The dumbest thing I heard anyone say in 2009

As the year draws to a close, I find myself turning back to 2009 and to the highlights and lowlights of the year. For instance, the dumbest thing I heard anyone say all year: at the Battle of Ideas in London, I sat in on a panel on whether unlimited economic growth was plausible or desirable. On the pro side there was a man who argued:

1. The Bible gives man dominion over all the beasts and land and so forth

2. The world's per-capita GDP works out to about GBP5,000, which means that if we stop growing now and then redistribute things fairly, every human being will have to live on a mere £5 grand a year.

Hardly a day goes by that I am not freshly amazed by how dumb this presentation was. First of all, for a Biblical literalist, this guy was in serious trouble. He was working on a Saturday! He was wearing polycotton blends! He was clean-shaven! Talk about cherry-picking your scripture.

As to 2., man, how innumerate can you get? You don't find out what the average standard of living is by adding up all the world's GDP and dividing by 6.7 billion -- unless you adjust for relative purchasing power (five thousand pounds goes a lot further in Burkina Faso than it does in Knightsbridge) all you get is a totally meaningless number.

I'm sure there were dumber things said this year, but this was the stupidest utterance that took place in my hearing, by a wide margin.

101

  1. Starting Jan 1st, I am going to actually write down and reference the dumbest things I’ve heard all year. This is a GREAT idea! Most of what I can remember now happened quite recently.

    Though I HAVE been blogging about what it’s like to be on the American Family Association’s email list. The stuff these guys send out is absolutely priceless, bless their misguided hearts.

    1. @Shelby Davis:

      The smartest thing I’ve heard said all year was a comment at Slacktivist, which is also sort of appropriate for this thread:

      “Stupidity isn’t to know little. It’s not either to be content with knowing little. Stupidity is believing you know enough.”

  2. I guess it depends on where you look, Cory while your example is prime and drips of stupidity, it seems like politicians here in the states are tripping over themselves to say stupid shit (this may very well apply to all politicians everywhere).

    @mgfarrelly;

    This is a perfect example of what I mean, politicians saying and doing stupid shit. I would include with your quote any apologist shifting of blame from one party or person to another (whether its shifting blame from to Bush to Obama or vice versa).

  3. I’d just like to point out that 1. is also stupid for a more important reason.

    According to the bible(especially if you understand how the bible was translated from the roman/greek/hebrew) man also has a responsibility to take care of the animals, plants and earth. Mans role is as shepherd of the earth.

    Not only is the man a fundamentalist & a hypocrite, he is also wrong in his interpretation of scripture. Not that that’s surprising.

    1. It was also written by people with a severely limited understanding of how the universe and everything in it actually works. Something as mundane and primitive as a phonograph or a steam engine would have appeared magical to them, even if you explained in detail how it worked. I’m sorry, but no one who thinks the world is flat or that the Earth is at the center of the universe and is only 6,000 years old has any right to lecture me on science or anything else.

    2. The books do teach us that man has a responsibility for the care of earth, but they also say that death is the dominion of God alone and that man is unable to overpower God in any way. That seems to imply that while we /should/ be taking care of the earth, we only run out of resources or change the climate or drive a species extinct when God wills it.

      I had a discussion with a literalist who said, fully serious, that the Caribbean Monk Seal went extinct because men sin. Not the sin of overhunting, destroying their habitat, or the like, but sins like taking the Lord’s name in vain and homosexuality.

      His argument was that animals go extinct as a warning for us to not tolerate gay people.

      Not much point trying to have a “discussion” with someone like that.

      1. That’s like the nice folks at the Westboro Baptist Church, trying to convince us that our soldiers and Marines are being killed because of gays.

        1. That’s like the nice folks at the Westboro Baptist Church, trying to convince us that our soldiers and Marines are being killed because of gays.

          Maybe gays make better soldiers than straights — e.g. the Sacred Band of Thebes.

  4. It’s fine to slam religious folk, but make sure you don’t come off as ignorant. I.e. there are different covenants and directives going on in the Bible, and they are not all equally binding for all time. For example, you reference the OT Judaic code on clothing as being as binding as God’s directive to all mankind in Genesis. Jesus and the rest of the apostles clearly disagree with this, so a consistent biblical literalist can’t hold your position.

    1. but when one cites the Bible in argument one doesn’t normally hold up one book over another in validity (that’s a whole ‘nother argument). It is impossible to literally (har har) be a “consistent Bible literalist” as the document is, as you say, contradictory.

  5. The flu shot will probably kill or irreparably damage you, but it’s okay, because you won’t get the flu if you just eat kimchi.

    …. right, then.

  6. The verse he is referring to was the opening of Genesis. I am a Christian who has studied theology, and I would completely and loudly disagree with that stupid interpretation. It doesn’t take much context and looking at the original text to see that the verse is best interpreted as the exact opposite… that we are told to take care of the earth and its creatures. This is a great example of how so often the institutional church puts the spin on Scripture by changing it to fit whatever politics they want. I agree, dumbest thing, sadly I heard it far too often.

  7. someone arguing about “CIA used crack to control black people in the 80’s”, this gem was pulled out: “Drugs are the opiate of the masses.” I rolleyes just thinking about that statement.

  8. Does per capita GDP mean nothing in the USA, because $10,000 goes a lot further in Detroit than San Francisco? Does per capita GDP mean nothing in New York state, because it goes a lot further in Ithaca than downtown Manhattan?

  9. How about this… What’s the dumbest thing _you’ve_ said all year?

    Or maybe even just the dumbest thing you’ve written all year?

    I think that’s a far more productive experiment. Otherwise this is just pointing out that people are stupid. And everybody just loves looking down on the stupid people, don’t they?

    How about just the dumbest thing Cory has posted to boingboing all year?

  10. Russell Wiseman, the mayor of Arlington, Tennessee (not far from Memphis), got angry last Tuesday when the Peanuts Christmas special was preempted by Obama’s speech about Afghanistan. So Mayor Wiseman posted on Facebook:

    Ok, so, this is total crap, we sit the kids down to watch “The Charlie Brown Christmas Special” and our muslim president is there, what a load…..try to convince me that wasn’t done on purpose. Ask the man if he believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and he will give you a 10 minute disertation (sic) about it….w…hen the answer should simply be “yes”….

    …you obama people need to move to a muslim country…oh wait, that’s America….pitiful.

    you know, our forefathers had it written in the original Constitution that ONLY property owners could vote, if that has stayed in there, things would be different……..

    Link

    Apparently there was more, but that’s all I’ve read.

    I don’t know that that’s the dumbest thing I’ve heard all year, but it’s way the hell up there.

    1. Does this man not own a DVD player? Who with children does not have this on DVD? I have no children and do not even practice xtianity–AND I OWN THE Charlie Brown Xmas Special ON DVD! Get a clue!!!!

  11. The first dumbest thing said to me I will not post in the interest of decorum/lawsuits but the Second Dumbest thing said to me: “Its not working out. We are exercising our option and we are going to have to let you go.”

    I heard this three months ago from my last job and I’m still looking for work. I was a decent contributor to the team I was on and there always was a crush of work to do. Three months later and they are still looking to fill my position.

  12. The dumbest thing I’ve said all year:

    “Why did Motorhead go backstage, change clothes, and put on beards just to change their music style?”

    The stupid, it burns!

  13. I wish I had the exact quote…but how about the Mayor of the town in TN who stated that our Muslim President was trying to prevent his children from seeing the Charlie Brown Christmas special.

    I mean, you can FEEL the stupid from that man.

  14. “We sit the kids down to watch ‘The Charlie Brown Christmas Special’ and our muslim president is there, what a load… try to convince me that wasn’t done on purpose.”

    Wiseman said the presidential speech on Afghanistan timed deliberately to block the animated special’s Christian message. He said Obama’s supporters should move to a Muslim country.

    – Russell Wiseman, mayor of Arlington, Tennessee

  15. Ything a biblical literalist days is pretty dumb but I may have you trumped.

    (overheard at a local Thai restaurant)

    waitress: oh I notice you have an interesting accent, where are you from?

    customer: London.

    waitress: I think I’ve heard of it, is that a city or a country?

  16. @Cory – What was the outcome of the panel? My opinion on the matter is that unlimited growth is good on paper while being devastating to the environment on many, many levels.

  17. During the period when I was a vegetarian, a few people objected to it due to reason #1.

    They either took the “dominion” thing to mean that we actually have a *duty* to eat animals, or that my own choice not to eat meat was supposed to be an automatic condemnation of people who did.

    I didn’t bother to tell them I wasn’t a Christian anyway.

  18. @bigcrankyrabbit: I don’t know if I’d consider it the “dumbest,” but the recent spate of banana posts from Cory is rapidly loosing a-peel.

  19. THIS is the dumbest thing I’VE seen all year. (This is definitely waayyyy dumber than that – thanks, homeopathic “science”!)

    1. I’m going to report you for that…I have NFI what she thinks she’s saying because none of what she’s saying makes and ‘effin’ sense.

      She vibrates with a road entrenching tool!

  20. The bible also says that if you rape a woman that you have to pay the father 30 silver and marry her, and you can never divorce her, and says that the wife is property of the husband… It also says that if a son accidentally sees his fathers balls that he should be put to death. The bible says a shit ton of whacky shit… My head explodes when every anyone mentions the bible outside of bashing it. If more people turned to the bible and read it less people would support it and its asinine religions. The god in the bible is a freaken sociopathic sadistic immoral POS. THE BIBLE DOES NOT TEACH MORAL LESSONS!!! TIME AND TIME AGAIN god is just a dick to everyone around him. HEY! Let play the game of have a guy murder his son to prove his love for me! HEY! lets ruin jobs life for a bet with satan! Jesus curses a fig tree because his fat ass was angry because it didnt have any figs on it. He treats his mother like crap. Like seriously, people have drank the koolaid and havent actually read the bible… ARRRGGGGGGGGG!!!

    The dumbest thing I have heard all year… heh… idk… the Reich-tards sure have said some dumb ass shit but nothing stands out.

    1. The bible also says that if you rape a woman that you have to pay the father 30 silver and marry her, and you can never divorce her, and says that the wife is property of the husband…

      If I recall correctly, the Old Testament — Leviticus, or maybe it’s Deuteronomy — says that if a woman is raped in the city, both the man and the woman shall be stoned to death. If the rape occurs away from the city, only the man shall be stoned to death. Reasoning: in the city, she could have cried out for help, but evidently didn’t, therefore death to both.

  21. I can put up with stupid people. What worries me is when they have power or influence over numbers of people who don’t have the time or interest to scrutinise the results.

  22. For the record, although I think Bible literalists are battier than Bruce Wayne, the oft-cited “hypocrisy” of Christians for doing things like wearing polycotton blends doesn’t really hold water. There’s all sorts of stuff in the Bible about Christ’s law superseding the old Jewish laws and Peter’s vision that allowed the Gentiles to abandon Kosher and so on.

    Unless you have a degree in theology, I’d find other reasons to call the man a hypocrite than arguing over the laws of Leviticus.

    1. People still cite Leviticus as an argument against gay rights. When they do that, they’re being hypocrites.

      When they cite Paul, it’s harder to show them their own hypocrisy. I like to quote the part where Jesus says that unless you keep every jot and tittle of the Law yourself, you’d better not criticize your neighbor for any transgression of it.

      I also like to point out that Paul was a dick, but that doesn’t play as well.

      1. > I like to quote the part where Jesus says that unless
        > you keep every jot and tittle of the Law yourself,
        > you’d better not criticize your neighbor for any
        > transgression of it.

        “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”

        < thunk! >

        “moooooommmm!”

  23. is there an implication here that you would favor a worldwide economic redistribution of wealth, were such a thing possible?

  24. You’re concern is noted I’m sure, but I’m also sure that the dumbest thing Cory has posted all year has been something along the lines of “Just look at this banana (nannaObject)” so maybe pick on some one else?

    I say too much dumb stuff to think of anything for myself.

  25. Position #1 is quite rightly supported by Gen 1:26 (KJV): Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.

    You may not buy his premises, but coming from a literalist perspective, it’s a completely defensible statement: the Bible sets the rules, this rule is clear. Now, I’m not in any sense a literalist and as a Darwin-loving semi-practicing Catholic, I think this world view is wrong on logical and theological grounds, but i don’t think this qualifies as “stupid.” Stupid is what he did with numbers.

    1. I think you’ve missed the point. If this guy’s position is, “I’m a Biblical literalist and everything in the Bible is literally true,” then he’s a sinner by even speaking on Saturday, not to mention trimming his beard, wearing blended textiles, etc.

        1. This is what I have come to understand as well. I’m not even sure if the stuff in Leviticus is relevant for modern Jews, either. That book was written for a very specific group of people, not humanity-wide laws like the rest of the stuff in the Bible. Even the Westboro Baptist clan say that the stuff about homosexuality in Leviticus is irrelevant.

          1. Even the Westboro Baptist clan say that the stuff about homosexuality in Leviticus is irrelevant.
            When you argue with them, sure. If instead you nod your head in silent agreement, it’s amazing how relevant it suddenly becomes.

            That’s the core strategy in apologist arguments. When there’s an atheist in the room everything’s “divine power” this and “tolerance” that, but when there’s no one there but them chickens they go right back to arguing about which batch of sinners should get smote first.

    2. Bevatron Repairman “You may not buy his premises, but coming from a literalist perspective, it’s a completely defensible statement…”
      Of course, that’s ignoring Gen2:15.
      Exegesis is fun, innit? Every answer is the correct one. Theology is the science of never being wrong.

  26. @25: And don’t forget Paul swung a badass sword. Don’t mess. I always wish Gygax had had the guns to put together “Christian Mythos” for Dieties and Demigods. St. Paul would have had a +4 Hand-and-a-Half sword for sure. The encounter tables for the Road to Damascus would have been awesome!

    1. I always wish Gygax had had the guns to put together “Christian Mythos” for Dieties and Demigods.

      How about an Old Testament module for Dungeons & Dragons? The Old Testament is much more badass than the New.

      Make saving throw against Pork Golem, or be Unclean!

  27. Xopher, it plays less well when you also point out that Paul was in all likelihood a closeted gay man and almost certainly a “particularly troubled” misogynist, to paraphrase Spock.

  28. I’ve just read a comment on the Guardian’s ‘Comment Is Free’ blog: “is it me, or do ginger people smell funny?” — that would certainly be a contender.

    I like the idea of noting the stupidest things, but I suspect comments made by politicians should be invalid; or, at least, as seperate category.

  29. @25: And don’t forget Paul swung a badass sword. Don’t mess. I always wish Gygax had had the guns to put together “Christian Mythos” for Dieties and Demigods. St. Paul would have had a +4 Hand-and-a-Half sword for sure. The encounter tables for the Road to Damascus would have been awesome!

    1. Actually he did do the Christian mythos in the paperback series that were later assembled into the hard covers. Find one and you will have a more than three coins in your purse.

  30. On the news I someone at an anti-healthcare rally regurgitate the reported idea that if Stephen Hawking were British, he’d be dead. When I met with some friends (including some Britons) and told them about it, we laughed our asses off.

  31. The armchair economist could at least do long division.

    I therefore nominate Alexa Joel and “I’m going to kill myself with homeopathy”

  32. Cory,

    Alas, the position of “Biblical literalist” is a non-starter.

    Due to the Bible’s myriad internal inconsistencies — see e.g. Genesis creation of Eve — no one cannot believe that everything in the Bible is literally true.

    But we’re the type who willfully eat from The Tree of All Knowledge, so whadda we know…

  33. Well, no, you can be a Bible literalist and still eat shellfish, get your hair cut or wear any fabric you like.

    As pointed out above, the NT puts a different spin on many of the Old Testament laws. Jesus openly broke OT laws like not working on the Sabbath.

    The math part is the stupid part. Men would selfishly use the earth up with or without the Bible; it’s just an excuse for what comes naturally to man, the toolmaker, at the top of the food chain.

  34. Dumbest thing I’ve heard all year?

    Said my a state legislator on the subject of mountain-top removal (I live in a coal state):

    “Those mountains aren’t doing anyone any good any way. If you knock ’em down you can put crops on ’em.”

    But I like the previous comments about coming up with the dumbest thing that you’ve said all year; otherwise it’s just making fun of others. Oh, where to begin….

    One more point: The fact that there wouldn’t actually be a panel at which the question of “unlimited economic growth” would be discussed–in 2009–is really kind of daft, isn’t it. Unlimited growth is mathematically exponential and, by definition, unsustainable. That has to be the silliest panel I’ve heard about all year…

  35. The dumbest thing I heard all year was a defense for creationism of “If evolution is real, why is this picture of a horse not evolving” I heard it second hand, but still it is very moronic. Who knows though, I still have a week and a half of school left in 2009, and college is an excellent place to hear dumb stuff.

  36. Yeah, well, 5000 pounds is meaningless but the order of magnitude isn’t that far off. 2 minutes with wikipedia tell me it should be about 10.000$ in 1990 or 2000 (didn’t specify) US dollars in the US. That’s probably a bit, though not much, above the official poverty line for the US mainland at the time. Which means around 15% of the US actually live on that or less. Certainly a non-negligible number.

  37. That reminded me of a comment I once read by a paper company executive. She was gushing about the way her company helped to bring money and modern medicine to rainforest inhabitants who had none of either.

    Uh, yeah, money which they didn’t need until you stole their land and forced them to work for pennies per day to survive, and medicine which they didn’t need until your people brought in diseases which the natives had no immunity to.

    1. …and medicine which they didn’t need until your people brought in diseases which the natives had no immunity to.

      Just for the record, there was no point in history where any people were free of all diseases except the ones they had immunity to. There’s always at least one guy who could have lived longer with better medicine.

  38. Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.

    My Christian relatives like to point out that one does not “rule over” one’s subjects by killing them and eating them, destroying all their dwelling places, or driving entire groups of them out of existence. We’d call any ruler who treated his subjects like that a psychopathic tyrant…

    They say that Bible commands man to be a responsible steward to the earth and it’s not open to conflicting interpretations (somehow it always seems to come down to some kind of absolutism with these biblical types, there’s not a lot of gray area). Christians and Jews are required to be Green, and the folks who say otherwise are actually working for Satan.

  39. If the topic was being kind to people, and the guy said “hey, the Bible says ‘love thy neighbor as thyself'” would anybody seriously complain he was cherry picking?

    I think all reasonable people should be able to distinguish between the “big ideas” in the Bible and the minutia.

  40. Waitress to me-“Is there any meat in this beef demi-glaze?”

    Dining patron to server to me- “I am allergic to butter not cream.”

    Brother in law to me-“No the majority of Americans DO NOT want universal health care.” (Brother in law is a very strict “Cristian” of the Pentecostos blend)

  41. I say dumber things everyday. But then I do have a 5 month old, and you can just find yourself talking rubbish to try and keep him amused.

  42. “I think all reasonable people should be able to distinguish between the “big ideas” in the Bible and the minutia.”

    The laws of purity as set down in the Bible are part of its “Big Ideas” and not “minutia.”

    You define cherry-picking by declaring them minutia. They were certainly important to those that wrote the Bible. That’s why they wrote them down, you know.

  43. “not humanity-wide laws like the rest of the stuff in the Bible” – please show us where the “humanity-wide” section starts.

    Jesus was addressing Jews, you know.

    So after the gospels, then? Letters of Paul, clearly, and what else?

    Revelations?

    Do a page count, then tell what constitutes the minutia – the “no longer relevant stuff” or the “humanity-wide stuff.”

  44. Former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino on Sean Hannity two weeks ago talking about the Fort Hood Massacre:

    “We did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush’s term.”

    Even coming from the woman who told a room full of White House correspondents that she had no idea what the Cuban Missile Crisis was, that’s a remarkably ignorant statement.

    Best part: Hannity never corrected her.

  45. Yeah that homeopathy vid was completely bat shit. Like what the hell is wrong with people anyway?

    One of the dumbest things I’ve heard all year (I work with the public so this is way to common for me to focus on one thing) is, “I tried linux like back in the eighties but I didn’t like it because I don’t like programming languages.” WTF?! Note: Torvalds wrote the kernel in 1991. And, while it is certainly helpful to like/use/know some programming it is not absolutely necessary.

  46. Haven’t you heard? Ignorant is the new smart!

    Be like Sarah, go “Rogue” and dispense with pesky facts and mind twisting reason.

    Ahh, the simple life!

  47. If the guy meant that world GDP adjusted for purchasing price parity (PPP) is GBP 5000 per person, then what he said was actually meaningful. If he meant exchange rate GDP, then it was not.

  48. Someone at work today made a case that a critical and problem-rife reporting server was too unstable to consider replacing. Presumably if we can ever trick the vendor into making it stable enough that we be comfortable sucking all of our data out of it, then it won’t need replacing anyway.

  49. It was last year, so it doesn’t *really* count, but whilst in a Japanese restaurant I overheard someone say (in a pleased voice):

    “Oh, there’s little pieces of feta in the miso”

    Head-slappingly bad. I dont think he knew I was gut-laughing at him.

  50. Heard on the radio the morning of the presidential inauguration:
    “Now that Obama is president, the world is saved!!!”

    Yes, you could hear the exclamation marks…

  51. Overheard on a bus: “The last Indiana Jones movie was totally unrealistic. Glass-boned space aliens with psychic powers? C’mon. The Last Crusade was much better…”

    (If you ask me, glass-boned space aliens with psychic powers is probably more realistic than a knight whose lived in a temple for 1,000 years but speaks modern English.)

  52. On #2 you are wrong.

    If you redistribute the wealth evenly, prices will also follow evenly.

    Price is a function of demand.

    Econ 101.

    And basic logic.

    1. Price is a function of demand.

      …and supply and locale and time and relevant market knowledge and market power and so on. None of which are ever likely to be evenly distributed.

  53. @81: Do you mean that that is the dumbest thing you’ve heard all year, or do you mean it as a response to the topic under discussion in Cory’s original post?

  54. If being a good steward means “maximize the biomass of Earth’s ecosystems,” we should clearly take the Earth apart into space habitats. That will require an enormous amount of economic growth since we could not possibly afford it right now.

  55. Your analysis of GDP is incorrect. The relative purchasing power in Burkina Faso is a relationship to the income. Which is to say that if $5000 were to be distributed to everyone in Burkina Faso the money for personal services and products such as food would no longer go farther and if everyone’s salaries in London was $5000 then all costs would be reduced in London.

  56. I think the “Give peace a chance” was actually said before 2009.

    Still like the idea though. Maybe we’ll give it a try one of these years.

  57. From many years ago (but I still cherish it!):
    “Anybody with common sense knows that if you’re following a car, you have to drive 5 mph faster than it’s going, just to keep up.”

  58. why does his thought experiment of redistributing the worlds GDP supposedly fail on “innumeracy”?
    the whole idea is a bit odd for sure, but as a thought experiment it could easily argue that purchasing power disparity exists exactly because of wealth being unevenly distributed. furthermore, there are also GDP numbers which accounts for purchasing power disparity, they are for example listed up in the Economist annual special issue around Xmas time every year. if he used those numbers his estimate would in fact be fine.

Comments are closed.