Critical Truck Theory helps explain theories — and truck-buying habits

(C) CONTRIBUTED Clyde Edgerton

My old pickup is about dead. The other day, I needed to pull an RV trailer for a significant distance. That morning, I test drove two small used (“pre-owned,” as we’ve been conditioned to say) trucks: a Chevrolet Colorado and a Nissan Frontier.  

Being pressed for time, I ended up renting a big Dodge Ram.  I’d like to try to simplify the business of “theory” just a little by talking about an imagined Critical Truck Theory.   The origin of Critical Truck Theory or CTT was an educated guess that my country friends are more likely than my city friends to know the difference between a Chevrolet Colorado and a Nissan Frontier. An educated guess may be the first move toward a theory (a long or short set of statements) that is eventually supported by observed behavior, history, surveys, interviews, etc.  

When a full blown theory — a kind of “big guess” — has finally been established by supporting facts, it may well then become a tool to help people predict, describe, and explain:  

  1. predict what is to come;  
  2. describe what is going on and has gone on, and  
  3. explain all this.  

The theory of relativity, for example, predicts gravity, describes lots of movements and physical actions and, along with a bunch of math and so forth, explains why many things happen. The theory of relativity has been established as reliable, supported by facts.   Flat Earth Theory lost favor when Round Earth Theory presented factual data rather than felt opinion. A theory of witchcraft, leading to the murder of about 20 women, held up for a while because opinion — thought to be truth — trumped fact.

Theory helps us see beyond opinion and feelings and wishes, and gets to how things really work.   A way to initially test my Critical Truck Theory regarding trucks and human knowledge would be to see if gathered facts support it. I might first devise a simple quiz (a photo of the Colorado and the Frontier) and see if I’m right or wrong about my friends’ knowledge.

That is, set up a simple hypothesis, to wit: if country people are shown photographs of a Chevy Colorado and a Nissan Frontier, then they will more likely than my city friends guess which is which.  I devise a simple written quiz, and let’s say my country and city friends take the quiz and my guess is right. More of my country friends know the difference between the two vehicles than do my city friends.

My initial hypothesis is supported. I’m on the track toward a theory. But I don’t yet have enough data to be persuasive. 

Now it starts to get fun. Let’s say I give my quiz to every adult in North Carolina. And … oops.

The outcome is about even — nothing conclusive. My simple guess — now tested with a larger sample of citizens — is no longer clearly supported. But I still believe I’m onto something — something that might help predict how city and country people are related to trucks, describe how that happens, and then explain why.  

I decide to develop a more complete Critical Truck Theory.  I sit down on the porch and brainstorm.  Suddenly, a flash of insight.

I remember what my country auto mechanic, Mike, said the other day when I brought that little Nissan Frontier to his shop and parked it out front. I wanted to know what he thought of it.   He walked out from his shop. 

“Should I buy it?” I asked.  Mike looked at me, at the truck, back at me. He said, “No.

You need to buy a truck.”  That statement set me to thinking afresh about my theory-in-the-making. Granted, city people do know about and buy small trucks — right many, I suppose.

It’s fashionable. My country friends are more likely to buy great big trucks.   I suddenly have a new handle on a Critical Truck Theory — on a big guess.

I have a couple of new hypotheses: 1) If a truck is large, then people from the country are more likely to buy it than people from the city. And 2) If a truck is small, then people from the city are more likely to buy it than people from the country.  I conduct nationwide tests, surveys, observations, and historical analyses. After several years of hard work, my data show that, sure enough, country people buy a significantly higher number of big trucks than city people; and city people buy a significantly higher number of little trucks than country people.

I write a book called Critical Truck Theory. It covers facts, opinions, stories, surveys, etc. It is meant to be helpful.  Truck designers, salespeople, sociologists, city planners, truck designers, educators, and preachers buy and read my book. They say it predicts, describes, and explains — as theories are supposed to do.

Other people don’t like Critical Truck Theory and they write books and essays opposing my Critical Truck Theory — some say, for example, that they are from the city and also own a big truck. People on both sides make speeches.   If in 20 years, people read and digest both anti-Critical Truck Theory and Critical Truck Theory and if they do not demonize people on the other side, then reasonable debate may occur.  

If … my father used to say, a frog had wings, he wouldn’t bump his butt.  Wilmington resident Clyde Edgerton is the author of Walking Across Egypt and Papadaddy’s Book for New Fathers. He is affiliated with Concerned Parents and Citizens 2020, a group working to address concerns in New Hanover County Schools.

This article originally appeared on Wilmington StarNews: Critical Truck Theory helps explain theories — and truck-buying habits

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