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which, being utterly without foundation in fact, were destined inevitably to wane and die before a larger and more enlightened experience. When the inhabitant of a land puts a being of like mind and character to himself in nature, only eternal in duration and infinite in power, in order to satisfy the mental yearning for a source, in terms of his own thought, of the infinite energies and operations which it is impossible in the end he, a finite creature, should ever apprehend otherwise than in finite conceptions or express otherwise than in finite terms of himself — impossible, therefore, he should apprehend or express at all—it is natural that he should solicit his favour and deprecate his anger, just as he would solicit the favour and deprecate the anger of an earthly ruler who had power of life and death over him. But when he is thoroughly convinced by reasoned experience that he never receives an answer to supplications which are as vainly spent as if they were addressed to the shifting cloud or to the passing wind, he naturally ceases to offer them, and first doubting of, finally disbelieves in, the superintendence and even the existence of such a being. So through the ages it has come to pass that faiths have been slowly extinguished and gods have died ; for faiths do not, like bubbles, burst, but stealthily, like clouds dislimned, lose their lineaments and gradually disperse.
The history of medicine is hardly less fruitful than the history of religion in example of fallacious observations and of superstitious theories; and for the same reason-namely, the extreme difficulties of observation and the strong propensity to supernatural beliefs where mystery and fear prevail. The human organism is the most intricate and complex structure in the world : a fabric of such nice and implicated correlations of parts and functions that the more its mechanism is known the more the wonder grows that it ever keeps in working order so well and for so long a time as it does; and it is in infinitely subtile and complex relations with a multitude of external influences, physical and social. That being so, the exact causes of its disorders and the exact means of putting them right are inevitably the most difficult and complex study in the world, and afford unlimited scope for fallacies of observation and inference. No wonder, then, that the history of medicine teems with instances of false theories of diseases, and of remedies for them which enjoyed for longer or shorter periods immense reputation, on the basis of what was deemed to be adequate experience of their virtues, but which were afterwards abandoned as useless or pernicious.*
* Roasted toad was at one time used as a specific for gout, the toad having been baked alive. This was the receipt: “Put the toads alive into an earthen pot, and dry them in an oven moderately heated, till
It was not only in such cases that the nature of diseases and the art of curing them were insurmountably obscure, but fear lent its powerful aid to magnify the mystery; for disease and death naturally aroused apprehension and alarm, and fear and ignorance are the legitimate parents of superstition. So it came to pass that the causes of these natural calamities were sought in the anger of the gods, in the malice of demons, in the malignant aspects of the stars, in the evil eyes of witches, in the divine judgment of sin, and in like superstitious imaginations; and the alleviation or cure of them in the special favour of particular gods or spirits, or in the prayers of saints, or in the eager and confident use of substances which, because their origin was involved in mystery, or because of their rarity or extreme nastiness, or because of some equally groundless fancy, were thought to have singular and sovereign virtues. .
If the patient recovered after the prayer or remedy, as many times he would do by the salutary efforts of nature, it proof of its curative virtue, no thought being given to they become fit to be powdered.” Boyle recommended the thigh-bone of an executed criminal as a valuable remedy for dysentery. Other such remedies were the bowels of a mole cut open alive, and mummy made of the lungs of a man who had died a violent death. (Pharmacologia, by J. A. Paris, M.D., 1833.) Revolting remedies, but vastly less pernicious than such remedies as mercury and blood-letting, each of which, when in the full swing of its fashionable abuse, may soberly be said to have, like Saul, slain its thousands.
the numerous cases in which no good effect followed, nor to the many other agencies besides it which were at work in the cases in which recovery did take place. The follies of physic have not been less numerous, if less pernicious and pestilential, than the fables of religion; the follies of the one and the fables of the other illustrating the same defects and tendencies of human observation and thought in a parallel series of fictitious causes and fictitious remedies.
Ş Fallacies of Collusion. It is evident that the fallacy of observation and reasoning by which a nation was deluded into the flattering belief of an intervening aid by its special god in answer to prayer, must have been a most powerful agency in sustaining and strengthening the belief which, without it, could hardly have taken root and flourished everywhere so vigorously as history proves it to have done. But, though a main, this fallacy of coincidence was not the entire, cause of the credit of superstitions of the kind. of signal accord between the omen or prayer and its fulfilment, where the improbability of an accidental coincidence was so great as practically to exclude the notion of it, and where, therefore, the claim of a causal relation might well seem indisputable,
no proper account was taken of the possibility of collusion. Now, this collusion might not only take place between persons concerned, whose interest it was to make the experiment a success, and who conspired together for that purpose, as priests, rulers, omen-mongers, workers of magic, and others have often done, but might be a self-connivance. There have always been individuals more wise than the multitude, who, making the natural use of their superiority to gain advantages for themselves, have fooled and duped it for their own profit, and often at the same time for its good-Minos pretending to be advised by Jupiter, Numa retiring to take counsel of Ægeria, and many more like instances amongst all nations; and it is very certain that in this way projects and laws and institutions obtained an acceptance and an authority and a stability which they would never have had as the mere counsels of a sagacious individual, and that useful customs and practices were consecrated as religious ceremonials.*
* The greatest obstacle which vaccination encountered in India was the belief that the natural small-pox was the work of a mischievous deity, Man-Ry Umma, or rather that the disease was an incarnation of her in the infected person. The fear of offending her and provoking her resentment made the natives averse to vaccination, until they were reassured by a new superstitious impression; no other than the belief that the goddess had spontaneously chosen this new and milder method of manifesting herself, and that she might be worshipped with equal acceptance under this new shape. (Pharmacologia, p. 19, by Dr. Paris.)