Modern Mythology

The Need for Questioning Knowledge: Ribs as a Case Study

Lately I have had two different conversations in which people with college educations confidently asserted that men and women have a different number of ribs.  I generally blame this on the state of public education here in Georgia (US state version), but how does bad information like this get propagated?  I don’t think any textbook would make special mention of this myth, and even Answers in Genesis, of all bullshit sources, thinks the rib thing is silly. Granted I also had a woman raised atheist tell me she thought men had an extra pair of ribs because they were larger, which is a common misconception about how evolution works, comparable to the idea that giraffes have more neck vertebrae than humans.

Human skeletons and pictures thereof are not hard to access.  I can see the rib fable being widespread back before dissection was a thing people did, but we should all have opportunities to count for ourselves now.  I realize it is easy to have stuff we “just know” and never question, and it’s hard to catch that tendency in ourselves, but how do we all work on being more self-aware so we can question the things we just know?

Tell me your suggestions, gentle readers.

Featured image via flickr




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Elizabeth is a professional belly dancer, a flaky computer scientist, and a returned Peace Corps volunteer. She lives in Georgia (the state of the U.S., not the country) but is nonetheless somehow not a combination of stereotypes from Gone with the Wind and Deliverance. Her personal blog is Coffeefied. Operafied. Fluffified. Beglittered.

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