The Hounds of Tindalos, Part 1: Long’s Philosophy of Science

 

HofT_KeglevichVonBuzin_dev.jpg                               The Hounds of Tindalos by Keglevich Von Buzin (www.deviantart.com)

I originally thought of conducting a scientific assessment of Frank Belknap Long’s “The Hounds of Tindalos” back in 2014. However, after I re-read the tale (first time in over 10 years) I was overwhelmed by the amount of material stuffed into that short story. It reminds me of Lovecraft’s “From Beyond” – a lot of scientific ideas and concepts crammed into such a short passage of words. Thus, while I started the assessment back in 2014 I never finished it. Now I thought it was time has come to conduct a scientific analysis of “The Hounds of Tindalos” but to this do will require multiple articles. This first article covers Long’s philosophy of science.

As cited by Dr. Robert M. Price in his notes in The Tindalos Cycle (edited by Robert M. Price; 2010), Halpin Chalmers’s investigations into the Hounds was different than those of many of the investigators documented by H.P. Lovecraft. Specifically, Chalmers is more of a mystic than a scientist; however, at the same time he has some very strong opinions on the philosophy of science. Chalmers scoffs at modern science and scientific dogmatism and states, “…old alchemists and sorcerers were two-thirds right, and that your modern biologist and materialist is nine-tenths wrong.”

300px-TindalosCycle

Chalmers repudiates the conclusion of biologists and says he distrusts the scientific positivism of Haeckel and Darwin. So what is scientific positivism? Auguste Comte (1798 – 1857) was a French philosopher who developed sociology and the doctrine of positivism, which was one of the first modern philosophical assessments of science. Essentially, positivism is the view that the world and universe is governed by natural laws and if someone could discover all of these laws, such as Newtonian mechanics, he would be able to predict all natural phenomenon. Comte was inspired by Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection and was convinced that all was predetermined by natural laws, as discovered by science, and there could not be a higher power (www.scienceleadership.org).

Positivism may sound a lot Hugh Elliot’s mechanistic materialism, a philosophical view Lovecraft thought highly of, which states that the universe is a large “machine” operating under the laws of physics and chemistry. However, unlike positivism, mechanistic materialism states that with our five senses we are fairly limited in truly understanding and exploring the mechanisms of the Universe and so we will never completely understand how it operates. Such concepts have obviously made their way into many Lovecraftian tales such as “From Beyond” as well as Long’s “The Hounds of Tindalos.”

hound_of_tindalos_by_manzanedo-d5m0fhq.jpg The Hounds of Tindalos by Manzanedo (www.deviantart.com)

Chalmers distrusts the positivism of Haeckel and Darwin; however, neither of these scientists were responsible for positivism. Again, Comte used the concepts and ideas of natural selection, which were developed by others, to support his idea of positivism so Chalmers wrongly accuses Haeckel and Darwin to promote this philosophy. Additionally, I believe Darwin would have been the first to admit in his lifetime that his Theory of Evolution could not predict all in the natural world. In Darwin’s time the exact mechanism associated with passing traits from parents to offspring was largely unknown (at least those who were not yet familiar with the work of Gregory Mendel). Ironically, by the 1950’s the discovery of DNA and its role in genetically transferring traits from parents to offspring provided additional support for Comte’s positivism (www.scienceleadership.org).

In sharp contrast to the distrusting biologist, Chalmers had a very different view of the physicist Einstein.  He called Einstein “a priest of transcendental mathematics,” a mystic and explorer who at least partially understood the true nature of time through his mathematics. However, according to Chalmers a more complete understanding of time could only be achieved through insight and this insight could only be acquired with the use of drugs.

In contrast, Chalmers claims biologists scoff at time. I do not understand this statement since biologists, particularly those who study evolution are fully aware of time. As I have mentioned several times, evolution is essentially, “change over time” so if any group of scientists is well aware of how important time is, its biologists and evolutionary scientists. However, this apparent disdain Chalmers has for biologists does become  more apparent in the concluding paragraphs of “The Hounds of Tindalos.”

hound_of_tindalos_by_verreaux-d64c1is The Hounds of Tindalos by Verreaux (www.deviantart.com)

As far as Einstein was concerned, he stated “I am not a Positivist. Positivism states that what cannot be observed does not exist. This conception is scientifically indefensible, for it is impossible to make valid affirmations of what people ‘can’ or ‘cannot’ observe. One would have to say ‘only what we observe exists,’ which is obviously false.” (The Quotable Einstein, edited by Alice Calaprice, 2005). Given what Darwin knew or understood about hereditary at the time, I am sure he would also claimed that he too was not a Positivist.

Next time we will discuss the hypothesis that the “Hounds” may be manifestations of residual life from a previous Universe. Thank you – Fred.

 

 

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