A reasonable mug

By Phil Plait | June 2, 2011 2:30 pm

My pal Melissa Lee is the head organizer of the Minnesota Skeptics (some NSFW language there). I met her at TAM in 2010 and we hit it off; she’s smart, funny, and sassy; characteristics I see in a lot of my female friends. Probably not a coincidence.

She asked me recently if she could use a quote of mine to help raise money for the group, and I said "Sure!" The result: the coffee mug seen here. The quote is from my 2010 TAM talk; it’s a variation on the old aphorism, "Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime"*.

The main point of that whole talk was to make sure people were aware of their goal when discussing skeptical topics with people who aren’t being skeptical; and despite the details of how to do it, my goal is always to promote the idea that all of us need to think more reasonably. In fact, we need to make it a lifetime habit.

Melissa created other swag items, including t-shirts (like this nebular one I like particularly), all of which help raise funds for a group which has that same goal: promote critical thinking. If you live in the Minnesota part of the country, check them out.


* When I was writing that speech, I struggled with making the phrase less sexist, but couldn’t get it to work. I think that happened because I was already changing the basic aphorism, and changing the word "man" to anything else made it harder to identify the original phrase, losing the flavor of the quote. I wound up leaving it in. Playing with words is funny, and leads to odd insights sometimes.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Skepticism

Comments (27)

  1. Renee Marie Jones

    Give a man a fish and he eats for a day.
    Teach a man to fish and he’ll sit in a boat drinking beer all day.

  2. Christopher Shoup

    I like it.

    Also, I think this is the first time on the site you’ve been referred to as “Dr.”

    When mentioning your awesome stuff to friends I tend to leave it off even knowing you’re a Doctor just so people don’t think I’m getting my awesome astronomy info – and it is awesome – from Dr. Phil…

  3. Scott Romanowski

    I think Terry Pratchett wrote
    “Build a man a fire and he’ll be warm for a day.
    Set a man on fire and he’ll be warm for the rest of his life.”

    You could non-sexistly write
    “Teach people to reason and they’ll think for a lifetime.”

  4. Or teach a person to reason, and they’ll think for a lifetime.

  5. Cymraes

    I think it’s ok with ‘man’ in it. It makes it sound like men are the ones that need to be taught how to reason, women already have that down :P

  6. “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day; teach a man to fish and Workers Compensation will feed him for a lifetime – plus you get back the fishing rod.”

  7. cerberus40

    Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day.
    Give a fish a man and he’ll eat for a week.

  8. Doug

    Teach a man to fish and he’ll blow all his money on expensive lures.

    Yeah, you’re better off teaching a man to think.

  9. Jeffersonian

    “Man” is short for “human” (from Latin “homo”). It’s not sexist, in that this is just the way English evolved (and many languages are much worse in this regard). It’s just an archaic-now-aphorism. It wasn’t until later in the development of English that “man” also meant “male”.
    ref:
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mannaz

  10. Rick

    Where could one purchase one of these cool mugs.

  11. “Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll buy a funny hat. Talk to a hungry man about fish, and you’re a consultant.”
    — Scott Adams

  12. Messier Tidy Upper

    Good quote, nice mug shot. ;-)

    Off-topic – sa wthis in today’s breaking news on the ABC TV webite :

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/05/06/3210012.htm

  13. > 4. Cynthia Says:
    > June 2nd, 2011 at 3:39 pm
    >
    > Or teach a person to reason, and they’ll think for a lifetime.

    That is sexist, as ‘son’ is a male child!

    It should be ‘Teach a perchild to reason, and they’ll think for a lifetime.’. :-)

    Now there is no reference to gender at all.

  14. Messier Tidy Upper

    The answer seems to me to be ‘one’ ie.

    “Teach some one to think to reason and they’ll think for a lifetime.”

    Just as they de-gendered the original Trek with The NextGen’s intro quote : “Boldly going where no one had gone before”

    But I guess you considered that idea and rejected it?

    @ 2. Christopher Shoup :

    “Also, I think this is the first time on the site you’ve been referred to as “Dr.”
    When mentioning your awesome stuff to friends I tend to leave it off even knowing you’re a Doctor just so people don’t think I’m getting my awesome astronomy info – and it is awesome – from Dr. Phil…”

    Well, I’ve referred to Dr Phil Plait as ,well Dr Phil Plait on occassion in comments here. Although I usually refer to him as ‘BA’ for Bad Astronomer. Many refer to him here just as Phil.

    Question to Doctor Plait now – what do *you* prefer us to use?

  15. Ian

    Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. (Proverbs 4:7)

  16. Rallick

    I came here to mention that Pratchett quote too, but #3 has beaten me to the punch by a significant margin!

  17. Jeez, what’s a guy got to do to get his own saying on a mug? Write 5,000 blog posts? Is THAT all? ;-)

  18. Legion

    Oh man, I love that quote! I used it as my QOTD on my facebook page (as Giordano Bruno)… twice!

    Also, it’s used in the Symphony Of Science video “A Wave Of Reason” on YouTube (tell me you haven’t seen that video series). Links to them in the notes section of my FB page. It is set to friends of friends thus Phil can get in to it since we’re mutual FB friends with the SGU guys.

    Oh, ok. Here’s the link to the one with you in it:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PT90dAA49Q

    I want that mug!

    p.s.
    Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day
    Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime
    Give a man religion and he’ll starve while praying for a fish.

  19. Chelsea

    “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day.
    Teach a man to fish and he’ll sit in a boat drinking beer all day.”

    Renee, that first line should read: “Give a man a fish and he’ll have his wife clean it and cook it for him.”

    Give a man a lifetime to be able to teach him how to think reasonably.

  20. Tappancs

    I believe another popular version of the fish saying is:
    “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; give him a freshly-charged
    Electric Eel and chances are he won’t bother you for anything ever again.”

  21. I just ordered one. Gee, Phil, you’re officially famous now. (I can call him “Phil”. He’s a relative)

    @Rick, click the link in the blog post. Takes you straight to Zazzle, where you can customize and buy one. I got the 15oz. version with a burgundy inside.

  22. mike burkhart

    How about : Teach a brain to reson and it will always think.After all the brain is the place where information is stored like a big database,and the brain is the Astronomers most important tool.

  23. Chris

    I hope you’re getting a few percent profit from every mug sold.

  24. Nigel Depledge

    Gogblog (18) said:

    Jeez, what’s a guy got to do to get his own saying on a mug? Write 5,000 blog posts? Is THAT all?

    Writing 5000 blog posts is easy.

    Getting people to read 5000 of your blog posts deserves having your name on a mug.

  25. Tuttle

    I’ll go with the Belkar Bitterleaf version;

    Solve a man’s problems with violence and you help him for a day. Teach a man to solve his problems with violence and you help him forever.

  26. Nigel Depledge

    @ Tuttle (26) –
    Yay, OOTS!

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »