Rhapsody on a Theme of T.H. Huxley
Care to join me on a little walk? It is a pleasant day, perhaps a bit warm,
but we won't be long, just down this lane. Just pass this overgrown cherry
tree is large, old house. It is was made in the days before noise pollution
and traffic drove people inside, and air conditioning and television made
it possible to stay inside. It has a large porch, and in three rocking
chairs, sit the destination of this walk… three old men.
Abe is the one with the "speckles" and fancy himself the wisest of
the porchers (as they like to humorously call themselves). Ben is the one
with a cane and thinks himself the most rational and reasonable of the group.
Chip is the little man on the left, and he is quite self-effacing among
the other giants on the porch, but a real nice guy.
We wave our hellos, and overhear an argument that is just beginning…
Abe says, "Do you see that red object in the grass under the cherry tree?
That is a rubber ball. Yesterday, a girl was playing jacks on the sidewalk,
and it must have bounced over to that spot in the lawn."
Ben, while seeing the red object, doesn't agree. "I think you're mistaken,
Abe, for you don't see so well. Clearly a ball couldn't have rolled that
far on accident, and that object is too dark red. Being under a cherry
tree, it must be a cherry."
Abe retorts, "I know what I know, and I see what I see. It is a rubber
ball, and it is plain to me!"
Ben stamps his cane on the porch for effect and replies, "Then how do you
explain the darker color, oh you who sees a ball of rubber?"
The argument continues with lots of wind and gusto, but without must more
illumination. Every contraditory fact from one old man can be made to fit
neatly inside the other's own expected view.
Exhausted from the debate, both men sit back, and almost for the first
time, notice little Chip sitting in his own rocker enjoying the breeze.
Abe says, "What is your opinion, Chip? For clearly trying to talk any sense
into Ben is like trying to push a mule." Ben responds by elevating his
rival from mere mule to ass.
Chip slowly says, "Well, as you two well know, I know nothing. I have no
opinion, but it seems to me that the only way to settle the argument is to
get off the porch and walk over there to find out."
Abe, only little flustered, says, "Well, I don't have to, I know what I
know, and I don't have to prove it."
Ben is not much better, "That is a good idea, Chip, however, my bad leg
won't permit me to walk under that old tree. I might trip on a bulging
Chip, the only one who doesn't know, is the only one free enough to
inquire, and the only one who can actually find the truth.
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