Allegory Misdirection

Allegories, parallels, and comparisons are an incredibly useful mechanism for conveying information in any discussion. If one can compare an abstract or unfamiliar concept with the familiar, that concept becomes more tangible to the recipient of the information. This knowledge is likely something an English teacher told you in third grade. It's an elementary concept, but one that is important. I don't think many would deny the fact that allegories are used and allegories have utility, however, there is an annoying misunderstanding in allegorical discussions that will become painfully obvious once pointed out: People take allegories too literally.

What do I mean by this? Allegories are comparisons between traits of two concepts or objects. This is obvious, but people forget something else: when people make allegories or draw comparisons, they are not drawing comparisons with the compared objects in their entirety, but rather they are comparing specific aspects of those objects. For example, If someone says that "the moon is like cheese", they aren't saying the moon is a generally yellowish-white milk protein coagulation that humans (along with other animals) enjoy to consume. What is being said is that the moon has some characteristic (in this case it's implied to be holes) similar to cheese. This particularly annoying lack of differentiation people make can lead to strange encounters where a counter argument revolves around disproving the moon is cheese rather than disproving the holes in the moon being cheese-like.

Beyond Cheese and Moons

This occurrence is very benign when the subject matter is cheese and moons, however, if subjects of high importance like group dynamics or human memory come into the mix, this phenomenon's true harm can be seen. Let's say you are a psychology professor and you are trying to teach an IT student about human memory. You know a bit about computers, so in an effort to make the student understand the concept, you decide to compare the human memory system to the memory systems in a computer. You compare how they obtain, encode, store, and then later retrieve information. The connection the professor made, for the most part, is pretty parallel. Now let's say that this IT student, instead of being a well mannered thoughtful person who can understand that the allegory in this case isn't a one-to-one comparisons, but are rather is for emboldening understanding through convenient relations, is instead a Sheldon-like redditor who sees a moment like this a perfect time to scream "ACKTUALLY" and "pwn" his professor in the most superficial way possible. The IT student, being the dim-to-mid wit he is, says something along the lines of "ACKTUALLY, the memory systems of computers is WAY different than the memory systems in humans because they are made of silicon, and encode using poopoopeepee compression, and blah blah blah". Of course, the student is TECHNICALLY right. He is correct that computer memory does use "poopoopeepee compression" and is made of silicon rather than flesh. That's factually an accurate statement, however, it misses the point of the allegory all together in a way that adds nothing to the conversation.

Sheldon moments vs big brained callouts

Now, our young, Sheldon-like, r/atheism quoting, HackerNews posting, disgrace to higher-level thinking birdbrain, king of picking nits, is for sure an obnoxious example of inane whining and superiority complexes manifesting in critiques, however, this sad fact alone shouldn't discredit the art of picking apart analogies. Much of the the merit in critiques lies in the intent of both the critic and the critiqee. Picking apart a critique is no different. If the goal of the analogy is to teach you something, then the critique should be focused on teaching. If the point of the allegory is to define a concept in relation to another concept, then picking apart what is being compared between concept A and concept B is very much a valiant pursuit. If the critic is acting not out of a good faith rejection, but rather snark, then that too can undermine the validity of the critique, but less so than the point of the allegory all together.

A big brain call out of an allegory must call out only faulty comparisons that are actually being made rather than what someone thinks is being made. For example, if I assert that the moon is similar to cheese, a good critic would ask "in what ways is the moon similar to cheese", I clarify that it is only the holes that are similar, then we can debate the semantics of if the holes on the moon are cheese-like enough to warrant that comparison may begin. A bad critic would not ask for clarification, but would rather scream "ARE YOU TO TELL ME THAT THE MOON IS MADE OUT OF CONGEALED MILK?". If you then opted to clarify, the bad critique can be upgraded (or really downgraded) to the worst form of critic in an instant if he claims that your clarifications are in some way backpedaling or detrimental to your argument.

Avoiding bad allegorical critique and avoiding bad allegorical critics

No one wants to be the Sheldon-like redditor who misattributes meaning to allegories. So, don't do that. The best way I have found is to never make your goal in a discussion to "epicly pwn" someone. If you go in wanting to do it, you will find ways to do it, and usually those ways are intellectually dishonest and dirty. That's the kind of junk that you find in debate clubs and it should be avoided. Any time you find an allegory that doesn't make sense, in a well mannered way of course, ask for clarification for what aspects are being compared.

If you ever find yourself in contact with a bad critic, maybe not in the same Sheldon-like annoying way, but still in a way that they are misattributes meaning to your allegory, then do be sure to call out that statement as early as possible. If the person is well minded, they'll understand their mistake once its called out and, hopefully, will ask for clarification. Everyone makes mistakes, it is best to give the benefit of the doubt. However, if instead you get hatred, accusations, or other forms of "you're coping" tier arguments back for stating this, then the person you're talking to is not worth talking to, and a peaceful disengagement without hurting anyone's pride or ego is worth the effort. Bashing your head against a wall is not going to change their mind and if they're not even capable of recognizing that a mistake was made in conveying meaning, then they will surely not be able to civilly talk about the nature of the holes in the moon and if they resemble cheese or not