Paths That Stray:
Some Notes on Sophic and Mantic - Part 1
Part 1: Introduction through Proposition 4
The purpose of the excerpts that follow is to save the student time—years of it, in some cases—that would normally be taken up with endless bull sessions, lonely heart searchings, and very little research. The quotations that make up most of our text are taken from eminent authorities and are meant to help the student make up his own mind. The modern references cluster around the turn of the decade, 1959-60, when the Darwin Centennial was being celebrated, at which time I gathered them in response to challenges by students and teachers alike to justify my reluctance to teach certain generally accepted propositions.
The natural objection to a handful of old notecards flung in the reader’s face is that most of the quotations are bound to be out of date and that the people who made them would today be considered questionable authorities, if they ever were taken seriously. But since Science is not a subject but a method, every scientist, regardless of his specialty or rank, can in a way speak for Science—and does. The important thing, however, is that we are dealing here not with the old donnybrook between science and religion but with the ancient confrontation of Sophic and Mantic. The Sophic is simply the art of solving problems without the aid of any superhuman agency, which the Mantic, on the other hand, is willing to solicit or accept. Our civilization today is “sophically” oriented, though far from dedicated to scientific thought. Allen Wheelis begins his book The End of the Modern Age with a statement in italics: “The vision which has determined the Modern Age is this: Man can know the world by the unaided effort of reason.”1 This conviction dominates every field of thought. Thus on the dust cover of Mrs. Fawn M. Brodie’s highly inaccurate biography of Joseph Smith, No Man Knows My History, Mr. Bernard DeVoto makes a stirring sales pitch as he proclaims the author to be eminently trustworthy as “a detached, modern intelligence, grounded in naturalism, rejecting the supernatural.”2 No matter what one’s field, whether science, scholarship, literature, or art, one must “reject the supernatural” to be taken seriously.
That the pitfalls of both Sophic and Mantic are shared equally by scientists and religionists in our day, who both singly and together ignore the blessings of both ways of thought, is the theme of the instructive reflections of the British biologist G. A. Kerkut, who writes: “The serious undergraduate of the previous centuries was brought up on a theological diet from which he would learn to have faith and to quote authorities when he was in doubt. Intelligent understanding was the last thing required. The undergraduate of today is just as bad; he is still the same opinion-swallowing grub. . . . Regardless of his subject, be it Engineering, Physics, English, or Biology, he will have faith in theories that he only dimly follows and will call upon various authorities to support what he does not understand. In this he differs not one bit from the irrational theology student of the bygone age. . . . But what is worse, the present-day student claims to be different . . . in that he thinks scientifically and despises dogma.”3 And today the theology student also thinks scientifically and is not a whit behind the aspiring scientist in being “grounded in naturalism, rejecting the supernatural,” the unqualified acceptance of which has always been the principal charge of the ministry against the Mormons. So let the reader beware of confusing the issues of science and religion as they are debated in our present-day society with the perennial confrontation of Sophic and Mantic which lies behind it all. The few quotations that follow, a mere sampling, are to indicate where the age-old confrontation has led us in the past.
For anyone who pays attention to “the lessons of history,” few parallels could be more instructive than that between the Greek experience and our own in the confrontation of Mantic and Sophic. The vastness of our subject can best be encompassed in a series of propositions and subpropositions, with a few lyrical digressions.
Proposition 1. Greek writers speak of two ways of viewing the world, which can be designated as Mantic and Sophic. A like dichotomy characterizes modern thought.
Definition: Sources in Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon4 under “mantic” (mantikos) use that word as indicating what is inspired, revealed, oracular, prophetic, or divinatory. The word sophic, used to signify that which men learn by their own unaided wits, though attested, is very rare, but we shall use it in place of its common synonyms “sophistic” and “philosophic”5 to avoid the confusing connotations which cling to them. Dio Chrysostom characterizes the degenerate education of his day as being “neither mantic, nor sophistic, nor even rhetorical,” those being the three accepted categories of study.6 “Philosophy had two beginnings,” writes Diogenes Laertius, the one represented by Anaximander, the other by Pythagoras;7 the former sought to explain everything by investigation of the physis, the physical universe alone (see the next section), the latter held on the other hand that only God really knows what is what, the philosopher being merely his messenger.8 “One man,” said Solon, wisest of the Greeks, “receives from the Olympian Muses the gift of inspired sophia that men strive for, and another from Apollo the mantic gift of prophecy,”9 making the same distinction as Empedocles: “True reason is either divine or human; the former is inexpressible, the latter available to discussion,”10 i.e., Mantic and Sophic respectively.
As will appear from the quotations that follow, the modern world makes the same distinction, usually under the titles of science (Sophic) and religion (Mantic).
Proposition 2. The foundation of Sophic thinking was the elimination of the supernatural or superhuman, i.e., anything that could not be weighed, measured, or sensed objectively, from a description of the real world.
A. This means that the Universe runs itself without any conscious direction.
Modern Statements: “Today we have a new conception of the universe as self-governed and self-regulating, . . . instead of the relatively restricted universe of our traditional conception.”11 “Man is the expression of universal, organic, social and personal formative tendencies in a world of accidents.”12 “The cosmos itself is patternless, being a jumble of random and disordered events.”13 “The final and natural state of things is a completely random distribution of matter. Any kind of order . . . is unnatural and happens only by chance encounters that reverse the general trend.”14
Ancient Statements: The Greek Sophic began with the study of the physics as comprising all things; Anaximander’s apeiron (“the boundless”) by definition included everything, with no possibility of any power, influence, or substance being unaccounted for, and this all-in-all was purely physical in nature, a soma.15 His successors in the Milesian school all sought to explain the basic substance and creative power of the universe in terms of one element or another—but it was always a physical element.16 They asked the question: What picture of the world do we get if we leave all supernatural (Mantic) elements out of our investigations? Since Mantic things cannot be weighed and measured, let us proceed as if they did not exist. What picture of the world would we get? This was a loaded question, since the fact of the discovery of anything could be taken as absolute proof that the assumption of God and the supernatural was unnecessary in arriving at significant conclusions, hence expendable, hence useless baggage, hence a mere holdover from ages of superstition, and finally a pernicious nuisance to be swept into the trashbin as soon as possible. The Mantic and Sophic do not get along well together. “Did the natural world [physis] come into being without cause or grow up without any directing mind or consciousness [dianoias], as everybody believes today, or was it by thought [logos] and divine knowledge [epistemas theias], by God?”17 “When I [Socrates] was young . . . I was completely devoted to the intellectual quest, as they call the investigation of the physical world. . . . I was convinced that I could know . . . how everything comes into existence. . . . I knew that the brain was the seat of sensation, thought, and hence of knowledge itself, and that one need look no further for the answer to everything.”18 The “classical Greek atomists [were] . . . guilty . . . of the impossible attempts to explain everything by matter and motion.”19 After Hippocrates, the medics “taught that demons had nothing to do with sickness, but humors and vapors were the sole cause of disease.”20 This was the characteristic attitude of the Sophic.
B. Whether intentionally or not, the Sophic position was necessarily antireligious.
Modern Statements: “Of all possible schemes of the universe the one most hostile to religion was that sponsored by the science of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.”21 The scientific view of the universe had three main foundations: (1) matter, as the only form of reality, (2) mechanical, as the only kind of law, and (3) evolution, as an automatic process. “Discouraging for humanity, the implications are disastrous for religion.”22 “The earth has changed throughout its history under the action of material forces only, and of the same forces as those now visible to us”;23 this teaching has “reduced the sway of superstition in the conceptual world of human lives.”24 “Darwin’s greatest contribution” was to see that “evolution can be explained in terms of causality alone and does not require any teleological conceptions.”25 “The origin and growth of organisms has been natural, not in the least supernatural. The primeval lightning, . . . gases, . . . ultra-violet sunlight participated, . . . and . . . here we are!”26 “No religious dogma, such as primitive revelation, may be introduced as a scientific ethnological explanation.” We must not reduce “the humanistic science of culture to theology.”27 “The issue of mortality versus immortality is crucial in the argument of Humanism against supernaturalism”28 (note here how Humanism is completely committed not to the Mantic but to the Sophic line).
Ancient Statements: “Ionic philosophy was in conscious opposition . . . to the cosmological, mythological poets and . . . rejected everything theological, mythological, or mystical, seeking to explain the origin of the universe and its development in purely physical terms of natural philosophy.”29 Protagoras, in the spirit of such scientific philosophers as Xenophanes, Heraclitus, and the Eleatic school, “attacked every illusion, every tradition, by insisting on truth, clarity, objectivity, consistency, and neatness in thinking and speech.”30 He emphasized honesty and uprightness, but “at the same time robbed them of their religious foundations. He recommends old-fashioned honesty, but does not want any old-fashioned ideas to go with it.”31 Of him Plato said, “You can’t fool the gods either by flattery or neglect.”32 Thus, Protagoras’s unsparing attacks on Homer as a moral guide, following the example of the Ionian scientists, inevitably brought discredit on religion itself,33 so that intelligent people, following the teaching of the Sophists, were expected to debunk and ridicule any old values or beliefs as a matter of course. Thus Protagoras says that the opening line of the Iliad is not a prayer at all, as it is supposed to be, being in the imperative case, to which Aristotle replies in essence, “So what? Any fool can see that it is a prayer.”34 Xenophon protests the teaching of Homer and Hesiod that “happiness [is] dependent on the will of Heaven,” maintaining that man makes his own happiness and is dependent on no one.35 Behind such hair-splitting criticism was always an air of superior knowledge: Crete had one hundred cities in the Iliad but only ninety in the Odyssey; in the Iliad, the sun-god is said by the poet to see everything—yet in the Odyssey he has to send out messengers; the gods drink unmixed nectar, yet Calypso mixes a draught for Hermes—it is the smart-alec debunking like that of our own H. L. Mencken of the 1920s and 1930s.36 Trivial attacks on the morality of the Greek scriptures were nonetheless devastating: Hippias prefers the “frank and straightforward” Achilles to the “wily and false Odysseus.”37 Zoilus defends the Cyclops, berates Odysseus and Apollo, and finds all sorts of flaws and inconsistencies in Homer—why does God permit innocent dogs and mules to be killed?38 It was petty and peevish, and sensationally successful. Almost overnight the new smart sophistication became “the common property of educated people” in all Greece.39
C. Specifically, the Sophic dispensed with the need for God.
Modern Statements: When Napoleon asked Laplace how God fit into his cosmology, he replied: “Sire, je n’ai pas eu besoin de cette hypothèse”—his system had no need for a God-hypothesis.40 Newton saw that mechanical hypotheses “lead straight away towards atheism. Mechanical hypotheses concerning gravity, as a matter of fact, deny God’s action in the world and push him out of it.”41 “Evolution is a fully natural process, inherent in the physical properties of the universe.”42 “Life may conceivably be happier for some people in the older worlds of superstition. It is possible that some children are made happy by a belief in Santa Claus, but adults should prefer to live in a world of reality and reason.”43 “It seemed as though the machines man had invented made him more secure. . . . He was ceasing to be (as the English farmer complained in describing his occupation) ‘too dependent on the Almighty.'”44 “Thus we must make an effort to achieve this new conception of a self-regulating, self-governed universe requiring no supreme ruler or ad hoc causes and forces to keep it running.”45 “Evolution now becomes not only the Source of Comfort and Reassurance . . . the Immanent and Omnipresent Creator . . . [but] all the wonders which for Archdeacon Paley were evidences of the existence of God can on this view be put to the credit of Evolution.”46 “The Infinite Universe of the New Cosmology . . . inherited all the ontological attributes of Divinity. Yet only those—all the others the departed God took away with Him.”47
Ancient Statements: From Anaxagoras the scientist, Pericles learned “to despise all the superstitious fears which the awe-inspiring signs of the heaven arouse in those ignorant of the causes of such things, who . . . let their apprehensions about the gods throw them into a sorry state of alarm.”48 “Whereas the superstitious person, when he gets sick, resigns himself to the will of Heaven, the atheist tries to remember what he ate or drank.”49 In exercising their right and duty to debunk everything, the Sophists inevitably zeroed in on God: for all their pious dedication the net result of their teaching was a sterile atheism.50 Dependence on God was supplanted by dependence on oneself. Critias in his lost play Sisyphus said the gods were the invention of some primitive politician, to keep the mob in line by fear of Some One in the sky.
Proposition 3. Having dismissed the Mantic, the Sophic becomes impatient of its lingering survival, which it views with uncompromising hostility.
A. Superimposed on ancient tradition, the Sophic teaching claims to bring emancipation to the human mind from hoary superstition, and in so doing creates its own facile evolutionary pattern of history.
Modern Statements: “Of all antagonisms of belief, the oldest, the widest, the most profound, and the most important, is that between Religion and Science. It commenced when the recognition of the simplest uniformities in surrounding things set a limit to the once universal supersition.”51 Thanks to Darwin, “instead of the gracious half-divine figures of the Golden Age . . . we are shown a breed of hairy gorilla-like creatures, huddling and jibbering in caves; . . . undoubtedly modern man is a much more complex being than primitive man. He has developed a much wider and subtler range of sensibilities and interests.”52 “These beliefs are survivals of an ancient animistic tradition which has for so long directed human thinking about the universe. . . . As an escape from this conception, scientific studies and formulations have, since the days of Copernicus and Galileo, sought for order and regularity in nature.”53 But some scholars have balked at this idea. “Illusions of grandeur take a number of forms,” including “that which exalts our own age at the expense of all past ages.”54 We must “rid ourselves of the pious superstition of our grandfathers that we have made splendid progress and that the pitiful early centuries lie . . . in the dense fog of their own imperfection.”55
Ancient Statements: Western civilization began with Hellenism and should be called “Rationalistic Civilization.” “All the development of knowledge, of command over the forces of Nature, . . . has had for its moving principle a rationalism whose origin is to be found in the Greek citystates.”56 Few students are aware today that the ancient Sophists painted a picture of “primitive man,” the hairy cave-man, exactly matching that which we get from Darwin.57 Thales, the founder of Greek science, congratulated himself “that he was born a Greek and not a barbarian.” The philosophers followed suit, regarding themselves just as naturally superior to other races as to monkeys and ants.58 “Seneca does not have to read the ancients to condemn them—the moderns are superior as such.”59 Shahrastani divides the Rationalists and Philosophers into (1) Sophists, (2) Natural Scientists, (3) Materialists. What all have in common is the rejection of revelation.60
B. Arising as a protest to the Mantic, the Sophic always depends on polemic for its appeal; it feeds on the Mantic and is negative and dependent in nature.
Modern Statements: “No less severe was his [Lamarck’s] philosophical hostility amounting to hatred for the tradition of the Deluge and the Biblical creation story, indeed for everything which recalled the Christian theory of nature.”61 Darwin claimed, “I had gradually come, by this time, to see that the Old Testament from its manifestly false history of the world . . . was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos, or the beliefs of any barbarian, . . . that the men at that time were ignorant and credulous to a degree almost incomprehensible by us. . . . Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete. . . . I felt no distress, and have never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct.”62 This was in 1836-39, when Darwin was still in his twenties and had as yet done none of his scientific work—yet already his mind was made up for all time; the negative part of his doctrine was fixed, and in that negative part lies his supreme contribution to knowledge.63 “Darwin’s supreme achievement was to make compelling the inference that evolution has in fact taken place. . . . Providing a basis for mechanistic interpretation, it helped to free biology of animistic influence.”64 Without something to ridicule, the Sophic loses much of its appeal. In his novel The Affair, C. P. Snow describes the quintessential intellectual: “The old man was happy. He felt as though back in the Cambridge of the Nineties, when unbelief, rude, positive unbelief, was fun.”65 “No man of ‘unquestioning faith’ can be a member in good standing of a true university. . . . A man who is not prepared to challenge (earnestly, respectfully, fearlessly) The Wealth of Nations or Das Kapital, The Koran or The Book of Mormon . . . is at heart no scholar and no scientist.”66 Note that challenging these things means to reject them outright, i.e., not seriously to challenge them at all. John Stuart Mill, reading the Gospel of John, laid it aside “before he reached the 6th Chapter, with the comment: ‘This is poor stuff.'”67
Ancient Statements: When Epicurus was fourteen years old (as with Darwin in his twenties) and his teachers could not answer his questions about the original chaos of Hesiod, he turned away from religion to philosophy for the rest of his life.68 Lucian “ridicules the ancient poets for pretending to be inspired interpreters of the will of heaven.”69 His commonsense ridiculing of old customs and beliefs made Lucian a great favorite of the Byzantine period and the Renaissance.70 Andocides, an ambitious and unscrupulous operator, found fame and notoriety through his association with a group of individuals accused of damaging the Hermes and making fun of everything; he even joined the Eleusinian mysteries in order to expose them.71 After Augustus, smart Romans looked back on Old Latin literature with loathing, since it lacked the Greek sophistication.72 Entering the scene as frank, searching, brilliant, irreverent, unabashed thinkers,73 the Sophists started out by lambasting Homer, the most revered voice of all,74 but the Sophic practitioners became a crashing bore when they had nothing to attack but were left to their own studies, tedious and hypercritical as they are. Compare Plato’s Apology, Crito, Gorgias, and Protagoras on the essential barrenness of the Sophic.
Proposition 4. Claiming magisterial authority, the Sophic acknowledges no possibility of defeat or rivalry. In principle it can never be wrong. Its confidence is absolute.
A. Successive failures in no wise discourage it.
Modern Statements: In 1954, Alfred North Whitehead noted, “Since the turn of the century I have lived to see every one of the basic assumptions of both [science and mathematics] set aside; . . . and all this in one lifespan. . . . And yet, in the face of that, the discoverers of the new hypotheses in science are declaring, ‘Now at last, we have certitude‘—when some of the assumptions which we have seen upset had endured for more than twenty centuries.”75 “Each new fashion or advancement in research was hailed as just the thing to solve all life’s mysteries. . . . Always just around the corner was the answer to all the riddles.”76 But the modern Sophists insist in carrying on in this way: “To cry ‘We are ignorant’ is safe and healthy, but to cry ‘we shall be ignorant’ in the future is rash and foolish”; “he who declares that they [any problems] can never be solved by the scientific method is to my mind as rash as the man [who] . . . declared it utterly impossible [to talk] across the Atlantic Ocean.”77 “So science has, it seems, been so successful that it has inevitably earned a great and strange reputation. . . . Presumably these scientists are both so clever and so wise that they can do anything. Perhaps we should turn the world over to this superbreed.”78
Ancient Statements: The sublime confidence of the Sophist in his powers is a stock theme in the Lives of the Philosophers. The art of rhetoric was constructed to guarantee that no Sophist would ever have to admit defeat.79
B. Even when its most confident claims are discredited and its predictions fail, the Sophic remains unrepentant: those who admit that natural selection is not the answer go on insisting that it is still the first article of faith.
Modern Statements: It is repeatedly stated that Darwin’s greatest contribution was the concept of natural selection as providing the mechanistic explanation of creation and evolution.80 Yet admittedly natural selection does not work: “Even after his great discovery of the operation of evolution through natural selection he [Darwin] still believed in Lamarck’s doctrine of evolution through the inheritance of acquired characters, a doctrine his own work had rendered superfluous and indeed erroneous.”81 “Since Darwin wrote, his theory of natural selection has been constantly in the minds of naturalists, who have designed, but never satisfactorily carried out, experiments to show that natural selection does in fact occur.”82 “It has been difficult to realize that . . . there is a considerable and, it is fair to say, steadily growing realization that natural selection is not, and can never have been, that principal cause of evolution that it is still too often claimed to be.”83 “We are ignorant of the causes and mechanisms of variation.”84 “Today, A. H. Mueller, M. D. Newell, and G. G. Simpson are teaching contradictory to Darwin’s doctrine of gradual evolution.”85 Likewise, uniformitarianism, once “the great underlying principle of modern geology,”86 is being supplanted by the new plate tectonics,87 but the Sophic does not apologize for its past mistakes.
Ancient Statements: In their attempts to explain everything in terms of matter, the Ionic “physicists” soon formed conflicting schools; and Heraclitus showed them the contradictions and limitations implicit in their program, the inadequacy of human senses and instruments,88 the relativity of things,89 the necessity of accepting fallible human consensus as proof. For his services Heraclitus was dubbed skoteinos, which means the obscure, the wet blanket, the trouble-maker; in other words they dismissed him as a crank.90 Hippocrates represents the never-say-I’m-sorry attitude of the Sophics. The foundation of his system was the doctrine that there are no causes except physical causes to anything.91 He is so positive as to condemn all religious cures as sacrilege and all apparent miracles as tricks.92 Where his own theories break down and his methods fail, he rejects criticism: It was not the method but the disease that was to blame.93 “Think how much worse things would have been without my prescriptions.”94 The scientific cure is always the right one—whether it works or not!95
C. The Sophic remains undismayed by setbacks, because it puts complete faith in the ultimate infallibility of mechanistic explanations.
Modern Statements: “I think it more reasonable to doubt a mathematical theorem than a well-established case of evolution, e.g., that of the horse.”96 As soon as nineteenth-century science “scented a piece of mechanism [it would] . . . exclaim, ‘Here we are getting to bedrock. This is what things should resolve themselves into. This is ultimate reality,'” and such was also Darwin’s attitude.97 “The advocates of each new fashion or approach to biological problems nearly always assume that what they have worked out . . . must of necessity be true for all plants or animals.”98 When Jacques Boucher in 1832 collected a few stone hand axes and other flints he entitled his five-volume catalogue of them On the Creation—a few chipped flints explain how everything came into being.99 “Physics, not so very long ago (and with chemistry as a kind of subsidiary), considered the world as a type of great machine. . . . The fact that many of the leaders of thought have moved on well ahead of that point of view has not yet been as widely appreciated as it should be.”100 The fact that “the paleontological record is horrifyingly incomplete” does not dampen the confidence of scientists, who “feel sure what this research is leading up to.”101 The infallibility of our objectivity permits even prophetic license. Bacon wants to believe that physical things cannot be manipulated by an observer, as words can, even though he suspects that that is wishful thinking.102 Men should, he says, experiment and “bid farewell to sophistical doctrines”; but how is experimental knowledge conveyed and evaluated if not by the very same words that the philosophers have always abused?103
The Sophic even teaches that it is better to get the wrong answer by its methods than the right answer by any other! Thus while Neville George admits that natural selection was not a successful explanation of how things happen, he still insists that it was “Darwin’s supreme achievement” because it inferred a “mechanistic” instead of an “animistic” explanation that justified “conviction of the fact of evolution.”104 All efforts by the geologists of Trinity College to discover water for a well on campus failed; a local dowser was called in and succeeded immediately. “There is no doubt of the reality of the dowsing effect,” wrote Trinity’s J. J. Thompson, but the dowser could not be tolerated because no physical explanation had been found. “Although . . . the reality of dowsing” is conceded, “there is no agreement about its cause,” and so the dons indignantly denounced the dowsing.105 We must necessarily view all things which we cannot explain “as unreal, as vain imaginings of the untrained human mind,” which since “they could not be described scientifically . . . were in themselves contradictory and absurd.”106 Newton got the right answers, but scientists refused to accept his explanation, which embarrassed them: “We cannot deny [as Newton did] that attraction belongs to matter just because we do not understand how it works.”107 But how can we affirm it either, if we do not understand it? Newton’s position is rejected for only one reason—that it leaves open the possibility of the supernatural.
Ancient Statements: A Baconian faith in pure observation, unencumbered by preconceptions or prejudices, is expressed by Lucretius: “The size and temperature of the sun’s disk are no greater and no smaller, nor can they be, than exactly what they appear to be to our senses.”108 The same holds true of the moon—it is exactly what it appears to be.109 “O miserable human race, to attribute such things to the gods!”110 “The sun is just a stone, and the moon a piece of earth.”111
“The radical error of Classicism is to suppose that the history of mankind can properly be apprehended in terms applicable to the study of ‘objects’ in ‘nature,’ i.e., in the light of the conventional concepts of form and matter.”112 All other types of belief are only for women, children, and slaves.113
Pouring contempt on every other approach to knowledge but his own, Hippocrates debunks such popular superstitions as that garlic and onions have an effect on the human system,114 that the wearing of black has a depressing effect on people,115 that a religious state of mind can have an effect in fasting and healing,116 and that the painting of the trunks of fruit trees with red litharge will give an improved fruit crop.117 Why red? Why not any other color? he asks. He rejects all these “superstitions” (though all are fully justified by centuries of testing) because he cannot explain in each case why it should be so;118 medicine is not satisfied to know that a thing works and to know what happens; as a true science it must know why.119 Other doctors claim to be as scientific as he and give different explanations for things in the name of science;120 his own explanations of everything in terms of the four humors have caused infinite mischief, but for that he does not apologize, insisting that one should always use the scientific cure even when it does not work and avoid a traditional remedy even when it does.121 He commends the peasants for tying rocks to the branches of olive trees not because it makes them easier to harvest, but because the weight of the rocks will by attraction cause the trees to bear a heavier weight of fruit—that is, their reasons are better than his, but he is the scientist. Maimonides further deplores the prescribing of certain superstitious cures by the rabbis “since though experience has shown that they work, reason cannot explain why.”122 Hippocrates concludes his great work on the Sacred Diseases with the warning that the one thing to avoid is “purifications, incantations, or any other kind of vulgar or popular cure,” whether they work or not.123
D. To remain invulnerable to all attack, the Sophic has provided itself with certain useful escape hatches, which it denies to the Mantic.
Modern Statements: P. T. Mora writes that he believes that moderns have developed “what I call the practice of infinite escape clauses . . . to avoid facing the conclusion that the probability of a self-producing state [matter alone in charge] is zero. . . . These escape clauses postulate an almost infinite amount of time and . . . material (monomers), so that even the most unlikely event could have happened. . . . By such logic we can prove anything.”124 “Darwin, Huxley, Tyndale, and others,” all draw these blank checks on time, “if enough space and time were available, it could happen and even happen frequently.”125 The key to the sly circular argument is the word “enough.” “Can all complexity be reduced to simplicity as in physics if we work hard enough? . . . What rubbish that it was once thought so! . . . Such illogicality . . . was never apparent then, back in the days when . . . the Encyclopedia for the Unity of Science was first appearing . . . from Chicago.”126 The tautological argument was never allowed to the Mantic: “It is the triumph of Geology, as a science, to have demonstrated that we do not need to refer to vast, unknown, and terrible causes the relief features of the earth, but that known agencies at work today are competent to produce them, provided they have enough time.”127 How much time was necessary? Enough to do the job, whatever it was! One escape is simply to admit an anomaly and go right on as if nothing had happened; thus Marshall D. Sahlins confidently predicted the results of an experiment which was faulted drastically: to describe the debacle he uses such words as “startling,” “extraordinary,” and “remarkable,” noting that the outcome “suggests a startling conclusion,” the opposite to what was expected. Yet he easily readjusts the new facts to provide proof instead of refutation for his hard-hit theory.128 As Bacon observes, this is a dangerously easy thing for any scientist to do. Thus William W. Howells, having declared that Darwin was right on a point, adds, “Curiously, however, it is extremely difficult to find demonstrable, or even logically appealing, adaptive advantages in racial features”129—as if admitting the anomaly takes care of it. Darwin used the same simple escape hatch of passing basic questions by in silence: “Darwin did not seek to account for variations. . . . Variations, then, are a necessary condition of the functioning of the evolutionary process. Yet apparently they are causeless . . . from the standpoint of the concepts of mechanical causation, which is the only kind of causation that science recognizes.”130 An important escape hatch has always been “wait and see”; as each new mechanism was discovered it was treated as a nail in the coffin of religion if not its death blow; and as each mechanism failed to explain, it was argued that there would always be new ones discovered, that the discovery of past mechanisms guaranteed that we were moving in the right direction, and whether we came to the final cause sooner or later, we at least had enough to dismiss all nonmaterial elements from our calculations.131
More sweeping is Harlow Shapley’s escape clause: Life occurs automatically wherever the conditions are right. Therefore there is no need for explaining the origin of life in terms of the miraculous or the supernatural. “Where conditions are right, there is chemical evidence that essential complex materials which appear spontaneously leave no reason whatever to invoke the miraculous.” Here the unknown-x “spontaneous” takes the place of unknown-x “miraculous.” What is the difference?—purely that between the Sophic and Mantic attitude, a perfect circular argument: if “conditions are right” glaciers will appear in the midst of the Sahara. We must assume that conditions are right for everything that ever was or happened, and there is no reason why conditions should not include God and angels. In the same spirit Sir Gavin de Beer turns the extreme inefficiency of the evolutionary process to prove not that its inexorable laws are not doing the job but that there is no “design, purpose, or guidance” in the universe, which would never bungle so!132 A new escape clause for the evolutionists is that human evolution, instead of being mechanical, has since the emergence of Homo sapiens been consciously influenced and artificially controlled by human will. “Consciously directed co-operativeness has been the major factor which determined the evolutionary origin of Homo sapiens. . . . It may be said, indeed, that if man (in the broadest sense) invented culture, it was culture which invented Homo sapiens.”133 “Man is a being who has domesticated himself, thereby placing himself outside the brutish functioning of natural selection.”134 There is a controlling mind after all? No, this is simply a mechanical process, since man himself is a product of purely mechanical forces—and so around in the circle. It has become common practice to appeal to the possibility of life on other worlds as proof of no divine intervention;135 but to Latter-day Saints it has always proved just the opposite.
Ancient Statements: “In the middle of the fifth century B.C.,—when in turn the unrestricted imagination of the Ionian philosophers had failed to explain the riddle of existence on physical grounds . . . philosophy fell somewhat into disrepute. A spirit of skepticism spread over the Greek world, and the greatest thinkers, foiled in their attempts to discover the higher truths, turned their attention to the practical side of education.”136 The new education, however, retained and intensified the critical, negative, irreligious element and intellectual prestige of science. A like phenomenon is found today: “The hypothesis of natural selection has, also for a variety of reasons, gradually acquired a not altogether healthy degree of prestige, which is hard to break down. It has become, if only by reiteration, so firmly ensconced as part of our general outlook on nature that it needs real determination to cast doubt on it. Biologists are conditioned to it from their earliest education.”137 It is not the content but the mood, the overconfidence, the negative power of the Sophic that is virtually indestructible. Thus, however the Doctors disagree, the basic hard-headed principle of medicine remains. For Hippocrates it is: Believe only what you see!138 But, he is careful to provide his escape clauses.
1. Allen Wheelis, The End of the Modern Age (New York: Basic Books, 1971), 3.
2. Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1946).
3. G. A. Kerkut, ed., Implications of Evolution, International Series of Monographs on Pure and Applied Biology; Division: Zoology, vol. 4 (New York: Pergamon, 1960), 3.
4. Henry G. Liddell and Robert Scott, Greek-English Lexicon (London: Oxford University Press, 1975).
5. Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers I, 12.
6. Dio Chrysostom, Discourse XII, 15.
7. Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers I, 13.
8. Ibid., I, 12.
9. Stobaeus, Eclogues III, 9, 23, lines 51-53, in Ivan Linforth, Solon the Athenian (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1919), 167-68.
10. Sextus Empiricus, Against the Logicians I, 122.
11. Lawrence K. Frank, Nature and Human Nature (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1951), 39.
12. Lancelot L. Whyte, Accent on Form (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1954), 125.
13. Lyall Watson, Supernature (New York: Doubleday, 1973), 8.
14. Ibid., 5.
15. Aristotle, Physics III, 8, 208a.
16. Aristotle, Metaphysics I, 3, 983b.
17. Plato, Sophist 265C.
18. Plato, Phaedo 96A-C.
19. Alexandre Koyré, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins, 1957), 213.
20. Philostorgius, Historia Ecclesiastica VIII, 10, in PG 65:564.
21. Cyril E. M. Joad, God and Evil (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1943), 108.
22. Ibid., 113-14.
23. George G. Simpson, “The World into Which Darwin Led Us,” Science 131 (April 1960): 967.
25. Hans Reichenbach, The Rise of Scientific Philosophy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1951), 199.
26. Harlow Shapley, in Life in Other Worlds, A Symposium Sponsored by Joseph E. Seagram and Sons (1 March 1961): 27.
27. David Bidney, “The Ethnology of Religion and the Problem of Human Evolution,” American Anthropologist 56 (February 1954): 17.
28. Corliss Lamont, The Philosophy of Humanism, 4th ed. (New York: Philosophical Library, 1957), 68.
29. Theodor Hopfner, Orient und griechische Philosophie (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1925), 65.
30. Wilhelm Schmid, Geschichte der griechischen Literatur (Munich: Beck, 1940), 3:1:1:38.
31. Ibid., 3:1:1:37.
32. Plato, Republic II, 365D.
33. Schmid, Geschichte der griechischen Literatur, 1:1:129-30.
34. Aristotle, Poetics XIX, 7-9.
35. John E. Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship, 3 vols. (New York: Hafner, 1958), 1:29.
36. Ibid., 1:36.
37. Plato, Lesser Hippias 365B.
38. Sandys, History of Classical Scholarship, 1:33, 108-9.
39. Schmid, Geschichte der griechischen Literatur, 3:1:1:38.
40. Koyré, From the Closed World, 276.
41. Ibid., 234.
42. Simpson, “The World,” 969.
43. Ibid., 974.
44. Joseph W. Krutch, “If You Don’t Mind My Saying So . . .,” American Scholar 35 (Spring 1966): 182.
45. Frank, Nature and Human Nature, 39-40.
46. Stephen Toulmin, “Contemporary Scientific Mythology,” in Metaphysical Beliefs (London: SCM, 1957), 61.
47. Koyré, From the Closed World, 276.
48. Plutarch, Pericles VI, 1.
49. Plutarch, Superstition 168B-C.
50. Schmid, Geschichte der griechischen Literatur, 3:1:1:37.
51. Herbert Spencer, First Principles (New York: Appleton, 1882), 11.
52. Edwyn Bevan, Hellenism and Christianity (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1921), 191-93.
53. Frank, Nature and Human Nature, .
54. Robert L. Schuyler, “Man’s Greatest Illusion,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 92 (1948): 50; cf. Georgio de Santillana, The Origins of Scientific Thought (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961), 7-20.
55. Paul Herrmann, Conquest by Man, tr. Michael Bullock (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1954), 9.
56. Bevan, Hellenism and Christianity, 14-15.
57. Lucretius, De Rerum Natura V, 925-1010; Seneca, Epistles XC, 7; Vitruvius, On Architecture II, 1; Firmicus, Disputationes Adversus Astrologiam Divinatricem III, 1; E. D. Phillips, “The Greek Version of Prehistory,” Antiquity 38 (September 1964): 171-78.
58. Nicephorus Gregor, Byzantina Historia VIII, 8, in PG 148:569.
59. Eduard Norden, Antike Kunstprosa, 2 vol., 3rd ed. (Leipzig: Teubner, 1915), 1:308-9.
60. Shahrastani II, 201, in O. D. Chwolsohn (Khvol’son), Die Ssabier und der Ssabismus, 2 vols. (St. Petersburg: Buchdruckerei der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1856), 2:419.
61. Sainte-Beuve, quoted in Charles C. Gillispie, “Lamarck and Darwin in the History of Science,” The American Scientist 46 (December 1958): 397.
62. Charles Darwin, The Autobiography of Charles Darwin: 1809-1882 (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1958), 85-87.
63. Cf. Ibid., 87, n. 1.
64. T. Neville George, Evolution in Outline (London: Thrift Books, 1951), 16 (emphasis added).
65. C. P. Snow, The Affair (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1960), 271-72.
66. Albert Guérard, Fossils and Presences (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1957), 265.
67. John Stuart Mill, “Notes of Recent Exposition,” Expository Times 70 (December 1958): 65.
68. Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers X, 2.
69. Sandys, History of Classical Scholarship, 1:316.
70. Ibid., 1:317.
71. J. F. Dobson, Greek Orators (London: Methuen, 1919), 53-57.
72. Norden, Antike Kunstprosa, 1:156.
73. Plato, Lesser Hippias 364B-365B.
74. Schmid, Geschichte der griechischen Literatur, 1:1:131.
75. Alfred N. Whitehead, quoted in Lucien Price, “To Live without Certitude,” Atlantic Monthly 193 (March 1954): 58; for examples of this sublime confidence no matter what, see James R. Newman, “William Kingdom Clifford,” Scientific American 183 (February 1953): 79.
76. Albert W. Heere, in a letter to the editor, in American Institute of Biological Science (AIBS) Bulletin (December 1960): 5.
77. Karl Pearson, “The Knowledge of the Natural World,” Part B, in Troy W. Organ, The Examined Life (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1956): 118-19.
78. Warren Weaver, “The Imperfections of Science,” American Scientist 49 (March 1961): 101.
79. Hugh Nibley, “Victoriosa Loquacitas: The Rise of Rhetoric and the Decline of Everything Else,” Western Speech 20 (Spring 1956): 57-58; reprinted in this volume, pages 243-45.
80. Theodosius Dobzhansky, “The Present Evolution of Man,” Scientific American (September 1960): 206; Sir Ronald Fisher, “The Discontinuous Inheritance,” The Listener (17 July 1958): 85, who notes that the concept “was an old fancy which had been revived by the philosophers of the eighteenth century.” C. D. Darlington, “The Natural History of Man,” The Listener (31 July 1958): 161, 165: “We are ready to apply Darwin’s principles of natural selection and evolution . . . in understanding and controlling the future.”
81. Ernest Jones, “Nature of Genius,” Scientific Monthly 84 (February 1957): 82.
82. D. M. S. Watson, “The Record of the Rocks,” The Listener (10 July 1958): 52; cf. P. T. Matthews, The Nuclear Apple (London: Chatto and Windus, 1971), 143.
83. Ronald Good, “Natural Selection Re-examined,” The Listener (7 May 1959): 797.
84. Harry Grundfest, “Opinions on Darwin a Century After,” Science and Society 24 (1960): 153, attempts to prove natural selection being “still largely unsuccessful,” 152.
85. Von Otto H. Schindewolf, “Neokatastrophismus,” Zeitschrift der deutschen geologischen Gesellschaft 114 (1963): 430.
86. William D. Thornbury, Principles of Geomorphology (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1954), 16.
87. Nigel Calder, The Restless Earth: A Report on the New Geology (New York: Viking, 1972), 15.
88. Diehls, Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, frg. 73.
89. Plato, Cratylus 402A; Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers IX, 9, 11; Aristotle, On the Soul I, 2, 405a; on the necessity of accepting fallible human concensus as proof see Sextus Empiricus, Against the Logicians VII, 133.
90. See the interpretation in Heinrich Ritter and Ludwig Preller, Historia Philosophiae Graecae (Hildesheim: Gerstenberg, 1975), 25.
91. Hippocrates, The Sacred Disease XXI, 1-4.
92. Ibid., II, 1-10, 27-32.
93. Hippocrates, The Art 2.
94. Ibid., 3-6.
95. Hippocrates, The Sacred Disease 21.
96. J. B. S. Haldane, in Arnold Lunn and J. B. S. Haldane, Science and the Supernatural (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1935), 251.
97. Sir Arthur Eddington, quoted in Joad, God and Evil, 111.
98. Heere, AIBS Bulletin, 5.
99. Geoffrey Bibby, “The Idea of Prehistory,” in Samuel Rapport and Helen Wright, eds., Archaeology (New York: New York University Press, 1963), 18-20.
100. John Rowland, “Science and Religion,” Hibbert Journal 60/236 (1961/62): 5.
101. M. G. Rutten, The Geological Aspects of the Origin of Life on Earth (New York: Elsevier, 1962), 2, 4. Cf. Rutten, The Origin of Life by Natural Causes (New York: Elsevier, 1971), 2.
102. Francis Bacon, Novum Organum I, 59.
103. Ibid., I, 64.
104. George, Evolution in Outline, 16.
105. Sir Joseph J. Thomson, Recollections and Reflections (New York: Macmillan, 1937), 160.
106. Pearson, “The Knowledge of the Natural World,” 118.
107. Koyré, From the Closed World, 274.
108. Lucretius, De Rerum Natura V, 564.
109. Ibid., V, 578.
110. Ibid., V, 1194-95.
111. Meletus, in Plato, Apology 26D.
112. Charles N. Cochrane, Christianity and Classical Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1944), 97; cf. Vitruvius, On Architecture 8, on the Milesian school.
113. Cicero, De Officiis II, 16, 56-57, and De Haruspicum Responsis, 12.
114. Hippocrates, The Sacred Disease II, 20-46.
117. Chwolson, Die Ssabier und der Ssabismus, 2:469.
118. Ibid., 2:41-46.
119. Hippocrates, The Art 6.
120. Hippocrates, Ancient Medicine 13-15.
121. Hippocrates, The Sacred Disease 2.
122. Chwolson, Die Ssabier und der Ssabismus, 2:470.
123. Hippocrates, The Sacred Disease XXI, 25, 26.
124. Peter T. Mora, “The Folly of Probability,” in Sidney W. Fox, The Origins of Prebiological Systems (New York: Academic, 1965), 45 (emphasis added).
125. Norman W. Pirie, “Some Assumptions Underlying Discussion on the Origins of Life,” Annals New York Academy of Sciences 69 (1957): 373.
126. Julian Jaynes, “The Routes of Science,” American Scientist 54 (March 1966): 95.
127. Louis V. Pirsson and Charles Schuchert, Introductory Geology (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1920), 5-6.
128. Marshall D. Sahlins, “The Origin of Society,” Scientific American 203 (September 1960): 77-78, 82.
129. William W. Howells, “The Distribution of Man,” Scientific American 203 (September 1960): 114.
130. Joad, God and Evil, 124-25.
131. Ibid., 111.
132. Sir Gavin de Beer, “Natural Selection after 100 Years,” The Listener (3 July 1958): 12.
133. Sir Wilfrid LeGross Clark, “The Humanity of Man,” Advancement of Science 18 (September 1961): 218.
134. A. Thoma, “Métissage ou transformation essai sur les hommes fossiles de Palestine,” L’Anthropologie 62 (1958): 47.
135. Calder, Mind of Man, 17-18.
136. Dobson, Greek Orators, 9-10.
137. Good, “Natural Selection,” 797.
138. Hippocrates, The Art II, 6-11.