Apples and Oranges

| Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Let's compare them. Oh, you think we can't? Let's try anyway.

First, we need the criteria on which we will compare them. Let's try calories, nutrients, durability and ability to be stored, cost of growing, and suitability as a tech company logo. Cancel that last one.

Now we can give each one a relative value on these measures. But we aren't done.

Which of these criteria are most important? Can one even be singled out?

If we're looking to complete a meal plan, then the calories and nutrients are of similar importance, and both are dependent on the rest of the food. If you need nutrients without calories, apples will be more desirable, while needing both will push you toward apples. If you have a specific deficiency, such as if you are a sailor in the 18th century, then oranges with their high vitamin-C content will win.

Transportation is important. An orange can sustain greater damage than an apple, with minor impacts which would bruise and damage an apple being shrugged off by the orange's thicker skin. So if you're transporting your fruit by cannon, go with oranges.

An absolute "this fruit is better" comparison is pointless, but for particular situations, one fruit can be better than the other. Keep that in mind when people try to convince you that two or more items or ideas cannot be compared because they are "like apples and oranges". They can be compared, and possibly, if they are so eager for you to not compare them, you should be more eager to do just that.


sam said...

You forgot that if you store them properly Apples can last for up to two years off the tree. Many of the apples in your local store can be up to a year old. :-)

But you have a great point. Anytime anyone tries to talk you out of any kind of comparison that's a really good indication you should dig even deeper.

Bristal said...

Typically the argument comes about because you use an analogy that appears to you to perfectly support your argument, while it fails to do so for me.

Rarely is it "See, they're both fruit, right?"

More often it's "I know you say you hate apples, but one time I ate an orange and it was pretty good, so here, buy this sack of granny smiths."

Syl said...

yet, some people like to compare different fruit because they can't accept that your apple beats their apple.

true story.

Klepsacovic said...

@sam: What if we aren't using enough pesticides to kill the consumer?

@Bristal: Isn't your "more often it's" idea a situation of "see, they're both fruit"?

@Syl: Rarely outside the economist's idealized free market are we ever dealing with apple-apple comparisons.

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