FALLACY  9'3m?f Perfect tolerance is a self-defeating fallacy

(scene: one chair facing audience)

BOSS -- (enters hurriedly wearing three-piece suit, shouts) 
Nilman! Nilman! (looks around, shouts into the air) Nilman, 
where are you?

NILMAN -- (enters opposite hurriedly wearing lab coat, crosses) 
Sorry to keep you waiting, Boss. I know how busy you are.

BOSS -- Don't patronize me, Nilman.

NILMAN -- Sorry, Boss.

BOSS -- I just received the final financial statements from 
accounting. Nilman, do you know how much of MY money YOU have 
spent on research?

NILMAN -- How much?

BOSS -- To date you have spent in excess of six million dollars 
on research. And what do you have to show for it?!

NILMAN -- (pulls pen from pocket) Oh, ah, the new product is 
ready, Boss.

BOSS -- A pen?! You spent six million dollars of my money and 
all you have to show for it is a pen?!

NILMAN -- Oh, no, Boss! It looks like a pen. But it's a very 
sophisticated brain stimulator.

BOSS -- Nilman, I didn't ask you to build me a brain stimulator! 
I asked you to come up with a solution for Christian 

NILMAN -- (holds up pen admiringly) That's what this is, Boss. 
It produces perfect tolerance.

BOSS -- Perfect tolerance?

NILMAN -- Perfect tolerance.

BOSS -- How does it work?

NILMAN -- Well, I envision giving a free pen to every Christian 
in the country. Once it's activated anyone within six feet of it 
will achieve perfect tolerance.

BOSS -- Perfect tolerance?! Within six feet, you say?

NILMAN -- Perfect tolerance, guaranteed. Here, let me 
demonstrate. (shouts) Send in the research subject.

SUBJECT -- (enters) They said you wanted to see me?

NILMAN -- Yes. (points to chair) Sit down, please.

SUBJECT -- (sits)

NILMAN -- What religion are you?

SUBJECT -- I'm a Christian.

BOSS -- Nilman!

NILMAN -- Yes, Boss?

BOSS -- YOU hired a... a Christian?!

NILMAN -- It was a necessary evil, Boss. We had to test the 
effectiveness of our new... (holds up pen, winks) our new pen.

BOSS -- Very well. Proceed.

NILMAN -- First, we'll determine the subject's level of 
intolerance. (to Subject) Okay, tell us, please, do you believe 
that some things are right and wrong regardless of the 

SUBJECT -- Yes. Of course.

BOSS -- Intolerant fool.

NILMAN -- Boss, can you please try to withhold your comments 
until after the demonstration? We wouldn't want to influence the 

BOSS -- ...Yes, of course. Proceed, Nilman.

NILMAN -- (to Subject) Do you believe that there is only one God 
and only one way to get to Heaven?

SUBJECT -- Yes. Of course.

BOSS -- (irritated) Can we just get on with the... the pen?!

NILMAN -- Yes. First, we'll try the pen in mode one.

BOSS -- Mode one?

NILMAN -- Yes. (privately to Boss) Mode one blocks the brain's 
ability to make distinctions.

BOSS -- Distinctions?

NILMAN -- Yes. It's impossible for a person to be intolerant if 
he can't make distinctions. 

BOSS -- What kind of distinctions?

NILMAN -- Between right and wrong. Between truth and fiction. 
Things like that.

BOSS -- I see. Proceed.

NILMAN -- (clicks pen top, hands it to Subject) Here, hold this 
pen for me, will you?

SUBJECT -- (takes pen) Oh, sure. Say, nice pen!

NILMAN -- You see, Boss, I wanted to create a device that would 
be attractive to Christians. Now, stand back out of range. 
(ushers Boss back two steps)

NILMAN -- Alright. (to Subject) So, how do you feel about right 
and wrong now?

SUBJECT -- Ah. Oh. Ah. Isn't that funny? I can't decide.

NILMAN -- What did I tell you, Boss?! Perfect tolerance!

BOSS -- Splendid! Ask another question. (points)

NILMAN -- Is there only one God and only one way to get to 

SUBJECT -- You know, I was sure about that just a moment ago. 
But now I'm not so sure. I really can't decide.

BOSS -- Splendid! Splendid! That's just what we're looking for, 
Nilman! Perfect tolerance! I'll mass-produce these pens and put 
one into the hands of all the Christians in the country. Within 
a year intolerance will be as out-moded as high button shoes!

NILMAN -- There's just one problem, Boss.

BOSS -- Problem? What problem?

NILMAN -- Listen. (to Subject) So, ah, what do you think about 
intolerance and intolerant people?

SUBJECT -- I... I don't know. I can't decide.

NILMAN -- What would you say to a Christian who spoke publicly 
about his deeply held beliefs?

SUBJECT -- I... I don't know. I really can't decide.

BOSS -- Nilman! That's not perfect tolerance if he won't speak 
out about intolerance from others. We must stamp out all 
intolerance wherever we see it! Your new product is defective!

Nilman -- I thought so at first too, boss. That's why I designed 
the product with mode two.

BOSS -- There's a second mode?

NILMAN -- Yes. (takes pen from Subject) Mode two is almost the 
opposite of mode one. Instead of suppressing the ability to make 
distinctions, this mode actually increases one of the mind's 

BOSS -- What capability is that?

NILMAN -- The ability to doubt things. We call this mode

BOSS -- Skepticism.

NILMAN -- Yes, in this mode, (clicks pen twice) we heighten the 
brain's skepticism. If we can get the Christians to doubt 
everything, they won't have any deeply held beliefs to be 
intolerant about. (hands pen to Subject, steps back)

BOSS -- (steps toward Subject, examines Subject's face) I see.

NILMAN -- (ushers Boss back) You need to step back out of range, 

BOSS -- (steps back) Oh. Yes, of course. Ask some questions.

NILMAN -- Is there such a thing as right and wrong?

SUBJECT -- I doubt it. Everybody's conceptions of right and 
wrong are different.

NILMAN -- Is there just one God and only one way to Heaven?

SUBJECT -- I seriously doubt it. I mean, everybody CLAIMS to 
have the true religion. But everybody can't be right.

BOSS -- Splendid, Nilman, splendid! Ask about intolerance.

NILMAN -- What would you do if you encountered someone who is 

SUBJECT -- Actually, I doubt that I would do anything.

BOSS -- What?!

SUBJECT -- Well, if I said that intolerance is wrong, I'd be 
admitting that I have the one true answer. I'm too skeptical for 
that. I doubt very much that ANYTHING is right or wrong all the 
time, including intolerance.

BOSS -- I'm telling you, Nilman, your product is defective!

NILMAN -- Listen, Boss, I've done a lot of thinking about this...

BOSS -- Obviously not enough! We must stamp out intolerance, 
Nilman. We can't tolerate ANY!

NILMAN -- Listen, Boss, I really don't think the problem is with 
the new product. I think your concept might be flawed.

BOSS -- You doubt my concept?! Nilman, do you like your job?!

NILMAN -- Let's switch the product to mode three.

BOSS -- There's a third mode?

NILMAN -- Yes. Mode three stimulates the brain's center for 

BOSS -- Timidity.

NILMAN -- Yes. With this mode activated the Christians will be 
inhibited from speaking out against anything opposing their 
views. (takes pen from Subject, clicks it three times, hands it 
back) With the product in "timid" mode, the stronger a Christian 
feels about a subject the less inclined he will be to speak out 
against it.

BOSS -- This better be good, Nilman!

NILMAN -- Just watch, Boss. (to Subject) How do you feel about 
(shouts) SIN!?

SUBJECT -- (angry) I... I really shouldn't say anything about 

BOSS -- Not bad, Nilman.

NILMAN -- Everybody knows there's more than one God.

SUBJECT -- (angry) I... I have nothing to say about that.

NILMAN -- Any religion will get you to Heaven, if you really 
believe it with all your heart.

SUBJECT -- (angry) No... No, I won't comment on that.

BOSS -- Splendid! Now ask about intolerance, Nilman.

NILMAN -- I'd rather not, Boss.

BOSS -- Ask!

NILMAN -- Okay, Boss. (to Subject) How do you feel about 

SUBJECT -- I... I would just as soon not comment about 

BOSS -- Nilman! What good is this thing if we can't get people 
to speak out against intolerance?!

NILMAN -- Listen, Boss, it's not my fault!

BOSS -- What do you mean it's not your fault?! You spent six 
million dollars of my money and you can't get your test subject 
to speak out against intolerance!

NILMAN -- I'm telling you, Boss. It's not my fault. All three 
modes of the device produced PERFECT TOLERANCE. The problem 
is perfect tolerance always tolerates intolerance.

BOSS -- Oh. I see. You mean, I spent six million dollars to 
discover that perfect tolerance isn't so perfect?

NILMAN -- That's the way it looks, Boss. 

BOSS -- We've got to do something, Nilman! I can't just throw 
six million dollars down the drain!

NILMAN -- I think I might have a solution for you, Boss.

BOSS -- You do?

NILMAN -- Yes, it's mode four. (points to pen)

BOSS -- Mode four?

NILMAN -- Our problem is that PERFECT tolerance goes one step 
too far. We need something to prevent tolerance from going as 
far as tolerating intolerance.

BOSS -- And mode four prevents tolerance from going to far?

NILMAN -- Yes. By putting in one single exception, perfect 
tolerance works perfectly. (takes pen, clicks) You can go. 

SUBJECT -- (exits)

BOSS -- Wait a minute. Aren't you going to demonstrate mode four 
on the test subject?

NILMAN -- Christians are poor test subjects for testing all 
aspects of mode four.

BOSS -- I don't understand.

NILMAN -- The limitation I chose to impose on tolerance in the 
fourth mode is TRUTH.

BOSS -- Truth. That sounds reasonable.

NILMAN -- Mode four stimulates the brain to tolerate only the 
truth. But Christians are poor test subjects because they 
usually tell the truth.

BOSS -- The goody goodies!

NILMAN -- Do you mind if we test mode four on you? (clicks pen 
four times, hands it to Boss, stands back) 

BOSS -- Alright, ask me a question.

NILMAN -- Why did you spend six million dollars to eradicate 
Christian intolerance?

BOSS -- Because I don't want anyone to remind me how sinful I 
am. Huh? Did I say that?

NILMAN -- It's the fourth mode. It tolerates only the truth. So, 
tell me, why don't you want Christians to remind you how sinful 
you are?

BOSS -- Because I don't want to take responsibility for my own 
actions. I thought that perfect tolerance would allow me to do 
anything I want without any consequences. Huh? Did I say that?

NILMAN -- It's the fourth mode. It tolerates only the truth. So, 
how does it feel?

BOSS -- Terrible! I feel just like a Christian.

NILMAN -- (exiting) Now you see what it's like to tolerate only 
the truth.

BOSS -- (follows holding pen at arm's length) Here, take this 
thing! I don't want it!

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