame, yes.

Some Days...

 ...I have no trouble thinking of things to write about. Then there are days like today...

Visit Snorg Tees for this and many other hilarious designs.


Yes, I am still looking into ways to archive things like the Thought for the Day, and the weekly recommendations. Not there yet, but with any luck I'll figure it out soon...

Things That Make Me Happy: Railfan Edition

A "railfan" is someone who is interested in railroads, and who typically expresses that interest through hobbies like photography, model railroading, historic preservation efforts, etc. As someone whose childhood was chock full of railroad stuff (I basically grew up in a house less than two blocks from a Chicago & North Western roundhouse), I was a railfan before I even knew there was a word for it. It also helped that I spent much of my life in Kansas City, Missouri, home of one of the great train stations...

My interest doesn't extend all the way back to steam locomotives, since they were basically retired from service before I became aware of what railroading was, but I do have friends who are enthusiastic fans of those machines. For them, yesterday was a pretty special day, as three historic Norfolk and Western steam locomotives were reunited for the first time in over 60 years at the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke.
Left to right: Class A, Class J, Class Y.
A lot of people waited a long, long time time to see those machines restored to running condition, and brought back together in one railyard, so of course I'm happy for them. Well done!

Until Next Time...

On a related note, today's fine arts sign-off is the incomparable Johnny Cash performing the blues/folk staple "Rock Island Line." Even if you're not a railfan, please enjoy...

A Rock Island freight train arrives at KC's Union Station on April 25, 1965.


  1. Heaven help us on those days when you can think of something to write about.

  2. Thanks for the comment, but my guess is Heaven would tell you it's every man for himself whenever that happens...