Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

The debate between creationists and anticreationists is nothing new. As David Sedley shows in his extraordinarily interesting Creationism and Its Critics in Antiquity (Cambridge), it raged as strongly in the ancient world as it does in the modern. The ancients were, for the most part, creationists. The big debate for them was what happened next, i. e. how the physical world came to be. The natural science, therefore, was just as important as the 'theology'. On this issue the spanner in the ointment [sic] was Socrates. He tells us that, as a young man, he was thrilled by speculation about the natural world: 'whether it was blood that makes us conscious beings, or air, or fire; or is it the brain that supplies us with our sense of sight and hearing or smell? Is it from here that memory and opinion, and then knowledge, come?' But eventually he became disillusioned because it did not seem to him to deal with 'the only thing that it is in man's interest to consider with regard to himself and anything else -- the best and highest good'. And that, he argued, was what the god had in mind for the human race.

To support his belief about the deity's beneficence, Socrates produced our first example of the 'argument from design', taking the body as an example: look how eyelids and lashes protect the eyes, how far from the eyes and nose the excretory channels, and so on. …

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