Urban legend debunked

As someone who has heard a large number of sermons in his lifetime, I can tell you that this urban legend (debunked here) is frequently used as a sermon illustration:

The urban legend is that if you place a frog in cool water and gradually turn up the heat, the frog will not attempt to jump out of the pot and will appear as if it is feeling no pain and will gradually boil to death. The story is that being that the frog is cold blooded, its body adjusts to its surrounding environment and it will simply “allow” itself to boil to death. It is often used as a metaphor to say that gradual change can be imperceptible, when compared to a major change, or just throwing the frog into boiling water. …

Vic’s [Dr. Victor Hutchison of the University of Oklahoma] answer was as follows: “The legend is entirely incorrect! The ‘critical thermal maxima’ of many species of frogs have been determined by several investigators. In this procedure, the water in which a frog is submerged is heated gradually at about 2 degrees Fahrenheit per minute. As the temperature of the water is gradually increased, the frog will eventually become more and more active in attempts to escape the heated water. If the container size and opening allow the frog to jump out, it will do so.”

Hat tip James Fallows, who points out that Al Gore used this illustration in An Inconvenient Truth. In a different post, Fallows points out, “It’s mean to the frogs to keep talking about them this way.”

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. McSwain
    Feb 25, 2008 @ 08:21:23

    i haven’t heard that one before. Then again, at my church, where my father was the pastor, I (and every mistake I made) was too often the sermon illustration. Yeah. Fun.

    Reply

  2. Stephen
    Feb 25, 2008 @ 18:53:43

    Oooooh, the horrors of life as a PK!

    Reply

  3. Bridgett
    Feb 26, 2008 @ 09:16:39

    It’s mean to talk about frogs this way? It’s not like they’re seventh graders or something. They don’t *know* we’re talking about them.

    Reply

  4. Bill Arends
    Feb 28, 2008 @ 02:08:26

    Do you boil frogs legs before you eat them? 🙂

    Reply

  5. Stephen
    Mar 01, 2008 @ 06:55:34

    It’s OK to boil frog legs, but don’t talk about it with the frog first. That would be cruel!

    Reply

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