-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Return to article page

To print: Select File and then Print from your browser's menu.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This story was printed from FindArticles.com, located at http://www.findarticles.com.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Natural History
June, 2000

The Jew and the Jew Stone.

Author/s: Stephen Jay Gould

Ruminations earlier views of fossils, medicines, and minorities

The human mind may love to contemplate exemplary universes of abstract grandeur and idealized perfection, but we can extract equal pleasure from a tiny embodiment of some great thought, or some defining event of a lifetime, in a humble but concrete object that we can hold in our hands and rotate before our eyes. We cherish such explicit reminders and call them keepsakes, souvenirs, or mementos--for their salience as markers of distinctive moments in our unique trajectory through the general adventure of human life.

For this reason, I have never been able to understand the outright purchase, from catalogs or store shelves, of distinctive items that (I would think) can only have meaning as mementos of our own experiences. I do, for example, cherish a few baseballs signed by personal heroes, but only because they intersected my life in a meaningful way--the pop foul off DiMaggio's bat that my father caught in 1950, as I sat next to him, and that the great man signed and returned after I mailed him the relic along with a gushing fan letter; the ball signed by Hank Aaron and presented to me after a talk I gave at Atlanta's Spelman College, as I, nearly speechless for once, stammered thanks to my hosts for the equivalent of an item inscribed by God himself. But what could a ball signed by a Ted Williams or a Pete Rose mean when ordered from a catalog by anyone willing to fork over a specified sum?

I take special delight in the particular category of things long known and admired in large abstraction but then seen for the first time in the form of a humble but concrete memento. I don't refer to first views of the grand things themselves--the obvious and anticipated thrill of initial contact with the Taj Mahal or the Parthenon--but rather to the sublime surprise of finding my father's card of honorable discharge from the navy after hearing his war stories for so many years, or seeing my grandfather's name entered on a ship's manifest for his arrival at Ellis Island in 1901.

As a scholar, most of my thrills in this category arise as unexpected encounters in actual print--in an old book read by real people--of the founding version of stories or concepts once learned in a classroom or textbook and stored as an important memory implanted by others but never validated by original sources. I get a special jolt when I first see (as my grandmother would have said) in shvartz--that is, "in black" ink or printed type--something that had long tickled my mind but had never stood right before my eyes in its overt and original form.

The tale of this essay begins with such an experience of transfer from vague abstraction to factual immediacy. I do not remember where I first heard the story--perhaps in a guest lecture by a distinguished visiting luminary or as a casual comment from a professor in an undergraduate class at Antioch College. I do not even know whether the tale represents a standard example, well known to all historians of early science, or an original insight from one teacher's personal research. But I do remember the story itself and the striking epitome thus provided for the revolutionary character (at its codification in the seventeenth century) of the explanatory system now called science.

The story featured a memorable example to demonstrate how respected styles of former explanation became risible and "mystical" in the light of new views about causality and the nature of the material world. The essence of the difference between prescientific and scientific explanations, my unremembered source stated, could be epitomized in a popular prescientific remedy for the healing of wounds inflicted by swords or other weapons. The prescribed salve must be applied to the wound itself, where, by modern understanding, the potion might well work as advertised, since early pharmacists and herbalists had, by experience, discovered many useful remedies, even if we now dismiss their theories about modes of action. But, the recipe for the remedy continued, the salve must also be applied to the weapon that inflicted the wound, for healing required a sympathetic treatment, a re-balancing, a putting right of both the injurer and the injuree.

The nub of the revolutionary difference between prescientific and scientific explanation, my anonymous source continued, lies beautifully exposed in this microcosm, for the Western world's transition to modernity may virtually be defined by the realization that although some material property of the salve may heal the wound by direct contact, the formerly sensible practice of treating the weapon in a similar way must now be scorned as utter nonsense and absurd mysticism.

This tale about treating the weapon as well as the wound has rattled around in my head for twenty years or more, with no documentation beyond a dimly remembered lecture. Then, a few months ago, I bought a copy of Johann Schroder's Pharmacopoeia medicochymica (the 1677 edition of a work first printed in Ulm in 1641), perhaps the most widely used handbook of remedies from the seventeenth century. And in this copy, published right in the midst of the ferment that generated modern science in the late seventeenth century, I found the formula for the salve that must be applied to weapons as well as wounds--in shvartz on page 303 and named Unguentum Sympatheticum Crollii, or Croll's Sympathetic Ointment (we shall learn more about Mr. Croll a bit later).

The formula for this concoction may raise modern hairs and hackles. We must begin, Schroder tells us, with adip. veteris aprugn. (the fat of an old boar) mixed with bear fat as well. Boil them both in red wine, pour the resulting mixture into cold water, and collect the fat that accumulates at the top. Then add a morley assortment of pulverized worms; the brain of a boar (presumably from the same creature that supplied the initial fat); some sandalwood; haematite (a rock containing iron); mumia, or the dust from a corpse; and to top it all off, usneae e cranio hominis interempti (or scrapings from the skull of a man who has been killed).

Schroder then appends a series of notes about permitted variations, including a most welcome statement (to modern sensibilities): sunt qui omittunt usneam et mumiam (some people omit the cranial scrapings and corpse dust). But another note then warns us that the cranial scrapings, if included, must be gathered while the Moon waxes (that is, during its increase from a thin crescent to a full circle) and under a good astrological sign, preferably with Venus in conjunction (that is, within the reigning zodiacal constellation) but certainly not Mars or Saturn.

Under the next heading, Usus (use), Schroder first tells us that this ointment will cure all wounds, unless the nerves or arteries have been severed. The next line---ungatur telum, quo vulnus inflictum (the weapon that inflicted the wound must be anointed)--then advances the argument that so impressed me as a succinct example of the dramatically different account of nature and causality that modern science would soon drive to intellectual extinction.

Schroder's description ends with a set of instructions for treating the afflicted object with the ointment. We learn that "it" must be wrapped in linen and kept out of the wind, in a place neither too hot nor too cold, ne damnum inferatur Patienti (so that no damage shall be inflicted upon the patient). Moreover, no dust may fall upon "it" alioquin Patiens mire affigeretur (for otherwise the patient would be sorely injured). However, the "it" in each case, describes the weapon that requires such delicate care and handling--not the wound! The two final items on the list also refer exclusively to the anointed weapon: if the wound was inflicted by the point of a sword, then the ointment must be applied from the hilt downward toward the tip; if the weapon cannot be found, a stick of wood dipped in the victim's blood may suffice.

In a final paragraph, Schroder offers his only statement about why such a procedure might enjoy success. The cure occurs because the same balsamic (healing) spirit inheres in both the patient and the blood of his wound, and both must be fortified by the ointment. The weapon, I presume, must be treated because some of the patient's blood still remains (or perhaps merely because the weapon drew the patient's blood and must therefore be cleansed along with the patient himself in order to bring both parts of this drama back into harmony).

Oswald Croll (ca. 1560-1609), the inventor of this ointment, followed the theories of Paracelsus (1493-1541) in proposing external sources of disease, in opposition to the old Galenic theory of humors (see illustration on page 34). In this major debate of premodern medicine, externalists believed that outside forces or agents entered the human body to cause illness and that healing substances from the three worldly kingdoms (animal, vegetable, and mineral, but primarily vegetable, as plants provided most drugs and potions) could rid the body of these invaders. The humoral theory, on the other hand, viewed disease as an imbalance among the body's four basic principles: blood (the sanguine, or wet-hot, humor), phlegm (sluggish, or wet-cold), choler (dry-hot), and melancholy (dry-cold). Treatment must therefore be directed not toward the expulsion of foreign elements but to the restoration of internal balance among the humors (bloodletting, for example, when the sanguine humor rose too high; sweating, purging, and vomiting as other devices for setting the humors back in order).

In Paracelsian medicine, treatment must be directed against the external agent of disease, rather than toward the restoration of internal harmony by raising or lowering the concentration of improperly balanced humors. How, then, could the proper agents of potential cure be recognized among plants, rocks, or animal parts that might neutralize or destroy the body's invaders? In his article on Paracelsus for the Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Walter Pagel summarizes this argument from an age before the rise of modern science:

   Paracelsus ... reversed this concept of disease as an upset of humoral
   balance, emphasizing [instead] the external cause of disease.... He sought
   and found the causes of disease chiefly in the mineral world (notably in
   salts) and in the atmosphere, career of star-born "poisons." He considered
   each of these agents as a real ens, a substance in its own right (as
   opposed to humors, or temperaments, which he regarded as fictitious). He
   thus interpreted disease itself as an ens, determined by a specific agent
   foreign to the body, which takes possession of one of its parts.... He
   directed his treatment specifically against the agent of the disease,
   rather than resorting to the general anti-humoral measures ... that had
   been paramount in ancient therapy for "removal of excess and addition of
   the deficient." ... Here his notion of "signatures" came into play, in the
   selection of herbs that in color and shape resembled the affected organ
   (as, for example, a yellow plant for the liver or an orchid for the
   testicle). Paracelsus's search for such specific medicines led him to
   attempt to isolate the efficient kernel (the quinta essentia) of each
   substance. [Our modern word "quintessential" derives from this older
   usage.]

This doctrine of signatures summarizes the key difference between modern science and an older view of nature, shared by both the humor theorists and the Paracelsians despite their major disagreement about the nature of disease. Most scholars of the Renaissance and of earlier, medieval times viewed Earth and the cosmos as a young, static, and harmonious system created by God, essentially in its current form, just a few thousand years ago, and purposely imbued with pervasive signs of order and harmony among its apparently separate realms--all done to illustrate the glory and subtlety of God's omnipotence and to emphasize his special focus upon the human species, purposely created in his own image.

This essential balance and harmony achieved its most important expression in deep linkages (we would dismiss them today as, at best, loose analogies) between apparently disparate realms. At one level--thus setting the central principle of medicine under the doctrine of signatures--the microcosm of the human body must be linked to the macrocosm of the entire Earth. Each part of the human body must therefore be allied to a corresponding manifestation of the same essential form in each of the macrocosmic realms: mineral, vegetable, and animal. Under this conception of nature, so strikingly different from our current views, the idea that a weakened human part might be treated or fortifed by its signature from a macrocosmic realm cannot be dismissed as absurd (the orchid that looks like the male genitalia, and receives its name from this likeness, as a potential cure for impotence, for example). Oswald Croll, in particular, based his medical views on these linkages of the human microcosm to the earthly macrocosm, and Schroder's Pharmacopoeia represents a last gasp for this expiring theory, published just as Newton's generation began to establish our present, and clearly more accurate, view of nature.

At a second level, the central Earth (of this pre-Copernican cosmos) must also remain in harmony with the heavens above. Thus, each remedy on Earth must correspond to its proper configuration of planets as they move through the constellations of the zodiac. These astronomical considerations specified when healing plants and animals (and even rocks) should be collected and how they should be treated--hence, in Croll's ointment for wounds and swords, the requirement that cranial scrapings be collected under a good constellation, with the loving Venus, but not the warlike Mars or Saturn, in conjunction.

As a memorable example of this approach to healing under the doctrine of signatures and stable harmony among the realms of nature, consider an illustration (see page 28) from the last major work of scholarship in this tradition, so soon to be extinguished by modern science: the Mundus subterraneus, published in 1664 by perhaps the most learned scholar of his generation, the Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher (who wrote an important ethnography of China, came closer than anyone else to deciphering the hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt, wrote major treatises on music and magnetism, and built, in Rome, one of the finest natural history collections ever assembled). In this figure, entitled (in Crollian fashion) "Sympathetic Types of the Microcosm With the Macrocosm," lines radiate from each part of the human body to the names of plants (in the outer rim) that will cure the afflicted organs. To complete the analogies and harmonizations, the inner circle (resting on the man's head and supporting his feet) presents astronomical signs for the zodiacal constellations, while the symmetrical triangles, radiating like wings from the man's sides just below his arms, include similar signs for the planets.

We rightly reject this system today as a false theory based on an incorrect view about the nature of the material world. And we rightly embrace modern science as both a more accurate account and a more effective approach to such practical issues as healing the human body of weakening and disease. Viagra does work better than crushed orchids as a therapy for male impotence (though we should not doubt the power of the placebo effect in granting some, albeit indirect, oomph to the old remedy in some cases). And if I get badly cut when slicing a bagel with my kitchen knife, and the wound becomes infected, I much prefer an antibiotic to a salve made of boar fat and skull scrapings that must then be carefully applied both to the knife and to my injury.

Nonetheless, I question our usual dismissal of this older approach as absurd, mystical, or even prescientific (in any more than a purely chronological sense). Yes, anointing the wound as well as the weapon can only be labeled ridiculous mumbo-jumbo in light of later scientific knowledge. But how can we blame our forebears for not knowing what later generations would discover? We might as well despise ourselves because our grandchildren will, no doubt, understand the world in a different way.

We may surely brand Croll's Sympathetic Ointment, and its application to the weapon as well as the wound, as ineffective, but Croll's remedy cannot be called either mystical or stupid under the theory of nature that inspired its development--the doctrine of signatures and of harmony among the realms of nature. To unravel the archaeology of human knowledge, we must treat former systems of belief as valuable intellectual "fossils," offering insight about the human past and providing precious access to a wider range of human theorizing only partly realized by modern views. If we dismiss such former systems as absurd because later discoveries superseded them, or as mystical in the light of causal systems revealed by these later discoveries, then we will never understand the antecedents of modern views with the same sympathy that Croll sought between weapon and wound and that Kircher proposed between human organs and healing plants.

In this light, for example, the conventional image of Paracelsus himself as the ultimate mystic who sought to transmute base metals into gold and to create homunculi from chemical potions must be reevaluated. I do not challenge the usual description of Paracelsus as, in the modern vernacular, "one weird dude"--a restless and driven man, subject to fits of rage and howling, to outrageous acts of defiance, and to drinking any local peasant under the table in late-night tavern sessions. But as a physician, Paracelsus won fame (and substantial success) for his cautious procedures, based on minimal treatment and tiny doses of potentially effective remedies (in happy contrast to the massive purging and bloodletting of Galenic doctors), and for a general approach to disease--as an incursion of foreign agents that might be expelled with healing substances--that provided generally more effective remedies than any rebalancing of humors could achieve. Even his chosen moniker, Paracelsus (he was christened Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim), may not bear the arcane and mystical interpretation usually presented in modern accounts. Perhaps he did mean to highlight the boastful claim that he had advanced beyond (para-) the great Roman physician Celsus. But I rather suspect, as do many other scholars, that Paracelsus may simply represent a Latinized version of his birth name, Hohenheim, or "high country"--since celsus, in Latin, means "towering" or "lofty." Many medieval and Renaissance intellectuals converted their vernacular names to classical equivalents--including Georg Bauer (literally George the farmer, in German), who became the world's greatest sixteenth-century geologist under the more mellifluous and Latinized title of Georgius Agricola, with the same meaning; and Luther's leading supporter, Philipp Schwartzerd (Mr. Black Earth, in his native lingo), who adopted the Greek version of his last name, Melanchthon.

However, while we should heed the scholar's plea for sympathetic study of older systems, we must also celebrate the increase and improvement, achieved by science, in our understanding of nature through time. We must also acknowledge that these ancient and superseded systems, however revealing and fascinating, did impede better resolutions (and practical cures of illness) by channeling thought and interpretation in unfruitful and incorrect directions.

I therefore searched through Schroder's Pharmacopoeia to learn how he treated the objects of my own expertise--fossils of ancient organisms. The search for signatures to heal afflicted human parts yielded more potential remedies from the plant and animal kingdoms, but fossils, from the mineral realm, also played a significant role in the full list of medicines. Mineral remedies discussed by Schroder, and made of rocks in shapes and forms that suggested curative powers over human ailments, included, in terminology that prevailed among students of fossils until the late eighteenth century, the following items in alphabetical order:

1. Aetites, or pregnant stones, found in eagles' nests and useful in a suggestive manner: partum promovet (it aids [a woman in giving] birth).

2. Ceraunia, or thunderstones, useful in stimulating the flow of milk or blood when rubbed on breasts or knees.

3. Glossopetra, or tongue stones, an antidote to the poisons of animal bites.

4. Haematites, or bloodstones, for stanching the flow of blood: refrigerat, exiccat, adstringit, glutinat (it cools, it dries out, it contracts, and it coagulates).

5. Lapis lyncis, the lynx stone, or belemnite, helpful in breaking kidney stones and perhaps against nightmares and bewitchings. Many scholars viewed these smooth, cylindrical fossils as coagulated lynx urine, but Schroder dismisses this interpretation as an old fable, while supplying no clear alternative.

6. Ostiocolla, or bone stones, shaped like human bones and useful in helping fractures to mend.

But among all stones that advertise their power of healing by resembling a human organ or the form of an affliction, Schroder seems most confident about the curative powers of the lapis judaicus, or jew stone (named for its abundance near Palestine, not, in this case, for its shape or form). The figure on page 30, included in the most beautiful set of fossil engravings from the early years of paleontology (commissioned by Michele Mercati, curator of the Vatican collections in the mid-sixteenth century, but not published until 1717), mixes true jew stones (bottom two rows and center figure in top row) with crinoid stem plates (top row, each separately labeled entrochus, or wheel stone--for these stem plates, of flat and circular form, even bear a central hole for the passage of an imaginary axle).

In Schroder's world, jew stones provide the mineralogical remedy par excellence for one of the most feared and painful of human ailments: kidney stones and other hard growths in body organs and vessels. Schroder tells us that jew stones may be male or female, for sexual distinctions must pervade all kingdoms to validate the full analogy of human microcosm to earthly macrocosm. The smaller, female jew stones should be used ad vesicae lapidem (for bladder stones), while the large, male versions can be employed ad tenure lapidem expellendum (for the expulsion of stones from the kidneys). The doctrine of signatures suggested at least two reasons for ingesting powdered jew stones to fight kidney stones: first, their overall form resembled the human affliction, and powdering one might help to disaggregate the other; second, the precise system of parallel grooves covering the surface of jew stones might encourage a directed and outward flow (from the body) for the disaggregated particles of kidney stones.

With proper respect for the internal coherence of such strikingly different theories about the natural world, we can gain valuable insight into modes and ranges of human thought. But our fascination for the peculiarity of such differences should not lead us into the fashionable relativism of "I'm OK, you're (or, in this case, you were) OK" so what's the difference, as long as our disparate views each express an interesting concept of reality and also do no harm? A real world, regulated by genuine causes, exists "out there" in nature, independent of our perceptions (even though we can only access this external reality through our senses and mental operations). And the system of modern science that replaced the doctrine of signatures--despite its frequent and continuing errors and arrogances (which all institutions operated by human beings must experience in spades)--has provided an increasingly more accurate account of this surrounding complexity. Factual truth and causal understanding also correlate, in general, with effectiveness--and incorrect theories do promote harm by their impotence. Snake venom cannot be neutralized by powdering and ingesting stones that look like serpent's tongues (the glossopetra of the preceding list), for the doctrine of signatures holds no validity and these fossils are shark's teeth, in any case. But so long as we favor an impotent remedy dictated by a false theory, we will not find truly effective cures.

Schroder's quaintly incorrect seventeenth-century accounts of fossils do not only reflect a simple ignorance of facts learned later. Better understanding may also be impeded by false theories that lead scholars to conceptualize fossils in a manner guaranteed to debar the most fruitful questions and to preclude the most useful observations. Schroder's theory of fossils as mineral objects--relevant to human knowledge only when their forms suggest sympathy and therefore potential therapeutic value to diseased human parts--relegates to virtual inconceivability the key insight that fossils represent the bodies of ancient organisms entombed within rocks and often petrified themselves. At least two controlling conclusions of Schroder's theory prevented the establishment of this sine qua non for modern paleontology.

First, the theory of signatures did not even permit a coherent category for fossils as ancient organisms--and a truth that cannot be characterized or even named can hardly be conceptualized at all. In Schroder's taxonomy, fossils belonged, with no separate distinction, to the larger category of "things in rocks that look like objects of other realms." Some of these "things" are organisms--glossopetra as shark's teeth; lapis lyncis as internal shells of an extinct group of cephalopods, the belemnites; ostiocolla as true vertebrate bones; and jew stones as the spines of sea urchins. But other "things" placed by Schroder in the same general category are not organisms--aetites as geodes (spherical stones composed of concentric layers and formed inorganically); ceraunia as axes and arrowheads fabricated by ancient humans (whose former existence could not be conceived on Schroder's Earth, created just a few thousand years ago); and haematites as red-hued rocks made of iron compounds.

Second, how could the status of fossils as remains of ancient organisms even be imagined under a theory that attributed their existence to a necessarily created correspondence with similar shapes in the microcosm of the human body? If aetites aid human births because they look like eggs within eggs; if ceraunia promote the flow of milk because they fell from the sky; if glossopetra cure snake bites because they resemble the tongues of serpents; if haematites, as red rocks, stanch the flow of blood; if ostiocolla mend fractures because they look like bones; and if jew stones expel kidney stones because they resemble the human affliction but also contain channels to sweep such objects out of our bodies-then how can we ever distinguish the true fossils among these putative remedies when we conceptualize the entire motley set only as a coherent category of mineral analogues to human parts?

I thus feel caught in the ambivalence of appreciating both the fascinating weirdness and the conceptual coherence of such ancient systems of human thought, while also recognizing that these fundamentally incorrect views stymied a truer and more humanely effective understanding of the natural world. So I ruminated on this ambivalence as I read Schroder's opening dedicatory pages addressed to the citizens of Frankfurt am Main--and the eyes of this virtually unshockable street kid from New York unexpectedly fell upon something in shvartz that, while known perfectly well to me as an abstraction, stunned me as an explicit printed statement and helped me focus (if not completely resolve) my ambivalence.

Schroder's preface begins as a charming and benign, if self-serving, defense of medicine and doctors, firmly rooted within his controlling doctrine of signatures and the correspondence between the human microcosm and the surrounding macrocosm. God of the Trinity, Schroder asserts, embodies the three principles of creation, stability, and restitution. The human analogues of this Trinity must be understood as generation (to replenish our populations), good government (to ensure stability), and restoration (when these systems become weak, diseased, or invaded). The world, and the City of Frankfurt am Main, needs good doctors to assure the last two functions, for medicine keeps us going and cures us when we falter.

So far, so good. I am a realist, and I can certainly smile at the old human foible of justifying personal existence (and profit) by carving out a place within the higher and general order of things. But Schroder then launches a diatribe against the "diabolical forces" that undermine stability and induce degeneration--the two general ills that good physicians fight. Still OK by me, until I read, in shvartz, Schroder's description of the most potent earthly devil of all: Choraeam in his ducunt Judaei ("the Jews lead this dance [of devils]"). Two particularly ugly lines then follow. We first learn of the dastardly deeds done by Jews to the Gojim--for Schroder even knows the Hebrew word for gentiles, goyim (the plural of goy, "nation"--the Latin alphabet contains no y and uses j instead).

Schroder writes: His enim regulis suis occultis permissum novit Gojim, id est, Christianos, impune et citra homicidii notam, adeoque citra conscientiam interimere--"for by his secret rules, he is granted permission to kill the goyim, that is, the Christians, with impunity, without censure, and without pangs of conscience." But luckily for the good guys, Schroder tells us in his second statement, these evil Jews can be recognized by their innately depraved appearance--that is, by nota malitiae a Natura ipse impressa (marks of evil impressed by Nature herself). These identifying signs include an ugly appearance, garrulous speech, and a lying tongue.

Now I know both the depth and long pedigree of anti-Semitism in Europe. I also understand that such political and moral evil has been rationalized at each stage within the full panoply of changing views about the nature of reality, with each successive theory pushed, shoved, and distorted to validate this deep and preexisting prejudice. I also know--for who could fail to state this obvious point?--that the most tragically effective slaughter ever propagated in the name of anti-Semitism, the Holocaust of recent memory, sought its cruel and phony "natural" rationale, not in an ancient doctrine of harmony between microcosm and macrocosm, but in a perverted misreading of modern theories about the evolution of human variation.

Nonetheless, my benign appreciation for the fascinating but false doctrine of signatures surely received a jolt when I read, unexpectedly and in shvartz, an ugly defense of anti-Semitism rooted (however absurdly) within this very conception of nature. More accurate theories can make us free, but the ironic flip side of this important claim has often allowed evil people to impose a greater weight of suffering upon the world by misusing the technological power that flows from scientific advances.

The improvement of knowledge cannot guarantee a corresponding growth of moral understanding and compassion, but we can never achieve a maximal spread of potential benevolence (either in curing disease or in teaching the factual reality of human brotherhood in biological equality) without nurturing such knowledge. Thus, the reinterpretation of jew stones as sea urchin spines (with no effect against human kidney stones) can be correlated with a growing understanding that Jews, and all human groups, share an overwhelmingly common human nature beneath any superficiality of different skin colors or cultural traditions. And yet this advancing human knowledge cannot be directed toward its great capacity for benevolent use--and may actually (and perversely) promote increasing harm in misapplication--if we do not straighten our moral compasses and beat all those swords (once anointed with Croll's Sympathetic Ointment to assuage their destructive capacity) into plowshares, or whatever corresponding item of the new technology might best speed the gospel of peace and prosperity through better knowledge allied with wise application rooted in basic moral decency.

Stephen Jay Gould teaches biology, geology, and the history of science at Harvard University. He is also Frederick P. Rose Honorary Curator in Invertebrates at the American Museum of Natural History.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
COPYRIGHT 2000 American Museum of Natural History
in association with The Gale Group and LookSmart. COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------