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Fractal wrongness

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You're wrong there, and there, oh, and there too, there, now let's step back a little, yep, still wrong.
Cogito ergo sum
Logic and rhetoric
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You are not just wrong. You are wrong at every conceivable level of resolution. Zooming in on any part of your worldview finds beliefs exactly as wrong as your entire worldview.
— Tatarize[1]
Mr. Madison, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.
— The principal in Billy Madison,[2] an insanely idiotic movie, may God have mercy on its soul[3]

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.

The condition of crank magnetism is a gateway into the wonderful world of fractal wrongness, as well as a relatively early warning sign of the risk of impending fractal wrongness.

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.

Fractally wrong people are often immune to the stopped clock rule because they are not exactly stopped clocks. More like clocks losing a random number of seconds a day, in the wrong time zone of the wrong planet, in the wrong solar system in the wrong galaxy.

Origin of the expression[edit]

The expression apparently dates from around October 2001, when the then computer-science student Keunwoo Lee used it in a lexicon of computing.[4] The phrase is a metaphor deriving from the colloquial meaning of a fractal,Wikipedia which refers to an image which appears substantially the same at any level of scale — in other words, one cannot determine how much the image is zoomed in simply by looking at it.

Dealing with the fractally wrong[edit]

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, which requires just as much refutation to debunk as the first one — kind of like a recursive 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 setWikipedia in finite time.

While arguing with these people can be amusing at times, we suggest that 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.


List of fractally wrong worldviews[edit]

Everything You Know Is Wrong
Firesign Theatre

The following list includes some worldviews that are fractally wrong (and a brief example of why). Note that this is not meant to be exhaustive, and probably never will be, as any fallacious argument can be expanded into a fractally wrong worldview:

"BUT IT FITS!"[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Shoehorning

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.[5]

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" ongoingly suppress 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. The only conceivable way to fix their worldview would be to rewrite their brains entirely.

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 canine brains. The man replies that the transmitters are "made of organic material indistinguishable from brain stuff", so they are well hidden. Basically, cranks can use "BUT IT FITS!" to justify virtually anything.

Turducken of bullshit[edit]

The phrase "turducken of bullshit" was coined by Mike Rothschild, the author of several books about conspiracy theories, to represent something with three levels of bullshit. The term is based on the American culinary abomination known as a turduckenWikipedia of a duck stuffed into a chicken that is stuffed into a turkey, and then cooked and served. Rothschild applied it to the case of a "QAnon guru quoting Gateway Pundit quoting Rush Limbaugh".[6] Rebecca Watson later applied the term to scammy dietary supplements sold by the company Balance of Nature. The company sells pills called "Fruits", pills called "Veggies", and pills called "Fiber & Spice".[7] So if one believes their bullshit, then one doesn't have to suffer the burden of eating actual food, merely the burden of paying a quack[8] inflated prices. The company is owned by Scientologists who require that the mainly Mormon and Fundamentalist Mormon employees take Scientology courses as part of their employment.[9]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. "Motivation Poster: Fractal Wrongness.". February 24, 2008. 
  2. Billy Madison (1995): James Downey: Principal IMDb.
  3. Sons of Wayne's World by Richard Schickel (Mar. 06, 1995) Time.
  4. Keunwoo Lee's lexicon of computing.
  5. Law's Blog
  6. A QAnon guru quoting Gateway Pundit quoting Rush Limbaugh. A turducken of bullshit. by Mike Rothschild (2:41 PM - 1 Oct 2019) Twitter (archived from October 1, 2019).
  7. Balance of Nature
  8. Our Story Balance of Nature.
  9. The Completely Bonkers Story Behind This Scammy Supplement by Rebecca Watson (Aug 31, 2023) Skepchick.