Thursday, June 09, 2011

Swing and A Miss

“It can’t be OK if you have 30 marijuana cigarettes and bad if you have 50 marijuana cigarettes. It's either bad or it's not bad."
Themis Klarides, Republican Connecticut Congresswoman, Connecticut To Decriminalize Marijuana

Dear Congresswoman Klarides:

Another way of saying what you said above is to put it into an if/then conditional statement. You said if a lot is bad, then a little is bad. If X, then Y. Two problems here.

First, the proposed provision of the law about the illegality of marijuana depending upon the quantity is not an if/then conditional statement in the first place. Nobody said it is true that if a lot is bad/illegal, then a little is bad/illegal (If Y then X). So the truth of your attempted converse (If X then Y) is irrelevant.

The proposed law is a single proposition (a little is not bad/illegal) followed by a qualifying “however” proposition (a lot is bad/illegal). What you did was attempt to rebut a non-existent proposition.

Second, even if we skip the straw man argument your sound bite cleverly blows to smithereens, and for the sake of argument, we assume the law is in fact stating the nonsense proposition that if a little marijuana is bad/legal, then a lot is not bad/illegal, there is still a problem with your logic.

Sometimes, the converse of a true proposition is true. Some things are bad regardless of quantity. For example, we probably both agree on the proposition that that if a single murder is bad, then so is a mass murder. If X, then Y. The converse of this proposition is also true: if a lot of killings are bad, then so is one (if Y, then X).

Sometimes however, the converse of an if/then statement isn’t true. For example, let’s agree that moderate cleanliness is next to godliness. It does not follow that a lot of cleanliness is more divine. Obsessively and compulsively washing one’s hands is not godlike; it’s a recognized mental disorder. Another example: eating one gummy bear might be good, but putting an entire handful into your mouth at once and masticating them into an oral mass grave is not so good.

A final example might make this point with clarity that even you can grasp: If you use marijuana, then you will die. Since we will all die, this is true. However, the converse is probably not so true: everyone who dies used marijuana. That’s as stupid as proposing that since everyone who said prayers in school will die, then school prayer will kill you. Stupid, right?

With all due respect Congresswoman Klrides, your statement is stupid.

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