Jamie123

Chesterton's Fence

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"Chesterton's Fence" is the idea that just because you don't see the reason for something, that's not a good reason for removing it. Reforms should only be made after you've understood the reasons for the status quo. I only recently learned this expression, but since then I've been seeing examples of it everywhere.

Chesterton's* own example was of a fence across the middle of the road. The hasty reformer says: "I don't know why this fence is here, let's take it down". The more thoughtful reformer replies: "Let's first find out why it was put here to begin with."

A particularly good example of this occurs on the roads. Driver A is in front and Driver B is behind. Driver B is a bit on the impatient side. Driver A sees some hazard in the road in front of him and slows down. Driver B cannot see this hazard, and assumes Driver A has slowed down for no reason. He swerves out and around him (probably with some snotty remark about "Sunday drivers") and ploughs straight into the hazard.

This happened to me once when two pheasants ran out in front of me. I stopped, but my "Driver B" swerved around and hit one of them. I was momentarily very angry, but then I remembered how nice a pheasant would be for Sunday dinner, so I took it home and put it out under the porch. But unfortunately (for me) Mr. Fox came along during the night and had it for his Sunday dinner.

There was another much more tragic case in the news a few years ago. On this occasion "Driver B" didn't know that a gang of particularly stupid boys were playing a game of "lie-down-in-the-road-and-see-if-the-cars-stop", and that that was the reason "Driver A" had slowed down. Consequently the boy whose turn it was died a horrible death. The police didn't bring any charges against the driver (which I can kind-of understand given the stupidity of the young man) but it does show that if you don't understand the reason for something, don't assume that no reason exists. 

*This was G.K. Chesterton who wrote the Father Brown books, and The Man Who Was Thursday. The Man Who Was Thursday deserves its own thread sometime: I'd be interested to hear how other people read the moral of the story.

Edited by Jamie123
Status quo: the thing, not the band

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2 hours ago, Jamie123 said:

"Chesterton's Fence" is the idea that just because you don't see the reason for something, that's not a good reason for removing it.

I didn't know there was a name for this old saying.  I just new that until you know why a fence was put up, you might want to investigate before you take it down.

https://www.northernstar-online.com/show-him-your-badge/

In my case I come into the middle of the project a lot of the time when the old engineer wasn't cutting the mustard.  They ask me to fix the problem and do it fast by putting out the fires, so to speak.  So, I have the nickname of being the "fireman."  In taking over a job someone else started, I often come across an element of design that doesn't seem to make sense.  But often times I apply Chesterson's Fence and ask myself, "Is it doing any harm?"  If not, I try to work around it.

One time I was called as an inspector on a building.  There was this device called a "holdown" (aptly named) being used on a column.  But as I looked at the structure, I realized that it served no purpose.  There was no load on this column that required the presence of the holdown.  The contractor reminded me that it was on the plans.  And, yes, it was.  But what on earth was it for? 

I was about to just throw my hands up and say, "Whatever."  But I had the thought, "If this holdown were not here, what would be there?"  There is another device called a "post base" that should have been there.  So I was going to mark it off and issue a correction.  But then it occurred to me that this particular model of holdown performed the function of a post base.  I'd never seen that before.  Neither had the contractor.  But we both had to admit that it worked.

So, I left it alone.

Edited by Carborendum

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IMHO, this is one of the major dangers with Critical Race Theory—it’s a crutch that tells us that the “fence” we find inconvenient (whatever it may be, whether free speech or free markets or individual property or individual liberty or parental rights or trial by jury or general meritocracy) is only there because Whiteness, and we don’t need to investigate its origins or purpose any further before dramatically overhauling that aspect of the system.

Edited by Just_A_Guy

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Cue the Roast in the Oven Story, which we have probably all heard:

A mother cut the ends off a roast before putting it in the oven. Her daughter asked, "Why did you cut off the ends?" The mother replied, "Because that's what you need to do with roasts." The daughter asked, "But why?" The mother said, "I'm not sure. Let's ask Grandma."

So they called Grandma and asked, "Why do you cut the ends off a roast before putting it in the oven?" Grandma responded, "Because that's what you need to do with roasts." "But why?" came the rejoinder. Grandma said, "I don't know. Let's ask my mother."

So they called Granny. Grandma asked, "Mom, why did you cut the ends off the roast before putting it in the oven?" Granny answered, "Because my roasting pan was too small to fit the entire roast."

Edited by Vort

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33 minutes ago, Vort said:

Cue the Roast in the Oven Story, which we have probably all heard:

A mother cut the ends off a roast before putting it in the oven. Her daughter asked, "Why did you cut off the ends?" The mother replied, "Because that's what you need to do with roasts." The daughter asked, "But why?" The mother said, "I'm not sure. Let's ask Grandma."

So they called Grandma and asked, "Why do you cut the ends off a roast before putting it in the oven?" Grandma responded, "Because that's what you need to do with roasts." "But why?" came the rejoinder. Grandma said, "I don't know. Let's ask my mother."

So they called Granny. Grandma asked, "Mom, why did you cut the ends off the roast before putting it in the oven?" Granny answered, "Because my roasting pan was too small to fit the entire roast."

Sounds like Dalinar's takama story from Stormlight Archives.

https://coppermind.net/wiki/Takama

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7 hours ago, Jamie123 said:

A particularly good example of this occurs on the roads. Driver A is in front and Driver B is behind. Driver B is a bit on the impatient side. Driver A sees some hazard in the road in front of him and slows down. Driver B cannot see this hazard, and assumes Driver A has slowed down for no reason. He swerves out and around him (probably with some snotty remark about "Sunday drivers") and ploughs straight into the hazard.

THis is very similar to something that's happened to me three times in the last two weeks. THe car in front of me suddenly slows down. THe first time it happened, I immediately pulled out of the lane to overtake it, and when I did, I saw the reason why he had slowed - there was a speed camera just ahead. The next two times the car in front of me suddenly slowed, I also slowed, and drove passed the nearby speed camera at a much safer speed. I've learned my lesson now about what to do when the car in front of me suddenly slows down.

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8 hours ago, Jamie123 said:

"Chesterton's Fence" is the idea that just because you don't see the reason for something, that's not a good reason for removing it. Reforms should only be made after you've understood the reasons for the status quo. I only recently learned this expression, but since then I've been seeing examples of it everywhere.

Chesterton's* own example was of a fence across the middle of the road. The hasty reformer says: "I don't know why this fence is here, let's take it down". The more thoughtful reformer replies: "Let's first find out why it was put here to begin with."

A particularly good example of this occurs on the roads. Driver A is in front and Driver B is behind. Driver B is a bit on the impatient side. Driver A sees some hazard in the road in front of him and slows down. Driver B cannot see this hazard, and assumes Driver A has slowed down for no reason. He swerves out and around him (probably with some snotty remark about "Sunday drivers") and ploughs straight into the hazard.

This happened to me once when two pheasants ran out in front of me. I stopped, but my "Driver B" swerved around and hit one of them. I was momentarily very angry, but then I remembered how nice a pheasant would be for Sunday dinner, so I took it home and put it out under the porch. But unfortunately (for me) Mr. Fox came along during the night and had it for his Sunday dinner.

There was another much more tragic case in the news a few years ago. On this occasion "Driver B" didn't know that a gang of particularly stupid boys were playing a game of "lie-down-in-the-road-and-see-if-the-cars-stop", and that that was the reason "Driver A" had slowed down. Consequently the boy whose turn it was died a horrible death. The police didn't bring any charges against the driver (which I can kind-of understand given the stupidity of the young man) but it does show that if you don't understand the reason for something, don't assume that no reason exists. 

*This was G.K. Chesterton who wrote the Father Brown books, and The Man Who Was Thursday. The Man Who Was Thursday deserves its own thread sometime: I'd be interested to hear how other people read the moral of the story.

Had something similar happen. 

Here in Texas, you'll see "Farm To Market" or FM roads. 

These roads were created to serve as main roads for farmers looking to bring their crops to a larger city for sale. Despite their status as main roads, however, they're often quite narrow (one lane each way, plus turn lane), and there are frequently an eclectic mix of businesses, convenience stores, churches, and even private residences just off the road. 

Even though the city I live in is the largest in the county, the county seat is actually 25 miles to the north. The road that connects the two towns is an FM, and for much of its distance it's on the narrow side. Not only that, there are a lot of hills. This alone makes being called for jury duty at the county courthouse unpleasant, as it's not an easy drive either way. 

I'd been dismissed from the jury pool (they usually call 4X as many people as they need, then wind up dismissing most of them), and was on my way home when I realized that a bit up ahead of me was a semi truck with a large cargo of gravel in an open and uncovered gravel trailer. This is often a recipe for disaster because of how easily gravel can be blown out of the trailer at highway speeds, so I slowed down enough to put about two truck lengths' distance between us. 

Some yahoo in a newer, more powerful car couldn't see the semi because we were going up and down a series of small rises, and so used the center turn lane to illegally shoot around me. This put their vehicle right between mine and the semi. 

Oops...

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20 minutes ago, Ironhold said:

I'd been dismissed from the jury pool (they usually call 4X as many people as they need, then wind up dismissing most of them), and was on my way home when I realized that a bit up ahead of me was a semi truck with a large cargo of gravel in an open and uncovered gravel trailer. This is often a recipe for disaster because of how easily gravel can be blown out of the trailer at highway speeds, so I slowed down enough to put about two truck lengths' distance between us. 

Some yahoo in a newer, more powerful car couldn't see the semi because we were going up and down a series of small rises, and so used the center turn lane to illegally shoot around me. This put their vehicle right between mine and the semi. 

Oops...

That's called a Texas Hailstorm.

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26 minutes ago, Ironhold said:

Had something similar happen. 

Here in Texas, you'll see "Farm To Market" or FM roads. 

These roads were created to serve as main roads for farmers looking to bring their crops to a larger city for sale. Despite their status as main roads, however, they're often quite narrow (one lane each way, plus turn lane), and there are frequently an eclectic mix of businesses, convenience stores, churches, and even private residences just off the road. 

Even though the city I live in is the largest in the county, the county seat is actually 25 miles to the north. The road that connects the two towns is an FM, and for much of its distance it's on the narrow side. Not only that, there are a lot of hills. This alone makes being called for jury duty at the county courthouse unpleasant, as it's not an easy drive either way. 

I'd been dismissed from the jury pool (they usually call 4X as many people as they need, then wind up dismissing most of them), and was on my way home when I realized that a bit up ahead of me was a semi truck with a large cargo of gravel in an open and uncovered gravel trailer. This is often a recipe for disaster because of how easily gravel can be blown out of the trailer at highway speeds, so I slowed down enough to put about two truck lengths' distance between us. 

Some yahoo in a newer, more powerful car couldn't see the semi because we were going up and down a series of small rises, and so used the center turn lane to illegally shoot around me. This put their vehicle right between mine and the semi. 

Oops...

Ironhold,

I don't remember ever thinking  you were from Texas.  I thought you were in Utah.  Did I already know you were in Texas before?

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2 hours ago, Carborendum said:

Ironhold,

I don't remember ever thinking  you were from Texas.  I thought you were in Utah.  Did I already know you were in Texas before?

I was born in Utah, but since my dad was in the military I wound up in Texas. 

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farm-to-market_road#Texas

The Wikipedia article on this type of road shows a stretch of FM 218, which serves the city of Hamilton. 

Hamilton is northwest of me, and you pass through it on the way to Stephenville, home of Tarleton State University and the Hard 8 Barbecue. 

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5 hours ago, Ironhold said:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farm-to-market_road#Texas

The Wikipedia article on this type of road shows a stretch of FM 218, which serves the city of Hamilton. 

Hamilton is northwest of me, and you pass through it on the way to Stephenville, home of Tarleton State University and the Hard 8 Barbecue. 

That reminds me of HWY 105 to Navasota and HWY 6 to College Station.

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I am of the opinion that the subject of this thread has much more for consideration.  There is also a problem in leaving something that is not understood when it really does not have a purpose.   The software term for this is spaghetti code.  There is another theory - or perhaps I should say modeling theory called Chaos Theory that applies to complex systems.  The example given of a fence in a road deals with a simple system but there is something beyond the simple that is implied through the tempted solutions.  @Jamie123 implies this possibility of complexity or at least something beyond the simple solution.

Reality is that simple systems seldom exist - that dealing with life is more about complex systems.  The idea of chaos theory is that complex systems are defined by the parameters of that system.   All parameters exist in a state of balance - when a parameter crosses a threshold of balance all the parameters will adjust to a new balance.   The reason it is called chaos theory is because the previous balance cannot be achieved by returning the changed parameter to its previous balance.  This is because the complex system has been redefined.    

Chaos theory demands that such things as Critical Race Theory (that was referenced by @Just_A_Guy) - that rely on a single parameter (which is also the flaw of the climate change theory)  to achieve a defined or desired result.  I would also point out that the model assumed to prove such things as climate change theory and Critical Race Theory depend on chaos theory to imply the threats if a single parameter is out of balance.  But chaos theory implies two things - one is that without a mapping of all critical parameter one cannot predict the outcome from any parameter change and that the initial complex system cannot be restored once any change is initiated.   In other words without proper mapping Chaos Theory predicts that the outcome could be more harmful than the outcome that is trying to be avoided.

This means that if CO2 is not really the problem in climate change of Whiteness is not really the problem of critical race theory the efforts to initiate change are more likely to cause a worse possible outcome than the initial threat.

 

The Traveler

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On 3/18/2021 at 8:16 AM, Just_A_Guy said:

IMHO, this is one of the major dangers with Critical Race Theory—it’s a crutch that tells us that the “fence” we find inconvenient (whatever it may be, whether free speech or free markets or individual property or individual liberty or parental rights or trial by jury or general meritocracy) is only there because Whiteness, and we don’t need to investigate its origins or purpose any further before dramatically overhauling that aspect of the system.

21 hours ago, Vort said:

Cue the Roast in the Oven Story, which we have probably all heard:

A mother cut the ends off a roast before putting it in the oven. Her daughter asked, "Why did you cut off the ends?" The mother replied, "Because that's what you need to do with roasts." The daughter asked, "But why?" The mother said, "I'm not sure. Let's ask Grandma."

So they called Grandma and asked, "Why do you cut the ends off a roast before putting it in the oven?" Grandma responded, "Because that's what you need to do with roasts." "But why?" came the rejoinder. Grandma said, "I don't know. Let's ask my mother."

So they called Granny. Grandma asked, "Mom, why did you cut the ends off the roast before putting it in the oven?" Granny answered, "Because my roasting pan was too small to fit the entire roast."

It seems that traditions (or "fences") come in both good and bad.  We hope to rid ourselves of the bad ones, and maintain the good ones.  That is why we have to investigate why it was put up in the first place.

I am reminded of the parable of people collecting water at the well.  Since I can't seem to find it online, I'll repeat it here:

Quote

 

A traveler came to a village whose sole source of water was a well at the top of a hill. He watched as villagers placed a bucket on each end of a pole.  They placed rocks in each bucket.  Then they'd carry the buckets with the pole across their shoulders.

When they got up to the well at the top of the hill, they dumped the rocks from one bucket to the other bucket.  Then they filled the one bucket with water.  The quantity of rocks used roughly equaled the weight of the water.

He then went to one of the water carriers and asked why do you not go up empty and then carry water in both buckets on the way back?

The response: Carrying that much water would be too heavy.

 

Now imagine that parable extending to a later time where the village was separated into camps of those who keep hauling rocks vs those who do not.

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10 hours ago, Traveler said:

I am of the opinion that the subject of this thread has much more for consideration.  There is also a problem in leaving something that is not understood when it really does not have a purpose.   The software term for this is spaghetti code.  There is another theory - or perhaps I should say modeling theory called Chaos Theory that applies to complex systems.  The example given of a fence in a road deals with a simple system but there is something beyond the simple that is implied through the tempted solutions.  @Jamie123 implies this possibility of complexity or at least something beyond the simple solution.

Reality is that simple systems seldom exist - that dealing with life is more about complex systems.  The idea of chaos theory is that complex systems are defined by the parameters of that system.   All parameters exist in a state of balance - when a parameter crosses a threshold of balance all the parameters will adjust to a new balance.   The reason it is called chaos theory is because the previous balance cannot be achieved by returning the changed parameter to its previous balance.  This is because the complex system has been redefined.    

Chaos theory demands that such things as Critical Race Theory (that was referenced by @Just_A_Guy) - that rely on a single parameter (which is also the flaw of the climate change theory)  to achieve a defined or desired result.  I would also point out that the model assumed to prove such things as climate change theory and Critical Race Theory depend on chaos theory to imply the threats if a single parameter is out of balance.  But chaos theory implies two things - one is that without a mapping of all critical parameter one cannot predict the outcome from any parameter change and that the initial complex system cannot be restored once any change is initiated.   In other words without proper mapping Chaos Theory predicts that the outcome could be more harmful than the outcome that is trying to be avoided.

This means that if CO2 is not really the problem in climate change of Whiteness is not really the problem of critical race theory the efforts to initiate change are more likely to cause a worse possible outcome than the initial threat.

 

The Traveler

The newspaper I write for is rather short-handed even on a good day, so two nights a week I do deliveries in order to help pick up the slack. 

I often have a parent or someone else riding shotgun with me, both to teach them my route and because being together in a car for a few hours is a chance to talk in private. 

There have been more than a few instances where someone insisted on asking why I made this stop before that stop, why I used the route I used, and so on. 

"I did a major re-adjustment of my route so that I could factor in delivering newspapers to the schools during the school year. There are three schools along this seemingly indirect route between A and B, and it has the advantage of helping me avoid what is often a busy intersection."

"Traffic flow at this particular intersection is such that I do multiple right turns in a row when servicing this neighborhood and simply loop around rather than attempting to turn left." 

"Deer live along this road, which is why I usually go below the speed limit when I take it." 

"I typically park *here* when servicing that business over there because the space most directly in front of it is a loading zone that is sometimes in use."

"Even though the customer wants their paper in a specific slot on their mailbox, the shoulder of this road is crumbling into the drainage ditch and so it's not safe to actually pull up right next to it." 

Things like that. 

Usually, after a night or two of riding with me, they understand why I do what I do. 

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2 hours ago, Carborendum said:

....

It seems that traditions (or "fences") come in both good and bad.  We hope to rid ourselves of the bad ones, and maintain the good ones.  That is why we have to investigate why it was put up in the first place.

....

There is a problem that is often missed.  It is that the one most reliable constant is change.  Let us consider traditions and their purposes over time.  Both the ancient Hebrews and ancient Egyptians has a concept of eternity as a cycle of changes that repeat.  The most common symbolism or type and shadow is that of the seasons.  However, we can see many important uses of traditions that play out in religious settings.  I believe the best way to understand traditions comes to us in scripture -- Ecclesiastes chapter 1:

Quote

9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

10 Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.

From the Doctrine and Covenants section 93:

Quote

24 And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;

I believe that the truth of traditions links us with our past (including the pre-existence) the present (which includes our mortal experience) and the future (which includes the resurrection and eternal life).   Traditions based in truth have these three uses of 1. Understanding the past, 2. Understanding current circumstances.  3. Understanding prophesy and things that will come about to pass.

I thought I would use an example of Passover.  This was a tradition of the Jews to remember the deliverance of Israel from Egypt.  But then Jesus met with his apostles for Passover he used the traditions to link the past symbolically with the present so that his Apostles would better understand his act of sacrifice in the Atonement - with the agony of Gethsemane the death of the Son of G-d on the cross, and the triumph of the resurrection over sin (death and the grave).  All of which connects our tradition of our day with our past, our current circumstance and what is soon to take place.

I appreciate your creation of this thread - but I think there is much more that just the discovery of why we remember our past.

 

The Traveler

Edited by Traveler

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