Mathematics is one area that comes close to making a somewhat binary distinction between nonsense and plausible nonsense. For instance, calling 4 as Odd would unanimously be classified (by most) in the former category, with the caller being suspected of tending towards idiocy. Plausible nonsense, on the other hand, is the realm of conjectures; possibilities that people think exist but do not know with conviction, either way.
Away from the precise world of arithmetic, one finds that the line separating the two blurs rapidly. Subjects that allow subjectivity (pun unintended) lead to various instances of plausible nonsense. Where beliefs and biases are allowed a free rein, plausible nonsense takes shape.
Nonsense value drops automatically when we encounter speakers/experts that echo the exact same belief(s) as ours. Those that hold opposite views automatically fall under the purview of the nonsensical. It is in such cases that plausible nonsense comes into its own; as a tool that encourages inversion of ideas, exploration of unconventional solutions, and healthy discussions (sometimes heated and expletives-laden).
Consider incurables ailments. We still have no cure for the common cold, or diarrhoea or obesity.
Let’s focus for a moment on the last of these items.
We, as a world, faithfully grow fatter, by the second. The direct and indirect costs of obesity in US alone was estimated at about $150 billion annually in 2009. Include the rest of the planet and we’d quickly be staring at a number close to several fat three-digity billions.
Billions in funding over the years has done little to thwart or slow down this phenomena. Alternative measures may be worth considering. A Tax on the Fat perhaps? The arrangement could be pretty straight-forward. A Body Mass Index classification would help differentiate the obese from the non-obese. The obese could then be forcefully requested to pay a tax on consumption, travel and all other areas where they contribute to public inconvenience. Genuine cases (historical thyroid/diabetes issues, other evolutionary stimuli) would be exempt from this tax, but the voluntary obese could be called upon to contribute their rightful share of doubloons.
Punnily, the obese would be worth their weight in gold. This would not only garner governments additional revenue in these cash-strapped times, it would also encourage the voluntary obese to think hard about toning down. As an encouragement to this beleaguered group, government-run gym memberships could be free. As yet another added incentive, lowering BMI within a certain time-frame could result in reversals of taxes shelled out in the past. As a disincentive, a relapse into higher BMI would lead to imposition of retrospective payments, including a penalty compounding at usurious rates.
(Historical experience with gym memberships should make governments optimistic on the low levels of maintenance expenditure that would be required, owing mainly to large-scale non-usage).
Plausible nonsense. Worth considering.
Cretacean goobledygook, is another case of plausible nonsense. In a spiritedly successful attempt at getting consumers to pay a bomb for rain water, Evian et al dutifully remind mineral water drinkers around the world that the liquid in their hands evolved slowly at the foothills of the Himalayas/Alps/Urals etc. over hundreds of thousands of millions of awzillions of years. Uh, however, would they care to consume it before the expiry date please? Thank you Sir, but I’m perfectly fine with my friendly tap dutifully spouting water at my behest, every day. (I’m alive and well).
How plausible is this thousands of years story? Even if right (which it is), why include the expiry date? Plastic bottles! Adding plastic and other chemical contaminants, labelled of course as essential additives, to the elixir of Nature is an encore bordering on the laughable.
Many such examples abound around us. Plausible nonsense can be employed as a means of concocting ingenious and cost-efficient solutions to intractable and irresolvable problems.
Adhering to the status quo has its benefits. But it also falls short, frequently. Plausible nonsense could, in the very least, encourage a rethink.
Let the expletives begin.