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Lowell’s Syndrome

In 1877, Percival Lowell heard that an Italian astronomer had seen lines crisscrossing the surface of Mars. Lowell spent the rest of his years squinting into the eyepiece of his giant telescope in Arizona, mapping the channels and canals he saw. He was convinced the canals were proof of intelligent life on Mars. About the turn of the century, Lowell’s theories had gained wide acceptance.

Space probes have orbited Mars and landed on its surface. The planet has been mapped, and no one has seen a channel or canal. How could Lowell have “seen” so much that wasn’t there? There are two possibilities: He either wanted to see canals so badly that he deceived himself into thinking they were there, or we know now that he suffered from a rare eye disease that made him see the blood vessels in his own eyes. The Martian “canals” he saw were nothing more than the bulging veins of his eyeballs. Today, the malady is known as “Lowell’s syndrome.” Mr. Lowell similarly illustrates how “strong delusion” can affect those who do not love the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12).

Kyle Campbell

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