I find myself cringing regularly at the level of logical sophistication evident in common interactions in our society. It seems like we are working diligently to eliminate logic and replace it with “winning” and “feelings,” to the point to where absolutely flawed, illogical arguments are being followed up with “BOO-ya!” as if they were so logically sound that no response is possible.
It irks me to no end.
I saw a perfect example last night, in an Allstate Insurance Commercial. The commercial shows a man and woman sitting at a table in a café, and the woman, obviously perturbed, starts by saying “So, you’re telling me that men are superior drivers to women?”
He had obviously opened his mouth and said something stupid only seconds before. The man nodded in agreement. The woman continues, “then how did I just get this Allstate bonus check, which they send me for every 6 months that I don’t have an accident?”
At this point, I usually say something along the lines of “WARRRGARBLGARLBLARRGH!” because the vast, empty stupid of what she just said invades my brain and causes me to lose my ability to process language for a short period.
The sad part is that a lot of people, and I would venture to guess the majority of people, see nothing wrong with her argument. They would argue that the fact that she gets a bonus check or being a good driver would reinforce an argument that she is not a bad driver, and would therefore tend to negate what he said.
But that isn’t responding to what he actually said. He said, and I quote “Men are superior drivers to women.” He did not say “women are bad drivers.” He did not say “women are bad enough drivers that they would not be able to get an Allstate bonus check.” He said “men are superior drivers to women.”
If you’re still not getting my meaning, let me try something out on you here. Stay with me. I’m going to make a statement, and we’ll work together to figure out what conclusions it would be reasonably logical to draw from it.
“Dale Earnhardt is a superior driver to Richard Petty.”
This, you’ll notice, is the exact same sentence that the man stated in the commercial, only I’ve substituted “Dale Earnhardt” for “Men” and “Richard Petty” for “women.”
In my sentence, the silliness of the conclusion that the woman came to becomes more evident.
Does anyone care to argue that Richard Petty is a bad driver? Of course he wasn’t a bad driver. Richard Petty was one of the best stock car drivers in the history of the sport, and to say that he was a “bad driver” would be ridiculous. That still doesn’t change the fact that my sentence, as written above, could be argued to be perfectly true. Dale Earnhardt, in a lot of people’s estimation, and by a lot of quantifiable metrics, WAS a better driver than Richard Petty.
It is completely possible, then, to be perfectly good at something, and even exceptional at it, and still have someone else that is better at it than you. See how the two things are totally different? See how saying “X is better than Y” doesn’t mean that Y is bad? Y might still be totally awesome; the sentence is merely saying that X is better. Saying “monster trucks are better than jet boats” doesn’t mean that jet boats suck. It just means that as awesome as jet boats are, monster trucks are even better.
So when the woman uses the fact that she got a bonus check for not getting in an accident for the last 6 months as “proof” that the man’s hypothesis that “men are superior drivers to women”, can you see why that is absolutely ridiculous? Can you see the gaping flaw in her logic? He says “men are better drivers!” and she responds “Women aren’t bad drivers! See! I’m a woman, and I got a bonus check for being a good driver!”
His immediate response should be “I never fucking said that women were BAD drivers, you moron! I said that men were BETTER drivers than women. Those are two different things! Please tell me that you aren’t so stupid that you can’t understand that?!”
I see this sort of flawed logic all the time. The logical fallacies surrounding this poor logic all have names, but I am not interested in giving a lesson on those. You can see these logic flaws in almost every part of society, but no segment of society is worse about it than the political arena.
When I say “I do not believe that the federal government should be involved in welfare or entitlements, and I think that the State governments should distance themselves from those, also,” DO NOT respond with “Why do you want poor people to be on their own and not get help?” without expecting a huge ration of snark and belittlement to come your way. Saying that the government should not be involved in helping the poor is not the same thing as saying that we should not help the poor. The flawed logic in making that conclusion is so obvious that a child could see it, and yet I get people from the supposedly “intellectual” class making that argument to me almost daily, in essence making the already discredited argument, themselves, that humans are incapable of acting in any way outside of government.
When I say “men and women are not the same,” someone gets all pissy because I’m a misogynist, male supremacist who thinks that women should be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen making me a sandwich, because that person is too ignorant to understand that saying two things are different is not the same thing as saying one is better than the other. The willful ignorance of that lack of understanding is embarrassing, yet they display it proudly and call it “Grrrl Power!” as if being an uneducated, illogical buffoon is something to be proud of.
The part that gets me the most is that I really don’t think that most people are actually stupid enough to fall for this crap, if they actually took the time to think it through. I just think that people have become so careless and imprecise in the way that they operate, given this very forgiving, civilized world that we live in, that it doesn’t occur to them to even think about it.
So they watch a commercial where a woman commits a blatant straw-man fallacy and think “Oh, snap, she sure told him!” instead of shaking their head at the man for not taking the opportunity to calmly destroy her argument and then sanitize everything that it touched on the way down, for fear that the stupid might be contagious.
Now to prove my point, cue the commenters that are going to come on here and start arguing with me about how men really aren’t superior drivers to women, because there was this one time….