Misattributed Quotes of Note: Henry Eyring (Sr.) on Babies, Bathwater, and Authority

This wisdom is often attributed online to Elder Henry B. Eyring, but none provides a source.  It was Henry Eyring Sr., non-Apostle and brilliant prolific scientist who gave this nugget of wisdom. However, Henry Eyring Jr. apparently took the lesson to heart, as he has said similar things. And perhaps he quotes his father somewhere.

 “There are few ways in which good people do more harm to those who take them seriously than to defend the gospel with arguments that won’t hold water. Many of the difficulties encountered by young people going to college would be avoided if parents and teachers were more careful to distinguish between what they know to be true and what they think may be true. Impetuous youth, upon finding the authority it trusts crumbling, even on unimportant details, is apt to lump everything together and throw the baby out with the bath.”

Henry Eyring Sr., “What Are the Things That Really Matter?”  as quoted in Mormon Scientist: the Life and Faith of Henry Eyring (no page numbers in this volume on GospeLink.com, Deseret Book’s online library, which is where I found it.)

This could be more liberally applied, methinks, for the sake of activity and intellectual development. It also opens a bit of Pandora’s box with issues of competing authority and epistemology, but these are healthy issues to wrestle with.



16 comments for “Misattributed Quotes of Note: Henry Eyring (Sr.) on Babies, Bathwater, and Authority

  1. Tim
    May 5, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    Here’s a similar Eyring Sr. quote from another source.

    “It is only fair to warn parents and teachers that a young person is going to face a very substantial body of scientific evidence supporting the earth’s age as millions of years, and that a young person might “throw the baby out with the bath” unless allowed to seek the truth, from whatever source, without prejudice.”

    Henry Eyring
    Reflections of a Scientist
    Page 56

    The quote you have is on p. 246 of his “Mormon Scientist.”

  2. Ben S.
    May 5, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    Thanks for the page number Tim. I imagine this is something Eyring repeated on many occasions.

  3. Julie M. Smith
    May 5, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    What a great quote.

  4. May 5, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    It is a great quote. And it doesn’t only apply to “impetuous youth[s].”

  5. May 5, 2012 at 7:44 pm


  6. Tim
    May 5, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    I think it’s pretty clear that Eyring focused his “bathwater” discussions at the intersection of science and religion–two areas which he knew very well.

    I like the idea of examining the “bathwater” idea in other contexts too. I imagine the reason Eyring stuck to science and religion here was because that was what he knew–and he may have not felt competent discussing it in other contexts.

    And that’s what bugs me the most about Eyring’s foes. They vehemently disagreed (and still disagree) with him, even though they knew (know) next-to-nothing about one of the two subjects he understood so well.

  7. SC Taysom
    May 5, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    Excellent, excellent, excellent.

  8. May 5, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    One more quote:

    “11. Finally, perhaps a believer never does more disservice to religion than to support the truth with bad arguments. The listener spots the obvious errors, becomes impatient, often “throws out the baby with the bath,” and turns away, even from true religion.

    As parents and teachers, we pass on to our children and pupils our world picture. Part of this picture is religious and part of it deals with the world around us. If we teach our pupils some outmoded and nonessential notions that fail to hold water when the students get into their science classes at the university, we run grave risks. When our protégés shed the bad science, they may also throw out some true religion. The solution is to avoid telling them the world is flat too long after it has been proved round. Don’t defend a good cause with bad arguments.

    So, I am certain that the gospel, as taught in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is true. It’s a better explanation of what I observe in science than any other I know about. There are still lots of things I don’t know, but that doesn’t bother me. I’m a happy muddler. The gospel simply asks me to find out what’s true as best I can and in the meantime to live a good life. That strikes me as the best formula for living there could be.”

    – Henry Eyring, Reflections of a Scientist. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983), p. 103.

  9. Manuel
    May 5, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    Love this line: “The solution is to avoid telling them the world is flat too long after it has been proved round.”


  10. h.bob
    May 6, 2012 at 12:47 am

    I should point out that “Mormon Scientist” is by Henry J. Eyring, the grandson of Henry Eyring (the scientist), and NOT Henry B. Eyring, the member of the 1st Presidency (and the father of Henry J.).

  11. May 7, 2012 at 5:45 am

    Mormon apologists who use “arguments that don’t hold water” actually always believe that those arguments hold water. I don’t know of any Mormons who purposefully dish out faulty evidence merely to try and keep people in the church.

    So this quote doesn’t really help anything, unless you can prove that a particular apologetic argument is faulty to the people who propose it.

  12. stephen hardy
    May 7, 2012 at 8:28 am

    Eyring’s foes? He had foes? Really, I didn’t know. Can you tell me anything about them?

  13. Tim
    May 7, 2012 at 11:44 am

    By “foes” I mean those who knew Eyring and disliked the fact that he supported scientific facts, and those who knew Eyring and disliked the fact that he was very religious. So when I say “foes,” I use the term broadly (and probably not quite accurately). I’m sure many “foes” were actually friends, or at least colleagues.

  14. Manuel
    May 7, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    “Mormon apologists who use “arguments that don’t hold water” actually always believe that those arguments hold water.”

    Oh yeah, like the argument that people with a homosexual lifestyle do “violence” against marriage and families? LOL. Not only do they use arguments that they know damn well don’t hold water; they sometimes use plain lies and coward manipulation to support their self-righteous agendas.

  15. Ben S.
    May 7, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    Manuel, this is not that post. Ease off.

    Nate- I know plenty of “apologists.” Few of them who actually merit the term are as unthinkingly dogmatic as others assume, and quite often hedge appropriately.

    This statement can easily be a club used to beat whomever we wish- liberals and conservatives, apologists and apostates, etc. Instead of it being about “those guys,” perhaps we can be self-reflective.

  16. May 23, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    A common type of misattributed quote are ancient words of wisdom – things that people attribute to ancient cultures because they’ve heard that that’s where they come from. Here’s what I mean: http://daisybrain.wordpress.com/2010/09/06/ancient-wisdom/

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