INTELLECTUAL BACKGROUND TO DARWIN

INTELLECTUAL BACKGROUND TO DARWIN - INTELLECTUAL BACKGROUND...

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Like any good intellectual pursuit , the problem of Origins can be traced back to Greek philosophers. World view of the time was one of an eternal world , or at least one where time was cyclical ; a steady state world; concepts of time were very different from ours today: issue was on origins; evolution (change) was less of a concern (according to E. Mayr, The Growth of Biological Thought , Harvard University Press). Plato's ideas dominated this line of thinking for next approx. 2000 years; his dogmas had the effect of being anti evolutionary (but not by intention): Essentialism , belief in a constant eidos , a form or fixed idea. This idea was distinct from the phenomenon of appearance: there is an ideal professor and I am but an imperfect personification of that ideal; there is an ideal Brown undergraduate and, alas, you are all imperfect examples varying around that Platonic ideal. Animate cosmos, the universe is a living harmonious whole. A creative power, a demiurge (not a god-like creator). "Soul". All of these ways of thinking probably stifled evolutionary thought; the emphasis was on origins. That an evolutionary thinking did not emerge probably stemmed from the fact that evolution would disturb the harmonious whole. Aristotle , a great naturalist and the founder of Natural History. Nature passes from inanimate objects through plants to animals on to man in a " great chain of beings "; perpetuated the Platonic view of the fixity of species and held that the natural order was eternal and unchanging These views, held in a world where time was cyclical, all stifled (or at least diverted attention away from) mechanistic/evolutionary thinking. Jump through the fall of Rome to Christianity: the Word was that of God written in the Bible; again focus was on origins (Creation in Genesis), but now time was unidirectional : the earth and organisms were created once, Christ died once and the Judgment day will come but once! Despite linearity of time, the fixity of species was still held in the context of Creation. Platonic essentialism was still influential: God created the heavens, the earth and the organisms and since God was a perfect god, the natural world thus must fit a pattern: the Scala Naturae (a legacy of the Aristotelian great chain of beings). All things that God conceived of , did exist and held their fixed place in nature. God would not have conceived of a species and then not created it. This is the essence of the concept of plenitude: as many organisms that could exist, did exist; this was all for the good. Extinction was not possible because a perfect God would not have permitted it. As we'll see, fossils might present a problem for plenitude. Natural Theology
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INTELLECTUAL BACKGROUND TO DARWIN - INTELLECTUAL BACKGROUND...

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