Monday, October 10, 2011

Confusing Correlation and Causation (Greek and Roman Edition)

See Byzantium Edition

...the daily recurring phenomena, which to us, who know them to be the result of certain well-ascertained laws of nature, are so familiar as to excite no remark, were, to the early Greeks, matter of grave speculation, and not infrequently of alarm.  For instance, when they heard the awful roar of thunder, and saw vivid flashes of lightning, accompanied by black clouds and torrents of rain, they believed that the great god of heaven was angry, and they trembled at his wrath.  If the calm and tranquil sea became suddenly agitated and the crested billows rose mountains high, dashing furiously against the rocks, and the threatening destruction to all within within their reach, the sea-god was supposed to be in a furious rage.  When they beheld the sky glowing with the hues of coming day they thought that the goddess of the dawn, with rosy fingers, was drawing aside the dark veil of night, to allow her brother, the sun-god, to enter upon his brilliant career.  Thus personifying all the powers of nature, this very imaginative and highly poetical nation beheld a divinity in every tree that grew, in every stream that flowed, in the bright beams of the glorious sun, and the clear cold rays of the silvery moon; for them the whole universe lived and breathed, peopled by a thousand forms of grace and beauty.
—E. M. Berens in The Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome

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