The Fifth Rule of Discourse: Boiled Frogs

Anyone who uses the boiled frog metaphor shall be immediately barred from further participation in the discussion.

The metaphor needs to be taken off the table just as much for being tired and hackneyed as for being patently untrue, but the real problem is that the metaphor obliterates the distinction between reasonable and unreasonable extrapolations. Not every trend can be logically extended forever. It would be fair to say that if the world’s population has increased every year, it will continue to increase into the foreseeable future. However, it is not fair to say that legalizing gay marriage will lead to legalizing pedophilia and bestiality, because gay people as a demographic don’t want to legalize pedophilia or bestiality.  In fact, the legalization of gay marriage is the natural endpoint of the trend.

People who would be banned from discussion based on this rule include Al Gore regarding global warming, Glenn Beck regarding oligarchy, and everyone in this Colbert Report clip. Actually, basically everyone. (The Atlantic’s James Fallows has a whole personal vendetta going against the metaphor.)

The other rules of discourse are:

  1. Never write a letter from Jesus.
  2. Assume good intentions (AGI).
  3. Refer to your opponents by their proper names, with a corollary.
  4. In fiction, have intelligent people support opposing views.
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