I’ve often heard it said that “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” but I, for one, find this platitude insulting and offensive. Not only is it ageist and speciesist, it’s nothing but a load of old hogwash. Quadrupedal senior citizens can be reeducated and retrained. But first they must undergo the difficult and often disorienting process of de-education. This involves a complete and thorough divestiture of outdated notions acquired in the canine subject’s formative years, mostly as a byproduct of painstakingly learning the old tricks they erroneously assumed would serve them well right up until the moment they were subterraneously reunited with their favorite dirt-encrusted calcium treats.
The same holds true for us increasingly featherless bipeds as we toddle off into the sulfur-dioxide-enhanced sunset of our iron-pyrite years. More and more, we discover to our chagrin that the things we learned in school turn out not to be true at all. Were we wrong to spend so much time studying all those discredited theories like Darwinism, Humanism and Dialectical Materialism? Wouldn’t we have been better off spending our time hanging out with the really cool guys, the guys who never even bothered to go to class because they were too busy packing their noses with blow, drinking bong-water, branding each other with red-hot coat hangers, and spanking their monkeys blindfolded in open coffins?
Personally, I know I’d be better off. I’d probably be a district court judge by now, or maybe even Ambassador to Malaysia, instead of spending six-and-a-half days a week down at the Honeywell-Halliburton Adult Reeducation Camp for the Criminally Outspoken. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice enough place. It used to be a public high school, but that was before the Department of Education was abolished and the schools were taken over by the Department of Defense. Of course, the DoD has its own schools (they call them “Boot Camps”), and they really don’t need to keep the DoE’s schools open any more, so last year they turned them over to the Department of Homeland Security. So other than the razor wire and the Surveillance Towers, the place looks pretty much the same as it did back when I was a student.
But what was I talking about, anyway? Oh yeah, teaching old dogs new tricks! Let me give you an example of how it works here at Honeywell-Halliburton.
Today is Tuesday, and Tuesday is “Science Day.” Last Tuesday we learned how Charles Darwin spent the early part of his life sailing around to different places in the world, killing small children and stealing their bibles. And that’s not the half of it. In his later years, the bloodthirsty madman developed a diabolical plan to subvert and destroy the voluminous and irrefutable evidence proving that the entire universe, from neutron stars to dung beetles, was created in less time than it takes to watch a Ken Burns documentary. And to think he almost got away with it!
But that was last week’s lesson. This morning we learned about how, for over three hundred years, scientists were hoodwinked by anti-clerical Humanists into believing in what we used to call “Empiricism,” or the “Scientific Method.” Even smart guys like Sir Isaac Newton and Louis Pasteur fell for this one! I’m not exactly sure, but I think it went something like this:
1. You observe a phenomenon.
2. You formulate a hypothesis to explain the phenomenon.
3. You employ the hypothesis to predict the occurrence of other phenomena.
4. You conduct experiments, carefully observing the results.
5. If the predictions match the results of the experiment, you have a scientific theory.
Talk about a recipe for disaster! With a system as full of holes as that, how can scientists be sure about anything? Theories will keep changing, people will be confused all the time, it just isn‘t healthy...
Now, compare that to the “Faith-based Method”:
1. Have your friends observe a phenomenon.
2. Have them formulate a hypothesis that can be reduced down to a short sentence or a simple drawing.
3. Develop a visceral feeling about the hypothesis.
4. Have your friends gather evidence from a variety of sources that supports your visceral feeling (Tarot cards, Magic 8-ball, Ahmed Chalabi, whatever.)
5. Skip the theory phase altogether, and leapfrog from unsubstantiated hypothesis to immutable truth.
So much for the idea, but how does it work in real life? An example from the authorized biography of Our Supreme Highness, Field Marshall Doctor G. W. Bush, President for life of North America will serve to illustrate the concept in its entirety:
From his earliest days as a cheerleader at Yale University, Mr. Bush’s friends observed that he rarely, if ever opened a book, nor was he the least bit curious about the contents of one. Yet they also observed that in spite of this lack of curiosity, George was so well liked he was tapped to join the Skull and Bones Society. So his friends (and his father’s friends) approached him with a hypothesis. “You are a leader among men,” they told him, “You will be president some day.”
“But what about the fact that I have never read a book,” he asked, “Shouldn’t presidents read books, or at least Presidential Daily Briefings?”
So they explained to him the corollary to their hypothesis, that Presidents who read things tend to have bad things happen to them. Abraham Lincoln, for instance, liked to read Shakespeare, and he had the back of his head blown off, for God’s sake. Woodrow Wilson and FDR were notorious readers, and they got us into two world wars... John F. Kennedy liked books so much, he had his dad hire a guy to write one for him, and look where that got him! Richard Nixon actually did write books and he died in disgrace. But Reagan, ah-h-h, Ronald Wilson Reagan, of whom it was said that he owned more tuxedos than books, now there was a president who wore felicity like a satin-lapelled smoking jacket...
So Governor Bush (who had a visceral feeling that his advisors were right), was careful to avoid reading anything over a page in length, and all was well with Texas. In fact, he was appointed to the presidency of the United States! Still he honored his sacred pledge to refrain from the written word as faithfully as is humanly possible for the most powerful man in the world. And all was well with the nation.
And then, George W. Bush made a fatal error in judgment. He delved into a book for the first time in many years, and the hypothesis became terrible and immutable truth. If only he had never spoken those fateful words, “My pet goat...”
Mark W. Bradley is a history teacher and political satirist in Sacramento, California. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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