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José de Acosta, Speculations on the Origins of the Indians (1590)

José de Acosta, Speculations on the Origins of the Indians (1590)

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José de Acosta, Speculations on the Origins of the Indians (1590) One of the first scientists who attempted to reconcile Old World ideas with New World phenomena, José de Acosta traveled to North and South America and tried to explain the origins of the new things he encountered. His observations contrasted sharply with the ideas held at the time—especially because those ideas were based in the Aristotelian ideas of nature. In this excerpt, de Acosta attempts to find an acceptable theory for the origin of people in the new world. CHAP. xx.-Notwithstanding all that hath bene said, it is more likely that the first inhabitants of the Indies came by land. I conclude then, that it is likely the first that came to the Indies was by shipwracke and tempest of wether, but heereupon groweth a difficultie which troubleth me much. For, suppose wee grant that the first men came from farre Countries, and that the nations which we now see are issued from them and multiplied, yet can I not coniecture, by what meanes brute beastes, whereof there is great aboundance, could come there, not being likely they should have bin imbarked and carried by sea. The reason that inforceth us to yeeld that the first men of the Indies are come from Europe or Asia, is the testimonie of the holy scripture, which teacheth us plainely that all men came from Adam. We can therefore give no other beginning to those at the Indies, seeing the holy scripture saieth, that all beasts and creatures of the earth perished but such as were reserved in the Arke of Noe, for the multiplication and maintenance of their kinde; so as we must necessarily referre the multiplication of all beastes to those which came out of the Arke of Noe, on the mountaines of Ararat, where it staied. And by this meanes we must seeke out both for men and beastes the way whereby they might passe from the old world to this new. Saint Augustine, treating vpon this question, by what reason you shall finde in some Ilandes Wolves, Tigers, and other ravenous beastes, which breede no profit to men, seeing there is no doubt but Elephants, Horses, Oxen, Dogges, and other beastes which serve man to vse, have been expresly carried in shippes, as we see at this day brought from the East into Europe, and transported from Europe to Peru, although the voiages be verie long. And by what meanes these beastes which yeeld no profit, but are very hurtefull (as Wolves and others of that wilde nature), should passe to the Indies, supposing, as it is certaine, that the deluge drowned all the earth. In which Treatise this learned and holy man laboures to free himselfe of these difficulties saying that they might swim vnto these Ilands, or that some have carried them. thither for their delight in hunting; or that, by the will of God, they had been newly created of the earth, after the same maner of the first creation, when God said, "Let the earth bring forth everie living thing according to his kinde, Cattle, and creeping Wormes, and the beastes of the field, every one in his kinde." But if we shall
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