If we can put a man on the moon, why can’t we…. The fallacy of comparing things that aren’t equivalent.


After the first moon landing, we heard a lot of people say that if we can put a man on the moon, we should be able to solve all our social problems. This was a gross misunderstanding of what was involved in the two problems. Placing a man on the moon was a straightforward technical problem. Each part that was solved led to the next step in a logical manner. Social problems, on the other hand, are complex and involve a staggering number of  variables, any one of which can cause a reaction that affects the rest. The moon shot involved manipulating things; social problems involve manipulating people. Big difference. Things don’t fight you and react in unpredictable ways…people do.

I was reminded of this on a cruise last week, when the ships company put on  a “Festival of Nations Show”. This show, a staple of most cruise lines nowadays, features members of the ship’s crew parading with the flags of the nations they came from. Cruise ship crews are amazingly multinational. The cruise director/master of ceremonies ended up by saying that they have people from 50 nations among the ship’s crew and they all get along, so why can’t the world get along that way? The passengers all nodded sagely, although nobody actually sang Kumbaya.

Image result for cruise ship parade of nations


This is the same false equivalency the If-we-can-land-a-man-on-the-moon…  people indulge in and it’s just as pointless. The reason the world doesn’t get along as well as the ship’s crew (and I don’t believe for a minute that all is sweetness and light below decks, but let’s assume that it is.) is very simple. Are you ready?

The cruise line gets to select who it hires, and gets to fire anyone who doesn’t work out.  The world doesn’t get to do that. Nobody had the opportunity to refuse to include Iran in the world, and you can’t fire North Korea. All the countries and all the pain-in-the-butt jerkwads in the world are not subject to hiring or firing for the common good. If the cruise ship people had to hire everyone who applies and could not discipline or fire anyone after that, cruise ships would be just as dysfunctional as the rest of the world.

…and with the possibility of drowning.

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