Episode 41: Weak Analogy

We were out watching

the new blockbuster movie Angry Marcus and the Dastardly Bellows 3: The Guy with the Sword Comes Back and I have to say, they did not skimp on this.  The story had so many twists and turns you never knew what would happen next.  The acting was all top notch, everyone should get an award for this, even the extras were amazing.  And the effects, wow were they ever good.  If a helicopter dragon was actually real, I doubt it would look this good.

We were nearing the end of the movie.  Our hero had started from humble beginnings working as an excavator in the data mines where he met the enigmatic wanderer Gimdal who took him to the stars so he could recover the Sword of the Really Old People that was hidden in the Psychedelic Nebula and fulfill his destiny by striking down the Ultimate Ruler That No One Really Liked.  Oh, um, sorry, spoilers, I guess.  Along the way, he learned valuable lessons about having humility, using his power wisely to help people, having compassion and empathizing with others and just generally how to be a fairly decent person.  Of course, many faceless supposedly Bad Guys stood in his way and he had to deal with them often in deadly ways.  He finally meets the Supreme Evilest of Them All who proudly states “We’re the same, you and I.” which gives our hero pause.

You see our hero

was also a critical thinker.  While he knows he had to perform actions that were not altruistic or good, he was doing things to create a better outcome.  Head Bad Guy, though, used his power to conquer whole planets, enslave their people, plunder their resources, conscript able-bodied people into his vast army all while systematically finding and destroying anything to challenge his power.  He was wondering then, exactly how were the two of them the same?  This is when he realized they were not remotely similar and this was just a weak analogy.

I know, I know.  Steve, you say, that was a lot of setup, don’t you think?  Yeah, but I was having fun.  This trope of “You and I are the same” in movies is one of those that really gets under my skin and just has to go.  Unfortunately, the Weak Analogy shows up in other places and sometimes looks a little different.  Let’s see a few examples.

A local political office holder, Nancy, is having a few issues during her term.  It seems she was caught using taxpayer funds to pay for her and her family to on around-the-world vacations plus purchase furniture for her private residence and the transactions were all cleverly hidden.  It’s not looking good but she has some tricks left.  She says her predecessor, Phil, used tax money to furnish his house and wasn’t investigated so she shouldn’t be either.  Turns out, though, Phil only furnished an office in his house that was used for official purposes and meetings, plus he informed the administration of his needs and was given the money to do so.  Nancy is making a weak analogy.  While the two did things that are vaguely similar, in reality they are much more different than alike.  Plus, Phil worked legally and openly, while Nancy hid her dealings.

Another form of the weak analogy goes like so …  Chuck is talking to Hector who likes science, astronomy, physics and such, but isn’t into things of a fantastical nature like magic and ghosts.  Chuck says “Hey, if you can believe that black holes exist without ever having seen one then surely you must be able to believe in magical wish-granting unicorns even though you’ve never seen one of those either.”  Hector is smart and he can see a weak analogy a mile away.  He says that while we haven’t “seen” a black hole we can see their effects, like gravitational waves, plus what was mathematically shown is being proven correct.  Wish-granting horned horses, though, not only haven’t we seen one we’ve never seen the slightest effect of one, a proof of one, or anything at all.  These two things are not nearly as alike as Chuck wanted them to seem.

You should always pay attention to the strength of an analogy.  Do the items or points in comparison have a lot in common or a little?  You may also need to look at definitions to determine this.  In our first example, if the definition was any taxpayer money used in a residential setting then Nancy might have a stronger case.  In these situations, it’s worth asking questions or investigating further to get to the root of the comparison.  Analogies are not morally good or bad, right or wrong.  A better way to describe them is as being weak or strong (it’s a nice statistical meaning, too!).  You’ll have to look at the statements, comparisons and definitions to determine that.  Now I’m off for a second viewing, but this time in Imax!