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A Study of Human Oddities

Nature volume 160, page 39 (12 July 1947) | Download Citation



In one sense this book might be considered as an entertaining series of erudite biographical trivia, but in his amusing and lightly written account of such figures as the levitating Saint Joseph of Copertino, D. D. Home, the sorcerer who was such a personage in Victorian social life, and Angel Anna, the priestess of an obscene occult sect, Dr. Dingwall has enshrined a scientific moral. This is, that before denying the existence of such phenomena as he describes, we should sift the evidence and use our reason rather than that prejudice, either of belief or disbelief, which is not confined to the laymen of science; and that—if we accept the evidence—instead of admitting that unaccountable things do happen and leaving it at that, we should use available scientific methods to understand them. For example, whether (if at all) the flights of Saint Joseph occurred through divine or diabolic agency, or whether through some unknown natural force, it seems probable that there were in his own person psychological and physiological concomitants amenable to modern methods of inquiry.

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