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Elephants' wings - Comments

bamafreethinker's Avatar Comment 1 by bamafreethinker

One Alabama hick says to the other:

"M R Ducks"

the other replies:

M R Not Ducks!"

and the argument ensues:

"O S M R Ducks... C M Wangs?"

"I'll be... M R Ducks!"


Them are ducks!
Them are not ducks!
Oh yes them are ducks... see them wings?
I'll be... Them are ducks!

Mon, 11 May 2009 08:48:00 UTC | #358410

bamafreethinker's Avatar Comment 2 by bamafreethinker

Did you ever see an elephant fly?
Well, I've seen a horse fly.
Ah, I've seen a dragon fly.
Hee-hee. I've seen a house fly.

From Disney's Dumbo

Mon, 11 May 2009 09:09:00 UTC | #358415

TheCRZA's Avatar Comment 3 by TheCRZA

I love it!

Mon, 11 May 2009 09:10:00 UTC | #358416

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 4 by God fearing Atheist

Yes, very amusing.

But will any RD belief 4 read it and become belief 5?

Mon, 11 May 2009 09:11:00 UTC | #358417

The Hogfather's Avatar Comment 5 by The Hogfather

Great stuff once again PZ. I think this might even top the "Courtier's reply".

Mon, 11 May 2009 09:56:00 UTC | #358441

Fuzzy Duck's Avatar Comment 6 by Fuzzy Duck

I adore this. I am definitely sharing this with friends and family.

-Kevin Schreck

Mon, 11 May 2009 10:43:00 UTC | #358468

squinky's Avatar Comment 7 by squinky

Goddamn PZ, we're all proud of you! Your satire is really good (as was Sam Harris's Everything is True). I love these parodies and they need to appear in the New York Times op-ed.

Keep it up gentlemen! I can't wait for Hitch (oh, please Hitch, comeon man, don't fail us!) and Richard to blast them with both smoking barrels.

Mon, 11 May 2009 10:58:00 UTC | #358479

ridelo's Avatar Comment 8 by ridelo

PZ did it again! Splendid! Would the JTF publish it in their next free brochure? That would be nice.

Mon, 11 May 2009 11:07:00 UTC | #358489

mirandaceleste's Avatar Comment 9 by mirandaceleste

Absolutely wonderful! Spot-on & so well-written

Mon, 11 May 2009 11:11:00 UTC | #358496

liberalartist's Avatar Comment 10 by liberalartist


Mon, 11 May 2009 12:20:00 UTC | #358552

Alovrin's Avatar Comment 11 by Alovrin

Eagletosh "It is my considered opinion"

Quantum wings..... oh very droll.

Take that Terry E.

Mon, 11 May 2009 12:41:00 UTC | #358560

njwong's Avatar Comment 12 by njwong

This satire didn't work for me. The 4 men are supposed to be blind. Yet at the end of the parody, the 3 scientists are operating as if they are sighted people! E.g. Moe using elephants for war? Isn't fighting wars difficult (if not impossible) to do if you are blind?

The satire may have worked if it is implied that all human beings in the story's universe are blind. Then, although we are all blind, the moral of the story is that we should still use scientific methods to learn the truth about the elephant (our universe), instead of imagining what we want the elephant to be. However, the story mentions of photos being taken of the elephant! Photos are only meaningful for sighted people. This jars the analogy badly for me.

Mon, 11 May 2009 12:58:00 UTC | #358561

Big City's Avatar Comment 13 by Big City

I read this yesterday and was impressed with the accuracy of the metaphor. I can't wait to see what the fundie rebuttal is.

Mon, 11 May 2009 12:59:00 UTC | #358562

Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 14 by Mr DArcy

And there was I thinking that pigs could fly......

Mon, 11 May 2009 13:18:00 UTC | #358567

quantum_flux's Avatar Comment 15 by quantum_flux

Then Moe decided to do some experimental genetic engineering and breeded elephants with wings from the butt of Eagletosh, at which point Eagletosh's theory about quantum elephant wings became disproved, and furthermore his followers sued Eagletosh for fraud. Elephants with wings turned out to be a turning point for the war that Curly found himself supporting. Later, Larry designed a laxative rocket fuel that thereby made elephant wings an obselete thing of the past. Those laxative chemical/biological rockets were then later replaced with mechanical nuclear rockets which were dubbed Operation Dumbo which truly did fly on subatomic quantum wings.

Mon, 11 May 2009 13:27:00 UTC | #358572

Mark Rutherford's Avatar Comment 16 by Mark Rutherford


I think I will get my year 9s to read this, it is excellent.

Mon, 11 May 2009 13:31:00 UTC | #358573

j.mills's Avatar Comment 17 by j.mills

All good fun, but a little laboured, I feel. Presumably all these books were published in Braille?

Quantum wings sound good, though. Rather like the Hair Bear Bunch's motorcycle.

Mon, 11 May 2009 13:36:00 UTC | #358574

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 18 by Steve Zara

Sorry to rain on the parade, but I don't think this works. It misses the main problem with Eagleton. It hits a target, but not the target of Eagleton. Eagleton doesn't just make stuff up - he says that the process of investigation itself is flawed. Eagleton would not be sitting under a tree, contemplating wings, he would be shouting at the others, telling them that their investigation of the Elephant was "culturally oppressive" or something.

As for the "quantum wings" idea, that doesn't attack Eagleton, but apologists like Ken Miller and Francis Collins.

As with Myers' "Courtier's Reply", I think this is a good attack, but not at the target Myers is aiming at.

Also, Eagleton would not claim an elephant would fly. After all his Christianity/Wings aren't supposed to have to explain/lift anything.

The choice isn't between elephants or elephants wings. It is far more profound than that. It is between the desire to explore or the oppression of exploration and its replacement by delusion.

Mon, 11 May 2009 13:56:00 UTC | #358578

NakedCelt's Avatar Comment 19 by NakedCelt

In elephants. Emphatically in elephants.

I fear, though, that Eagleton's cognitive difficulties with the nature of science run rather deeper than Myers' analysis implies...

Mon, 11 May 2009 13:58:00 UTC | #358579

old-toy-boy's Avatar Comment 20 by old-toy-boy

Nice one, well sad actually because it reflects human culture/psychology …. whatever.

Something I heard on BBC Radio-4, you may enjoy.
Three men go abroad, Curly the civil-servant Larry the scientist and Moe the mathematician. They see a black sheep. Curly states ‘all foreign sheep are black’. Larry says ‘You cannot assume that, you can only say some foreign sheep are black.’ Moe says ‘you are both wrong, you can only assume one side, of one foreign sheep, is black’.

Mon, 11 May 2009 14:21:00 UTC | #358584

Aztek's Avatar Comment 21 by Aztek

Stunningly brilliant!

Not only is this great satire, but actually a story I could read children on the dangers of unfounded beliefs.

Mon, 11 May 2009 14:43:00 UTC | #358591

thereisnodog's Avatar Comment 22 by thereisnodog

enjoyed reading it and think children would like reading it too. Any teachers out there want to add this into a school assembly speech? I have a few primary school teachers as friends so ill try and get them to read this to the kids see what they think.

Mon, 11 May 2009 15:39:00 UTC | #358608

Sally Luxmoore's Avatar Comment 23 by Sally Luxmoore

Excellent. Really enjoyed this.

Steve, forgive me, I like and respect your erudite posts, but on this occasion I think you are being a little too literal. I see this as a parable of Eagletosh and his ilk (rather like Ditchkins..) It's a generalised satire and can be readily forgiven any slight misses.

Anyway, I do think Eagleton makes stuff up. Where does his amorphous own-brand religion come from? It's not catholicism as others (including you as an ex) would recognise it.

Mon, 11 May 2009 15:50:00 UTC | #358610

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 24 by Steve Zara

Comment #375435 by Sally Luxmoore

Sally - I am almost always too literal and pedantic :) You are correct in your criticism.

But when I see others, like Russell Blackford and Jerry Coyne use words with such careful precision, and with such devastating effect, I think we need not hold back on being less than unquestioningly admiring of PZ, who I agree writes so wonderfully most of the time.

Mon, 11 May 2009 15:55:00 UTC | #358611

Sally Luxmoore's Avatar Comment 25 by Sally Luxmoore

Steve - I am almost always too unquestioningly admiring of those I admire, so perhaps every forum needs a bit of each!
:) (Nice to 'talk' to you)

Mon, 11 May 2009 15:58:00 UTC | #358612

fr33radicalls's Avatar Comment 26 by fr33radicalls

who was looking after these blind people..
if they were being looked after properly this dispute would of been settled immediately.
and i thought blind people had pretty good hearing
how did they just bump into a elephant....also one last point these were old men ....3 of them enquisitive and seem to have some understanding of animals and what they look like ....yet non of them has ever had a elephant explained to them ,,,,,,,
i find this very hard to believe.... as a matter of fact hang on ,,,i dont think this happened at all.....

Mon, 11 May 2009 15:59:00 UTC | #358614

Jake Sigren's Avatar Comment 27 by Jake Sigren

Comment #375435 by Sally Luxmoore

It's a generalised satire and can be readily forgiven any slight misses.

Exactly, no need for that much dissection guys. I enjoyed both the writing and the message of it all. Although I don't think Eagleton (I mean the metaphorical Eagleton) necessarily has to make things up purposely. A good example of this is Dennett's "Talking Trees" scenario in his last video that was posted here on

Mon, 11 May 2009 16:01:00 UTC | #358615

fr33radicalls's Avatar Comment 28 by fr33radicalls

whenever i meet a blind people for the first time they always seem to act like i'm not there ....
it's always me that has to strike up the conversation........
my first line from now on in any future encounters with blind people is to explain exactly what a elephant looks like so this sort of stuff does'nt happen again ......

Mon, 11 May 2009 16:12:00 UTC | #358617

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 29 by Steve Zara

Comment #375437 by Sally Luxmoore

Perhaps I should go into more detail about why I think PZ's metaphor misses the target. The problem I have is that Eagleton is a big target, that is hard to miss, but he really isn't the target that Myers seems to be aiming at.

Eagleton does not just invent supernatural ideas that he likes, he actively rejects science, and all ideas since and before the Enlightenment. Myers's metaphor barely begins to deal with Eagleton's views.

(Perhaps I am a bit reluctant to support Myers' metaphor out of envy because mine failed. On my blog, I posted a description of Eagleton as someone who was a General who loved the idea and symbolism of war, but was not concerned with the consequences or casualties of his aesthetic and artistic views. (war being religion))

Eagleton isn't some trivial semi-creationist. He is a dangerous rejecter of science, and modernism, and his views are popular. One need look no further than articles by Madeline Bunting, or A. N. Wilson.

I think there is a need for 'dissection', so that we can see just how deep and poisonous and widespread Eagleton's views are.

PZ here can make us think that there is some danger to rationality, called "Eagleton", who we should justifiably ridicule, but we really need to understand what the danger really is, and this is not expressed in PZ's article.

Mon, 11 May 2009 16:17:00 UTC | #358618

root2squared's Avatar Comment 30 by root2squared

This just breaks down and doesn't really hold well after "Many years later, they have accomplished much. "

It's just a bit absurd.

Mon, 11 May 2009 16:23:00 UTC | #358621