I should be preparing for my defense, but honestly, I feel like I would be ready to go right now if I had to do so, and endlessly rehashing the same information is hurting my brain. So instead, I’m going to fill-out a meme which I have just thought-up. This meme is quite simple actually: List the five most inane, illogical and all-around stupid arguments with which anyone has ever seriously tried to persuade you, and explain why they are stupid.
Mine, in no particular order:
- “We don’t need to worry about running out of fuel, because energy can never be created or destroyed.” This was used on me by a global warming denialist on the Internet. It is stupid because, while it is true that the first law of thermodynamics says that energy can never be created or destroyed, the second law of thermodynamics says that the total amount of useful energy in the universe can only ever go down. Quite simply, there are different forms of energy, some of which are immensely useful and can easily be harnessed (i.e, the energy stored in atomic bonds in petroleum) and some of which are mostly useless and very difficult to harness (i.e, random motion of atoms in the atmosphere). When you burn fuel, you are not destroying the energy, true, but you are taking it from a useful form and converting it into a useless form. That energy that’s realeased from the gasoline in your car does not magically go back into the ground and turn back into oil.
- “Oscar Wilde’s misogynistic view of women was due to his homosexuality.” This was said to me by a girl in my high school literature class, and you could tell that she thought that she was conducting absolutely brilliant literary analysis. Yes, because if you prefer to have sex with men, it can only be because you hate women. A few years later in my Art History class, I heard a similar argument as to why Michelangelo rarely depicted women in his art. Of course, it couldn’t have anything to do with the relative scarcity of female models due to religious taboos in 16th century Italy, or anything like that.
- “Human Life evolving just by chance is about as likely as a tornado going through a junkyard and building a perfect trailer.” This was said to me, in a private moment, by my Grade Six teacher. Even then I knew it was inane, because of course a trailer is a machine with a well-defined purpose, and therefore, necessarily, has very specific parts arranged in a very specific configuration to serve this purpose. Humans, however, have no obvious predefined purpose; therefore the end result of billions of years of evolution could look like anything, and any individual form you came-up with would be terribly improbable as measured against the space of other possible end results, but there would be nothing particularly special about that (I didn’t say anything, of course, because I didn’t realize that I was allowed to publicly disagree with teachers). Besides of which (and I didn’t know this part at the time), evolution is not a purely random process; it’s not directed either, mind you, but the rule, in general, is that genetic material which is better at reproducing itself is selected for. Thus, the idea that life grows in complexity over time is not terribly surprising, given that every living thing is trapped in an arms race.
- “[[Ideology]] is the most logical political system ever concieved; therefore, you should embrace it.” This one was first used on me by an Internet Libertarian (who, you may have noticed, are inordinately fond of sprinkling words like ‘logic’ and ‘reason’ throughout all of their talking points), but I have since heard it used by Communists and Fascists, and really it works for all ideologies. The problem of course, is that, while an ideology does need to be logically coherent, logical coherence is not a sufficient condition for a given belief to be true. So your theory, as it’s written out on paper, has no internal contradictions? Well, that’s wonderful! But if neither its assumptions, nor its predictions, bear any relation whatsoever to the facts of the real world, then it’s still fucking useless! This is why philosophers distinguish between “validity,” “soundness,” and “truth.”
- “Energy can never be created or destroyed, therefore the soul can survive death and ghosts exist.” (as told to me by many, many paranormal believers). WHAT IS IT WITH PEOPLE AND CONSERVATION OF ENERGY!?! The key here, as in point one, is that energy can change form. Even if we accept that souls are made of energy (or exist, for that matter), how do we know that they’re not converted into, say, fat in the bodies of the very worms who are eating your brain after you die?