Erowid References Database
Foster J, Lehoux D.
“The delphic oracle and the ethylene-intoxication hypothesis”.
Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2007 Feb;45(1):85-9.
An interdisciplinary team of scientists--including an archeologist, a geologist, a chemist, and a toxicologist--has argued that ethylene intoxication was the probable cause of the High Priestess of Delphi's divinatory (mantic) trances. The claim that the High Priestess of Delphi entered a mantic state because of ethylene intoxication enjoyed widespread reception in specialist academic journals, science magazines, and newspapers. This article uses a similar interdisciplinary approach to show that this hypothesis is implausible since it is based on problematic scientific and textual evidence, as well as a fallacious argument. The main issue raised by this counterargument is not that a particular scientific hypothesis or conjecture turned out to be false. (This is expected in scientific investigation.)
Rather, the main issue is that it was a positivist disposition that originally led readers to associate the evidence presented in such a way that it seemed to point to the conclusion, even when the evidence did not support the conclusion. We conclude by observing that positivist dispositions can lead to the acceptance of claims because they have a scientific form, not because they are grounded in robust evidence and sound argument.
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