Or I Need to Know the Proper Order of Biological Classification, STAT!
I’m sure you can relate: you’re out for a beer with friends and someone asks The Question, and suddenly the tone of conversation has gone from friendly conversational to the most intense argument ever. So intense that spectators in the bar now believe they are witnessing a verbal reenactment of storming the beaches at Normandy...but with more swearing. Any question can spark this moment, but for it to be The Question it has to have these hallmarks:
- It has to be slightly obscure knowledge. It can’t be a common topic or a general truth.
- One person is certain they know the answer and another person disagrees. This is the point when “the question” becomes “The Question.” Nothing can spark a more visceral response then telling a smart person they are wrong. It will get ugly and personal. It can only be made worse if there is geek cred on the line as well as being smart, this escalates the argument to why are we fighting about the proper use of a semi-colon status.
- Someone has to be emotionally attached to the subject.
- Someone has to be stubborn as all heck. Not the usual kind of stubborn that can be won over by a clear and concise debate after bringing out flowcharts and citing academic journal articles. No, this needs to be Harry Truman-Mt St Helens-is-not-going-to-erupt-you-can’t-make-me-leave-I-have-cats-and-whiskey-and-I’m-not-leaving-despite-the-geologist-saying-it’s-gonna-blow-any-day-now stubborn. That is stubborn that would rather be killed in a volcanic blast then admit someone else is right.
- It cannot be confirmed right that second by an expert or trusted source.
If The Question is left unresolved it will haunt an entire night’s conversation going forward. No one can even get close to the topic with out sparking another debate. If your friends are outgoing they have by now included half the bar in this fight. This is why I love smart phones. The magical equation of: cellphone + web access = we can finally stop fighting about this and move on to a more interesting topic like trying to remember all the words to the Reading Rainbow theme song. This equation is up there with invention of the wheel in my mind.
The last time this came up was a disagreement about the proper order of biological classification. It started off innocently enough with some friends and I trying to remember the proper order (FYI it is: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and Species.). Now I am not going to claim that I remembered the whole list from memory, last time I thought about classifications I was in high school. And to our credit we got most of them through the power of group memory. What became the point of contention was if Family came before Class. I would love to claim I said that it did…but that would be lying. I will also admit that I was the "stubborn as all get out" person in this dynamic. This was heading to epic level when another friend decided this topic was not worth the hurt feelings and being revisited every 20 minutes and pulled out their phone. Within minutes we had the proper order and the argument was put to bed and I reluctantly agreed I was wrong (I hate doing that). It was then that I got hit by a sudden wave of loving this era we are living in, and how magical technology is.
Too many people shy away from technology in my opinion; and they worry that search engines like Google, mobile devices, and the internet are having a negative impact on personal relationships and intelligence. I disagree with that view point. I feel this story shows the positive impact mobile devices can have. Sure they can be distracting, and yes I have witnessed a whole table of people (me included) checking phones and facebook while out. But I stand by that advancements in technology should be embraced with fluffy love feelings instead of mistrust and suspicion. I love living in a world where you can confirm the proper order of biological classification at a bar at nine o’clock at night on a Thursday. To me that is magical.