Tuesday, 2 January 2018

On Llamas and Inductive Reasoning.

I was clearing one of the road drains today when my old friend the llama came trotting up looking mightily amused.

‘You look amused,’ I said.

‘You state the obvious,’ he replied.

I chose not to be offended since a llama's intention is not always quite what it seems, but asked instead what he found so funny.

‘I just proved how illogical humans are,’ he answered smugly.

‘Oh yes, and how did you do that?’

‘I snatched a woman’s hat off her head and flung it along the road.’

‘Why was that funny?’

That wasn’t funny. What was funny was her reaction.’

‘Which was?’

‘She looked confused for a moment, and then said to the male companion with whom she was walking: “Oh. The wind must have blown my hat off.” “I didn’t feel any wind,” replied the male of the species. “Well, what else could it have been?” she insisted, still affecting that odd countenance which humans adopt when they lack the appropriate degree of certainty. “I don’t know,” he muttered. “I suppose there must have been a sudden gust.” See what I mean? Illogical.’

‘It wasn’t illogical at all,’ I argued, feeling a trifle defensive towards my own species for a change. ‘Hats don’t just fly off your head under their own power, do they? They naturally assumed it was the wind because that was the only rational explanation.’

‘Ah, but it wasn’t though, was it?’

‘Wasn’t what?’

‘The only rational explanation. I remember reading a book once about a detective called Shylock something-or-other…’

‘You mean Sherlock Holmes.’

‘Do I? Well, whatever. The bit I particularly remember was where he said: “When you’ve eliminated the impossible, whatever remains – however improbable – must be the truth.” Or words to that effect. Now, had the woman said “My hat just flew off my head and there’s no wind, therefore I conclude that an invisible llama is playing tricks on me,” I should have had much more faith in her powers of reason and those of your species generally. What are you doing, by the way?’

‘Clearing the dead leaves and silt off this grid.’


‘So the water will go down it instead of running along the road like a river in the wrong place.’

‘Hmm. Good idea. Do the other humans in this locality value your efforts?’

'Probably not.'

'My point precisely.'

And then he trotted off up the road whistling. Did you know that llamas can whistle? No, neither did I.

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