“Near these march the
scientists, reverenced for their beards and the fur on their gowns, who teach
that they alone are wise while the rest of mortal men flit about as shadows.
How pleasantly they dote, indeed, while they construct their numberless
worlds, and measure the sun, moon, stars, and spheres as with thumb and
line. They assign causes for lightning, winds, eclipses, and other inexplicable
things, never hesitating a whit, as if they were privy to the secrets of nature,
artificer of things, or as if they visited us fresh from the council of the gods.
Yet all the while nature is laughing grandly at them and their conjectures. For
to prove that they have good intelligence of nothing, this is a sufficient
argument: they can never explain why they disagree with each other on every
subject. Thus knowing nothing in general, they profess to know all things in
particular; though they are ignorant even of themselves, and on occasion do
not see the ditch or the stone lying across their path, because many of them
are blear-eyed or absent-minded; yet they proclaim that they perceive ideas,
universals, forms without matter, primary substances, quiddities, and
ecceities – things so tenuous, I fear, that Lynceus himself could not see them.
When they especially disdain the vulgar crowd is when they bring out their
triangles, quadrangles, circles, and mathematical pictures of the sort, lay one
upon the other, intertwine them into a maze, then deploy – and all to involve
the uninitiated in darkness. Their fraternity does not lack those who predict
future events by consulting the stars, and promise wonders even more
magical; and these lucky scientists find people to believe them.”
- Erasmus, The Praise of Folly