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To Open The Sky

The Front Pages of Christopher P. Winter
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Tools To Clothe Minds

A parable commonly used to describe ideas which are "incompletely perfect" is the tale of The Emperor's New Clothes. In the English-speaking world, it is well enough known that the title has become a metaphor1 denoting any case where someone in authority adopted such an imperfect but attractive idea and sought to impose it on others.

I want to turn that scenario around. Rather than the authority figure who is seduced by brand new hokum, I want to look at ordinary folks who cling to comfortable old hokum.

Carl Sagan told of catching a cab in New York City one rainy night. Recognizing him, the cab driver began to question Sagan about various kinds of pseudoscientific hokum: Bigfoot, the corpses of alien flying-saucer pilots in cold storage at Area 51, and so on. Debunking these claims, Sagan watched the cabbie grow glummer and glummer. "I was dismissing," said Sagan, "not just some errant doctrine, but a precious facet of his inner life."

1 Metaphor is a marvelous thing. It can convey a complex idea, or several, with a paltry few words. That is, of course, if speaker and listener share a cultural framework that includes the metaphoric phrase. Otherwise, the listener will learn nothing, and the speaker will be likewise frustrated. Or, to put it in metaphor, "Shakka — when the walls fell."
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This page was last modified on 21 October 2015.