If He Weighs the Same As a Duck . . .
The Wahington Post has picked up on the Richard von Sternberg story here, which I previously discussed here. Of special note is this little tidbit from the ever trustworthy Eugenie Scott:
Scott, of the NCSE, insisted that Smithsonian scientists had no choice but to explore Sternberg's religious beliefs. "They don't care if you are religious, but they do care a lot if you are a creationist," Scott said. "Sternberg denies it, but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it argues for zealotry."
Wha? If they "don't care if you are religious," why did they have "no choice but to explore Sternberg's religious beliefs"? Why not just respectfully ask about his scientific views? And why is that even relevant, and not simply whether he followed the proper procedures for approving the publication of an article (which apparently he did)? Does she mean if he is a creationist, or if someone calls him a creationist? And if it walks and quacks like a duck, do you try to learn more, or do you jump to conclusions and destroy his career?
Of course, this kind of statement is par for the course for Scott, who has honed the "label and dismiss" style of ad hominem argument to perfection.
She asked if "it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck," but she forgot to ask if "it weighs the same as a duck":
Bedevere: Tell me. What do you do with witches?
Villagers: BUUUURN!!!!! BUUUUUURRRRNN!!!!! You BURN them!!!! BURN!!
B: And what do you burn apart from witches?
Villager: More Witches!
Other Villager: Wood.
B: So. Why do witches burn?
(shuffling of feet by the villagers)
Villager: (tentatively) Because they're made of.....wood?
Other Villagers: oh yeah... oh....
B: So. How do we tell whether she is made of wood?
One Villager: Build a bridge out of 'er!
B: Aah. But can you not also make bridges out of stone?
Villagers: oh yeah. oh. umm...
B: Does wood sink in water?
One Villager: No! No, no, it floats!
Other Villager: Throw her into the pond!
(when order is restored)
B: What also floats in water?
Another Villager: Apples!
Another Villager: Uh...very small rocks!
Another Villager: Cider!
Another Villager: Uh...great gravy!
Another Villager: Cherries!
Another Villager: Mud!
Another Villager: Churches! Churches!
Another Villager: Lead! Lead!
King Arthur: A Duck!
Villagers: (in amazement) ooooooh!
B: (to a villager) So, *logically*...
Villager: (very slowly, with pauses between each word) If...she...weighs the same as a duck......she's made of wood.
B: and therefore...
Villager: A Witch!
All Villagers: A WITCH!
With apologies to Monty Python. Full text of the Holy Grail scene can be found here. Acknowledgements for the witch hunt theme to Pros and Cons and Penraker. Another post on the duck theme is here.