There really is no better medium than social media when it comes to stupid arguments. And perhaps the epitome of stupid arguments are these reply-threads that discuss not masks or vaccines or politics… I mean, as misguided as some opinions might be, they’re at least based on some “fact” that someone has latched on to and decides to defend it, no matter what. There are certain personality types who simply can’t admit they’re wrong, and will simply double-down when called on their bullshit. There seem to be more of them these days, no doubt empowered by the former president of the U.S., who, incredibly, was never wrong in four years of power. That he had to descend to incredulous lows to defend his indefensible positions went from confusing to concerning to finally just amusing. Remember that sharpie-modified weather map?
On Facebook, I’ve stepped back from a lot of discussions because they’re not actually discussions; they’re just people trying to bury others with their opinions. Very few are actually listening… even fewer with the mindset that their opinions might even be changed. Just loud echo chambers where everyone either agrees and pats each other on the back… or disagrees, and roasts each other mercilessly.
But then… there are these things that come up for discussion, usually in the context of “Only 5% of people get it right!!” or “Even Einstein was fooled!!” Of course, it’s just click-bait… and it’s usually something like: What is 3 + 6 x 4 ?
They are usually more complicated than that, but that will suffice for my example. Some people will say the answer is 36. Some will say it’s 27. Others will come up with something else… and if you came up with something other than those two numbers, I’d like to hear what you came up with and how you came up with it.
The correct answer here is 27… because there exists an order of operations (you may have learned it as PEDMAS… or, depending where you’re from, PEMDAS, BEDMAS or BODMAS. In the U.K., it’s BIDMAS. No matter what acronym you attach to it, they all say the same thing… and one thing they all say, with respect to my example, is that multiplication gets done first; after that, addition. Accordingly, this example is 3 + (6 x 4) which is 3 + 24 which is 27. If you did this going left-to-right, you’d get 3 + 6 equals 9, and then 9 x 4 = 36. But that is wrong.
And that’s the thing… there are countless message threads with people arguing this, like it’s up for discussion. Like math can change with differing opinions. “Well, that’s the way you do it… but I choose to do it differently.” … or, “I was taught left to right, no matter what” or, even, “PEDMAS didn’t exist when I went to school.”
As infuriating as it might be to engage with an anti-mask or anti-vax proponent, at least they have their misguided facts upon which they can fall back. But there are no opinions when it comes to math… or, at least, there shouldn’t be. But there are, and the name-calling and bullshit is as strong as anywhere else… and, honestly, it drives me even crazier.
It also reminds me.. it’s not up to me to understand why some people refuse to accept facts. These aren’t convoluted, contrived, complicated theorems that take a lot of understanding to unravel. They’re just facts, and they’re indisputable. But people choose to “not believe in it”, because “science is just a theory” and scientists change their minds all the time, so they clearly don’t know what they’re talking about.
Wanna try to convince someone who “doesn’t believe in math” that they should get a vaccine and wear a mask? Yeah… me neither.
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