Chris Comer's "best butter" argument
The "best butter" story from the Mad Hatter's Tea Party in Alice in Wonderland is one of my favorite parables. I am really surprised that the term "best butter" has not become a standard expression in the English language. I Googled the term "best butter" and nothing about the Mad Hatter's Tea Party turned up. I have to explain my meaning of the term each time I use it. Basically, the story ridicules the idea that it is OK to break a rule just for what speciously seems to be a "good" reason (but is not a good reason at all). Here is the "best butter" story:
The Hatter was the first to break the silence. `What day of the month is it?' he said, turning to Alice: he had taken his watch out of his pocket, and was looking at it uneasily, shaking it every now and then, and holding it to his ear.
Alice considered a little, and then said `The fourth.'
`Two days wrong!' sighed the Hatter. `I told you butter wouldn't suit the works!' he added looking angrily at the March Hare.
`It was the BEST butter,' the March Hare meekly replied.
`Yes, but some crumbs must have got in as well,' the Hatter grumbled: `you shouldn't have put it in with the bread-knife.'
The March Hare took the watch and looked at it gloomily: then he dipped it into his cup of tea, and looked at it again: but he could think of nothing better to say than his first remark, `It was the BEST butter, you know.'
I am not saying that there is never a good reason to break a rule. I remember the story of a football player who was big for his age when he was growing up. When he was 11 years old, his father tried to enroll him in Pop Warner football. The coach told the father, "we have a rule. A kid's got to be 13." The father asked the coach, "have you seen him?" The coach took one look at the kid and said, "we've just changed the rule." The reason for breaking the rule here was clearly a good one and there is a clearcut, objective distinction between big and little kids, unlike Wickedpedia's arbitrary and capricious distinction between "notable" and "crappy" blogs.
Anyway, on to Chris Comer. The National Center for Science Education says,
Comer herself appeared on NPR's "Science Friday" on December 7, 2007, relating her story to the show's host, Ira Flatow. After receiving the e-mail announcing Forrest's talk, she said, "you know, I had a half minute and I said, gee, this is really interesting. And then, I looked up the credential on my computer, I Googled Barbara Forrest and I said, oh my goodness, this is quite a credential[ed] speaker. And then I thought to myself -- you know, I'm telling my biology teachers almost on a weekly basis, teach the curriculum, teach the evolution curriculum because it's part of the state-mandated curriculum. And now, I should be -- you know, I should be walking the talk here, and I -- there's nothing wrong with this e-mail, of course." Less than two hours later, a colleague was calling for her termination, and in the following week, she was effectively forced to resign.
As for credentials, college professors and Ph.D.'s are a dime a dozen. There is even a surplus of Ph.D.'s. And a lot of college professors and Ph.D.'s are bigots and crackpots. And a person's views should not be dismissed solely on the basis that the person lacks high credentials.
Richard Weikart, author of From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany, has impressive credentials too. So would Comer have sent out an "FYI" announcement of one of his "From Darwin to Hitler" lectures?