Villagers With Pitchforks

The flaming torches were delayed in transit, sorry.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

...whatever remains, however improbable, must be true.

John Robinson over at Sore Eyes points us to this lovely bit of logic:

Sherlock Holmes: Visitor to a Small Planet

While atempting to identify a saboteur aboard the Starship Enterprise (NCC-1701A), Captain Spock makes the following statement: "An ancestor of mine maintained that whenever you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be true."

We are all familiar with this maxim; it is Mr. Sherlock Holmes' most fundamental rule of logic and deduction. Indeed, the "process of elimination" is a longstanding and respected technique in such diverse fields as forensics, plant hybridization, and computer programming. Mr. Spock is very precise in his speech at all times. He is also known to be careful in the attribution of quotations. When challenged by Dr. Leonard McCoy (in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) he correctly identifies the phase "Angels and ministers of grace, defend us" as coming from Hamlet, Act I Scene IV. On another occasion (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier) when Dr. McCoy replies "Herman Melville" to Captain James Kirk's "All I ask is a tall ship, and a star to steer her by", Spock points out that the line is from John Masefield. I feel certain that Mr. Spock would attribute the above statement, expressed in this particular fashion, only to Mr. Holmes. This implies that Mr. Holmes is an ancestor of Mr. Spock. My task was to validate or dismiss this.


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