That's the first sentence of "The Elephant's Child" by Rudyard Kipling. It's one of a series called "Just So Stories" that he wrote for one of his daughters. The story is about a baby elephant (full of 'satiable curiosity) who up until that time had only "a blackish, bulgy nose, as big as a boot" and who has his nose stretched by a deceitful crocodile.
And that, dear children, is why elephants have long noses. You can look it up.
Kipling wrote about a dozen of these stories, including:
*How the Whale got his Throat - Explains how the whale was once a fearsome predator who ate humans, but was changed by one of his victims.
*How the Camel got his Hump - Explains how the idle camel was punished.
*How the Rhinoceros got his Skin - Explains why Rhinos have folds in their skin and bad tempers.
*How the Leopard got his Spots - You can guess.....
*The Sing-Song of Old Man Kangaroo - The story of how the kangaroo turned from a grey, wooly animal with short, stubby legs, to the athletic animal we know today.
*The Beginning of the Armadillos - The story of how the hedgehog and the turtle transformed into the first....armadillos.
None of these stories are factual. None of them happened. None should be given equal time in a science textbook.
Some of them, however, contain truth. Not TRUTH, but truth. For instance, the truth in "The Elephant's Child" is that when a gullible person runs into a deceitful person, bad things happen to the gullible person. Or perhaps the truth in the story can be found in the cliche "Curiosity killed the cat".
The Jewish/Christian scriptures also give us some stories. They include:
*Why is there a rainbow? - Genesis 9:12-16. This story explains how God put the first rainbow in the sky, as a promise to never again destroy the earth with a flood. The truth in that story is that even if you live in London, it will eventually stop raining.
*Why do people speak different languages? - Genesis 11:4-8. This story explains what happened when people tried to build a tower (The Tower of Babel) that would reach to heaven, and God put an end to the project by giving everyone a different language. The truth in that story is obvious to anyone who has worked in China for a month.
*Why don't snakes have legs? Why do people have to work? Why does it hurt women to have babies? - Genesis 3:14-19. 1) If snakes had legs, they'd be lobbyists. 2) Obama and Biden are asking that same question. 3) We'd be overpopulated otherwise.
You get the idea. These are stories. Some of them are good. Some of them, like the story of Abraham attempting to sacrifice his son Isaac, are barbaric and should be avoided.
Many Christians obsess over the story found in Genesis 1:26-27 . (Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.) They want to be sure this story gets equal time in science classrooms. They try to influence textbook publishers and purchasing committees. It influences how they vote. They give biology teachers hell. They take the issue to court.
So where are the people who should be protesting against "Godless Linguistics"? Do you remember the chart that was usually in the front of your middle school Grammar and English books? The one that showed all the different families of languages? The chart makes no mention of The Tower Of Babel ! ! ! Where's the outrage? Where are the protesters?
Remember your elementary school science teacher shining light through a prism and explaining the color spectrum? Did he take time to explain that this phenomenom didn't exist before the flood in Genesis? Did he explain that the resulting rainbow was a promise from God, and not a mere reorganization of light? From now on, shouldn't the Genesis Flood Story be given equal time when Optics is taught?
Spinal blocks and epidurals during childbirth are immoral, since they are an attempt to lessen the curse found in Genesis 3. Am I missing something here?
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Fundamentalists are very selective in their protests.
There are some great, great stories in the Jewish and Christian scriptures. Like Kipling's "Just So Stories" they're an attempt at explaining why the world is the way it is. They were the best we could do at the time. When we read them, we should be looking for the truths, not the facts. That's what the person who created them intended.
"When I was a child I spoke as a child I understood as a child I thought as a child; but when I became a man I put away childish things." I Corinthians 13: 11
So put down your picket signs. Stop lobbying textbook publishers. Leave the biology teachers alone. Grow up.