Sunday, September 9, 2007

Analysis of Auto Decor

There are three bumper stickers that I see fairly regularly, all three of which I viewed in transit in one day. They all have two things in common: they display a postmodern mindset, and they use terrible reasoning. (It can be successfully argued that these two things go hand in hand) Almost always they are accompanied by some other intellectually bankrupt and poorly reasoned bumper stickers, but these three are by far the most common.

Bumper sticker number 1:

"Question Reality"

This is by far the most overtly postmodern of the bumper stickers I have seen.

To question reality implies that one can also reject reality. If one cannot reject reality in any situation they choose, then one cannot ever reject reality. That is, one cannot arbitrarily reject reality. It truly is an all or nothing belief.

If we are to question reality, how does the reader of the sticker know that they are, in fact, reading a bumper sticker? How do they even know that that car exists? The madness ends when we must appeal to reality in order to draw the "question reality" imperative. Therefore, it refutes itself.

Bumper sticker number 2:


Including the symbols of all the major religions comprising the letters in the word, this was paired with a sticker from a Yoga gym as well as a "Free Tibet" sticker. What is the connection? The answer is: if it walks like an Eastern religion and talks like an Eastern religion, then it is probably an Eastern religion. The sticker then raises the question, what does it mean to coexist?

According to

–verb (used without object)
1. to exist together or at the same time.
2. to exist separately or independently but peaceably, often while remaining rivals or adversaries: Although their ideologies differ greatly, the two great powers must coexist.

I doubt very highly that the driver of this car would go out of their way to purchase a sticker in order make a statement that we should all "exist together simultaneously while often remaining adversaries." (combination of definitions mine) This would (correctly) imply that all are indeed coexisting as long as we are not dead or trying to kill each other. No, what this vehicle was attempting to get across was that we are all equal and that no one path is correct. Facing this definition, the creator of that sticker might as well replace the symbol of Christianity as well as the symbols for Islam and to some degree, Judaism with something else. Their intrinsic natures require that only one can be the true path. The presence of these renders the whole idea null and void.

Bumper sticker number 3:

"Question Authority"

Showcasing the apparently admirable postmodern trend of not submitting to authority, the decal was paired with a "Darwin fish". This is a significant pairing.

I will explain. The purpose of the Darwin fish with legs is to announce to the world that we are all accidents and, by logical default, life is meaningless. Therefore, this concept of questioning authority has no real intention to remain for an answer, as answers imply meaning. It is just merely empty questioning. And people say that Christians are closed minded! What the sticker is actually communicating is "Reject Authority".

If we are giant cosmic accidents, there is no natural need for authority. In that respect, adherents to the sticker (no pun intended) are being logically consistent, but they are still dangerously wrong. Rejecting authority logically progresses to supporting anarchy, which almost always progresses to a totalitarian regime such as communism, or even socialism which is soft communism (on that, see

This sticker also refutes itself, in that "question authority" is an authoritative imperative. One must, if taking it seriously, question the statement itself. Therefore it is without meaning.

This analysis only begins to scratch the surface of the inconsistencies of these stickers and the cultural milieu surrounding them. There are much more thorough resources out there which delve into these postmodern inconsistencies; I recommend they be utilized.


Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

The aspiring curmudgeon strikes again! You have a sharp eye for absurdities in pop culture and for critiquing them logically. May your number increase and your craft develop. We need you in the church today. (And I'd say that even if you went to Dallas Seminary!)

Ed Darrell said...

No, the Darwin fish doesn't suggest accidents -- but your claim that it does shows the democratic and Godly value of the first sticker, "Question authority." The quote is often attributed to Albert Einstein -- he didn't say exactly that, but he did urge people to challenge claims that things should not be questioned. Einstein's five earthshaking papers in 1905 each questioned a fundamental pillar of physics theory -- and in each case, he turned out to be right for questioning it.

Here in the U.S., our school systems were created on the philosophy articulated by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson: No population that could read the Bible for its own would ever be subject to being misled by papists, or any other religious authoritarians who misread scripture.

I hope that is not why you fear the bumper sticker, but I think that, perhaps, deep down, that is your fear. An educated peasantry cannot be held down; if we stop questioning authority, then it will be much easier to oppress the population.

And why would you fear anyone questioning you? Well, for starters, evolution in biology, and the fields of chemistry and physics, don't suggest that change in the cosmos, in the Earth, or in living things (evolution) is an accident. Such change occurs following rather rigid laws of chemistry and physics. We call in "evolution by natural and sexual selection," fully aware that "selection" is the opposite of "accident."

But if your authority to mischaracterize science is questioned, you lose your authority to attack science so.

Whoever said "question authority" was right.

The chief means of preserving totalitarian communism, totalitarian socialism, totalitarian fascism, or any other totalitarian form of government is to ban the questioning of authority. Louis XIV, Napoleon III, Mussolini, Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Amin, Qadaffi and others helped themselves stay in power by banning the questioning of authority.

Christians, it seems to me, should be happy to celebrate that sentiment. Questioning authority is how we learn, and in a democratic form of government, it's how we keep our governments clean.

Ed Darrell said...

Irony: A sidebar urges ways to irritate "post-modern" thinkers: 4. Talk about the authority of the United States' Constitution.

Because men are not angels, Madison wrote, such a government as that set up by the Constitution is necessary, whereby each branch has the right and duty to question the authority of the others, and the people have the ultimate power to question the authority of any government official.

Critics of post-modernism tend to see post-modernism everywhere, even where it ain't.

Sarah Scott said...

You seem to have missed my point. It is that the spirit of the "Question Authority" sticker is that of empty questioning. I always encourage the pursuit of answers and critical thinking.

Paul D. Adams said...

Here's another one (albeit antiquated)...
"Stuff [or some permutation thereof] happens!"

This quasi-Humeian notion suggests there are no cause/effect relationships in the universe. Life/stuff/what have you, merely happens without purpose, aim, goal, target, intent, et al. It's the ultimate existential cry of the postmodern who ushers a resounding "whatever" to any/everything of import. Don't look for a reason for anything bad or good.

Of course, the bumper sticker "happens"!

Anonymous said...

Response to Ed's second point about the Constitution:

What your quote does not leave in question the authority of the Constitution, only what it consists of.

Anonymous said...

But* (not "what")

Also, if the authority of the Constitution were not held in place, then an average citizen could not question the authority of an official (against the greater authority of the Constitution).

- Ben Z

William Wilcox said...

I have always wanted a bumper sticker that says "Why Question Authority"

William Wilcox said...

From the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, Article III: "Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged."

Beware of equivocation on the word authority!! In line with Ben Z, each branch of our government does not have a right to question the authority of each branch because that authority is laid out in the Constitution. The branches do have the duty, within their Constitutional authority, to question whether an specific action is within the Constitutionally specified authority of other branches.

Ed preaches materialism. He has no choice, he is simply following the rather rigid laws of nature. I am mystified as to how something which is determined by rigid law can actually be selected :)

Ed Darrell said...

You seem to have missed my point. It is that the spirit of the "Question Authority" sticker is that of empty questioning. I always encourage the pursuit of answers and critical thinking.

You completely missed my point. The spirit of the sticker is the American Spirit, the "I won't say that I'm better than anybody else, but I'll be damned if I ain't just as good" spirit, as Aunt Eller put it. It's not an empty question to ask the emperor if his invisible clothes are warm enough. It's never an empty question to challenge the unjust imposition of liberty-limiting rules.

It is never an empty question to challenge a faulty interpretation of scripture, and I'm surprised you would think it was -- therefore, I conclude you didn't read my remarks.

OF course, the empty vessels in authority always think it's dangerous to challenge them. And that is why it is so important to do so.

Habeas corpus?

Ed Darrell said...

Materialist? I always take reality over hallucination, yes. You should, too, although you may challenge my authority in that assertion and believe any fool idea you wish. That's your right under the Constitution.

You do not have a right to insist I bow to your foolery, however.

Jon said...

Not to be too picky, but the "coexist" sticker does not beg the question; it raises the question. Begging the question is a logical fallacy in which the conclusion of an argument is assumed in the premise. (I.e. "When did you stop beating your wife?")

Other than that, great post!

Sarah Scott said...

Thanks for your careful reading!
I was not attempting to refer to the fallacy petitio principii, but was using the phrase to mean raising the question. For the sake of clarity, however, I will change it!