(12/09/07) A QUOTE FROM XENOPHANES

Posted Dec 9, 2007
Last Updated Apr 7, 2008
An old grad school friend of mine, Dr. Allen Lundgren, now a retired economist, sent me the following.  I pass it on to you.

"I was just reading your comments on Evolution (12-06-07), and was reminded of a quote by Xenophanes, the Ancient Greek philosopher, as translated by Karl A. Popper, in his book, "Conjectures and Refutations".  Here it is as quoted by Popper:

XENOPHANES of Colophon (570-480 BC)


'The gods did not reveal, from the beginning,

All things to us; but in the course of time,

Through seeking, men find that which is the better ...

These things are, we conjecture, like the truth.

But as for certain truth, no man has known it,

Nor will he know it; neither of the gods,

Nor yet of all the things of which I speak.

And even if by chance he were to utter

The final truth, he would himself not know it;

For all is but a woven web of guesses.'


from: Xenophanes, Fragments (DK, B 18;35; & 34) as translated by

Karl A. Popper. 1968. pp. 152-153, in, Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge.
N. Y.: Harper & Row, Pub.

Harper Torch Books, TB 1376. 417p.

Dr. Lundgren went on:

"I have thought for years that this is an almost perfect statement of what the scientific method is all about, from a man who lived 2,500 years ago.  I thought you would enjoy it. I used to hand this quote out to our graduate students in the Department of Forestry at the U of Minnesota to remind them that everything we know (or think we know) is tentative and provisional, subject to future change."

Too bad some prominent clergy and politicians haven't  twigged on that.

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Rod Martin of Mission: Atlantis

Oct 20, 2011

John, this is a beautiful quote. So much humility in the search for answers. I wish more scientists and doctors were like that. Heck, that goes for religious believers, politicians and people in general.

Humility seems to be such an elusive art, because it is so hard to see when we operate so often in its opposite -- ego. But some people are better at it than others. We call them heroes, but they shrug off such a label.

A dear friend of mine once discouraged me from investigating the possible past reality of Atlantis. He said that an advanced civilization could not have existed that far back (9600 BCE), because there are no deposits of pollution in the Greenland ice cores for that period.

At first, that had stopped me. Perhaps it was my own ego which had me rebel against the stop, but later I found humility again and merely looked at the data.

My friend's supposition seemed based on the idea that an advanced civilization could not exist without pollution. This seemed an unproven idea. Having read a bit of science fiction, I could think of a number of examples of fictional civilizations existing without the need to pump out tons of atmospheric pollutants.

Years later, when the Internet became available, I did more research on the subject. I found three items of scientific evidence, each of which showed that something big occurred right when Plato's Atlantis was supposed to have subsided. It's ironic that one of the pieces of information was from the Greenland ice cores. Thanks John for the idea. Only with humility was I able to see it.

The truths we hold onto may merely be stepping stones toward Truth. And what a beautiful journey it is. Perhaps as Xenophanes says, we mortals will never touch that perfection, but one day the inner light may be free of these mortal bonds, once again. Perhaps then Truth may be known in its entirety.