Squinting At Sperm

September 1, 2010 at 6:24 am 26 comments

In the 17th century, Nicolaas Hartsoeker, after squinting though his microscope at ejaculate, became so convinced that each sperm was actually a little man (homunculus), he produced detailed drawings as shown on the right.

When his imaginative drawings were brought into question by those suggesting that such a notion leads to an infinite regress as each little man himself must possess sperm that also held other smaller little men ad infinitum, bible believers defended the drawings by invoking scripture. The sin nature was able to pass from Adam to all humans since all humans once swung in the testes of Adam.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. —Romans 5:12-14

Incredibly, scientists today have rejected the theory of Mr. Hoarsoeker. Scientist now claim that sperm do not at all resemble little men. But the track record of biblical insight into natural phenomena has suffered very few setbacks as fundamentalist will attest. It was simply a misunderstanding or misapplication of scripture they will inform you. They’ll get it right next time.

While squinting credulously at microcosms has fallen out of fashion, doing so at a macrocosmic level remains a valuable method of doing theistic science as clear from Romans 1:20.

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse [and are therefore deemed worthy of eternal torture by a loving god].

Look at the stars! Look at preying mantises eating their mates. Look at earnestly copulating macaques. Can you not see Jehovah, the same god who revealed his “backside” to Moses (Exodus 33)? We can infer, merely from looking at the world around us, that there is a big guy with human emotions such as wrath and jealousy out there, that “sin” exists, that we are guilty of sin, and that to continue in sin will eternally damn us…can we not? You can’t? You’re “without excuse”. Squint harder. The big guy, accompanied with the complex biblical dogmas of sin and redemption, is bound to eventually appear as clearly and indisputably real to you as did the little men to Mr Hoarsoeker.

Note: The author is not responsible for any subsequent visual or cognitive myopia.

Entry filed under: Phil Stilwell. Tags: , .

Coping mechanisms The Candidate

26 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Tomas S  |  September 1, 2010 at 7:09 am

    I really enjoyed this one — but I’m curious what you think about the Wiki article you linked to which says that this drawing is not the result of an eye-witness account. Does that soften the impact at all? Let me think this over.

    The other thing I’m wondering is whether “ejaculate(n)” is countable or non-countable. I think it’s countable = “an ejaculate”. (Pssst. “scientist/s today”)

  • 2. Phil Stilwell  |  September 1, 2010 at 7:47 am

    Thanks for proofing, Tomas.

    I now see where the bio on Hartsoeker states he only “postulated” the existence of homunculi. The drawing was evidently just speculation on they must look like. Is this more or less parallel to the theist finding god in the “things which are made”?


  • 3. pogorobot  |  September 1, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    Reminds me of this:


  • 4. Tomas S  |  September 1, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    From the Wiki article linked to in the OP:
    “It is often said that in 1694, while observing human sperm through a microscope, Hartsoeker believed that he saw tiny men inside the sperm, which he called homunculi or animalcules. However, he only postulated their existence as part of his Spermist theory of conception and never claimed to have seen them[4]. The 1694 “Essay on dioptrics”, in which this hypothesis appears[citation needed], was a highly-lauded book, in fact tackling several misconceptions of the time. For example, Hartsoeker disavows the contemporary position (e.g. of Robert Hooke) that with refractor telescopes one soon would be able to see man-sized creatures on the moon, if any in fact existed[2].”

  • 5. Phil Stilwell  |  September 1, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    Thanks again, Tomas.
    I rewrote the article to reflect that he was only convince of the existence of homunculi, in spite of the fact he probably never actually saw them.

  • 6. grasshopper  |  September 4, 2010 at 8:25 am

    Ah, the no excuse line. This is how you tell new christians that pygmies in africa that have never met a christian missionary have still had the opportunity to become christians. Honestly, I can understand how the vastness of creation would lead a person to believe in a God, but it certainly doesn’t communicate “you must accept Jesus to be your personal lord and savior” And christians will tell you that belief in god is not enough, you need to have the jesus stuff right too.

  • 7. Joshua  |  September 5, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    Haha, this is a fantastic article. Well done.

    I’m forever annoyed at the inability of Christians to see that if the Holy Spirit was not helping their brethren 500 years ago to interpret scripture properly where do they get the gall to insist their present interpretations are accurate?

    I wrote an article a while back which I am too lazy to look up right now about this. Basically the point was that saying the Bible is inerrant is pretty useless if every interpretation contains errors.

  • 8. Tomas S  |  September 6, 2010 at 9:00 am

    Joshua – that’s called “the problem of miscommunication” and was worked into an entire chapter by John W. Loftus in The Christian Delusion.

  • 9. Tatarize  |  September 16, 2010 at 12:43 am

    This article gives some rather clear misconceptions about the preformation debates and the nature of science and religion.

    First, it didn’t occur in a vacuum, and the debate itself was not non-scientific, it was actually the best conclusion they could muster at the time (that’s what science always is!). Nicolaas Hartsoeker was actually a scientist himself by any measure. He taught Huygens how to make telescopes. Was a member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences and eventually taught at a university. Calling him “Mr.” is just silly and disrespectful.

    Secondly, you seem to give full credit to Nicolaas Hartsoeker for all the intellectual thoughts on the ideas of preformationism, while he did do the quintessential drawing on the subject he never said that that was what he saw, and most of the presented ideas were common. For example the idea that one homunculus would be inside another ad infinitum was largely the contribution of Nicolas Malebranche who was an ovist rather than a spermist like Hartsoeker. He was the first to come up with the idea that there would be one little person inside another inside the eggs of all the women going back to Eve, like little Russian nesting dolls. The fact that it provided a religious argument doesn’t mean that it wasn’t the best conclusion they had given the evidence. That was just bonus.

    We see little people grow into bigger people and have children. Tracking this back it does stand to reason that bigger people should have really tiny people in them to make this happen. And those people should be in the gametes. Though, which gamete has the little person is a matter for debate. Such early science still has impact today as the word spermatozoa means “seed animal” as the discoverer of sperm was a spermist and thought that his discovery, because it moved around like animals, was easily more likely the source of such animation, rather than the egg.

    This was the science of the 17th century (note Nicolaas Hartsoeker lived 1656-1725 that’s 17th and 18th centuries not 15th, which would have been in the 1400s), and just because it was a bit more religious than science is today doesn’t mean it wasn’t science. A lot of good science got done asking religious questions for example Herophilus in the negative 2nd century was one of the first anatomists and performed live vivisections of animal brains to identify which specific part controlled which specific sense to answer the question of “where does the soul resides?” Galen did remarkable work in the 4th century combating those who claimed that the body was simple enough to come about by chance or simple progression from natural forces.

    You can’t say look at this idiot who made up this stupid theory all by himself and it ties into religion and therefore religion is stupid but science rejects that idea because science is awesome. He was a scientist. Scientists use to be very commonly Christian and very commonly theistic. As time went by, those living the truly scientific life would no longer conclude God, but eventually accepted a rational deism as it became the end result of a functional epistemology. However, after Darwin, atheism rather than deism became the end result of respecting truth more than desire.

    The above blurs this line and the truth is far more entertaining. It isn’t that science rejects religion out of hand. But rather science investigates the truth where ever it exists and compares those results to reality. It isn’t that science is anti-Christian, it’s that science is pro-reality, and reality has a strong anti-Christian bias.

  • 10. Phil Stilwell  |  September 16, 2010 at 1:10 am

    You’ll get no argument from me on the context of the times making it difficult for former scientists to understand the matrix of causation and to come up with the answers that seem obvious to us today.

    However, to say calling someone “Mr.” is disrespectful is a bit silly, don’t you think?

    My post makes light of humanity’s scientific adolescence, and then shows how some of us have not yet grown out of magical thinking.

  • 11. Tatarize  |  September 16, 2010 at 5:42 am

    I think the history of science is very important to understand, and to strongly imply with your post that such ideas in the past were solely religious in nature, and rejected by science does a disservice to science.

    To contritely say that “Incredibly, scientists today have rejected the theory of Mr. Hoarsoeker. Scientist now claim…” seems to implicitly suggest that Nicolaas Hartsoeker is not a scientist and is a “Mr.” like “Mr. Hovind”. You seem intent on portraying him as a crank. It comes off a bit like saying “Mr. Newton, thought that gravity was instantaneous and the order of the planets was regulated by the hand of God. But, today scientists have rejected that!”

    It seems to be very forceful in the suggestion that he wasn’t a great mathematician, physicist, biologist, scientist and university professor. The fact is he was perfectly in line with the biology of his day, which you tend to credit him with concocting all by himself, is important for the sake of clarity and truth..

    And then you compare this to modern “theistic science” which is really apples and oranges. Preformation really was the science of the time. That’s what was available. It would be a long time before embryology would come around and far longer before evo-devo would come around to explain it. That was the actual science of the time. That was the best explanation we had available. However, now in the world of creationists and geocentrists and religious hackery the idea of scientific ethics are rejected for the sake of maintaining beliefs.

    It comes off a little petty, like scoffing at Galen for believing in a God who created humanity and neglecting the fact that he was a real scientist, followed the evidence where it lead, and would have, given our theories and evidence, rejected his own theories on the matter. Today your dear” Mr. Hoarsoeker” might well have been an atheist, because that’s where the science leads us today.

    Your post seems to make light of a specific person who you made seem purely religiously motivated as “scientific adolescence” and then compare him to modern day individuals who outright reject science. On one hand we have a scientist who was very much a product of his time and didn’t have much evidence. Then we have non-scientists who ignore evidence and endorse dogma. This isn’t a fair comparison. Your saying that the intellectually dishonest of today are very much like the intellectually honest of science past.

  • 12. Phil Stilwell  |  September 16, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Tatarize, you equate calling someone “Mr.” with calling them a crank. You must be desperate for an argument. Look elsewhere.
    My post was a light-hearted look at the adolescence of scientific inquiry and a warning against regression in that direction.
    You also seem to think that I disagree with you on the history of science. Go find a strawman elsewhere.

  • 13. DSimon  |  September 16, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Tatarize has somewhat of a point in that, while making fun of obviously silly conclusions that people centuries ago came to is fun, it can sometimes make it easy to forget that science is actually really hard, and most answers are only obvious in retrospect.

    On the other hand, use of scripture to justify silly claims has always been silly. I see that as the major point of the OP: as a truth-finding system and as a body of knowledge, science has significantly progressed since Hartsoeker’s days, but theism has not.

  • 14. Phil Stilwell  |  September 16, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Agreed, DSimon.

    It’s important to view and smile at our scientific adolescence, then make sure we’ve removed all the immature notions that lead us so far astray in the past, including theistic assumptions.

  • 15. Tatarize  |  September 16, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    I’m not hard-up for an argument. In fact I have more than a few in my posts there. If I were really just nitpicking I’d scoff and mount a high horse because he’s not from the 15th century but the 17th and you clearly just took 1600s and forgot which direction you had to go to turn that into Xth century.

    You really do spend a lot of time portraying him as a crank. But, that’s what science was at the time. I don’t think you disagree with me concerning the history of science, I didn’t say that you did. I said that it’s important and therefore you getting it wrong is important too.

    Further, calling it our “scientific adolescence” and that such claims were “immature notions” that “led us astray”, seems to make light of the history of science and ignores the fact that science is really hard work. The notions of preformationism and much of historical science were mature notions given the evidence they had at their disposal. And claiming that that is some part of a scientific childhood and implies that this is some kind of scientific adulthood where we have all the answers. We don’t really have the answers, we’re just less wrong than we use to be because we gathered more data and have better models now. Their notions weren’t immature, it was the best they could have done at the time.

    It’s like claiming to be “more evolved”, it only sounds good if you don’t properly understand the science of evolution, it’s not a ladder. You don’t get more evolved, you just better adapt to your particular niche. Just as science doesn’t get more mature, it just gets better.

    It isn’t about “regression” to that direction. That was the science of the day. It wasn’t just stupid people being stupid. It was smart people being really smart, with a lot less understanding underfoot.” We’d better watch out or we’ll regress to the peak of science in the 17th century?” Scripture was given consideration because science hadn’t excluded it. It sounded good and everybody accepted it. It’s easy to apply hindsight via atheism and realize they were being foolish for being scientific without wholesale disregard for Scripture (which tends towards being a much more modern conclusion of science). It comes off hollow, like your mocking Anaximenes’ discovery of air and saying “Air, duh, why are you so stupid!” You’d better not endorse religion or you’ll end up with the early science of ancient Greek. But, we have the science of the ancient Greeks, and we have the science of the Romans, and the science of the Arabs, and the Science of the Enlightenment, and the science of Nicolaas Hartsoeker, and the science of the 21st century. We don’t regress to the science of yesteryear because actual crackpots believe silly nonsense. And because the science of yesteryear believed silly nonsense, that doesn’t mean they were crackpots.

    Sorry to put you on the defensive but with your rhetoric of “bible believers defended preformationism” and “scientists disregard Mr. Hartsoeker theory” you give the clear impression that in that day and age, that all the scientists weren’t also Bible believers and that the notion being defended isn’t a scientific one.

    You could well have said scientists defending Nicolaas Hartsoeker drawings and later Bible believers rejected the idea. — In the 17th century, they were the same thing. Atheism didn’t become popular or common until after Darwin and while there were some pre-Darwin early Western atheists in the 18th century like Baron D’Holbach (who is often regarded as the first) you’ll note that he was barely two when Hartsoeker died. There were no atheists in science at the time. Science isn’t necessarily atheist. Rather, atheism is made a very reasonable conclusion by later science.

    Ignoring this, you miss out on a very important correlation. The less wrong we become because of the progress of science; the less religious we are. Religion, like preformationism, use to be common in science. The fact that they are both largely rejected by modern science is quite telling when one considers the progress of science is from the more wrong to the less wrong. Religion was more wrong.

    There are far better conclusions and insights when you do the history of science correctly rather than when you ridicule it, ascribe it to religion, and scoff that that’s what religionists will return us to.

  • 16. Phil Stilwell  |  September 16, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    Tatarize, it seems you have read neither my previous articles posted on this site, nor my article published on the history of science (http://philstilwell.com/methodologicalnaturalism.pdf). Do this and pay attention to the difference in tone. There is a time to make fun of ourselves in our cognitive stumblings over the centuries, and a time to sympathize with the individual scientists throughout history. The strawman you’re addressing who neither knows nor appreciates the history of science is in your imagination.

    Consider our intelligent friend Mr. Doyle who believed in fairies (http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/doyle.htm). Making fun of his credulity is entirely proper, even though we might have done the same in that context, and though this does not take away from his genuine accomplishments. And applying the title “Mr” to anyone is not disparaging, and reflects an over-sensitivity or need for confrontation on your part.

  • 17. Tatarize  |  September 17, 2010 at 2:10 am

    Having read your paper and other posts on this site. I stand by my assessment that you are misrepresenting the history of science here. I don’t claim that you’re doing so out of spite or with malice aforethought, but I think you have it in your head that such “immature notions” are the result out of impure or antiscience thoughts. Such notions are science. That’s how science works. It’s try things, figure stuff out, make up ideas about how it might work, then test the consequences against reality. It’s a dirty, sloppy and beautiful process. And sometimes science spends a few decades talking about Phlogiston only to realize it was wrong.

    You clearly are portraying a good scientist, for his time, as if he believed in fairies during the 19th century. He accepted the standard theories of biology at the time. That’s not some phantasmagorical failure on his part to strictly adhere to methodological naturalism, it is something that he accepted upon good evidence as the best explanation available at the time.

    You make it look like an science vs. antiscience with Nicolaas Hartsoeker playing the role of the antiscience buffoon defended by Bible believers (in the 17th century Europe, who wasn’t?). You might as well replace his name with Antonie van Leeuwenhoek the father of microbiology, and chastise him for accepting things later proven false. Professor Hartsoeker was a noble representative of the science at the time. And your “oh, look at the poor Bible defended idiot” is purely wrong. There is nothing about his positions or his life that give portent to a coming dark age.

    That said, having read your paper I must admit that it’s worse than I thought. Your understanding of history of science is downright terrible to non-existent. You portray ancient science as hardly able to grasp wheels or levers, and make it seem that from Aristotle to Ptolemy to the Dark Ages, there was no science at all, and what explanations were available were most magic than mechanics.

    I could likely compose an errata of that entire section which would necessarily include proper history of science which you somehow grossly glossed over. You give history of science about as coherent of a treatment as Rodney Stark does in his books. I suppose I should address a few points.

    * People believed the sky was orderly long before Aristotle.
    * Aristotle claimed (with good reason) in On the Heavens that the heavens were unchanging and therefore were of a different substance called “aether”.
    * Aristotle’s claims lasted perhaps a generation until the successors of Aristotle saw a supernova and realized that they did change.
    * The science of the ancient world didn’t ascribe things to a black box of supernaturalism. They often did good science on the understanding that that was how the gods made things.
    * Diseases find their first proper answer in the ancient world as germ theory in the first century.
    * Many atmospheric phenomenon were given reasonable scientific explanations within pneumatics.
    * The dynamics of celestial bodies were well understood and they were measuring the circumference of the Earth, making theories of parallax optics to measure the distance to the moon, predicting to exquisite detail the position of the planets at any point in time.
    * They knew well enough celestial mechanics to properly debate the question of heliocentric vs. geocentric universes.
    * Anaximander proposed evolutionary naturalistic explanations for man in the negative seventh century.

    The ancient scientists weren’t powerless to answer the questions, in fact they had many very good answers and were already well versed in methodological naturalism to the point where atomists and others suggested that there were only material explanations for things (the atomists thought there were only atoms and space) and although they were considered too atheistic to be given consideration in the medieval period there were plenty of other groups (in fact most of them) that were rightly embracing empiricism and experimentation.

    You also seem to sweep Aristotle right into the Dark Ages. As if there wasn’t that period many hundreds of years of scientific discovery and advancement. You make a passing reference to the heliocentrists like Aristarchus but quickly conclude that they were quickly forgotten when the Dark Ages began. But, all science save perhaps Ptolemy and Galen was largely ignored and lost for a thousand years. And real scientific advancement stopped a few hundred years before the Fall of the Empire. But, you’d have us believe that it never began in the first place as supernaturalists would go around frightfully touching wheels like those chimps at the start of 2001.

    You portray the world of science as starting with the Enlightenment, and that everything before was the epistemological equivalent of “There Be Dragons!” You suppose that the ancient Greeks supposed that thought experiments were acceptable methods of testing things when Aristotle and vast number of ancient scientists argued against this position, which you ascribe to Galileo ending when he demonstrated that differences in weight of falling objects is irrelevant to their speed. When in fact, he didn’t demonstrate this, he appears to have only done a thought experiment himself to show it. And more importantly ancient scientists understood that objects fall at constant rates, and actually performed the experiment.

    While the general thesis of your paper is fine. When you step away from empiricism science crumbles. Claiming that this requires methodological naturalism is quite suspect though. Many great scientists were religious and freely let their theology and science mingle. Galen wrote a rather large anatomy enclopedia that rightfully advanced the idea of intelligent design over the aforementioned evolutionary theories (evolution was rightfully the intellectual loser of that debate until Darwin). We had an ancient world with robots and computers and fantastically brilliant understandings of the heavens, anatomy, and the world and then science lost out to mysticism and empiricism was abandoned and it wasn’t until the Enlightenment picked up these values again did the scientific revolution take off.

    My criticism was that you had horrible ignorance with regard to the history of science. Your paper which you overly optimistically suggest is “on the history of science” reaffirms my previous criticism here. Casually rolling from Aristotle to the Dark Ages without so much as a ‘how do you do’ to six hundred years of sustained scientific progress, much of which was then lost during the Dark Ages and had to be reinvented, is pretty horrible. And with crazy accusations like they’d be afraid of wheels and levers which they could “intuitively” understand (as if the Archimedes scientific law of the lever was just some silly intuitive bit of inconsequential nothing they came up with after a night of drinking).

    They had naturalism, empiricism, and gobs of science in the ancient world. Then the world lost it, embraced spiritualism and then Christianity, from about 300 to 1300 and came up with jack squat. It was the readoption of these pagan values, which somehow you suggest is all magic all the time, that kick off the Scientific revolution.

    You give the general impression that there was always attempts to explain the world, that it was just that in the ancient world and the dark ages that there was too much reliance on supernatural explanations and with the adoption of metaphysical naturalism science took off. And so long as we cling to natural explanations and banish religion from even standing at the sidelines of the history of science, we’ll continue our scientific progress. That there is something laughable about performationists noting the synchronicity between their scientific theory and Genesis (originally credited to Malebranche), or Galen explaining huge amounts of human anatomy to show that it was too complex to have come about by the mechanisms proposed by early evolutionists, or Herophilus and Erasistratus performing dissections and vivisections on animals to find out “Where is the soul?” Herophilius is also sometimes credited as the inventor of the scientific method.

    You give us a terrible view of the history of science. Science isn’t atheistic because it needs to be to work. Science is atheistic because that’s where the answers seem to be and science goes where the answers are. Science is about empiricism, curiosity and progress. And these are the very values that Christians opposed from the early Church fathers onward. This is why we had science in the ancient world among those who endorsed such virtues, and why science ended when these values were abandoned, and why it started back up when they are salvaged from the waste bin of philosophical history.

    I stand by my assessment.

  • 18. Phil Stilwell  |  September 17, 2010 at 3:18 am

    Tatarize, you continue to load your comments with content I agree with, then pretend I don’t. This is called strawmanning. What am I to do with you? I’ll tell you what. You obviously have a need for confrontation. Limit your strawmanning to me on this thead, and everyone will be a winner. Comment away. I’ll check back later.

  • 19. Tatarize  |  September 18, 2010 at 1:27 am

    I was simply taking you at your word. Your above article suggests that science of the 17th century is something that we should fear today. You asked me to read your paper claiming it gave a “history of science” and it had all the facts wrong.

    It seems odd to call that a strawman. Your paper was full of misapprehensions and misunderstandings about the history of science portending a real ignorance of the subject.

    I’m at a loss as to how I can call you ignorant of a subject with copious explanations and you can say “there there, I agree with all of that”.I don’t much care for conflict, I’d prefer you review the subject and simply come back and admit I was right.

  • 20. Tomas S  |  September 19, 2010 at 5:48 am

    Maybe I’m just echoing DSimon’s comment from September 16,, but here’s my take at this point. I do find it somewhat unfortunate that the original post was written under the (reasonable and apparently not uncommon) misperception that “Mister” Hartsoeker thought he’d seen the little man in his drawing. To his credit, Mister Stilwell revised his article when this (apparent) error was pointed out. It is then up to me as the reader to draw the correct message out of the revised article.

    We could split hairs about what this Mister or that Mister did or did not say about the history of science, but that isn’t the point here. The point is that as scientific knowledge progresses, theological knowledge does not. When someone tells us in 2010 that the Bible was vindicated by Galleleo because the Bible contains the expression “circle of the Earth”, we could reference the Epic of Gilgamesh, but we could also reference the long forgotten appologists who felt vindicated by Mister Hartsoeker. Modern theologans will see the problems with Spermist Theology. Will they also see the problems with their own current ideas?

  • 21. Tatarize  |  September 19, 2010 at 7:06 am

    My comments were more about the apparent distinction between “Mr. Hartsoeker” and the”scientists” who disagreed with him, and the “Bible Believers” who defended his notion. — It gives a pretty clear and very false impression. He was a Bible-believing scientists himself like all the scientists of his day.And the theory wasn’t specifically his, nor did he make much contribution to it.

    The impression seems to be there was this religious nutter who made up this crazy theory and all the Bible believers thought it was great but awesome scientists today reject that notion. — And that impression is inescapable and wrong.

  • 22. Tomas S  |  September 19, 2010 at 7:55 am

    Mister Tatarize, I have to say I agree with Mister Stilwell. Your insistence here does seem a little bizarre. I for one do not see – either in the OP or in the follow-up comments – any place where anybody (other than you) suggests that the distinction between a person who lived in the past and “scientists today” implies that this person was not a scientist. I understand your comments well enough (as they were spelled out at great length.) My point is that there is an important point here which we can take away. Reminding me exactly how you missed this point seems very much like “loading your comments with content I agree with, then pretending that I don’t.”

  • 23. Tatarize  |  September 19, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    I never said there wasn’t a point, you could take away. There’s still a moral to the claim about the frog and the boiling water of death, even though it’s false and a real frog tries to jump out more and more frequently the warmer the water. The ability to get a message doesn’t preclude the rather clear mistakes along the way.

    Tthe impression he gives is clear. That this guy was silly, came up with a theory on his own, and supported it by religion and it was rejected by science. That view is as close to a lie as twilight is to night. Phil Stilwell can’t even get the century right, much less the history.

    He says things like “While squinting credulously at microcosms has fallen out of fashion” — but that’s not what the professor did. That not what any of the very good scientists who all believed that same theory did. Including the father of microbiology. The argument they were having at the time was whether the little men lived in the sperm or in the egg. They had long since known there was a little man in one of the gametes, it was clear as day to them by that point.

  • 24. Phil Stilwell  |  September 19, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Tatarize, it seems you have a great deal of knowledge on the details of the history of science. It rather a shame you do not have the accompanying character to impart what you know in an appropriate or relevant way. Tomas S provided constructive criticism that was quite useful. Your criticism is petty, irrelevant and rude. Any further posts you make will be deleted.

    Other readers will note that Tatarize…

    • says that giving Nicolaas Hartsoeker the title “Mr.” was disrespectful. This was the first indication that we’re dealing with a trollesque character.
    • offers long commentary full of content I certainly agree with, then implies I do not. Quite a waste of words on his part, and such strawmanning is not appropriate for someone claiming to have truth as his objective.
    • claims I said my paper “gave a ‘history of science'” when I said no such thing. The title of my paper makes it clear it is on methodological naturalism, merely one theme within the history of science. I really dislike being misquoted and strawmanned.
    • most egregiously suggests that I think Mr. Hartsoeker contributed nothing to science. My point was clear. There is no reason for us today to revert to an immature approach to science that unparsimoniously invokes imaginative solutions simply because they are consistent with religious dogma. I poke fun at Mr. Hartsoeker in the context of the history of science in the same way I poke fun at myself when I was 10 and thought I had telepathy. And it is not so much Mr. Hartsoeker that I scorn. It is more the non-scientists who co-opted his hypothesis to support their own agenda as we see today. Neither does Isaac Newton, in spite of his enormous contributions, escape a bit of scorn for dabbling in alchemy, though many of us in the context of his age would have done the same. Making fun of our blunders in our shared humanity over the ages is a healthy way to keep ourselves on track today. I’m sure most of you understood my playful article in the context of my previous satirical posts. One reader did not.

    Call me grumpy, but I’ve no tolerance for such childish and confrontational antics.

    Thanks again to those of you who have offered constructive criticism.

  • 25. Searching Traveler  |  October 24, 2010 at 9:45 am

    I have no deep observations but I just wanted to say I really enjoyed this post! Thanks! It gave me some giggles! 🙂

  • 26. anti_supernaturalist  |  November 20, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    Simply point people in the right direction

    Steve Gould dealt with the whole preformationist debate in his essay “For want of a metaphor” in The Flamingo’s Smile (1985).

    the anti_supernaturalist

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.



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