Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Law of Holes, Revisited

Last night I followed the discussion of the Jerry Sandusky verdict on a blog that I read. The second comment expressed a veiled wish for Sandusky to be raped in prison, a remark which quickly brought admonishment from other posters. The commenter jumped in with explanations (which eventually became contradictory) of what he meant, and the conversation devolved from there*. References were made to the Law of Holes: "If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging."

This gave me reason to reflect on two meanings of the word “law”. There is of course the meaning of a set of instructions regarding conduct that carries a penalty for its violation. That is the meaning people have in mind when they invoke the Law of Holes, or First Law of Holes. 

There is also the meaning of “law” in the context of a scientific law: “ a statement of fact, deduced from observation, to the effect that a particular natural or scientific phenomenon always occurs if certain conditions are present.” 

Coleslaw’s Law of Holes is a law in the second sense. Coleslaw’s Law of Holes cannot be stated quite as pithily as the First Law of Holes. It goes something like, “If you are digging a hole, and people come along and start throwing rocks at you, keep digging further as fast as possible so you can take cover.”

The First Law of Holes, is, of course, an excellent piece of advice for living.   Coleslaw’s Law of Holes, on the other hand, is the one people actually follow.

*link here, but major trigger warnings.

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