Monday, May 14, 2007

From Perpendicular to Peculiar

Photograph by Chrystyna Pedde (2006)

In a dream last night, I encountered a gentleman who, based on his research, had concluded that every man-made structure in the world was built several degrees off perpendicular. I found this to be astounding, and asked him to explain his research. He was very co-operative and effusive, as lunatics often are, and gladly explained his methods to me. He had, he said, used a particular building as his control, and had then compared a sampling of other buildings in numbers large enough to be statistically significant. Curious guy that I am, I then asked which building he had used as control, the one all others had been compared to to help him reach his conclusion.

His answer, as you might have guessed by now, was the Leaning Tower of Pisa. That's it in the photograph above. It would be difficult to argue, statistically, that the man's conclusions were wrong. Every scientific approach possible would agree that all other buildings in a statistical sample of any size, would be askew if compared to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

The methods followed were correct, but the initial premise, that the Leaning Tower of Pisa was itself perpendicular and was therefore suitable to be used as a control, was wrong.

Strange dream, right? You know what was most strange about the dream, to me? The fact that I was on the side of what I would have to imagine would be the majority of people on earth. That would often be an unusual state of affairs for me, especially in matters of individual liberty and personal responsibility. I am mostly, I suspect, out of step with the majority, something that I don't find the least bit troubling. Reflecting on the dream, after I awoke, I realized that it was sort of a metaphor, showing the folly of extrapolating universal conclusions from a faulty premise, and the wisdom, on the other hand, of taking the 'big picture' into consideration whenever making any big decisions or drawing any significant conclusions.

Or, I suppose, the dream might simply have been a bizarre manifestation of the chemicals created by the midnight snack I enjoyed before I went to bed.

Weird. I wonder what I'm going to dream about tonight.


  1. It is amazing how so many well crafted arguments that reach ridiculous conclusions are found to be based on "slanted" premises.

  2. Good one, Bob. I'll have to remember that one!

  3. Oh, you mean something like global warming, or ozone depletion...Yeah, I get it.
    These things come about, because propaganda, in order to be successful, must not appear to be bare-face propaganda at all, but rather news or facts or research, and centered upon the vilification of the productive person or person the propagandist wishes to extort!
    In order for this to occur, lame-ass "statistics" must be fabricated from wholecloth:
    "Did you know almost everyone who ever died ate vegetables? That's why they are bad for you, in fact, emerging research shows them to be a serious health hazard, and a highly-placed government source, speaking on condition of anonymity verifies this information."

    If one's goal is to manipulate others for one's own benefit or that of one's "rights"-cause/gimme-group, such absurd premises are convenient.

  4. Was it Mark Twain who said something like: "There are lies, damn lies, and statistics?" Statistics can be made to say what you want them to say. Many 'facts' are based on some group's agenda for change in their particular direction. I don't blame people for trying to lobby for what they think is right as much as I blame uncritical thinkers.

  5. He was very co-operative and effusive, as lunatics often are, and gladly explained his methods to me.

    ROFLMAO!! I know; aren't they!