There is no RationalWiki without you. We are a small non-profit with no staff – we are hundreds of volunteers who document pseudoscience and crankery around the world every day. We will never allow ads because we must remain independent. We cannot rely on big donors with corresponding big agendas. We are not the largest website around, but we believe we play an important role in defending truth and objectivity.
If everyone who saw this today donated $5, we would meet our goal for 2021.
| Fighting pseudoscience isn't free.|
We are 100% user-supported! Help and donate $5, $20 or whatever you can today with !
| We control what|
you think with
|Said and done|
|Jargon, buzzwords, slogans|
The phrase "stopped clock" (also "broken clock" or "sudden outbreak of common sense") comes from the proverb "even a stopped clock is right twice a day", thus implying that even cranks, denialists, or conspiracy theorists that are literally wrong at every other time of the day can theoretically be correct once in a while especially in spite of their bad reasoning.
When is a moment a stopped clock?
Application of stopped clock moments should be careful. It is unreasonable to expect those that have differing or even badly-formed ideologies and frameworks to be wrong on every subject. Also, since people change minds all the time, moments of assholes that later take responsibility and apologize are not stopped-clock moments. Additionally, two unreasonable opinions that appear to cancel each other out and create a reasonable one are not a stopped clock moment - they are simply two unreasonable statements. One example of this would be a transphobe who claims that "transgender men" should not use the same bathroom as little girls but is clearly misgendering trans women while simultaneously denying them their rights has not had a stopped clock moment. The two negative views may appear to cancel each other out and create a positive one, but they do not. Finally, any moment where someone displays decency, but such decency originates from a bad framework, is not a stopped-clock moment. For instance, a racist can condemn animal cruelty but the thought is fueled by racism against the Chinese (which in some small provinces raise dogs for food).
The best application for a stopped clock moment would be to illustrate the fallacy fallacy, which is the mistake of assuming that any conclusion derived from fallacious reasoning must be false. A clock stopped at 3:48 will always conclude that the current time is 3:48. In spite of its faulty premises, though, this conclusion happens to be correct for two minutes a day, or 1/720 (roughly 0.14%) of the time.
Grigori Rasputin's magical cure for hemophilia was instructing the emperor and empress to discontinue medical treatment, including receiving aspirin. It's unlikely that Rasputin knew that aspirin was worsening the condition, yet his advice probably prolonged the tsarevich's life.
Another broader example would be an unhinged conspiracy theorist accusing a government of an elaborate cover-up for ridiculous reasons such as alien interference, but later on, the government has been involved in a cover-up (but through more mundane methods such as bribery).
- Inverse stopped clock
- Improbable things happen
- List of cognitive biases
- Texas sharpshooter fallacy
- Imperfect therefore untrustworthy