Monday, February 27, 2006

On the Twisting of Arguments, or Gummy Auschwitz

In a recent thread on the Language Guy’s blog, I have been reminded that many people still don’t take the time to understand and appreciate what others believe or are trying to say. Bob Schieffer yesterday morning on Face the Nation speculated that the Internet and cell phones, by giving us the ability to communicate instantaneously, have contributed to our habit of speaking before we think, or that we are overall losing the habit of thinking. I will attempt to help people to think about what the other side is trying to say, rather than simply reflexively attacking them for saying something that they didn’t.

Do the Twist: 1.3 ≠ 2

Take the example of gummy bears. Let’s say for a moment that gummy bears have 2 grams of protein per serving. This is a pretty insignificant amount, but some gummy bears like to go around telling everyone how healthy they are simply because of this protein. I don’t approve of this. While I understand that gummy bears didn’t choose to have 2 grams of protein per serving (and there’s nothing wrong with having only this amount), I don’t think they should go around bragging about it and telling everyone that it’s healthy to eat them. This is called disapproval. It looks something like this:
(Sadly, that’s about 2-3 days’ growth on my chin. Pinocchio, some day you’ll be a real man.)
Now, some gummy bears don’t like this disapproval. They think that because they have 2 grams of protein per serving that it follows that they must promote themselves based on their healthfulness. In fact, the gummy bears have seen fit to call this minimal amount of protein their defining characteristic. And because I disapprove of the way they go around being dishonest, they call this persecution. Persecution of gummy bears would look something like this:
Gummy Bear Crucifixion
(Three gummy bears were harmed in the making of this photograph. They gave their lives, submitting to crucifixion, so that I could make a point.)
As you can clearly see, persecution is not the same thing as disapproval. The difference may seem subtle, but it’s there, as you can see either from the illustrative photos or from the linked dictionary definitions. Extreme disapproval could, surely, lead to persecution, but those who understand that all tasty treats are God’s children would refrain from actual persecution of gummy bears.

Take also the example of two colors. Even assuming that they are both blue, it does not follow that they are the same hue. Sky blue is not the same thing as navy.

Conversely, were I to believe that claiming healthfulness based on a 2 gram per serving protein content is okay, that would not necessarily mean that I am signing on to the “gummy bear agenda.”

Do the Twist: Up ≠ Down

Now, you would think that everyone could agree with the statement that up is not the same thing as down. But alas, some people don’t agree, at least when they think it helps their position. I could say, for example, that gummy bears are tasty. But some people think that I should let gummy bears tell everyone that they’re high in protein. Some of those people think this way:
Premise 1: Kelly said that gummy bears shouldn’t tell everyone they’re high in protein.
Premise 2: I disagree with Kelly’s statement.
Premise 3: Ad hominem attacks are a valid way to make a point.
Conclusion: Even though Kelly said that gummy bears are tasty, I will say that he in fact doesn’t believe that gummy bears are tasty. I will go so far as to say that he even said that gummy bears taste terrible!
Now, as you can plainly see, the problem with this argument is that Premise 3 is flawed. In fact, the conclusion doesn’t even normally follow from the rest of the argument. Most of the time an ad hominem attack will be either a true statement or a statement that could logically follow from other facts, assuming you pick which facts to ignore. But this ad hominem attack does neither.
It states an outright lie.

Even normal ad hominem attacks are bad though. If you disagree with my position on gummy bears, it doesn’t make any sense to attack my position on licorice or my overindulgence in coffee.

Perhaps these people simply want to start some Internet drama. But, as the late Patches O’Houlihan might say, Internet drama makes you “look like a bunch of retards trying to hump a doorknob.”

Do the Twist: Assume Improper Motive

Now, let’s assume for a moment that I say that gelatin is made out of people. You don’t believe what I said. You find it to be a patently ridiculous statement.

Gummy bears contain gelatin.

Naturally, I say that you shouldn’t eat gummy bears. If I think they’re made from people, then I would want to prevent the killing of people to make gummy bears. You, not believing my premise (that gelatin is people) don’t agree that we should stop eating gummy bears. You should not, however, assume that I just don’t want you to eat tasty treats. Just because you find my conclusion preposterous does not create the presumption that I have an improper motive. If you think about it, it’s even more preposterous that someone would want to interfere with your right to eat tasty treats than any other conclusion could be.

On the other hand, anyone who doesn’t believe that gelatin is made of people is not a callous murderer. If you don’t think it’s murder, then you are a champion of the right to eat tasty treats.

Persecution Gone Wild!

I leave you with more pictures of gummy bear persecution. Not to make a point, mind you, but because I’m cruel and heartless. Essentially, for a few short minutes, my home became Gummy Auschwitz.
Gummy Bear Decapitation
Gummy Bear Persecution by Fire
Gummy Bear Persecution, Vlad the Impaler Style
Gummy Bear Persecution by BB Gun


  1. I haven't even finished your gummy bear argument, but I just had to stop and tell you that I have been laughing my head off. This is hilarious!

    I promise I will get hold of myself real soon and get serious. I promise.

  2. Thanks! By the way, I just realized that I haven't yet put a link up to your blog. All my regular readers deserve one, so I'll rectify the situation ASAP.

  3. Swear to god, I will never again read your blog while in class. While everyone else is struggling to learn about the gender integration of Virginia Military Institute, I'm desperately trying not to shoot rootbeer out my nose over cruelty to gummy bears. Criminy! (Did I mention I'm posting a link on my LJ so all my weirdo friends from highschool can join in the fun?)

  4. Loved the Gummy Crucifixion! Tell me, which is the Good Thief Bear, the red or the orange?

    Hilarious on so many different levels....

  5. Kelly, I get the point you are making with your gummy bears. It's a good point.

    But what I want to know is which gummy bear stayed at the Holiday Inn Express last night.

    Oh, and thanks for the link to my blog which you promised to get up ASAP.

  6. Dude, you got smacked today:

    Ooh, and it' UGLY . . .

  7. Thanks everyone. Come to think of it, I was actually hoping that they would review my blog with this post as the first one up. And I still got no smacks. I expected 1-3 smacks.

    As for your question, Ibadairon, you'll need to look it up in the Gummy Bear Bible. I seem to have misplaced mine.

    And I love the Holiday Inn Express joke! I should have used that one.

  8. Fellow (Self?)Pretentious Asshole.

    I find it incredibly ironic that a post on people speaking before they think was critiqued by a person who obviously thinks she can make a living doing the very same thing.

    Don't ever go back there again.

    It is contributing to our "what not to wear" culture. A culture where people confuse being "brutally honest" with "honesty". They also seem to confuse thinking and feeling. They seem to put more weight into "feelings" (i.e. personal blogs) than "thinking" (your blog and others like it). They also seem to give more praise to those who "bow" to them after they are "slapped".

    They are nothing more than bored middle-class uglies. With all their brutal "honesty" you'd think there would be more truth, but the only truth shown was that they are as fake as their avitars.

  9. Ha! The last photo was perfect as a finale to this post. Hilarious.

  10. how well DO gummie bears melt?

  11. They melt quite well when they're on fire, but in my short experiments they didn't continue to burn after the fire was removed. Go figure!