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An Apt Analogy?

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A jumbo jet is cruising at full speed some 40,000 feet above the surface of the earth. The flight is smooth. The pilots are then suddenly ordered by a handful of armed passengers – the air marshals, we might call them – to shut off all of the engines.

The goal of this unprecedented policy is to rid the aircraft of some genuinely dangerous debris that it recently encountered. Some well-meaning other passengers, upon noticing this debris on the surface of the plane, argued that stalling the plane as quickly as possible offers the best – really, the only – hope of ridding the plane of the debris.

When its engines are stalled, the plane, of course, immediately goes into a mad tailspin. It hurtles dangerously toward the ground. “Don’t worry,” the armed passengers, who have now assumed great power, tell their fellow passengers. “We know that this tailspin is unpleasant, but it’s necessary for the safety of all of us. And we’ll restart the engines in time to get our aircraft eventually back on a smooth course. Trust us. We’re following the best scientific counsel.”

All the while, it’s very difficult to tell how much debris is actually being removed from the aircraft and if whatever removal is occurring is the result of the tailspin. In fact, no one really knows for sure just how dangerous is the debris in the first place. Nearly all agree that it is dangerous, for sure, but just how dangerous? Expressions are heard among the frightened passengers of legitimate disagreement on these matters.

The plane continues its plummet toward the earth. And the few passengers who protest the policy of keeping the engines stalled are ridiculed as reprobates who selfishly wish to endanger all of their fellow passengers.

Confusion reigns. Fear abounds.

UPDATE: We’ve just learned that the armed passengers – the air marshals – who ordered the stalling of the jetliner’s engines have in the past expressed their belief in the power of Tarot cards to predict the future and have often even insisted that five minus two equals eight. Many other passengers, conceding this fact about the armed passengers, nevertheless insist that the debris on the plane poses such an existential danger to all aboard that we must overlook the past irrationality of the armed passengers and now obey their commands, trusting that these commands are rationally considered and implemented.

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