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Captain Ahab… er, Myers, and the Whale

I was thinking…  just reflecting on history… and it came to me, that the high seas of long ago were the routes of communication, of commerce, of social discourse–they were the internet of the past.  Or, rather, the internet is the high seas of the present.  The following is a sea shanty, a tale best told with a concertina and a hornpipe, and a fiddle if you are lucky.  It relates a legend told here, here, here, and here.

There’s some that call him Pee Zed,
And for others he’s Pee Zee
There’s some that call him “Doctor”
But that don’t sit right with me
There’s some that call him “Evil”
And I’m here to tell the tale
Of the dreaded Captain Myers
And the hunting of the whale.

The legends tell, in whispered tones,
Of a man as dense a lead,
“Immune to any argument”
Or so the stories said;
They called him “Dr. Simmons”
And they warned against the fate:
“If you’re sensitive to ignorance,
Don’t meet him in debate.”

But dauntless Captain Myers
Is the bravest of them all;
When destiny was on the line
He boldly took the call.
Though Jesus said you should not cast
Your pearls in front of swine,
The duel was “Evolution
And Intelligent Design.”

It would not be with pistols, and
They would not simply fence;
The duel that they’d agreed upon
Relied on evidence.
Each man would list the reasons
Which support his point of view;
Then each assails the other’s list,
If parts are… less than true.

But then, before the steps were marched,
And battle was begun,
The wriggly Geoffrey Simmons
Thought he’d have a little fun:
“A change of topic, that’s the trick”
The little slime-eel oozed,
“Prepare for this; debate on that,
PZ will get confused!”

Although he’d be within his rights
Refusing to debate,
The fearless Captain Myers
Sauntered out to meet his fate.
He knew his weapon’s brutal strength;
He knew its aim was true
Against the truth, well-argued,
There is nothing one can do.

The debate began in earnest
As the wily Geoff resolved
To explain that science can’t explain
How whales have (not) evolved;
There was, of course, no evidence
Supporting this position,
But ignorance would not prevent
This claim from repetition.

(When challenged by the evidence,
He doesn’t change his view;
His claim remains, unwavering—
That’s how he knows it’s true!
But meanwhile, Charles Darwin’s were
Evolving all along—
They change to fit the evidence;
That’s how Geoff knows they’re wrong!)

But Captain Myers’ rapier wit
And knowledge of his field
Were sharper than his razor, and
Much deadlier to wield;
He listed off some fossil finds—
Cetacean missing links—
And asked the baffled medico
Just what (or if) he thinks

A weaker man than Myers
Might have piddled in his shoes,
For the Great White Whale named Simmons
Simply calcified his views:
“My ignorance is solid rock
Upon which I will stand;
To bow before the evidence
Is only sinking sand!”

But even Dr. Simmons,
With his blinders on too tight,
Could see that if he stuck to whales
He’d surely lose the fight.
It wasn’t brave or daring;
It was more or less insane
But the M.D. made a topic change
To talk about… the brain!

(Forgive me, gentle reader
If I do not tell that story—
My stomach isn’t strong enough;
The tale is rather gory.
Suffice to say, his argument
Should hope to rest in peace;
By stroke of fate, the brain is Myers’
Field of expertise!)

But even as his ears and tail
Were nailed to Myers’ wall,
The doc declared his victory
(If only brains were gall!)
To hear him speak, you’d say he won
A brave and valiant fight;
(We’ve seen this once before, with
Monty Python’s brave Black Knight!)

It’s just another story, now,
It’s just another tale,
PZ as Captain Ahab—
Dr. Simmons as The Whale.
It’s not that Geoffrey’s intellect
Is mythic in proportion,
But rather, his ability
To live with such distortion

There’s some that call him Pee Zed,
And for others he’s Pee Zee
There’s some that call him “Doctor”
But that don’t sit right with me
There’s some that call him “Evil”
And I’m here to tell the tale
Of the dreaded Captain Myers
And the hunting of the whale.

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