In the last couple of days, I’ve seen the term “cargo cult litigation” come up. In the context where it was used it was perfectly referenced.
I am confident that most of my audience knows what it means. For those among us who do not, let me explain.
The term originated as “cargo cult science” in a commencement address at Cal Tech given by renowned bongo player and Nobel physicist Richard Feynman. Feynman was a character of the highest order, humorous, energetic, curious about everything. His autobiography Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! is a terrific place to get to know him. But at the Cal Tech commencement in 1974, he spoke about “science, pseudoscience, and learning how to not fool yourself.
In the South Seas there is a Cargo Cult of people. During the war they saw airplanes land with lots of good materials, and they want the same thing to happen now. So they’ve arranged to make things like runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head like headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas—he’s the controller—and they wait for the airplanes to land. They’re doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the way it looked before. But it doesn’t work. No airplanes land. So I call these things Cargo Cult Science, because they follow all the apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they’re missing something essential, because the planes don’t land.
Now it behooves me, of course, to tell you what they’re missing. But it would he just about as difficult to explain to the South Sea Islanders how they have to arrange things so that they get some wealth in their system. It is not something simple like telling them how to improve the shapes of the earphones. But there is one feature I notice that is generally missing in Cargo Cult Science. That is the idea that we all hope you have learned in studying science in school—we never explicitly say what this is, but just hope that you catch on by all the examples of scientific investigation. It is interesting, therefore, to bring it out now and speak of it explicitly. It’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty—a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid—not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you’ve eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked—to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.
Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can—if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong—to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem. When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else come out right, in addition.
In summary, the idea is to try to give all of the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or another.
Now, the practice of science and the practice of law are not equivalent. In science, you theorize, you test, you analyze, and eventually you come to some sort of conclusion to publish. With the law, you have rules, precedent and facts which you combine in an argument. Science is much more fixed than law. There’s more wiggle room in the law.
We can apply the “Cargo Cult” label to the law when we see a pro se litigant aping the argument of some other party in some other case, simply because it worked before. Like the Cargo Cult islanders in the South Pacific, he sets up the same framework, goes through the same motions, and expects the same results. But the planes still don’t land.
What the islanders observed and interpreted was not everything that was happening. Some of what was happening could not be observed, and some of what they observed was beyond their understanding.
My better angels are telling me that this is a perfect place to stop, that to go further risks educating the monkey. But as the engineers are wont to say, “I can explain it to you, but I can’t understand it for you.”
This is how things must be done in the Schoolhouse of Pain. Answers are not given because then the students have only been told. In the Schoolhouse of Pain, knowledge comes through suffering, like writing lines for Professor Umbridge.
The reason “cargo cult litigation” is such an appropriate term is not only because we see a DUMBFUCK completely aping what he has observed. It’s also fitting because he’s missing something. Many somethings, actually. Because we do not educate the monkey here, I won’t go into detail about that. You’ll have to take a leap of faith.
In this instance, DUMBFUCK cannot see all the turnings of the machine he is trying to duplicate. The planes aren’t going to land. Also, DUMBFUCK cannot understand everything he has observed. The planes aren’t going to land.
I see, and I understand, because I am on the side with the smart people (and zombies). When the time is right, all will be made clear.
The PLM will be weapons-grade. Stretch those LULZ muscles early and often.