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How about "Comparing Apples and Oranges," or "How Dare you Compare," a misrepresentation of the scope of analogies. For a recent example, see the response to John Lewis's drawing an analogy between certain aspects of the McCain campaign and those of George Wallace -- the response is not a consideration of the scope and aptness of the analogy but a rejection that any analogy at all can be drawn between two subjects when one is so generally recognized to be Evil. The McCain campaign does not attempt to differentiate the aspects under analogy (rhetoric and its potential for the fomentation of violence) from those of Wallace, but rather condemns the idea that the analogy can be considered at all. Under the epistemology of Fail, any difference between two subjects of comparison is enough to reject its validity, regardless the relevance of the distinction to the actual comparison being drawn. See also: Godwin's Law.

Some self-entitled males like to use this one, particularly in defense of the notion that one has in inviolate right to make sexual advances toward other people regardless of circumstance or outward sign. Sooner or later, after demonstrating how each of their justifications also justify sexual assault, it leads to "how dare you compare me to a rapist," which is where the fun begins. After I have done epistemologically belittling them I point out that the obvious fact that sexual assault is known to be bad is a manifestation of general principles of ethical interaction among humans, and not a special case handed down from a God who says that everything that is not expressly forbidden by a law is good.

In this post and the last you appear to be taking the opposite tack from the position you held in the discussion with Tom McCabe attached to Einstein's Arrogance. For example, you seemed to react poorly to the idea that the Einstein field equation has a relatively small information content, but later suggested that an AGI might get to that equation by watching an apple fall. Is this a shift in your position, or is there a distinction I've missed?

As a general comment, you've written a number of very useful sequences on various topics. Would it be possible to go through and add forward links in addition to the usual prerequisite links?

I'm thinking of the case where you wind up saying to someone, "here is the last page in a very useful tutorial, start by alt-clicking the back link at the top until you get to the beginning of the sequence and then read your tabs in reverse order.... no, better to go to the archives for April and read up in reverse order from the bottom of the page skipping over what isn't part of the series... no, maybe use the Google search on 'quantum,' if that didn't skip some posts and get others and disregard order... well, you know, it's a friggin' blog, they're impossible to read anyway..."

if all the atoms were truly indistinguishable, then there is no basis upon which an atom could be excited to a higher energy level while another one shouldn't be.

Referring to "an atom" versus "another one" here is just begging the question on the identity of atoms. Why is a BEC containing N indistinguishable atoms not allowed to evolve into a BEC of N-1 indistinguishable atoms and an excited atom?

Bob doesn't care about a version of indistinguishability that restricts the relevant properties to those important for QM.

This doesn't seem right. Distinguishability should entail empirical distinguishability. If two particles are distinguishable in any sort of way that Bob cares about, I should be able to send them through a device that shows a green light for tagged particle A and a red light for tagged particle B. But "emitting green light" and "emitting red light" are, obviously, different quantum configurations.

What is an example of a distinguishability that is not allowed to entail quantum distinguishability, and why should Bob care?

Just so everyone's on the same page, continuum atheism doesn't entail disbelief in all irrationals. The hypoteneuse of a right triangle, pi and e are all in the countable set of computable reals.

My first thought was to bookmark this so that I can name numbers whenever I'm having a disagreement on the Internet. This list is an excellent Fully General Counterargument.


When I design a toaster oven, I don't design one part that tries to get electricity to the coils and a second part that tries to prevent electricity from getting to the coils.

Er, yes you do. There is a latch to hold the contact closed, there is a thermostatic switch to dislodge the latch. It is such with many designed control mechanisms.