Reimagined and Revamped. Fighting the spread of nonsense often feels like a Sisyphean task. However, the joy is in making the information available, not the hope of conversion.

Back from traveling

Just got back from traveling... so I have some questions...

1) is teenage pregnancy back to being a bad thing, or are we still on this weird thing where is somehow good?
2) Is the Iraq war as "God's will" still a good thing?
3) Does anyone realize how worried most Europeans are about McSame being voted into office?
4) Has anyone yet considered that after 12 years of republican rule in congress and 8 years of a Bush presidency that perhaps our economic problems are not the fault of the democrats?

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Wright Brothers Fallacy

I am leaving for Europe for a couple of weeks. I have a bunch of posts blocking up my the space in my brain, I guess it will have to wait. So until then, I want to get out the easy one. Its my blog so I am allowed to name my own fallacies for future reference.

Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of lists available around that already define and specify various logical arguments, some specific and some general. It is truly worth it to read these and learn them to be able to recognize nonsense when you see it. It truly makes purveyors of nonsense back down very often.

There is a situation which occurs often when discussing a new product or service. I have covered a number of products on this blog that are new to the marketplace. I have also covered instances where someone or a company is developing a process or technology. But, most often the product, technology, or service makes it to these pages because they are demonstrably worse than incumbent technology or product.

Stalwart defenders of these products, upon being shown the demonstrable errors of their contentions, will inevitably end up with something to the effect of: The Wright Bros. were also told their plane wouldn't work. Or they point out that cell phones were worse than they are now being bigger, with less range, and spotty service.

The fallacy lies in the temporal comparison. When a new product is worse than other devices currently available, the defenders of the product will usually whip out a reference to the Wright Bros (its a similar effect as Godwin's Law). But the invention of the Wright Brothers had characteristics that were unavailable to other technologies at the time (car, horse, train, etc). Same went for the huge cell phones of the 1970's, they were expensive and big, but they delivered a portable phone solution unavailabel by any other technology. Most often people defending a poor technology are trying to make the case that a 1970's cell phone is the best technolgy out there as a bunch of people with iPhones pass them, or they claim to have made a biplane with the claim that it will sell a lot of of them as a jet plane perfroms some tricks above in the air.

So instead of understanding how the actual specifications of the product (or claims of a technology) don't hold up to things that are currently available, they simply reject logic and hide in this fallacy.

The Wright Brothers fallacy has some aspects of an appeal to novelty. Just because a product or service is new, doesn't mean it is actually better than incumbent technology. An apples to apples comparison must be made. If none of the claims of the product are actually better than incumbent technology there is simply no reason to believe it will sell, no reason to believe it will make any money.

There are many products that fall outside of the Wright Brothers fallacy. For example consider True Religion Jeans. These jeans sell like hot cakes. They also cost hundreds of dollars. Why? They are just jeans. There is no specific claim that this company makes about their product. There is no specification, no incumbent product that it is supposed to be better than. Here is the closest they come:

True Religion's signature lowrise 'Disco Becky Big T' style for women in stretch denim made of 99% cotton, 1% spandex. Natural Big T thread combination. These jeans feature unique Swarovski crystals which are used as buttons and rivets.
All style, all fad. This is not a product for which the Wright Bros. fallacy can be applied to reasonably. But products like cars (particularly technologies for cars like fuel cells or hybrids), power packs, new TV technologies and so forth can be.

THe wright brothers fallacy is used in the same vain as the Galileo Fallacy. Sure, perhaps the Wright Bros were laughed at or told the plane wouldnt work, but they were also making something that claimed to be better than incumbent technology (flying as a feature!). Just because skeptics are poking fun at a new worthless device, that doesn't make it better, it also has to be better.

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