Tuesday, 25 February 2014

A misquote

Ten years ago, I misheard a quote given by a colleague to his class on forest planning. I thought he was quoting the Mendel - the father of genetics - and was something along the lines of having simple answers that were wrong. I thought it was great advice, especially for students studying the art of planning for working in natural environments, where everything seems to be related to everything else. But I never got around to finding the real quote. Eventually, I made up the following:

To every human question there is a simple and obvious answer that is wrong.

Try as I might though I could not find anything like this remotely attributable to Mendel, so I claimed the words as my own. Years later, I ran into that colleague and told him the story. He calmly replied that it was probably a quote from H.L. Mencken, but that he liked my rendition better. So, to honour the work of that great American author who inspired "my" quotable quote, I named my blog after him and I give you the original quote:

To every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong. (H.L. Mencken)

Given that whenever humans are involved the problems are complex, then it is obvious that we are on the same wavelength.

It is unfortunate that our clear, simple, obvious yet wrong answers or solutions are so often the first and only one we come up with.

1 comment:

  1. It's like when I write poetry I have to write out all the cliches that spring to mind first, before I can get to the gold. Love your blog!