A little homily from The Chris Trotter Blog post – Counting the Horses Teeth. It is about political polls but of course underlines the role of evidence in science. Very relevant to current discussions on this site.
“According to legend, the radical medieval theologian and poet, Peter Abelard, once confounded his teachers by subjecting their received wisdom to a simple empirical test.
His scholastic masters had been arguing about exactly how many teeth there should be in a horse’s mouth. If they applied the principles of the classical philosopher Aristotle, they arrived at one number, but, if they relied upon the observations of another ancient sage, a different total suggested itself.
Backwards and forwards the argument raged until the young Abelard, frustrated beyond endurance, rose to his feet, and, calling upon his fellow students to follow him, marched down to the marketplace, where he simply forced open the mouth of the one horse after another – and counted its teeth.”