| Cogito ergo sum|
Logic and rhetoric
“”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.
“”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 the 1995 movie Billy Madison|
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.
Origin of the expression
The expression apparently dates from around October 2001, when the then computer-science student Keunwoo Lee used it in a lexicon of computing. The phrase is a metaphor deriving from the colloquial meaning of a fractal, 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
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.
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
“”Everything You Know Is Wrong
The following is a list of 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:
- Alternative medicine (postulating generally nonsensical mechanisms by which it claims to achieve its purported effects)
- The anti-vaccination movement (believing Andrew Wakefield and Jenny McCarthy over easily discernible historical facts and the entire world of medicine which gets derided as Big Pharma)
- Astrology (how exactly are the stars affecting/reflecting your love life or financial situation?)
- Christian fundamentalism (thinking that Noah's Ark is a plausible plot device among many other things)
- Climate change denial (believing that a global "Big Climate" conspiracy is trying to convince the world to waste money in a scheme to get more and bigger research grants, apparently...)
- Almost all conspiracy theories (David Icke...)
- The Freeman on the land and sovereign citizen movements (the legal equivalent of "Badges? We don't need no stinking badges!")
- Holocaust denial claims that all the world's scholars and politicians since World War II have agreed to present a false image of everything from European demographics to Nazi archives and soil conditions in Poland
- Homeopathy (because a belief in sympathetic magic and the idea that diluting something makes its effects more powerful just makes so much sense in 21st century medicine...)
- Islamic terrorism (all the same nonsense as Christian fundamentalism, with a different religion and culture, but many of the same regressive social hierarchies)
- Most New Age woo (general nonsensical incoherence)
- Racialism (still clinging to debunked pseudoscience decades out of date)
- Scientology (a religion written by an author of science fiction novels even worse than Ayn Rand's books and a "theology" so nonsensical it could have been the plot of an Ed Wood film)
- Trans-exclusionary "radical feminism", which believes that trans women are "really" men and trans men are "really" self-hating women.
- Any and all occult claims about Tarot cards, which in reality were created for games much like any other cards, but thanks to the efforts of woo-peddlers, their true origin is forgotten in certain countries.
- Flat Earth (No explanation needed)
"BUT IT FITS!"
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.
- Mike Bara
- Branches of science you have to ignore to believe in young Earth creationism
- Jan Brewer
- Conspiracy theory
- Freeman on the land
- Not even wrong
- Rick Santorum
- The Spirit Science
- Time Cube
- Wronger than wrong
- Everything You Know Is Wrong by Weird Al Yankovic (YouTube), animated by RWappin — not for photosensitive epileptics