Harper's New Monthly Magazine,  8 (1884), 323–24.

Editor's Drawer



Regular Feature—Anecdote, Miscellaneous, Drollery


Physiology, Morality, Observation, Error

    Reflecting on the 'fallibility of human testimony' and the Scriptural passage '"I said in my wrath [sic] all men are liars" [Psalm 116:11]', ponders whether 'he might have said it coolly and with scientific precision. Perhaps it is a question of physiology rather than of morals. The human frame is acknowledged to be a wonderful piece of mechanism. The Psalmist admired it, but it puzzled him. If he had been a scientist he would have been able to give physiological reasons for the opinion that there is not one perfect man—no, not one'. After all, 'Not one eye in ten millions is in a normal, perfect condition. The focus is either behind the retina, or in front of it, and the eye is either near-sighted or far-sighted. What can be expected in such an imperfect organ in the way of correct observation?', and it is 'still worse with the ear. It is at best a crooked organ, and nearly everything that passes through it gets a twist'. In addition, the 'effort of the tongue to put into sound and speech the so-called impressions obtained through the complicated mechanism of the eye and the ear is a ludicrous failure', and it only adds to the 'congeries of misrepresentation'. (323)

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