Stupid Rules Normal People Follow – Part 2 of 5

Rules [Note: I’m using the word “normal” in this post. Those who are not normal—myself included—should not take offense; I am using this term in the mathematical sense of “near the mean of a normal distribution,” as in within one standard deviation of the mean; in the context of cognition another word is “neurotypical,” but this is less common and less general, and many people are unfamiliar with its meaning. In the vast majority of possible systems, most will be normal and some will not. It’s nearly inevitable. See also Stupid Rule 4, for our fear of being “abnormal” is very much a Stupid Rule.]


A major part of what makes life difficult for those who are rational, especially those on the autism spectrum, (in the interests of full disclosure: I’m on the near end, just shy of Asperger’s Syndrome) is the fact that normal people follow certain rules on most occasions, rules that don’t really make sense—but that we all are expected to follow, because otherwise it forces us to confront issues that we feel more comfortable avoiding. They are all stupid rules, rules that are rationally difficult or impossible to justify; but they are universally present and strongly enforced, and we ignore them only at our own peril. Perhaps we ought to challenge them, find the places to attack them that will most weaken their grip upon humanity—but we cannot be sure to win such a fight, and we certainly cannot simply pretend it is already won..

Stupid Rule 2: Worldviews are not to be challenged.  

People believe many different things about the basic structure of reality; these beliefs represent the fundamental rules upon which the universe is based, and upon which our interactions with it must be or ought to be based as well. These beliefs are generally defined in terms of religion, politics, and morality. People identify very closely with their views on these matters, and consider any challenge of them to be a personal attack, almost as severe as a literal assault. (A punch to the face and a cartoon of Muhammad will draw roughly the same response from most Muslims.) Thus, when someone makes a ridiculous statement about their beliefs, especially religious beliefs, but also political and moral beliefs (e.g. Creationism, “the world was made in seven days; I’m not a monkey’s uncle!”), it is considered extremely impolite to respond in the most rational way, rejecting their statement as clearly absurd and replacing it with a more accurate account (“No, that’s ridiculous. All of science shows clearly that the Earth is billions of years old.”). If an equally-ridiculous statement were made in some more mundane domain (e.g. “Microwaves heat food through fairy magic!”), a rational response is generally considered more appropriate (“No, actually, they use electronic coils to generate high-energy radio waves that impart energy to the food.”). It is also considered rude to correct very minor mistakes in any domain—though this makes more sense, since they are by definition minor, and you probably expend more energy correcting them than was wasted making them (“The speed of light is over 300,000 kilometers per second.” “No, it’s slightly less than that, 299,792.458 kilometers per second.” “Whatever, smart-ass.”).

This can be expressed in an equation; if S is the significance of a topic, and F the level of falsehood of statements made, then the politeness of correcting the error is given by P = F/S. The proportionality to falsehood makes sense, but the inverse proportionality to significance does not—yet this is how people actually operate most of the time.

Do you believe this rule to be true?


Click HERE to see stupid Rule #1.

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0 thoughts on “Stupid Rules Normal People Follow – Part 2 of 5

  • August 20, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    I think it has more to do with respect and harmony than “stupid rules”. Sure, you may support certain beliefs regarding religion, politics, and the like, but that doesn’t mean that everyone has to agree with you. If I am approached with something that I don’t agree with, unless we are having an in-depth mutual discussion on the matter, I am not going to interrupt them by trying to “correct” their beliefs. For the sake of harmony, and because their beliefs don’t affect me, I see no reason to break this “rule”. As long as their views aren’t hurting anyone, why disrupt our peace with conflict unnecessarily? Even if we did discuss it I won’t tell them they are wrong because I respect their ability to have a mind of their own. We were not spat out of a machine after all, we do not have the same brains. That is simply my opinion on the matter.

  • August 20, 2009 at 7:23 am

    I had a hard time in Catholic school for the same reasons…and, though my son is autistic, I was not diagnosed as such.

  • August 19, 2009 at 9:13 am

    I am cracking up laughing right now. Not sure you intended to be funny, but you really do have a great point that I’m betting most of the “normal” people here will not quite get… and that is why it is so funny. (Kinda like an inside joke.) I grew up in church, and often “corrected” the people there because they couldn’t even keep their own religious views strait, much less argue them intelligently with someone who believed something different. I was usually in heaps of trouble. *shrugs* Such is life, I guess.

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