Cover image for Did Adam & Eve have navels? : discourses on reflexology, numerology, urine therapy & other dubious subjects
Did Adam & Eve have navels? : discourses on reflexology, numerology, urine therapy & other dubious subjects
Gardner, Martin, 1914-2010.
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Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton, 2000.
Physical Description:
xi, 333 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
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Eggertsville-Snyder Library Q173 .G34 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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A witty critique of New Age beliefs and scientific fraud. Topics debunked include paranormal events, Freud's theory of dreams, shamanism and UFOs. As well as providing laughter for sceptics, the book will also give solace and inspiration to those who prize logic and common sense.

Author Notes

Martin Gardner is the author of more than seventy books on a vast range of topics including "Did Adam & Eve Have Navels?", "Calculus Made Easy", & "The Annotated Alice". He lives in Hendersonville, North Carolina.

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Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Former Scientific American columnist Gardner (The Annotated Alice, etc.) has also long been a columnist for another journalÄSkeptical InquirerÄand some 28 of his far-ranging pieces are loosely tied together in this new collection. Individually, these essays amuse and provoke, but because the subject material is broad, Gardner doesn't delve deeply into any one topic. Rather, he jumps from fringe science to cannibalism, psychology and the histories of various religious sects. Along the way, he challenges his opponentsÄespousers of bogus scienceÄto explain their beliefs and denounces some books (by Deepak Chopra, for instance) as preposterous while praising others that are skeptical in tone. Reflexology, the practice of treating ailments by rubbing specific parts of the feet, is dismissed as "profitology." Some essays address current topics, including the Heaven's Gate cult, while others are old news (finding Freud's dream theory flawed). Still, there is much of interest here. One of the most fascinating chapters describes "urine therapy"Äwhich involves swallowing, injecting or rubbing urine on the skin or eyes, which is advocated by various practitioners of ayurvedic and other alternative forms of medicine. Another essay effectively challenges the idea that cannibalism has ever been a widespread practice anywhere in the world, since nearly all of the evidence for it appears in secondhand reports. Updating addenda have been tacked on after most essays, but the lack of editing of the essays themselves results in overlapping discussions of some topics, with little transitional material. The essays, though united only by their underlying skepticism, present a witty and erudite rejection of pseudoscience. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

This is another of science journalist Martin Gardner's anthologies. The majority of the articles first appeared in Skeptical Inquirer, but he updates most of them with addenda. Though divided into sections (physics, medical matters, social science, etc.), the book's only underlying theme is Gardner's desire that we be less gullible. His clear, humorous (if you don't laugh, you'll cry) accounts make it easy. Gardner deals with trivial matters (egg balancing during a full moon) and socially serious ones, in particular the twin threats to free scientific inquiry posed by "intelligent design" creationism and postmodern deconstructionism. His funniest essay recounts physicist Alan Sokal's publication of a phony "deconstructionist" attack on physics in a leading journal of cultural studies. Gardner is not a professional scientist; for example, he asks if anyone can believe that, in a million years, human brains will not have evolved far beyond their present capacities. Any biologist can; only if our environment favors differential reproduction of hereditary factors favoring greater intelligence will this occur. There is no assurance that it will. Nonetheless, the book is highly recommended. Chapter references. All levels. E. B. Hazard; emeritus, Bemidji State University

Booklist Review

This is Gardner's fifth collection drawn from the lively column he writes for the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. Those amused by popular belief in astrology, UFOs, psychokinesis, quack remedies, or a 6,000-year-old earth will enjoy chuckling through theses 28 pieces from recent years. The risibility will probably not reach those such as minister Louis Farrakhan or former senator Claiborne Pell, certain of whose crazy beliefs (crazy in that said beliefs have no scientific support) Gardner dilates on. By contrast, Gardner tends to lose his humor when discussing encroachments that nonscientific spheres of knowledge, such as religion or sociocultural criticism, make on science. One Gardner piece richly revisits a 1996 classic in the latter category, a hoax a physicist perpetrated on the journal Social Text, whose editors, receiving gobbledygook entitled "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity," decided to publish its argument that mathematical constants, such as pi, were social constructs. A recreational excursion among scientific ignoramuses who are either entertaining or cautionary (as with the Heaven's Gate suicides) as appropriate. --Gilbert Taylor

Library Journal Review

It is wonderful to find that discrediting pseudoscience continues to be a popular topic. Gardner (The Night Is Large) gives succinct and amusing critiques of a number of the fallacies that abound in alternative medicine (including the very peculiar urine-therapy treatment) and many other "dubious subjects." These include Freud's dream theory; the hilarious claims by Courtney Brown of Emory University to "farsight," which allows him to see advanced civilizations that once lived on Mars; and Philip Johnson's promotion of design theory to counter evolution. Not all such theories are innocuous or amusing, of course, as is evident in Gardner's chapter on the multiple suicide of Heaven's Gate cult members. The consequences of some of these theories on recent public policy, notably on education in Kansas and the treatment of AIDS in South Africa, are equally serious. All these essays are reprinted (often with updates) from "Notes of a Fringe Watcher," the author's column in the Skeptical Inquirer. Most are written in a surprisingly gentle style, yet they witheringly refute the outrageous claims and farcical content in many of the theories and superstitions currently masquerading as science. Of value in any library.DLloyd Davidson, Seeley G. Mudd Lib. for Science & Engineering, Northwestern Univ., Evanston, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One Did Adam and Eve Have Navels? What did Adam and Eve never have,    yet they gave two of them to each    of their children? Answer: Parents. -- Old children's riddle     If you ever find yourself in the company of a fundamentalist, much pleasant argumentation can result if you ask him or her a simple question: Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons?     For those who believe the Bible to be historically accurate, this is not a trivial question. If Adam and Eve did not have navels, then they were not perfect human beings. On the other hand, if they had navels, then the navels would imply a birth they never experienced.     Bruce Felton and Mark Fowler are the authors of The Best, Worst, and Most Unusual (Galahad Books, 1994). In this entertaining reference work, they devote several paragraphs (pp. 146-47) to what they call "the worst theological dispute." They take this to be the acrimonious debate, which has been going on ever since the Book of Genesis was written, over whether the first human pair had what Sir Thomas Browne, in 1646, referred to as "that tortuosity or complicated nodosity we usually call the Navell."     Brown's opinion was that Adam and Eve, because they had no parents, must have had perfectly smooth abdomens. In 1752, according to Felton and Fowler, the definitive treatise on the topic was published in Germany. It was titled Untersuchung der Frage: Ob unsere ersten Uraltern, Adam and Eve, einen Nabel gehabt (Examination on the Question: Whether Our First Ancestors, Adam and Eve, Possessed a Navel) . After discussing all sides of this difficult question, the author, Dr. Christian Tobias Ephraim Reinhard, finally concluded that the famous pair were navelless.     As Felton and Fowler tell us, some paintings of Adam and Eve from the Middle Ages and early Renaissance show navels; others do not. Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel painting of Adam being created by God's finger shows Adam with a navel. Most artists of later periods followed Michelangelo's lead.     In 1944 the old conundrum had a hilarious revival in the United States Congress. A Public Affairs booklet titled "The Races of Mankind," by Columbia University anthropologists Ruth Benedict and Gene Weltfish, was amusingly illustrated by Ad Reinhardt. Reinhardt later became notorious as an abstract expressionist who painted canvases that were solid black, or blue, or some other single color. One of his cartoons in the Public Affairs Pamphlet No. 85 had a little black dot on the abdomens of Adam and Eve.     Congressman Carl T. Durham of North Carolina and his House Military Affairs Committee were not amused. They believed that distribution of the government pamphlet to American servicemen would be an insult to those who were fundamentalists. As Felton and Fowler point out, some cynics suspected that the congressmen really objected to a table in the booklet showing that northern blacks scored higher on Army Air Force intelligence tests than southern whites. I suspect that another basis for their opposition to the booklet was their belief that Weltfish was a Communist, based on her refusal to testify whether she was or was not a member of the Communist Party. Years later, in 1953, she was much in the news when she charged the United States with using germ warfare in Korea.     The old question about the navels of Adam and Eve figured prominently in one of the strangest books ever written. The book, written by an eminent scientist who wished to defend the accuracy of Genesis, was titled Omphalos: An Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot , and it was published in England in 1857, two years before Darwin's Origin of Species .     Omphalos is the Greek word for navel . A wonderful ancient myth tells how Zeus, in an effort to determine the exact center of a circular flat earth, had two eagles fly at the same speed from opposite ends of one of the circle's diameters. They met at Delphi. To mark the spot, a piece of white marble, called the Omphalos Stone, was placed in Apollo's temple at Delphi with a gold eagle on each side of the stone. The stone was often depicted on Greek coins and vases, usually in the shape of half an egg. (See William J. Woodhouse's detailed article "Omphalos" in James Hastings' Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics .)     The author of Omphalos was British zoologist Philip Henry Gosse (1810-88), father of Sir William Edmund Gosse (1849-1928), a noted English poet and critic. A fundamentalist in the Plymouth Brethren sect, the elder Gosse realized that fossils of plants and animals strongly implied life that predated Adam and Eve. At the same time, he was certain that the entire universe was created in six literal days about four thousand years before Christ.     Was there any way to harmonize this stark contradiction between Genesis and the fossil record? Gosse was struck by what Jorge Luis Borges would later call an idea of "monstrous elegance." If God created Adam and Eve with navels, implying a birth they never had, could not God just as easily have created a record of a past history of the earth that never existed except in the Divine Mind?     As Gosse realized, it is not just a question of belly buttons. Adam and Eve had bones, teeth, hair, fingernails, and all sorts of other features that contained evidence of previous growth. Allow me to quote at length from my 1952 book Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science: The same is true of every plant and animal. As Gosse points out, the tusks of an elephant exhibit past stages, the nautilus keeps adding chambers to its shell, the turtle adds laminae to its plates, trees bear the annual rings of growth produced by seasonal variations. "Every argument," he writes, "by which the physiologist can prove ... that yonder cow was once a foetus ... will apply with exactly the same power to show that the newly created cow was an embryo some years before creation." All this is developed by the author in learned detail, for several hundred pages, and illustrated with dozens of wood engravings. In short--if God created the earth as described in the Bible, he must have created it a "going concern." Once this is seen as inevitable, there is little difficulty in extending the concept to the earth's geologic history. Evidence of the slow erosion of land by rivers, of the twisting and tilting of strata, mountains of limestone formed by remains of marine life, lava which flowed from long-extinct volcanoes, glacier scratchings upon rock, footprints of prehistoric animals, teeth marks on buried bones, and millions of fossils sprinkled through the earth--all these and many other features testify to past geological events which never actually took place . "It may be objected," writes Gosse, "that to assume the world to have been created with fossil skeletons in its crust--skeletons of animals that never really existed--is to charge the Creator with forming objects whose sole purpose was to deceive us. The reply is obvious. Were the concentric timber-rings of a created tree formed merely to deceive? Were the growth lines of a created shell intended to deceive? Was the navel of the created Man intended to deceive him into the persuasion that he had a parent?" So thorough is Gosse in covering every aspect of this question that he even discusses the finding of coprolites, fossil excrement. Up until now, he writes, this "has been considered a more than ordinarily triumphant proof of real pre-existence." Yet, he points out, it offers no more difficulty than the fact that waste matter would certainly exist in the intestines of the newly formed Adam. Blood must have flowed through his arteries, and blood presupposes chyle and chyme, which in turn presupposes an indigestible residuum in the intestines. "It may seem at first sight ridiculous," he confesses, "... but truth is truth." Gosse's argument is, in fact, quite flawless. Not a single truth of geology need be abandoned, yet the harmony with Genesis is complete. As Gosse pointed out, we might even suppose that God created the earth a few minutes ago, complete with all its cities and records, and memories in the minds of men, and there is no logical way to refute this as a possible theory. Nevertheless, Omphalos was not well received. "Never was a book cast upon the waters with greater anticipation of success than was this curious, this obstinate, this fanatical volume," writes the younger Gosse in his book Father and Son . "... He offered it, with a glowing gesture, to atheists and Christians alike.... But, alas! atheists and Christians alike looked at it and laughed, and threw it away ... even Charles Kingsley, from whom my father had expected the most instant appreciation, wrote that he could not ... `believe that God has written on the rocks one enormous and superfluous lie.' ... a gloom, cold and dismal, descended upon our morning tea cups."     As Harold Morowitz points out in his article "Navels of Eden" in Science 82 (March 1982), Philip Gosse was acquainted with Thomas Huxley and elected to the Royal Society for his work on animals called rotifers. He had met Charles Darwin, and over a period of many years exchanged friendly letters with Darwin about matters concerning plants and animals. "Not a word passes about evolution or creation," Morowitz writes, "or the enormous ideological gulf that separated the two great naturalists. The letters are quaint and polite and very British."     One of Edmund Gosse's best-known poems, "Ballad of Dead Cities," ends with the following stanza: Envoy Prince, with a dolorous, ceaseless knell, Above their wasted toil and crime The waters of oblivion swell: Where are the cities of old time?     Gosse could have written a poem about how the waters of oblivion dissolve even more rapidly such crank works as his father's effort to explain the fossil record.     I would have supposed that no creationist today could take Omphalos seriously. Not so! The Des Moines Sunday Register (March 22, 1987) published a letter from reader John Patterson arguing that the existence of a million-year-old supernova contradicted the notion that God created the entire universe about 4000 B.C. In its April issue, the newspaper ran the following response from a Donna Lowers: In regard to John Patterson's letter ... on the supernova as a well-documented fact of science--of course it is! However, he cannot prove evolution except by circumstantial evidence, and creationists cannot prove creation except by God's word. To be a Christian requires one important element called faith.... Yes, I believe in creation by God in six days! I also believe in one day He created full-grown trees that contained rings that any scientist would declare had been there for years. He created pockets of oil deep in the earth that nature would take millions of years to process. He placed aquatic fossils far inland, and He created exploding stars for us to marvel about in the 20th century....     Although few creationists today accept the thesis of Omphalos , a form of Gosse's argument is frequently invoked by young-Earthers to explain why the speed of light seems to prove the existence of galaxies so far from Earth that it has taken the light millions of years to reach us. God created the universe, they insist, with light from these distant galaxies already on the way! Gosse would have been delighted with this argument had he known about galaxies. Indeed, I myself like it better than the alternate conjecture that in the past light traveled millions of times faster than it does now.     As for the problem of navels, today's young-Earth creationists, who believe God fabricated Adam from the dust of the earth and Eve from Adam's rib, are strangely silent about the pair's navels. Silent, too, about other aspects of life that imply past histories. Would the trees in the Garden of Eden, for example, show rings if their trunks had been sliced? How would Jerry Falwell and other televangelists answer such questions?     Many liberal Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, now accept the evolution of the bodies of the first humans. However, as the present pope emphasized in his recent declaration that evolution is a legitimate theory, one must insist that God infused immortal souls into Adam and Eve--souls not possessed by their apelike ancestors. This is now the opinion of almost all leading Catholic thinkers. It forces the belief that the first humans, whether one pair or more than two, were reared and suckled by mothers who were soulless beasts. I once wrote a story about this titled "The Horrible Horns"--the horns are the horns of a dilemma--that you will find in my collection The No-Sided Professor (Prometheus Books, 1987).     Belly buttons are the topic of many old jokes, so let me end this column on a lighter note. It has been suggested that navels are most useful as a spot to put salt when lying on your back in bed and eating celery. And, an officer tells a civilian he's a naval surgeon. "Goodness me," the man replies, "how you surgeons specialize!" Copyright © 2000 Martin Gardner. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
Part I Evolution vs. Creationismp. 5
1. Did Adam and Eve Have Navels?p. 7
2. Phillip Johnson on Intelligent Designp. 15
Part II Astronomyp. 27
3. Near-Earth Objects: Monsters of Doom?p. 29
4. The Star of Bethlehemp. 40
Part III Physicsp. 49
5. The Great Egg-Balancing Mysteryp. 51
6. Zero-Point Energy and Harold Puthoffp. 60
7. David Bohm: The Guided Wavep. 72
Part IV Medical Mattersp. 81
8. Reflexology: To Stop a Toothache, Squeeze a Toe!p. 83
9. Urine Therapyp. 92
Part V Psychologyp. 103
10. Freud's Flawed Theory of Dreamsp. 105
11. Post-Freudian Dream Theoryp. 115
12. Jean Houston: New Age Gurup. 124
Part VI Social Sciencep. 133
13. Is Cannibalism a Myth?p. 135
14. Alan Sokal's Hilarious Hoaxp. 144
15. The Internet: A World Brain?p. 153
16. Carlos Castaneda and New Age Anthropologyp. 162
Part VII UFOsp. 173
17. Claiborne Pell, Senator from Outer Spacep. 175
18. Courtney Brown's Preposterous Farsightp. 185
19. Heaven's Gate: The UFO Cult of Bo and Peepp. 197
Part VIII More Fringe Sciencep. 209
20. Thomas Edison, Paranormalistp. 211
21. What's Going On at Temple University?p. 221
Part IX Religionp. 235
22. Isaac Newton, Alchemist and Fundamentalistp. 237
23. Farrakhan, Cabala, Baha'i, and 19p. 247
24. The Numerology of Dr. Khalifap. 257
25. The Religious Views of Stephen Jay Gould and Darwinp. 264
26. The Wandering Jewp. 274
27. The Second Comingp. 288
Part X The Last Wordp. 297
28. Science and the Unknowablep. 299
Indexp. 311

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