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Aristotle's Ladder, Darwin's TreeThe Evolution of Visual Metaphors for Biological Order$
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J. Archibald

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231164122

Published to University Press Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231164122.001.0001

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date: 24 September 2017

Blaming Aristotle

Blaming Aristotle

Chapter:
(p.1) Chapter One Blaming Aristotle
Source:
Aristotle's Ladder, Darwin's Tree
Author(s):

J. David Archibald

Publisher:
Columbia University Press
DOI:10.7312/columbia/9780231164122.003.0001

This chapter examines how Aristotle influenced both our perceptions and misperceptions of the history of life on Earth and the presumption that humans are the highest of animals. Aristotle's views come to us in his ten books titled Researches About Animals, more commonly known from the Latin translation Historia Animalium (The History of Animals). His classification of life accorded with the then accepted views of the four basic elements of nature (air, fire, water, earth). Aristotle also used scales and ladders that form a continuum to explain the succession without gaps from inanimate objects through plants and then to animals, thus natura non facit saltus (nature makes no leaps). The French anatomist and paleontologist Georges Cuvier rejected the idea of the existence of a scala naturae possessing gaps, and that evolution occurred. This chapter considers how the ramifying view of life and its representation took root throughout the nineteenth century under the aegis of both evolution and creationism within the expanding fields of biological sciences.

Keywords:   history of life, Aristotle, nature, scales, ladders, Georges Cuvier, scala naturae, evolution, creationism, biological sciences

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