Apples and Oranges

by Christian Thomas Golden

Sometimes it makes perfect sense to compare apples and oranges. In fact, isn’t that where comparison has most utility? I mean, if I were to compare apples to apples, all I can discover is whether one apple is better at being an apple than the other apple. If, however, I compare an apple to an orange, I discover many things (not all fruit is orange, not all fruit is green, some fruits have different textures, some fruits have different skins, some fruits have different density, apples taste better than oranges, and not all fruits taste the same).

I felt compelled to write this post after reading some comments on a YouTube video titled “An Atheist Reads Mere Christianity: Book 1”

C.S. Lewis’ comparison of the “natural law” to the “moral law” sparked a debate which I allowed myself to be suckered into. One viewer wrote something to the effect of “he can’t compare those two things because those two things are not the same thing.”

Isn’t that exactly why we should compare them? Isn’t that what comparison is (a distinction between two different things)? In fact, isn’t that viewer already comparing the two by recognizing that they aren’t the same?

But don’t we always hear people rejecting arguments on the basis of “oh, now you’re just comparing apples and oranges?”

And? How else should I know the difference between the two?

Aha, but then we risk finding out that one thing is preferable to another. In turn, such a terrible act might lead to discrimination! Ah! That’s it! What is comparison but another word for discrimination! No wonder no one wants to hear about it unless it’s only to say that two things are really the same and thus should be treated the same with equal worth.

Why then call them by two different names? Why then say “apples should have the same rights as oranges,” if you are trying to avoid discrimination at all costs? Do you see it? The moment we refuse to consider that we are rightfully comparing apples to oranges, we either (1) throw out one or the other (either the apple or the orange), or (2) we say there’s no difference [which, by the way, is really the same as just throwing out one or the other].

I just ate a delicious peanut butter and jelly on a toasted bagel.