There’s More Than One Way to …

When I was younger I was involved in the mapping and ground verification of satellite images of a UNESCO biosphere reserve.  This allowed me at the tender ages of 16, 17 and 18 to see, first hand, the methods and reasoning of world-class scientists.  It was fascinating and offered me a glimpse into how two intelligent people can both be right while adamantly believing the other is wrong.

One hot summer day we were in a planning session, in a room cooled only by a small oscillating fan, and two of the scientists disagreed on a method.  One of them became rather upset over the disagreement and made an impassioned case for her preferred method, outlining the consequences of using the other proposed method.  At the end of her speech she stood up and left the room.  After an awkward silence the other scientist sighed and said, “Jane needs to realize there’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

Horrified, I gasped and said, “why do we need to skin a cat?!  Why would anyone ever do that?!”  It was quickly explained that no cats would be skinned and that the phrase was an idiom that meant the problem had more than one acceptable solution.*

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