Veritopia: The Right Place
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The 'Four Elements': A Valid 'Theory of Everything'?
The "Classical Four-Elements ... were proposed to explain the nature and complexity of all matter* in terms of simpler substances". It was the original theory-of-everything our ancestors apparently believed in, and formed the basis of the pre-chemistry called 'alchemy' (Al-Khem = 'Of Egypt').
(* Note: Wikipedia uses the word 'matter' here, but this is incorrect, it should be 'all of nature', not just matter.
The modern world considers the idea of just four elements as somewhat idiotic. We know today that there are well over 100 elements. The idea that all things were made of a mixture of fire, air, water and earth seems like a superstitious fairy-tale to the modern person. The sort of bizarre notion that only an uneducated mind could possibly believe.
The fact that our forebears commonly believed such 'nonsense' is heralded as a great testimony to the advances of the modern world. With real unbiased science, and education for all, we now know so much more than our primitive ancestors. Our civilisation is clearly far greater than theirs. At least this is what we were told.
I was taught about the four-elements in school, in the context of history, purely as a demonstration of how ignorant people were in the past. But, even at the time, I felt that the teacher was somehow missing the point... I felt that the ancients probably didn't mean it literally, and that it was more like an analogy. Still, I believed her, and didn't dwell on it.
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