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Skeptic Tank

Gov. Herbert tackles “known unknowns” and other imponderables.

By D.P. Sorensen
Posted // September 9,2009 -

We the people of Utah love our governors, and with good reason. The governors of other states love our governors also, as evidenced by the awards our governors keep winning at the annual National Governors’ Conference.

Mike Leavitt, for example, won the prize for Zany Innovation (think Ex Libra, or was it Find the Zebra?) so often that the trophy has been named after him, and lucky winners take home a half-baked turkey with Leavitt’s name carved near the neck.

Jon Huntsman Jr., now wowing the natives in China with his ability to balance chopsticks on his nose, always ran away with the Good Grooming Award, presented every year by the meticulously tanned movie great George Hamilton, to whom some observers think Huntsman bears an uncanny resemblance.

Now we are pleased to report that our newest chief executive, former realtor and all-around good guy, Gary Herbert, has done himself, and the citizens of Utah, proud by garnering the Sextus Empiricus Skeptic of the Year Award. Governor Herbert easily made it into the finals with his earnest denial of global warming.

“Brothers and sisters,” Mr. Herbert began, “let me quote my favorite philosopher, Donald ‘Rummy’ Rumsfeld, who said, ‘There are known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns.’ Now, frankly, I don’t know what he’s talking about, and that’s the point I want to make. I know that I don’t know, or perhaps I should say, I don’t know what I know, which is that I don’t know, and neither do you.

“For example, I don’t know that anybody knows about global warming. Like Sextus Empiricus and Harry Truman, I’m a ‘show me’ kind of guy. Where is this so-called global warming? I have walked the state of Utah in a variety of footwear—wingtips, sneakers, open-toe sandals, flip-flops— and I have never felt any kind of global warming. But, I keep an open mind, and no matter where I wander—from Bountiful to Blanding, from Delta to Dugway, or from Panguitch to Park City—I always make a point of kicking off my shoes and digging my little piggies (after removing my socks) into the good earth of Utah.

“The deeper I dig, the cooler the earth gets. So, I’m not convinced the globe is getting warmer. Not until I experience, with my own tootsies, a genuine hotfoot will I even entertain the notion of global warming.”

Judges say they were prepared to give Governor Herbert the Skeptic of the Year Award right then and there, since they knew none of the other contestants could equal his hard-won ignorance. Nevertheless, they allowed the competition to continue and they were very glad they did, for Governor Herbert surpassed himself in further remarks in praise of ignorance.

“Let me point out how even known knowns are not known. Everyone used to say that the Pope was always Catholic. Well, then they went and named a Polish guy Pope, and now they’ve got a German pope.

“Or take, for example the socalled fact that when it rains, it pours. Now, I don’t think the science is in on this matter. When it rains, sometimes it doesn’t pour but just kind of drizzles. And here’s another example: every day you hear someone say, ‘Whatever goes up, must come down.’ Well, sometimes, through no fault of your own, something stays up for four hours and then you’ve got to go see your doctor.

“Speaking of that sort of thing, right now in Utah we’re debating sex education in schools, about what to tell the kids about the birds and the bees. I just don’t  know about that. In fact, I think the science isn’t in yet about where babies come from. I’ve got a whole lot of kids myself, but I couldn’t say where they come from. Did God make them from scratch or were they just assembled and organized from pre-existing particles of refined spirit?

“In conclusion, do we know for sure that God made the little green apples? Or whether it rains in Indianapolis in the summertime? And, science is still out on the question of whether there’s any such thing as Dr. Seuss, Disneyland or Mother Goose. Do we know for sure if it snows in Minneapolis when the winter comes? How about make-believe, puppy dogs, autumn leaves and BB guns?”

After his acceptance speech, the governor’s office issued a clarification, apologizing to all gun owners for implying that any kind of gun, even a BB gun, might not exist.

 
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