Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Fruitful Epiphany

I am engaged today in a conversation on twitter about the swap of Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban fighters/leaders/whatever who were in Guantanamo, and I got much reaction to the idea that a 29% recidivism rate seemed lower than expected.  Lots of push back on the idea that whatever we calculate for recidivism in Afghanistan is not comparable to recidivism in the US.

So, someone, of course, said: you cannot compare apples and oranges.

Well, you guys know me: I scoff repeatedly at that carnard here, here and here.  And now I realize why this upsets me so: if you say you cannot compare, you are essentially saying that we cannot think.  That comparison is a fundamental part of thinking about an issue: how is this situation like AND unlike previous/similar situations?  If you do not compare, what are you left with?  Logic, certainly.  But no real recourse to facts.  Even the invoking of data means you are comparing--just comparing with heaps and heaps of observations. 

From now on, when someone says to me: you cannot compare apples and oranges, I will do one old thing and one new thing.  The old is to refer to the blog posts linked above.  The new: ask the person if they mind if I think.  Because without comparison, my thinking is quite limited.  And, of course, so is that of the person asking me not to compare.

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