Gift Horse
  • Chin up
    July 10, 2009

    #7 = Yes.

  • Bren Collins
    July 10, 2009

    So I guess I walked past a church yesterday – you know, one of those buildings with the folksy signs with removable plastic letters? Yeah, well anyway, this particular church (denomination unimportant for the purpose of my little observation here) had a sign which read:


    Forget the question entirely – search for the answer. It’s like living in a real-life version of Jeopardy! …except nobody’s there to give us the correct question if we screw it up. Or to be more accurate, we don’t even attempt to dig up the question to the provided answer. We accept it and move on, disregarding whether or not a critical piece of information is erroneous/missing from the phrasing alone.

    It’s as if the answers announce, “It’s okay – we’re fallible, and therefore human just like you!” A mechanical, automated solution for every wrong answer. Instant justification.

    So when I try and Google *that*, it takes me straight to this cartoon.

    It turns out there IS one question remaining. And it is a resounding: “What the *%#&!?” (…or the more Americanized “Huh!?”)

  • Double W
    July 10, 2009

    But if Wikipedia is a gift horse, shouldn’t you not look it in the mouth and just appreciate what it is; a resource for answering small questions? It doesn’t really provide answers for the big ones (meaning of life and such).

  • Double W
    July 10, 2009

    Actually something else just occurred to me, “Questions are a burden to another, answers are a prison to oneself.” Believe it or not, neither wikipedia or google seems to be able to tell me where the quote comes from. Google just tells me where to get a shirt with that on the chest.

  • John K
    July 10, 2009

    how wonderfully adult of him to just give her a doll

  • foraz
    July 10, 2009

    SOMEBODY’S not a scientist.

  • Steve Q Steve
    July 10, 2009

    @ Double W – your quote “Questions are a burden to another, answers are a prison to oneself”, is from the classic British TV drama series ‘The Prisoner’. (It was actually “…a burden to others…”).

  • dartigen
    July 10, 2009

    Questions are important. Answers, slightly less so. Sometimes in finding an answer, you realise you were asking the wrong question all along. (and sometimes you forget the question and just spend three hours playing Six Clicks To Jesus on Wikipedia)

  • Double W
    July 11, 2009

    @Steve Q Steve – I was quoting a TV show and not an obscure philosopher? Oh, man, I’ve been outed, I can’t sit at the Smart Kids table anymore. Kiddin’
    Now that I think about it, it’s not much of a counterpoint to what Girl is saying.
    The point I meant to make was, that there’s still plenty of real questions to get a sense of wonder out of. But it could be argued that how we go about getting our answers says a lot about us.

  • gus
    July 11, 2009

    If you ever wanted an American Girl doll which wasn’t so Pollyannaish about real girls’ experiences, we maded you a video:

  • Nicole
    July 12, 2009

    Whenever I want silence after a question I just ask myself “What came first the chicken or the egg?” The idiocy of such an unanswered question will keep me giggling for days to come. That is until google or wikipedia invents an answer to keep its devout followers happy against the silence of the unknown. I’ll just lol at what they’ll come up with!! XD

  • Andrew S
    July 12, 2009

    it is weird to sit on Wikipedia’s lap.

    believe me, i know.

  • DeltaD
    July 12, 2009

    @DoubleW – perhaps the meaning of life is just life itself.

  • Mr Lapin
    July 12, 2009

    Poor Girl, having to settle for an American Girl doll. She may be too young to get 42.

  • Gigantic mooseplane!
    July 13, 2009

    @foraz: Science emphasizes the formulation and testing of hypotheses in order to arrive at generalized functional models of phenomena, and verifiable facts (answers) are necessary to the construction of such models. I’m down with that.

    But that doesn’t mean answers are where it’s at. Consider the process of experimentation. Assume I have proposed a hypothesis to explain some natural phenomenon, and my experiment has produced results that support my hypothesis. I have demonstrated a fact, embodied by the replicability of my experimental results, but I have only supported my hypothesis. In formulating my next experiment, I must consider all of the reasonable hypotheses I could have proposed in my first experiment, but did not.

    Each time I support my hypothesis, I must ask why it did not fail (why weren’t other hypotheses true?). If my hypothesis fails, I must, of course, reformulate it. Both scenarios depend on the scientist’s ability to wonder. After the experiment, one of the first things a scientist must do is wonder.

    Science often takes the form of funded research: projects in pursuit of deliverables, usually technologies, whose value can be evaluated against the initial investment of the research. ‘Wonder’ has little value in that analysis, and no doubt organizations like pharmaceutical companies, defense contractors, &c., would skip it if possible. But science is not identical to its uses.

    The mission of science is to fit an order to the world. A scientist cannot approach her questions with expectation of an answer because those questions develop from observation of the world (which may be flawed) and theoretical knowledge (which may be flawed). The only course is wonder, a form of humility before nature.

  • The Modesto Kid
    July 13, 2009

    I love this one.

  • Man_of_Stijl
    July 13, 2009

  • Ross Hershberger
    July 13, 2009

    It’s possible to formulate questions that look reasonable but have no useful answer. Chicken/egg, one hand clapping, tree falling in forest, etc. The point of those is not to be solved but to provoke thought. Wikipedia’s for looking up the diameter of an 8-32 machine screw (4.1656mm), not the meaning, if any, of life.

  • Yamara
    July 13, 2009

    Concerning the special importance of wonder (thaumazein in Ancient Greek) to philosophy see Plato Theaetetus 155D and Aristotle Metaphysics I.ii.982b11-24. For Aristotle also see Poetics IV: “understanding [manthanein] gives great pleasure not only to philosophers but likewise to others too, though the latter have a smaller share in it”. Indeed, he says, people like looking at images because of the pleasure of contemplating [theôrizein] what something is through manthanein and syllogizesthai (syllogism: a bringing together of logoi or accounts). We even “enjoy contemplating the most precise images of things whose sight is painful to us”.

    -“Wonder (emotion)
    Wikipedia @ 2009.07.13


    The first chicken egg was inside a junglefowl hybridized during the Agricultural Revolution, at least according to “Identification of the Yellow Skin Gene Reveals a Hybrid Origin of the Domestic Chicken, a genetics abstract I discovered and added as a cite to the Chicken or the egg article @ 07:34, 20 February 2008.


    Actually, when it comes to Wonder, some days before posting that I added some illustrations I thought were more thought-provoking than “answering”. Usually Wikipedians delete any picture that is not utilitarian and/or maudlin, but the one currently at the top of “Chicken or the egg” is actually a surprise find, and says more about the question.

    It’s from a 14th Century remedy manuscript, and the illo itself is a kind of diptych, a precisely divided panel of a single scene in the same household. On the left is a neatly-ordered world, where hens are given their own space inside the house, and all the lines are straight and true and known. A woman has collected the eggs in a basket, except she is holding one, but not looking at it. Her gaze is fixed through the doorway, toward a horizon we cannot see, and she is walking toward the rest of her home, pictured in the right half.

    The right half of the picture has that trippy off-kilter mediaeval perspective–and it was never more appropriate–picturing a child, dressed in the same colors as the matron, waiting before the dark doorway leading into a chamber that leads to more chambers leading farther and farther in. Outside is wild Nature, already creeping up with its decay upon the porch on which the child stands.

    It was plain when I saw this that questions more than remedies were on the mind of the artist then as well. Since the article jumped in time between philosophers’ discussions of Macrobius and Steve Hawking, it was nice to see the continuity, and a comment on the paradox about celebrating Merry by someone along the way. But I placed it at the top of the article because the look on the woman’s face, which can only be seen by zooming in, is one of such deep contemplation.

    Anyway, no one’s really challenged it being the lead illo; Wikipedians seem to get the idea that this article, at least, is about celebrating a question.

    Merry Wikimas,

    A Wikielf.

  • Yamara
    July 13, 2009

    I think babelfish inserted a “Merry” in there I did not intend. Looks like the whole bleeding singularity is handing out unasked-for presents today.

  • Nicole
    July 13, 2009

    @ Yamara

    … Well, what other “useless-after-the-question-is-practically-answered” crusade will you go after next? Not to say I wasn’t surprised at the answer since I just felt like asking the question without thinking someone would bother to answer it. But still the whole things sounds really anti-climatic to me… years of people asking just for the hell of it and someone actually bothers to answer… and it makes sense… Oh well… at least I lol-ed at the extra “Merry”… XD

  • Yamara
    July 13, 2009

    Actually two phrases autocopied and pressed together into “about celebrating Merry” in the middle of a point I was making.

    Perhaps it’s the title of the new Peter Jackson Tolkien movie?

    The internet and a Firefox plug-in have decided Middle-Earth needs more romantic comedy. There’s unanswerable wonder for you!

    Too bad humans became obsolete.

  • Nny
    July 13, 2009

    i didnt bother reading any posts. Bleh. that is all.

  • Chris Kuan
    July 14, 2009

    Perhaps “Celebrating Merry” is the sequel to Girl’s art film “Celebrating Wonder”?

  • solstone
    July 16, 2009

    @Steve Q Steve — Be seeing you. (Although I have no way of accurately typing the hand gesture that goes along with that, I must just rely on you to imagine it…)

  • peets
    July 21, 2009

    Gigantic mooseplane!: yes. Well said.

    The process of answering a question raises many more. They just get more deep, complex and hard to explore. There are more questions around than ever, and they are more wonderful than ever!

    “What we need more of is science” >(^._.^)<

  • Dani
    July 6, 2011

    the answer is 42. we just don’t know the question.

  • Quizzical
    September 26, 2011

    Dani: Yes we do, it is at the end of the 4th book in the trilogy, and is “What do you get when you multiply 6 by 9?” Douglas Adams had to quickly explain that it was not a deep statement, and that he does not write jokes in base 13.

  • Golux
    October 4, 2013

    Proof that there’s something fundamentally wrong with the universe.

  • Ajay
    November 5, 2016

    By not answering her he gave her what she wanted…

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