|Style over substance|
The "bumblebee argument", or argumentum ad bombum, in pseudoscience, states that the laws of aerodynamics prove that the bumblebee can't fly, as it does not have the required capacity (in terms of wing area or flapping speed). Consequently, therefore, science can be shown to be in error, providing a loophole for pseudoscientific "explanations". Arguments like these are occasionally used by creationists to claim that it's impossible for bees to be a product of evolution, though they're quite common in more general anti-science circles that like to cry "look at science, it knows nothing!"
Unfortunately (for the pseudoscientists), the laws of physics do not in any way forbid bumblebee flight; there are no papers that deny bumblebee flight, and no scientist has done so in a lecture, except, perhaps, ironically. To put it simply, it is possible to "prove" that a bumblebee cannot fly if you perform an extremely crude calculation (like forgetting to take into account things like the rate of flapping, the rotation of the wing, or the action of vortices), but a full aerodynamic calculation (to say nothing of getting all empirical and watching a bumblebee fly) will show that the bumblebee's flight works perfectly well.[note 1]
The origin of the statement is lost in the mists of time, but one version says that it was made by French entomologist Antoine Magnan in 1934, based on calculations by his assistant, an engineer. Other versions suggest that the bumblebee could not fly according to the principles of fixed-wing aerodynamics; that is to say, it must flap its wings. In some versions, said calculations were made specifically to show that they cannot be applied to insects, and scientists must figure out the proper ones. In fact, bumblebees simply flap harder than other insects, increasing the amplitude of their wing strokes to achieve more lift, and use a figure-of-eight wing motion to create low-pressure vortices to pull them up.
The kangaroo argument
There is a similar concept to the idea that a kangaroo can't exist because jumping would consume more energy than it could possibly get from eating. Like the bumblebee argument, it is possible to "prove" that a kangaroo can't jump if you leave out a few key variables. If you assume that a kangaroo is simply an 80-kg weight that is lifted up and dropped repeatedly, then your calculation will show that the "kangaroo" can't jump. The missing variable is that a kangaroo's leg muscles and tendons act as springs, transferring the energy from landing into the next jump.
Multilevel marketing makeup magnate Mary Kay has been a major propagator of this bit of modern folklore, using it to encourage its low-ranking sellers to continue pushing their products despite their own inability to function in a badly structured marketing environment. The story implies that you can beat marketing inexperience and a low customer base with willpower and trust in God. The quote is often attributed to Mary Kay Founder Mary Kay Ash herself.
So prevalent is the Bumblebee argument in the Mary Kay Cosmetics that successful and high ranking distributors are awarded lapel pins and pinkie rings with bee designs on them.
In the 2007 animated "comedy" film Bee Movie, the very first words spoken are a recounting of this bogus myth: "According to all known laws of aviation, there is no way a bee should be able to fly. Its wings are too small to get its fat little body off the ground. The bee, of course, flies anyway because bees don't care what humans think is impossible." This quote has gained traction all over the Internet as part of the entire movie being considered a meme; hence, if you encounter someone saying the quote worded this way, they are more likely a person who is into memes than a true holder of an anti-science position. It is interesting to note that Bee Movie wasn't even about bumblebees; it was about honeybees.
Mike Huckabee and the bumblebee
“”It's scientifically impossible for the bumblebee to fly; but the bumblebee, being unaware of these scientific facts, flies anyway.
Huckabee, the B-list candidate, was plagiarizing the Bee Movie.
- Banana argument — another, even more laughable, creationist argument
- …Okay, maybe bumblebee flight is less agile, efficient, or graceful than the flight of other insects, like butterflies, flies, mosquitoes, wasps, or beetles. The point is that it works at all.
- Bumblebee flight explained by Lindsay Beyerstein (January 22, 2006).
- The Reason Why the Bumblebee Story is True by Raisinberry (May 21, 2015) Pink Truth: Facts, opinions and the real story behind Mary Kay Cosmetics.
- Bee Movie page on Know Your Meme
- Huckabee, the bumblebee, rises to the top on a wing and a prayer: The latest standard-bearer of the right plays the evangelic Christian card — and polishes his stand-up routine by Suzanne Goldenberg (Thursday 6 December 2007 02.50 EST) The Guardian.