Always Arguing About That Elusive Kettle

In his book Icons of Evolution, biologist Jonathan Wells refers (p. 133) to an old lawyers’ joke in which “Jones sues Smith for borrowing his kettle and returning it with a crack in it.” The defense by Smith’s lawyers goes like so:

  1. Smith never borrowed the kettle.
  2. When Smith returned the kettle, it wasn’t cracked.
  3. The kettle was already cracked when Smith borrowed it.
  4. There is no kettle.

Wells was talking about the way arguments get made about evolution (e.g., “There is no controversy.”)

But I’ve noticed that this kind of desperate evasive argumentation happens around all kinds of issues when the truth matters less than generating political support, along the lines of

“There is no birth certificate, and the officials who testify that there is a birth certificate are lying, and if there is a birth certificate, it’s a fake.”

AB — 27 April 2011

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About quriosity

Al Bredenberg is a writer, researcher, and consultant living in Raleigh, NC.
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