Cogito ergo sum
Descartes’ dictum states that humans are conditioned to rationalize their experience … even to the point of maintaining ideas that contradict other accepted theories.
A case in point: fern seed. In earlier times, the fact that ferns did not appear to have any seeds was a puzzle for naturalists. They concluded, counter to all other experience, that fern seed was simply invisible. In the popular mind, this idea was transmuted into contagious magic, that possession of fern seed could make one invisible.
As one thief says to another in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, part one:
We steal as in a castle, cocksure; we have the receipt
of fern-seed, we walk invisible.
Nay, by my faith, I think you are more beholding to
the night than to fern-seed for your walking invisible.
(II, i, 95–98).
[Read more from A natural history of ferns]
Thinking fern seed was invisible was not an isolated incidence of bad science – history holds other examples of faulty reasoning, from the theory of phlogiston to the contemporary misguided attempts to pass off Intelligent Design as science rather than religion.
Pass note: It’s creationism with a college degree.
[Read more …]
Why attribute the wonder of the world to some greater being?
Isn’t it wonderful enough to consider the world as it is?
The best thing about fern seed is that it can make great tattoos.
Castleton Gardens, Jamaica