Fractal Wrongness and why it is not a good idea

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Fractal wrongness is the state of being wrong at every conceivable scale of resolution. That is, from a distance, a fractally wrong person's worldview is incorrect; and furthermore, if you zoom in on any small part of that person's worldview, that part is just as wrong as the whole worldview.


Debating a person who is fractally wrong leads to infinite regress, as every refutation you make of that person's opinions will lead to a rejoinder, full of half-truths, leaps of poor logic, and outright lies, that requires just as much refutation to debunk as the first one - kind of like a nested Gish Gallop, where each point both surrounds and is surrounded by an equally wrong argument. It is worth noting that being fractally wrong can be handy for the losing side in a public debate, since you are likely to leave your opponent looking baffled and unable to deal with each level of wrongness.

It is as impossible to convince a fractally wrong person of anything as it is to walk around the edge of the Mandelbrot set in finite time.

If you ever get embroiled in a discussion with a fractally wrong person on the Internet — in mailing lists, newsgroups, or forums — your best bet is to say your piece once and ignore any replies, thus saving yourself time.

Professor Stephen Law has written about a form of fractal wrongness he calls “BUT IT FITS!” (otherwise known as "of course 'they' WOULD do that"), in which a lack of evidence for a crank idea, or even evidence that directly contradicts it, can easily be turned on its head to support the same crank theory.

People who are believers in over-arching conspiracy theories often display traits of being fractally wrong, as every time you refute one of their points it can be turned into further evidence that "they" are suppressing the truth. In these cases, a complete lack of evidence for something is easily explained away as part of the conspiracy, and the lack of evidence for that is also nicely hidden.

The same can be said of some believers in young earth creationism who view evidence contrary to their position as evidence of God testing their faith. There is no evidence that could be produced to convince such people that they may be wrong, and every level is nicely buffered against reality by more points in the fractal. 
 
Law shows the problem with this kind of thinking when he tells the story of a man who believes dogs are alien spies from Venus. Any arguments his friends make as to why that can not be is turned around to work with the theory. For instance, when the man insists that there are transmitters in their brains his friends reply that transmitters have never been seen in dog brains. The man replies that the transmitters are "made of organic material indistinguishable from brain stuff", so they are well hidden. Basically, “BUT IT FITS!” can be used to justify virtually anything.

The term "fractal wrongness" may also be used to refer to someone who is consistently wrong on nearly everything they predict or claim. Repeatedly failing predictions is one of the best ways of revealing fractal wrongness, because while an idiotic worldview may work in someone's head, it can be seen failing when actually put to the test. Hilariously, people who are consistently wrong tend to be quite confident in their position while championing it.

The expression appears to date from around October 2001 where it was used by then computer science student Keunwoo Lee in a lexicon of computing. The phrase is a metaphor deriving from the colloquial meaning of a fractal, which refers to an image which is substantially the same at any level of scale — in other words, it is impossible to determine how much the image is zoomed in simply by looking at it.


Editor's Note: The Ken-Cat has written a long and boring article about Bernard Burt being an idiot; but it did teach me the meaning of "Fractal Wrongness."

That's why I love reading Ken Gilmore; I always learn something from him.

In my opinion he is both the best Christadelphian writer alive today and also one of the best Ex-Christadelphian writers alive. I don't know how he manages to do both at the same time; but he does.

So now I have a two word description of Christadelphianism for which I have searched half of my life: They are "Fractally Wrong" :)

2 comments:

  1. I skimmed quickly and didn't see any obvious spelling errors.

    Forget that, though: You're commenting on a post that's almost ten years old. Neither Ken Gilmore nor the former editor who posted this are here. Do you agree with the concept of "fractal wrongness", as described? And if not, what problems do you see with it?

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  2. I cannot see any gross spelling or grammatical errors in the article either, which is unsurprising really as the vast bulk of it was lifted directly from the (correctly) referenced rationalwiki article. Rationalwiki doesn't have a good reputation for truth, but on this occasion I see no real concerns.
    As a result of the comment, I did look again my copy of Stephen Law's book which is mentioned, as well as the rationalwiki article.
    Looking at Ken's blog, 10 years on, is depressing though, he still seems to talk to himself, and emphasizes (I left the "z" in there for the spelling police to ponder) the still very divided state of the Christadelphians on scientific matters, something that they seem incapable of rising above.
    Regarding Bernard Burt, he once left his Bible behind after speaking at our meeting, and since his home is enroute to my second home myself and my then wife, returned it to him whilst visiting my then living parents. Bernard was not young at the time, and had several young children with his wife, who, like mine, was much younger than himself. The family made us very welcome, and he was very clearly delighted and invested in his family. So while I would not agree with his theology, I would not consider him to be an idiot either. One of the better Christadelphians I have met in fact, regardless of his beliefs. I wish him and his family well.

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